This week, three different states have been moving the needle when it comes to granting legal rights to fertilized eggs, and each is doing it in their own way. “Personhood” as a ballot measure was voted down in Mississippi already, but the Personhood Campaign wants to give that another try and is working their way onto a new ballot. The definitions haven’t changed, and they still want to ban anything that could interfere with a zygote from the moment of fertilization. According to Personhood Mississippi, however, the state is really on their side. The reason they failed last time, they claimed, was that voters just didn’t know exactly what they were trying to ban. Clarification made: they want to ban birth control, IVF, abortion and so on. There, that wasn’t so hard.
New Hampshire, surprisingly, is also debating legal rights for fertilized eggs. A “life begins at conception” bill was debated this week, with legislators arguing that it was up to them to speak for the unborn. The so-called “All People Created Equal” Act says it is not about abortion, per se, but about ensuring every “person” is treated equally regardless of gender, race or disability. Pretty as the sentiments are, in reality, it’s a backdoor personhood bill just as blatant as anything the Mississippi folk are concocting.
Perhaps the most emotionally compelling of the personhood attempts this week is the one occurring in Florida, where the woman tricked into ingesting medication she believes caused her to miscarry has begun advocating for a Florida “unborn victims of violence” act that would have allowed the ex who slipped her the medication to be prosecuted for murder. In the past, such charges only could be levied in Florida if the fetus was at viability, and the new bill would change that to be at any stage in pregnancy. Remee Lee’s suffering after the loss of her pregnancy is obvious and heartwrenching, especially as she calls herself “a frame” missing the child she should be holding. Now that suffering may be the impetus that makes Florida grant legal protection to the unborn, starting at the moment of fertilization.
A Catholic school in Montana is refusing to renew the contract of an assistant softball coach. Their reason for ending the relationship? She started working at a local Planned Parenthood. An Oklahoma bill to have doctors tell patients whose fetuses have severe anomalies that there are prenatal hospices that can care for their children until they die is continuing through the legislature, despite the fact that there are no actual prenatal hospice centers in the state.
Alabama is considering four bills at once, including one that will ban abortion at the point of a detectable heartbeat, which is as early as 21 days after conception, and another that would extend the current 24 hour wait to a 48 hour one. Because when you literally only have days in which to arrange an abortion before it becomes illegal to get one, of course an extra day of waiting makes sense. When it comes to waiting, Alaska teens could have an even harder time getting through their own wait, as the courts review whether the new parental consent law is constitutional. Missouri women may also be waiting even longer, as the legislature debates a 72 hour wait. The reason for the extension? Pregnant people have “a lot of information they need to consider,” according to one bill proponent. Apparently, they don’t actually do any thinking before they arrive at the clinic.
South Carolina and West Virginia are both moving ahead with so-called “fetal pain” pre-viability bans, adding to the number of states that have put these unconstitutional abortion bans on the books. At this point, a Supreme Court review is pretty much inevitable. An Iowa bill passed last year that no longer allowed the state Medicaid to pay for abortion of fetuses with anomalies continues to be mostly ineffective, as the only hospital that does the procedure in such cases has decided to absorb the medical costs rather than seek reimbursement. At the same time, Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad is encouraging anti-choice advocates to be patient and push for more restrictions.
South Dakota is in the process of passing a ban on “gender-selection” abortion, despite no evidence of such abortions occurring and no providers who offer termination that late in gestation anyway. Speaking of abortion procedures in South Dakota that never get done, the state will also debate a “live dismemberment of a fetus” bill, which is really meant to lay the groundwork for a new federal battle over ending all second trimester abortions.
A Texas clinic that has been unable to get a transfer agreement under the new state requirements has been shut down, and the doctor’s license was pulled as a result. Much like Texas, Ohio continues to see its clinic access dwindle down to near non-existence, too.
In good news this week, the state of New Hampshire has passed its own buffer zone to provide additional protection at abortion clinics, some Planned Parenthoods in Arizona have returned to offering medication abortions now that they have a provider on staff that can meet the state’s new restrictions, and a bill that would have made public the names of doctors in Indiana who were providing back up care for abortion providers in the state has failed to make it out of committee, meaning that anti-choice activists will not have the opportunity to find and harass those back up physicians until the doctors agree to stop being involved even peripherally with abortion procedures.
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