The State of Reproductive Rights in the USA

We will soon have a post up giving a more detailed description of the Reproductive Rights Rally we held on Saturday past. It was quite successful, given that it was our first rally ever! In the meantime, this new article from the Guttmacher Institute details the explosive growth in anti-abortion laws and regulations currently swamping the nation’s state capitols. When we started setting up this group, the number of abortion-restricting laws was at around 500; now it’s over 900. This is in 2011 alone, if you can believe it. So far, the most popular measures among those wishing to make it more difficult for pregnant people to end an unwanted pregnancy are:

  • Insurance coverage of abortion

    Legislators in 11 states… have introduced 18 measures that would restrict abortion coverage under all private health insurance plans. So far this year, one measure has been adopted by a legislative chamber in South Carolina and one has been enacted in Utah. This new law limits coverage to cases of life endangerment, “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” fetal defect, rape and incest; the law does not specifically require that individuals be allowed to purchase coverage through a rider. Including the new Utah law, six states restrict private abortion coverage

    Moving past the old tired concern about taxpayer being made to pay for abortions, which they may or may not agree with (would that we could all be such special snowflakes as to dictate that government spending correspond exactly to our personal moralities!), anti-choicers have taken up trying to dictate what private individuals may or may not spend their hard-earned cash on. Note, of course, that women who have not had sex voluntarily are exempt from these restrictions, once again demonstrating that the anti-choicers do no actually believe that abortion is murder. In addition, legislators in 23 states have proposed similar restrictions on insurance packages bought through state-administered health insurance exchanges.

  • Gestational limits on abortion
    This year, legislator in 17 states have introduced 35 measures patterned after Nebraska’s 2010 law that bans all abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, based on the scientifically unsupported proposition that fetuses feel pain at that point. The health exception for this one is quite narrow: only if a woman’s life is in danger or she faces “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” can she obtain an abortion after 20 weeks. Since 98% of abortions take place before 20 weeks’ gestation has passed, one must wonder about the efficacy of bills like these. Once again, anti-choicers reveal that actually reducing the abortion rate is simply not their priority. Forcing women to perform their particular stripe of patriarchal morality, however, is high on their list of important goals.
  • Forced Ultrasounds

    So far this year, legislators in 13 states have introduced 22 bills seeking to mandate that a woman obtain an ultrasound procedure before having an abortion. Bills in seven states (AL, IN, KY, MT, OH, RI and TX) are very similar to a law enacted last year in Oklahoma that requires a woman to undergo an ultrasound procedure, view the image and receive a verbal description of the fetus… Of these, proposals in Kentucky and Texas have been approved by a chamber of the legislature.
    Bills in four other states (AZ, FL, MI, VA) as well as an additional measure in Texas would require the woman to have an ultrasound but then be given the option to view the image or hear the description. The bill in Texas has been approved by one house.

    Again, the priority is not on actually reducing the abortion rate – liberal abortion policies, universal health care, and widespread sex education will do that – but on shaming and pressuring women who are on the verge of making what the government has decided is the “wrong” choice.

Well, there it is. Abortion is technically legal in this country, but in reality it is becoming harder and harder to get one. What good is a right if you can’t exercise it? One in three American women will get an abortion before she’s 45 years old. We need to stop pretending that this isn’t the case, and that fully 1/3 of women are moral lepers, baby-killers, or irresponsible twits wishing to fit into their prom dresses, or whatever the sexist stereotype du jour is. We’re FED UP.


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