We are midway through many states’ legislative sessions, which means that for many red states, the lipservice to concentrating on “economic issues” has been paid and they can move straight to their favorite feat: limiting a person’s rights to abortion and birth control. In no state is this more clear than in Alabama, where five different bills meant to curb the right to legal abortion, and even birth control, have been introduced or reviewed this week.
Alabama state politicians held a hearing for four bills earlier this week, subtly placing the hearings all on the same day, which was also the day that anti-choice groups were planning a rally at the capital. Three of the bills would change the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 48 hours, would force doctors to tell patients who are having an abortion for fetal anomalies that there are perinatal hospice centers to consider first, and would provide even more restrictions on parental consent, including making the parent show up with a birth certificate and limiting what evidence a teen can present during a judicial bypass hearing. The fourth bill would ban abortion from the point in which an embryonic heart tone can be detected, which could be as little as a week after a missed period.
“Heartbeat” bans have yet to be successfully implemented in the country, and every state that has passed one has had it blocked by the courts. But that hasn’t stopped the majority of Alabama politicians on the panel from voting the bill through. But even that restrictive bill wasn’t good enough for one legislator, who introduced a “personhood bill” later that week.
Louisiana activists managed to stop a hearing over emergency regulations that could have shut down all abortion clinics in the state, but some of those regulations are being proposed piecemeal now in the legislature. Oklahoma is moving forward with their own admitting privileges TRAP law as well. Arizona, meanwhile, is mandating “surprise” random clinic inspections, and Iowa is allowing women to have up to a decade to decide that they regret their abortions and want to sue a provider. Ohio clinics have been shuttering, but now state hospitals are less likely to want to provide care as well, leaving many with no place to go.
A Washington high school that was being sued for not being receptive enough to a new pro-life group on campus is now being targeted with graphic anti-abortion protests on their sidewalk. That ought to teach other schools to just say yes to start with.
Why should states ban abortion based on gender? According to one South Dakota lawmaker, the reason is simple: Asian immigrants are in the country and will abort their girl fetuses unless someone stops them. That could have been the most offensive thing we heard this week, but then a Maine blogger uncovered one local politician saying that if a woman has a right to an abortion a man should have the right to rape. “If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”
Although health care disparities, contraception access, abortion, sterilization coercion and other reproductive rights issues disproportionately affect women and girls of color, when we discuss those issues, those same voices are often left out of the conversation. Advocate and writer Renee Bracey Sherman has a must read on how the reproductive justice movement has been whitewashed throughout history. When you are done with that, then check out New Jersey activist Lauren Rankin’s take down of anti-choice lies used to feed the “pro-life” movement.
News from the courts have been good this week, as the the courts refuse to hear Arizona’s case for eliminating Planned Parenthood from receiving funding for providing non-abortion related health care services. In ongoing cases, a legal challenge over the Mississippi law requiring abortion clinics have hospital admitting privileges is now on the docket for this summer. Both cases are a reminder of many states’ insistence on passing unconstitutional abortion restrictions, despite the massive amounts of money defending these cases can cost their own taxpayers.
In good news this week, generic emergency contraception has been approved for over the counter sale, without age restrictions. This means that pregnancy can be more easily prevented even after unprotected sex, without the massive $40-$50 price point of Plan B. Also, South Dakota shelved its bill that could have ended all second trimester abortion procedures; Madison, Wis., approved a buffer zone around its reproductive health clinic (which was immediately challenged by anti-abortion protesters); and Indiana has scrapped its plan to make a publicly available list of doctors providing back up care to abortion providers. Now let’s hope that the state employees who have access to the full list don’t “accidentally” leak it to anti-choice advocates.
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