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AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley and Sarah Seltzer
February 2, 2011 |
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Republicans sure have interesting priorities. Even though they got elected on a fiscal agenda and arrived in legislatures and congress with a budget crisis and a nation staring down unemployment, they’ve decided to put policing women’s bodies on the top of their agenda. You’ve probably heard about the unbelievably dismal new bill in Congress which would drastically curb abortion coverage and most alarmingly, redefine rape as only “forcible.” It’s cruel and draconian, to say the least, and on twitter, the #Dearjohn hashtag is building momentum against this horrible bill.
But this bill is not a stand-alone attack--in fact, it’s part of a broad-reaching movement from state legislatures to curb abortion access and insurance coverage, place hurdles before and infantilize women with ultrasound and parental notification requirements, and generally prove that shaming women is much more important to Republicans than tackling the economic crisis or any of the myriad other problems facing Americans today.
All across the country, legislatures are moving abortion restrictions forward on the docket, and although there are a few bright spots, overall the picture is pretty grim. Even the New York Times editorial board is up in arms after its own paper’s story on the subject, offering us some frightening statistics:
Twenty-nine governors are considered solidly anti-abortion, up from 21 before the election. In 15 states, both the legislature and the governor are anti-abortion, compared with 10 last year. This math greatly increases the prospect of extreme efforts to undermine abortion access with Big Brother measures that require physicians to read scripts about fetal development and provide ultrasound images, and that impose mandatory waiting periods or create other unnecessary regulations.
The following pieces of legislation are not the only efforts that could quash women’s rights this year, but they are indicative of a bold, cruel and determined Republican-led movement happening across the country. If successful, these laws will make it unimaginably more difficult for women to access basic health care.
In Kansas: Republican state Rep. Lance Kinzer introduced a bill this month that would require women under the age of 18 to receive the explicit consent of both her parents before seeking an abortion. Exceptions will only be made in cases where “family sexual abuse is involved,” and even then women will need the approval of one parent, according to the Kansas Reporter. The bill’s supporters cite false and misleading data about how young women who have abortions are more likely to have mental health issues than those who carry their pregnancies to term -- when in fact, the exact opposite is true.
What’s more, the Times reports that Kansas’ new governor, former Sen. Sam Brownback, plans to lead the state legislature in adopting measures that were previously vetoed by his less conservative successors, “including regulations that will make it harder to open abortion clinics or to perform abortions in the second trimester.”
In Texas: Governor Rick Perry has declared that a bill which mandates that women seeking abortions undergo forced ultrasounds is an “emergency” priority--literally. He’s actually hinted to anti-choicers in the state that he’ll put the bill on an actual emergency fast-track for passage, even though the state is facing a huge budget crisis of epic proportions. And he’s doing this even though he’s previously threatened to secede due to excessive government oversight of his state. Apparently oversight of states is not okay, but oversight of women’s bodies is. Hypocrite, much?
In Arkansas: A troubling bill that’s now on its way to the state Senate floor would severely limit abortion coverage under private insurance plans. CNBC reports that the proposed bill “takes advantage of a part of the federal health care overhaul that allows states to restrict abortion coverage by private plans in the new insurance exchanges,” and, if passed, would require women to purchase a special rider or policy if they ever plan to get an abortion. Similar laws have already been enacted in several other states, but as National Abortion Federation president Vicki Saporta notes, “Telling a woman to buy a separate abortion rider that doesn't even currently exist is not an answer.”
In Kentucky: The state is the second, after Oklahoma, to pass legislation requiring women not only to undergo an ultrasound before seeking an abortion (as is the case in many states), but to actually be shown the ultrasound screen while a technician describes the fetus in detail. If a woman chooses to avert her eyes from the screen, she will still be subjected to the technician’s description. Kentucky women also will be required to wait 24 hours before they can receive an abortion procedure. According to ThinkProgress, “[c]ases of rape or incest are not exempted from this requirement, and doctors face fines as high as $250,000 for disobeying the law.”
Although Oklahoma’s bill is being challenged in court, the Times notes that Kentucky’s anti-choice “victory” has prompted a number of other states, including Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming, to consider similar legislation.
In New Hampshire: The “Live Free or Die” state has conservative leanings, but has thus far refrained from policing women’s bodies, embracing a libertarian ethos towards the issue as it does to many.
But its very first anti-abortion law could be on the books, a parental notification act that is extremely difficult minors who may be faced with disapproving, controlling or even abusive parents. The state has held out against any such legislation in the past, so why the change? Women’s eNews reports that “proponents think they'll finally be able to get it passed, not only because Republicans control the Senate but also because men are now the majority, unlike in 2008 when the Senate was female dominant.” It’s certainly depressing, but it’s true that even conservative women can help stem the anti-choice tide.Witness Wyoming, where an anti-choice ultrasound law (which would have severely hampered women traveling across the state for an abortion) was voted down, and several Republican women spoke up against it. Change.org has a petition circulating asking New Hampshire to stay true to its flinty nature and keep laws off of young women’s bodies.
In Idaho: A pharmacist refused to fill a prescription written by a Planned Parenthood nurse for a bleeding woman, citing the state’s “conscience” law because the woman may have had an abortion. The pharmacist reportedly asked the woman seeking the prescription (for Methergine, which is used to control uterine bleeding after childbirth and abortion) if she needed the medicine for post-abortive care. If that question sounds less than kosher to you, that’s because it’s not; such questions are not allowed under patient confidentiality rules. Still, the Idaho Board of Pharmacy found that the pharmacist was not guilty of any wrongdoing. A letter from the board’s executive director Mark Johnston said that the group “had concluded its investigation into the incident and found no violations of state laws the board is tasked with enforcing,” according to theIdaho Press-Tribune. Needless to say, the board has established a dangerous precedent.
In Nebraska and Iowa: Nebraska has already passed an extremely dangerous abortion ban after 20 weeks, chasing doctor Leroy Carhart out of the state. This law’s passage has emboldened Iowa, where Carhart says he would like to practice, to put a copycat law on the books. Other states are following suit.
In Ohio: AlterNet’s Robin Marty reports on a “heartbeat bill” which would define life as beginning at the first sign of a heartbeat, extremely early in a pregnancy, and be an effective total abortion ban. Even more frightening, it would seek to divide abortion from other reproductive services affected by other similar attempts, the so-called “personhood” amendments. Read her story here.
A Silver Lining in Washington State, which has its own potential legislation on the books-to target misleading Crisis Pregnancy Centers. As Amie Newmanreports, if passed the law would “require centers to disclose that they do not ‘provide services or referrals for abortion or comprehensive birth control’ or ‘medical care for pregnant women.’" She also notes that the legislation would require that these center immediately test women instead of stalling them to make it more difficult for them to have abortions.
The sad thing about this excellent legislation from Washington is that it would make it the only state to have such statutes. At the moment, CPCs are running rampant with few regulations, while the examples above show that abortion clinics are utterly bombarded with regulations. There’s no question we’re in an all-out war on women’s bodies.
For even more information on restrictions potentially on the books--and to see what’s at stake in your own state--take a look at this map from the Ms. Blog and Tableau public.