This New York Times editorial (When States Punish Women) gets it right:
Just since April, six states — Indiana, Virginia, Nebraska, Idaho, Oklahoma and Kansas — have enacted laws banning insurance coverage of abortion in the health insurance exchanges created as part of federal health care reform, bringing the total to 14 states. Two states — Arizona and Texas — joined three others in making ultrasounds mandatory for women seeking to terminate pregnancies. Bills expected to be signed soon by Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, contain both types of provisions.
Many of these fresh attacks on reproductive rights, not surprisingly, have come in states where the midterm elections left Republicans in charge of both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s mansion.
The shameless attack on women’s rights is an inevitable consequence of the GOP’s electoral victories:
Using small-government, libertarian rhetoric, the Tea Party ushered in a new crop of Republican leaders under the banner of fiscal responsibility. But the aggressive antichoice legislation coming from the new GOP majority in the House makes perfectly clear that belt-tightening deficit reduction is entirely compatible with an older social agenda committed to pushing American women out of the public sphere.
These initiatives are well coordinated and poised to make an enormous impact on women’s lives. House Republicans, joined by ten Democrats, passed Mike Pence’s bill to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which in addition to pregnancy termination provides basic reproductive healthcare, STD testing, birth control and cancer screenings to millions of American women. The Republican Party has also proposed eliminating more than $1 billion from Head Start’s budget. As a result, 157,000 children may go without preschool care.
Meanwhile, the South Dakota legislature has considered a bill justifying homicide in the case of imminent harm to a fetus, a law that critics believe may in effect legalize the murder of abortion providers. Republicans in Arizona have proposed different birth certificates for children born to women who are not US citizens in order to nullify the birthright citizenship established by the Fourteenth Amendment. And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is poised to eliminate most of the collective bargaining rights of public employees, including nurses, teachers and other pink-collar workers who are disproportionately women.
These numbers tell the story:
It’s almost an unbelievable figure — 916. That’s the amount of legislation that has been introduced so far this year, in an attempt to regulate a woman’s reproductive system, and we’re only in April.
This information comes from a report by The Guttmacher Institute, and it finds that 49 states have contributed to this number with various bills geared towards regulating Abortions and a woman’s right to choose. The report states that in 15 states, the following measures became law:
- expand the pre-abortion waiting period requirement in South Dakota to make it more onerous than that in any other state, by extending the time from 24 hours to 72 hours and requiring women to obtain counseling from a crisis pregnancy center in the interim;
- expand the abortion counseling requirement in South Dakota to mandate that counseling be provided in-person by the physician who will perform the abortion and that counseling include information published after 1972 on all the risk factors related to abortion complications, even if the data are scientifically flawed;
- require the health departments in Utah and Virginia to develop new regulations governing abortion clinics;
- revise the Utah abortion refusal clause to allow any hospital employee to refuse to “participate in any way” in an abortion;
- limit abortion coverage in all private health plans in Utah, including plans that will be offered in the state’s health exchange; and
- revise the Mississippi sex education law to require all school districts to provide abstinence-only sex education while permitting discussion of contraception only with prior approval from the state.
UPDATE: From Digby, linking to Kate Sheppard:
Kansas may be in the process of closing down the last three clinics that provide abortions in the state. And they’ve done it through cunning and devious means:
The new requirements require facilities to add extra bathrooms, drastically expand waiting and recovery areas, and even add larger janitor’s closets, as one clinic employee told me—changes that clinics will have a heck of a time pulling off by the deadline. Under the new rule, clinics must also acquire state certification to admit patients, a process that takes 90 to 120 days, the staffer explained. Which makes it impossible for clinics to comply. And clinics that don’t comply with the rules will face fines or possible closure.
The state’s latest approach—with its remodeling requirements and so forth—is often referred to as “Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.” TRAP laws are intended to make it difficult, if not impossible, for clinics to operate, and they have become increasingly common around the country.
Prosecutors are twisting laws designed to protect pregnant women and their unborn children into attacks on childbearers themselves. At least 38 states have introduced fetal homicide laws that were intended to be used against violent attacks by third parties like abusive male partners. But in South Carolina, only one case has been brought against a man for assaulting a pregnant woman, while up to 300 women have been arrested under the law, according to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
These prosecutions are part of a much broader assault on women’s reproductive rights. Indeed, it’s been a banner year for the right’s war on women, with state legislatures passing a slew of restrictive legislation across the country that not only impede women’s constitutional right to abortions but also jeopardize their access to basic health care.
Democratic opponents were particularly upset about the conscience clause, saying it would lead to pregnant women being denied emergency treatment. “When the Republicans vote for this bill today they will be voting to say women can die on the floor and health care providers don’t have to intervene,” said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
“This bill is putting the religious leaders’ views right there in the surgery room,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice.
They said it would override the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires that all people have access to emergency services.
A national effort to put abortion bans into state constitutions is looking for its first victory next month in Mississippi, where voters are being asked to approve an amendment declaring that life begins when a human egg is fertilized.
Supporters hope the so-called personhood initiative will succeed in a Bible Belt state that already has some of the nation’s toughest abortion regulations and only a single clinic where the procedures are performed.