Basic Equality for Women–Denied

The old saw that all politics is local is gaining traction as state legislators pass law after law violating women’s constitutional rights to privacy and reproductive choice.

The old saw that all politics is local is gaining traction as state legislators pass law after law violating women’s constitutional rights to privacy and reproductive choice. According to a recent article in AlterNet, 916 new restrictive laws were introduced by state legislators in the first quarter of 2011. The laws are the most creative, restrictive laws passed since Roe vs Wade became law of the land. 

The common core is:

  • The Gestational limits on abortion– they have plucked 20 weeks as the standard though viability is not assured at that time.
  • Wait time – often women are subjected to (often medically inaccurate) propaganda by religious zealots while required to wait for their procedure.
  • Mandatory ultrasounds
  • Curtailing insurance coverage in state exchanges
  • Mandatory visits to crisis pregnancy centers

The common denominator is to render abortion impossible. The goal is to render women powerless.

The reverberations from Nebraska’s 20 weeks limit on abortion were felt when Danielle Deaver was forced to continue a pregnancy with a nonviable fetus. Her family had to suffer watching their baby die.  When lawmakers subvert both a legal procedure and medical science, it is time for them to leave the legislatures. Medical privacy and medical conditions are rights that are guaranteed to women as well as men. Similar scenarios can be expected to occur as more women have medical problems beyond 20 weeks.

South Dakota has the unique distinction of introducing and passing the most restrictive laws regarding wait time and pregnancy crisis centers.  Beginning in July, a woman must wait 72 hours after consulting with a physician about an abortion. She also has to visit a registered pregnancy crisis center and listen to these volunteer, non-certified, non-medical personnel give incorrect information about abortions.  These clinics are not subject to privacy laws so a woman’s medical record is no longer private.  She also has to be read a statement written by the legislators about abortion.

Abortion is difficult enough without these new laws. There is one clinic in the state that has an abortion provider flown in once a week. How the women are to meet with the provider, wait 72 hours, meet with the pregnancy crisis center and have the procedure in a timely fashion has not been worked out.  Most of the women are financially unable to pay for hotels or childcare so this is an undue financial burden.  Additionally, the pregnancy crisis centers have not signed on to participate in this new program, so it is unclear if the women will be denied abortions because no centers are involved. Could this be any worse?  This is a state where voters have twice voted not to ban abortion, but the legislature believes it knows better.

The ultrasound ploy is a favorite of many states. Women are forced to undergo a procedure that they do not want, and which is many times not medically necessary. Depending on the state, they must either watch the ultrasound or listen to a graphic description.  Women, many of whom have limited funds, must also pay for this state-mandated procedure. Isn’t there an argument by conservatives about mandatory payments? Hmmm, just not for women when they have abortions.

Insurance is the latest weapon in the war on women’s health in both the states and the federal government. In the US House, HR 3 passed with unanimous consent of the Republicans. This bill would tax insurance plans that cover abortions. It would tax health credits. It would tax people who use them. It would allow the IRS to audit a woman’s abortion. This is all from the no tax, no government in private affairs folks. They will not tax oil companies, but women’s health is fair game.

In the states there is an attempt to restrict abortion coverage in state exchanges. The degree varies but 23 states have already considered such legislation.

While all these laws are aimed at overturning Roe vs Wade, there is the additional attack on the born children. Programs for nutritional programs and child health care are being slashed. Contraception is no longer covered by some states. How does this promote a culture of life?

The Republican-controlled House is railing against the deficit and slashing social programs while refusing to raise taxes.  But its microfocus is on depriving women of their basic equality – the right to privacy, the right to control their own lives and the right to make their own decisions without help from the government.  Contribute your energy and money to electing pro-choice legislators.  The attacks will continue until women mobilize in town halls, in voting booths and in the halls of Congress.

Gail Yamner

JAC President

originally posted at JACblog!

Do you know what abortion laws your state has passed since May 2009?