Nel's New Day

January 10, 2014

GOP ‘Obsessed’ with Abortion

Just because the U.S. Congress is not enacting much legislation doesn’t mean that state legislators aren’t working. The problem with the GOP-run states, however, is that they’re all working against women.  During the past three years, state legislators in GOP-controlled states enacted 205 laws to restrict reproductive rights for women, more than the previous decade when states passed just 189 abortion restrictions.

The top year was 2011 with 93 anti-choice laws. Things looked a bit better for women in the next year with “only” 42 laws, but the number climbed to 70 in 2013. That increase came from just a few states that passed 26 of these bills: North Dakota, Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

graph abortion restrictions

 Almost half of the abortion restrictions enacted since 2011 fall into four categories: targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP), limitations on insurance coverage of abortion, 20-week abortion bans, and restrictions for medication abortion. States have also adopted restrictions including parental notification, waiting periods, counseling, and ultrasounds, among other issues.

A study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that being forced to view ultrasound images has minimal effect on a woman’s decision to have an abortion, a requirement in seven states. The hypothesis that this visual can create fetal bonding for women who want an abortion has been debunked. In a study of 15,575 medical records, 98.4 percent of women terminated their pregnancies even when forced to look at the ultrasounds.

The sweep of Tea Party politicians in 2010 started the anti-choice trend. Candidates campaigned on fiscal issues and immediately moved on to social issues as soon as they were elected. The Guttmacher Institute identified 13 states as “hostile” to abortion rights in 2000 with more than four anti-choice laws; the number more than doubled to 27 by 2013. Over 31 percent of women in the United States live in these 27 states. States designated as “supportive” to women’s abortion rights dropped from 17 to 13 in the same period of time. California actually expanded women’s access to abortion and prevented clinics from being unfairly targeted. Both Pennsylvania and New York are making moves to follow California’s example.

The most recent state bill designed to restrict women’s reproductive rights comes from Mississippi State Rep. Sam Mims, who initiated the bill meant to shutter the only clinic in the state that provided abortions. His current bill would limit over-the-counter access to emergency contraception to people age 18 and over. Minors would be forced to either get a prescription or obtain the medication from a doctor or other health provider.  

Last August, Plan B was approved for pharmacy shelves without a prescription, but it is still very difficult to obtain in many places. An investigation revealed that Native Americans living on reservations have almost no access because stores are not stocking the drug. These areas tend to be remote and have above average levels of sexual assault. Even stores in cities as diverse as Portland (OR) and Louisville (KY) keep Plan B behind the counter rather than on the shelves as required by law.

These stores also demand ID or refuse to sell Plan B if the customer is under 18. A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health published in December shows that 20 percent of almost 1,000 pharmacies stated that only females at least 18 years of age could purchase Plan B.

Mississippi is following the direction of Oklahoma which passed a law making emergency contraception available only to those 17 and over and forcing everyone to show ID for its purchase. A state judge later blocked the law from going into effect, partly because it violated the “single subject” rule, restricting a bill to only one issue. When the state legislature tried to re-pass the restriction, the bill failed to get out of committee. Mississippi remains one of the two states in the United States with the highest number of teen pregnancies and banning all contraceptive information except abstinence in schools.

The first bill that the Tea Party introduced when they were elected to the U.S. House in 2010 was on anti-choice. Then they held committee hearings about contraception without allowing women to participate. Yesterday they did both.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, with not one woman among its 12 members, is considering the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7). Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who heads the subcommittee, denied a request from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia, to testify although H.R. 7 specifically affects her district. Subcommittee member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) made a motion for Norton to testify, but that motion was also denied.

The bill bans subsidies and insurance coverage for abortion in Affordable Care Act state-level insurance marketplaces. It also requires small businesses to pay more for health benefits if they choose to offer insurance plans that cover abortions. And it changes the tax code to eliminate medical-expense deductions for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. That could require the IRS to audit any women who claims one of these exceptions, forcing the women to relive their horrible experiences.

Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect this month, over 80 percent of private insurance plans covered abortion just as any other medical procedure. State legislatures, such as Michigan, have begun banning the insurance coverage of abortion, hoping that women cannot afford to pay for the procedure. In Michigan, the law passed without a governor’s veto requires a special insurance rider for abortion even in the case of rape.

In D.C. the proposed bill prevents the District from spending its own local funds on abortion care for low-income women. Norton wrote that the subcommittee is obsessed with dual objectives: infringing on the District’s right to self-government and interfering with the reproductive health of the District’s female residents, particularly its low-income women. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, agrees, calling the GOP behavior “obsessive.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) promised to fight for a rider in next week’s appropriations package to allow employers to refuse to cover contraception in their health insurance plans for moral reasons. The Republican National Committee will delay its annual winter meeting and bus members to the annual March for Life, an anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C.

The judicial system has been an integral part of decisions regarding anti-choice laws, generally overturning them as unconstitutional. Fortunately, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an Oklahoma case limiting medication-induced abortions. SCOTUS’s decision let stand the lower court ruling, overturning the Oklahoma law to limit these abortions. The decision may also affect the other 15 states that passed similar laws.

At this time, 17 percent of abortions in the U.S. are medication-induced, an advantage after GOP-controlled states have greatly restricted the number of clinics and doctors. Medication is also a benefit, especially for women with ectopic pregnancies from a fertilized egg implanted outside the uterus, because this type of abortion does not need general anesthesia. Oklahoma has only two clinics where women can get abortions, forcing women to drive up to four hours one way to see a provider.

In Texas, a brain-dead woman is being forced to stay on life support until her fetus is harvested. When Marlise Munoz collapsed last November, perhaps because of a pulmonary embolism, she was 14 weeks pregnant. Her brain did not recover because of no oxygen for an extended period of time, but electric shock revived her heart. She had been very clear about not wanting to be on life support, but a state law forces her to remain there for the length of her pregnancy, despite the strong possibility that the fetus is also brain-dead after the same lack of oxygen. Texas is one of 12 U.S. states invalidating a pregnant woman’s end-of-life wishes.

LifeSupport_MapThree experts hold the position that her situation is not covered by the Texas law. Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the office of clinical ethics and palliative care for Baylor Health Care System, said, “Under Texas law, this patient is legally dead.” John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth pointed to a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act: “A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.” Tom Mayo, a Southern Methodist University law professor, said the hospital would not have absolute immunity from a civil or criminal case. Meanwhile the hospital refuses to take Munoz off life support.

There is some hope in Vermont. State legislators have introduced a bill this month that would affirm a woman’s right to an abortion and repeal all pre-Roe v. Wade Vermont statutes that criminalize performing abortions or advertising abortion services.

While people have lost their unemployment benefits, going hungry because the minimum wage is so low, and being separated from families through deportation, GOP continue their efforts to stop abortions and prevent people from getting low-cost health care. At the same time, they fight contraception, forcing women to get pregnant.

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1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel and commented:
    Really? Jobs, budgets, immigrants. They are worrying about an act that is legal? Quite trying to controls women’s bodies. Peace, Barbara

    Like

    Comment by IdealisticRebel — January 10, 2014 @ 9:42 PM | Reply


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