With my eyes glued the Steubenville rape case and my attention focused on America’s rape culture, I almost missed the GOP’s newest sneak attack – a serious, no-nonsenses crackdown on abortion clinics across the country. Back in full force, the stirring threat of of the Personhood Amendments are being discussed and put on the ballot – forcing voters and lawmakers to assess the legality of abortion (or what’s left of it.) its influences can be seen in literally every corner of the country. Let’s break it down state-by-state:
In the South, we can see the GOP has taken a liking to the idea of thinking outside the box – if you can’t make abortion illegal, then make the clinics illegal. Alabama lawmakers just passed a new bill entitled the Women’s Health and Safety Act, which “requires that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Several of Alabama’s clinics rely on doctors who fly in from out of state, and given the hostile political climate it appears unlikely that nearby hospitals would grant them such privileges.” While tightening zoning and facility restrictions and the like may seem harmless for a clinic that performs abortions, the reality is that these measures are impossible to meet and will force these clinics to close their doors as they cannot adhere to the new legally mandated terms. Alabama only has four clinics remaining, and when questioned about the possibility of back-alley abortions endangering women, Sen. Scott Beason (R), the bill’s sponsor, only commented with “And how many fatalities for the unborn child?” No sympathy or mention of the women in question.
In Arkansas, we have another splendid example of lawmakers caring for regulation of birth and sex more than preventing the causes on unintended pregnancy. Lawmakers in Arkansas are attempting to strip funding for Planned Parenthood, which has its own implications of taking away women’s access to inexpensive pelvic examinations, STD screenings, cancer screenings, counseling, birth control, and yes, abortions – but it has greater implications. Without funding, Planned Parenthood would no longer be able to “provide sex education and STD prevention resources in Little Rock-area schools. And, since it would also target any organization that might refer women to Planned Parenthood for their reproductive care, it could also jeopardize the money that helps fund domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers in the state.” Once again, we can see the GOP putting religion and politics ahead of actual well-being – and, furthermore, logic. If we can educate on birth control and offer resources to raped women, we can help make abortion a last resort for an unwanted pregnancy.
In the tradition of de-funding Planned Parenthood, Arizona quisling Gov. Jan Brewer has also attempted to end funding for Planned Parenthood regardless of the fact that it may completely derail Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion into the state. Regardless of the fact that she has spoken out in support of Obama’s Medicaid plan, lobbyists are still attempting to pass legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood at the expense of denying Medicaid into low-income and at-risk neighborhoods. While a federal judge blocked the lobbyists’ work, the single-minded Republicans in the state are unlikely to call a ceasefire for much longer.
Yes, the GOP has religious tunnel vision. Yes, the GOP is callous and says hurtful things about rape. However, now, does the GOP lie? It seems like it in the past week in Florida. According to ThinkProgress, “RNC Chairman Reince Priebus published an editorial lambasting the mainstream media for “covering up” Planned Parenthood’s “support for infanticide.” According to Priebus, the national women’s health organization — in addition to providing contraceptive services, STD testing, cancer screenings, and reproductive care for millions of women across the country — is also in the business of murdering live babies. He claims that a recent committee hearing in Florida proves that Planned Parenthood officials support “the right to post-birth abortion.” So, essentially, a claim was made regarding a false stance that Planned Parenthood has against a fake procedure. “Post-birth abortion” is a term that describes the killing of a child born during a botched abortion, a danger that is not actually imminent to women seeking abortions. Furthermore, even in states where it’s not against the law to perform late-term induced abortions — Planned Parenthood clinics don’t provide that type of service. They stick to abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy, when women can either take a pill or have a less-invasive surgical procedure.
Kansas is blazing the anti-abortion trail this month by the state state’s House of Representatives passing HB 2253, a bill that defines life starting at conception (personhood) as well as adding several unnecessary restrictions on abortions, dubbed “little gotcha amendments” by top republicans. While it has not passed Senate, quisling Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R) explained that “she opposed the rape and incest exception because it would apply not just to HB 2253, but also to the existing abortion laws in Kansas. That means it would extend an exception in the cases of rape and incest to current state restrictions banning most abortions after 22 weeks, preventing private health insurance from covering abortion services, and requiring doctors to obtain parental consent before performing an abortion for a minor.” Perhaps they will try again when a personhood bill no longer has exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
Mississippi now acts as a glimpse into the future of abortion in Alabama as a state in the aftermath of passing a similar zoning law for abortion clinics. In January, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) – the last abortion clinic in Mississippi – was forced to close its doors as they were unable to meet the standards as set forth by Gov. Phil Bryant’s new law, which was specifically designed to make Mississippi an abortion-free state. Therefore, abortion has ended in Mississippi – we can expect to see a rise in back-alley abortions, increased strain on welfare, and an increase in teen pregnancy in about nine months.
In the Silver State, which boasts one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, lawmakers are attempting to pass AB 230, which “requires that all school districts offer a comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate sexuality education curriculum. Parents may opt their children out of this coursework without penalty.” A brilliant step in the right direction, a comprehensive sex education is a solid foundation to help lower teen pregnancy rates. So what’s the problem? Lucy Flores, Nevada’s first Latina assemblywoman, gave a compelling testimony in support of AB 230 and described her own abortion story from when she was sixteen and why she supports sex education. Upon speaking out, she has now received death threats in response to her truthful testimony, both infuriating and seemingly a way of conservative press to distract from the issue at hand. Lucy Flores, we and Generation: Handmaid support you. Thank you for your courage.
Save the best for last: North Dakota Senate passed the strictest abortion ban in the country last month. It would prohibit abortion at a stage that precedes when many women realize they are pregnant, thus becoming the first state to pass a fetal personhood amendment, “which grants legal personhood rights to embryos from the moment of fertilization.” The legislature has amended the 20 week “fetal pain” abortion ban bill to block what would have been over $1 million in sex ed funding to North Dakota State University to help at risk teens avoid pregnancy and STIs. So, no abortion, and no easy access to sex education to understand how to avoid needing one. This is something that the GOP wants for our entire country. They want to overturn Roe vs. Wade entirely.
Just a few blocks down from my apartment here in Fort Collins is a Planned Parenthood. Every day during Lent, middle-aged white folks would stand outside of it in matching silk-screened t-shirts and carrying signs protesting abortion. I respect their right of assembly, and their right to free speech – but I must admit, it is starting to scare me. This sort of thought is making it into our laws. What’s next, will they have a statewide recall on IUDs? Starting requiring a prescription for condoms and the morning after pill? Ban sex education altogether?
We can’t afford to give up. We can’t afford to sit silently and feel defeated. As Victoria said, “it’s time to start calling our senators again.”
Check out our links page for an interactive map showing abortion accessibility with respect to insurance and distance.
“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.”
-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale