2012 was a busy year in the fight for abortion rights. Not surprisingly, 2013 is shaping up to be just as contentious as anti-choice advocates push for more restrictions in states and from the courts. If this last year saw a host of mandatory ultrasound laws and additional waiting periods as the most popular anti-abortion measures, what will 2013 bring?
1. More battles over Planned Parenthood funding
Planned Parenthood is a favorite target of anti-abortion activists who compare efforts to defund the health care organization as nothing short of a crusade. But because Planned Parenthood is one of the largest suppliers of health care to low income women across the country, its a crusade with tragic consequences. In Oklahoma for example, Planned Parenthood clinics in Tulsa are one of the leading providers of food vouchers and counseling services under the Women Infant and Children’s (WIC) program. But because the organization as a whole advocates for abortion rights, anti-choice zealots in the state have refused to renew Planned Parenthood’s WIC contract because they see it as somehow creating “taxpayer funded” abortion. The result is that at the end of the month, thousands of Oklahomans will lose access to those benefits all in the name of “ending abortion.”
Oklahoma is far from alone here. Texas, Arizona, and Ohio are all states with similar crusades afoot and 2013 promises even more.
2. The so-called “fetal pain” bans
Another favorite abortion-restriction we can expect to see more of in 2013 is the so-called “fetal pain” abortion ban. Modeled after the successful “partial birth abortion” bans, “fetal pain” bans purport to outlaw abortion at around 20 weeks, or when anti-choice advocates claim a fetus can feel pain. Both partial birth abortion bans and fetal pain bans rely on an ever-increasing body of pseudo-science to support their claims that these restrictions are both reasonable and necessary.
For the most part these bills have been wildly successful, passing in Nebraska, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and Oklahoma. But because these bans limit abortions pre-viabilty they are in direct conflict with the holding of Roe v. Wade that said the state may not restrict a woman’s right to chose abortion pre-viability. Most recently a state judge in Georgia put that state’s 20 week ban in question and Arizona plans to defend its 20 week ban all the way to the Supreme Court. Which is exactly the point of these bans–to create a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and hope the Supreme Court is sympathetic to their cause. That’s why we can expect to see even larger battles around these 20 week bans in 2013.
3. Telemed abortion and the future of abortion rights
Like any medical procedure, abortion carries with it risks. But the sooner a woman in need of an abortion has access to the procedure the fewer the risks. That’s why the expansion of telemedicine, and in particular the expansion of telemedicine and the use of drugs like RU-486 offers so much promise for women. Medication abortion carriers fewer risks than surgical abortion but is not always a realistic and available option for women, especially those who live in remote parts of the country. And with the ability to purchase drugs like mifepristone online, some have argued we’re just a few years away from women performing abortions with very little, if any, need for medical assistance.
That’s why anti-choice activists are going after both the use of telemedicine for performing medical abortions and doctors who administer the drugs, because once women truly have the ability to “self-abort” the ability to restrict women’s choices in life by refusing them full bodily autonomy evaporates. That is the issue at the heart of Jenni Lynn McCormack’s case and one the Supreme Court could take up within the next two years. In the meantime states like Wisconsin and Ohio have passed laws so restricting, medication abortion is all but unavailable in those states. There are models for similar legislation elsewhere in 2013.
The sad truth is, if 2012 was a busy year for anti-choice advocates then 2013 promises to be even more so. And with the legal challenges happening as quickly as the legislative restrictions, it is guaranteed the issue will find its way back before the Supreme Court. The question is, will 2013 be the year that happens?
Photo from davefayram via flickr.
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