It’s the end of the year, and a number of reproductive rights reporters are doing year end roundups, best stories of the year and worst bills to make it into law. So, how was 2013 when it came to the right to decide if and when you want to be pregnant and give birth?
Pretty bad, frankly.
Not only was 2013 yet another year of massive abortion restrictions, but those laws that have gone into effect are doing their job as pregnant people are finding it more difficult to obtain services and dozens of providers are shutting down under onerous, unnecessary regulations.
Anti-choice groups are declaring it a year of victory. According to a report from Operation Rescue, who closely analyzes clinics across the country, almost 90 clinics closed this year, more than three times as many as shut down in 2012. In fact, since 1991, the group claims, nearly 75 percent of all clinics have shuttered, leaving fewer than 600 surgical abortion clinics left.
The clinic closures are even more devastating when you examine where the open clinics still exist. This year more states than ever are teetering on the edge of becoming completely clinic-free, with Missouri joining the states of Mississippi, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming with only one provider. Even more states have just two or three clinics, often in the same city, making their situations almost as dire. Of course, those are the states being targeted by recently passed TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws, that are intended to close centers by creating requirements impossible for clinics to operate under.
As Amanda Marcotte points out at Slate, this is all part of a push to stop focusing on regulations regarding the ending of pregnancy, and instead insisting that pregnant people are in constant danger from the moment they enter a clinic. The shift is a purposeful one. As Jessica Mason Pieklo and I explain in our book on the red state war on abortion, switching abortion restrictions to a “women’s safety” issue allows far more onerous laws to be seen as constitutional, allowing anti-choice activists to directly challenge Roe v. Wade.
The Roe decision will turn 41 in just a few weeks. It’s becoming more and more uncertain if it will make it to a 42nd anniversary.
Some Rights Updates
Spain has decided to roll back the right to an abortion, and women’s rights activists have taken to the streets.
A West Virginia doctor accused of making up stories of treating abortion complications has now said that he reported them to the University, not the board of medicine, and that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Finally, a Virginia woman who gave birth to a stillborn baby is now being charged with drug possession, since she cannot be charged with harming the fetus under Virginia law.
Some Good News
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Salon gives us five reasons to feel good about 2013, and we ended the year on a high note when Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer spoke out about her own experience being sexually assaulted, testifying against the state’s new abortion insurance rider. The bill still passed, but advocates are already preparing to overturn the new rule with their own ballot initiative.
Another court has ruled that the Wisconsin admitting privileges requirement passed in 2013 is unconstitutional. Also, Nebraska will once again offer prenatal care to pregnant undocumented immigrants, overriding a previous veto by the governor, who believes that allowing those women and girls medical care for healthy births will draw more undocumented people to the state.
Looking to the Future
So what will 2014 bring? More clinic closures as TRAP laws and admitting privileges requirements start to be enforced, such as this new announcement that Fort Wayne, Indiana will no longer have a provider until the physician there can find a new back up doctor locally. Also expect a number of new tactics when it comes to clinic protests, while anti-choice activists look to the Supreme Court to decide whether religious speech and demonstrations are considered protected speech outside abortion clinics, rendering “buffer zones” unconstitutional.
Good-bye, 2013. Hopefully 2014 will be a year where we can increase access, not just watch it be whittled further away.
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