Republicans ran in 2010 on a platform of small government. President Obama, they said, had overreached with Obamacare, and the only sensible reaction was to pare government back, and get it out of people’s lives.
So we’ve been told, and some choose to believe it. Unfortunately, the GOP’s hatred of government extends only as far as the budget. When it comes to women’s constitutional right to access abortion services, Republicans have been working night and day these last three years to inject more government at every turn. Government helping people pay for their health care may be nearly socialism, but government preventing people from accessing health care? Why, that’s just moral.
Most people who care about choice know of this ongoing assault, but even for those of us who follow the issue closely, a new book by former Care2 Causes writer Robin Marty and current Care2 Causes writer Jessica Mason Pieklo is a dispiriting look at just how focused Republicans have become on denying women abortion rights — at least, as long as the women are poor.
Marty and Pieklo’s new book, Crow After Roe, is an excellent survey of the Republican attack on women’s health. The book travels around the country, telling tale after tale of GOP legislators attempting to eliminate the right to choose for all but the wealthiest people. From Nebraska’s draconian restrictions of abortion rights, to Ohio’s “heartbeat bill,” to the awful case of Bei Bei Shuai, who was charged with murder for attempting suicide while pregnant, Crow amasses undeniable evidence that the Republican assault on choice is not just the doing of a few fire-breathers in the deep South. Indeed, it is a unifying force in GOP politics across the country, whether in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, or Rick Perry’s Texas.
The actions since 2010 have not occurred in a vaccuum. Indeed, it’s part of the anti-choice strategy to chip away at women’s abortion access. If they can’t overturn Roe, the thinking goes, they’ll simply make it impossible for women to take advantage of their rights — unless they can afford a last-minute plane ticket to New York. As Marty and Pieklo write:
While safe abortion will always be available for those with economic means, just as it was before Roe, for women without those same opportunities — those in rural areas, those who are poor, and especially women of color facing both of those issues — the ability to obtain an abortion is already limited and becoming more so on a daily basis. In addition, rather than assisting these women by helping them prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place, the same politicians and activists working to end abortion are also trying to eliminate women’s ability to access contraception, either by extinguishing women’s family planning funding, targeting and closing reproductive care clinics, or denying medical attention and birth control, under the name of conscience rights.
This war of attrition has already resulted in literal casualties. Anyone following the case of Kermit Gosnell knows that his clientele were poor women of color, who could not afford to obtain reproductive health services from reputable clinics. Instead, they ended up at Gosnell’s house of horrors, which was in every way a model of a back-alley abortion clinic.
Marty and Pieklo make a strong case that the anti-choice movement is out to create a nation of Gosnell’s patients — women who can’t afford the 10-hour trip to the nearest clinic, much less the three days of hotel expenses required just to sit through the waiting period. Women who will instead choose to go to someone who will terminate the pregnancy — if you don’t mind that he or she may or may not be an actual doctor. This won’t affect the rich, of course — they can always buy the plane ticket to New York or California. But for a struggling woman who doesn’t live in a metro area, the options will be dire indeed.
All in all, Crow does an excellent job laying out the stakes of inaction by those who support a woman’s right to choose. If there is a complaint about Crow, it is one that cannot possibly have been avoided: simply, the Republican war on choice keeps marching on. There are all sorts of new, draconian laws being pushed, from North Dakota to Arkansas, that Marty and Pieklo couldn’t have addressed without delaying their book forever.
But that’s a quibble. Crow is an excellent primer for anyone who doubts that the Republican war on reproductive freedom is real. It makes clear that unless we who support a woman’s right to choose begin to fight back, abortion rights will suffer the death of a thousand cuts.
Image Credits: iStockphoto, Ig Publishing