A new Louisiana reproductive health regulation bill is being proposed, and this one has a number of advocates questioning the bill’s intention. HB 388, the so-called “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act,”¯ will create a number of new restrictions on abortion, ranging from requiring admitting privileges for abortion providers from hospitals within 30 miles to requiring that an physician who provides more than 5 abortions per year to register as an abortion provider, with the same regulations. Whether in a clinic or providing private care, anyone who is terminating a pregnancy will have to follow the same “informed consent” procedure prior to the abortion.
That’s where things get complicated.
According to Lamar White, the bill doesn’t just set new abortion clinic and provider standards, it also attempts to redefine what constitutes an abortion, and the effort is extremely deliberate. “It seeks a change in the statutory definition of ‘first trimester’ from ‘six to fourteen weeks’ to simply ‘up to fourteen weeks,’” explains White. ”In so doing, Representative Jackson’s bill would require the State of Louisiana, through the Department of Health and Hospitals, to maintain a database of women who have used the so-called ‘morning after pill’ and, potentially, any other hormone or medication prescribed or administered shortly after a woman has sexual intercourse. It would also mandate that Plan B, which is now an over-the-counter medication, could only be prescribed by a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles.”
Of course, legally and scientifically, there’s an issue there, and that issue is the fact that the morning after pill, as we all know, is emergency contraception, and that contraception does not end a pregnancy, but stops one from occurring in the first place. With a generous reading, as well as the support from other Louisiana guidelines that state that abortion can only end a “clinically diagnosable pregnancy,” emergency contraception, Plan B and hormonal conception in general cannot be deemed an abortion simply because you can’t diagnose a pregnancy until a fertilized egg has implanted and begins to release HGC.
It’s for that exact reason that American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) definitely defined pregnancy as beginning at implantation in the mid 60′s. Anti-choice activists, however, claim that ACOG’s move was merely to redefine pregnancy so that hormonal contraception would be allowable and not considered an abortion.
In fact, abortion and birth control really are the same thing in one wing of the anti-choice movement. “Contraceptive mentality“ as it is called, means that by having sex with the express purpose of enjoyment without allowing the possibility for pregnancy, you are selfishly acting just for your own pleasure. “The purpose of contraception is to separate intercourse from procreation so that the contracepting partners can enjoy the pleasures of sex without the discomforting fear that their sexual activity could lead to the procreation of another human being. The ‘contraceptive mentality’ results when this separation of intercourse from procreation is taken for granted and the contracepting partners feel that, in employing contraception, they have severed themselves from all responsibility for a conception that might take place as a result of contraceptive failure.”
While that may seem like an extreme view, it’s actually firmly embraced by a number of groups that hold great sway in our legislatures, like Concerned Women for America, who recently bemoaned “recreational sex” as a bad thing.
As written, it is highly unlikely that HB 388 would really create a database of people who purchase emergency contraception or hormonal birth control. What it does do, however, is create an opportunity to redefine abortion down the road, by eliminating the timelines and language around the procedure that could cause a roadblock if someone chooses to change the legal definition of abortion in the future. That’s an issue that has happened before, when Missouri chose to open up conscience clause protections to allow medical professionals to opt out not just of abortion procedures, but anything the person “reasonably believed” could constitute an abortion.
In the end, that’s going to be the most important question we can ask of any lawmaker, and one that we need to demand a straight and clear answer to: do you believe contraception is the same thing as an abortion? Just as important, do you believe that birth control should ever, under any circumstances, be restricted, either to just people with medical needs outside of preventing pregnancy or only people who are married. We need direct answers on these questions, and if lawmakers aren’t providing them, we must keep pressing until they do.
Louisiana isn’t redefining abortion, at least, not yet. But they could, and it could make hormonal contraception inaccessible, too. So could every state in the country, unless we diligently question our lawmakers about their beliefs and intentions.
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