Nel's New Day

May 14, 2015

GOP Concerned Only about Carrying Fetuses Full Term

After eight people died from Tuesday’s Amtrak train crash, Rep. Paul Ryan voted to reduce Amtrak funding and then “misrepresented” congressional funding that could have prevented the crash. On Fox, he claimed that Congress funded the Positive Train Control (PTC) for the cash-strapped Amtrak earlier this year. Not only was the allocation far less than the Amtrak request, but the complex PTC takes more than two months to put into place. The last Amtrak bill was seven years ago. At this time, PTC is in service in only 50 miles of the 226-mile route between Washington and New York.

Ryan also said that Congress cannot rush to response to what he believes was “human error, but the PTC overcomes human error. He commented that he wouldn’t support tax increases for infrastructure improvement because “we can do better by saving more money [and] being more efficient.”

While talking about efficiency, Ryan voted in favor of yesterday’s anti-abortion bill that passed by 242-184, almost entirely on partisan lines. The so-called “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” follows the conservatives’ belief that fetuses at this age can feel pain. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) answered the men who expounded on the pain that a fetus feels: “You want to talk about pain? Let’s talk about the agony of a woman who’s raped and again violated by unnecessary government intrusion.”

The bill bans the one percent of abortions that occur after the 20th week of pregnancies, ones that often involve “rare, severe fetal abnormalities and real threats to a woman’s health,” according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Sexual assault victims cannot get rape-caused abortions after the 20th week until they have “obtained counseling” or “medical treatment for the rape or an injury related to the rape” at least 48 hours prior to the abortion procedure unless the victims originally reported the rape to law enforcement. Counseling must be from a facility that doesn’t perform abortions, requiring consultation with two separate doctors.

Incest victims must also have reported the rapes to a law enforcement agency or government agency that acts on reports of child abuse, thus re-traumatizing the victims. The bill also prevents the abortions for victims 18 and older.

Non-viable fetuses or those that might be born with severe defects are typically not identified until after the limit set by this bill, but these issues are not addressed in the bill. The bill allows an abortion to prevent the death of the pregnant woman but says nothing about pregnancies that seriously jeopardize women’s health.

The bill also mandates medical procedures for doctors. If a doctor thinks that the aborted fetus could survive outside the womb, a second doctor must be present to care for it and provide hospitalization. Women are also required to sign consent forms that include the fetus’ age and steps to save its life. Doctors performing banned abortions would face imprisonment of up to five years plus fines, and people could also bring civil actions against doctors who violate the measure’s requirements.

After a similar bill failed in January, House leadership spent months negotiating its current success, time that certainly could have been more profitably spend with legislation that would boost in the economy. The conservatives’ goal is to ban all abortions although the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision established a constitutional right to abortion, allowing states to bar the procedure after viability when the fetus could survive if born.

Once the fetus has emerged into the daylight, however, mother and child are pretty much on their own. Only two laws help new parents: the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 providing 12 weeks of leave to new or expectant parents and an expansion of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act to protect mothers who want to continue breastfeeding after returning to work. There is leave, but no paid leave. Parents have to save enough money for one of them to go without wages for the 12 weeks following a child’s birth. The United States is “exceptional” in this situation because 181 countries guarantee paid leave from work for new mothers and 81 guarantee it for new fathers. Employers also aren’t required in the United States to accommodate new mothers; they don’t even have to add break time for women who want to pump breast milk.

A law is supposed to protect pregnant woman at work, but in many cases it doesn’t. Many employers deny requests such as the ability to sit down while at work, an extra bathroom break, and drinking water while working. Pregnant women are expected to complete the same manual labor as men and non-pregnant women because it would be considered special treatment. Pregnant women may be forced to leave their jobs, leaving them reliant on the U.S. safety net.

According to conservatives, who get their marching orders from Fox network, these women carrying the beloved fetuses and avoiding abortions are “losers,” “moochers,” “takers,” and more. Conservatives accuse women of being pregnant just to get more federal money or, worse, of having “anchor babies” so that they can stay in the United States. Unmarried women who are pregnant or already have children are also told to get married so that they won’t be a drain on the country. (This idea is a myth.)

Author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich writes that poverty is a lack of money, not a lack of character, but conservatives disagree, preferring to shame poor mothers. Like preventing abortions, allowing children and their mothers to live in poverty is a policy choice.

Opposition to providing birth control is another conservative policy decision, frequently religious. Conservatives fight the provision of the Affordable Care Act to provide free birth control, women have to renew their birth control medication every month, and women’s clinics that provide birth control are shut down in massive numbers throughout the conservative states. Catholic health systems, controlling almost 20 percent of patients in the United States, may prevent participating doctors from prescribing birth control pills. They can also refuse tubal ligations and vasectomies—even deny the termination of an ectopic pregnancy in which the fetus grows outside the uterus.

While conservatives virtuously pretend to protect fetuses, more women die in childbirth and from pregnancy-related causes in the United States now than at almost any point in the last 25 years. Throughout the world, the United States is one of only seven countries to experience an increase in Maternal Mortality Rates (MMR) over the past decade. MMR rise in tandem with poverty rates as conservative legislators refuse to pass fair gender salary laws and increase the minimum wage.

The U.S. MMR is 14 times greater than in Israel, which has liberal abortion laws with government-subsidized abortion services. The states in this country with the greatest abortion restrictions have the highest maternal deaths, infant and child death rates, and teen drug and alcohol abuse. Georgia, with 11 restrictive abortion laws, has the highest MMR.

Legislation is moving forward in North Carolina to send detailed information about an abortion past the first trimester to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, including “an ultrasound image of the unborn child that depicts the measurements.” Already required in Oklahoma and Louisiana, this mandate violates privacy between a woman and her doctor and serves no medical purpose. Doctors are not required to send any other type of medical image to the state. Oklahoma ranks 48th in Maternal Mortality Rates; Louisiana is 44th.

abortion

No matter how horrifying yesterday’s anti-abortion bill passed in the House may be, conservatives can make life worse for pregnant women. Texas state representative Matt Schaefer has introduced an amendment forcing women to carry a fetus to full term even if it might be nonviable. Beyond causing severe health issues and perhaps death for the woman, the act would inflict great pain on the family. Schaefer’s justification is that suffering is “part of the human condition, since sin entered the world.”

Thanks to conservative legislation, United States in 2015 can be compared to the country in 1929 with the huge gulf between the wealthy and the rest of the people in the nation. At this time, the ratio of pay between CEOs and workers is 373-1—and greater for women because they are below the average wage. One guarantee: GOP members of Congress will continue to focus on fetuses and the wealthy; everyone else will be left out. It’s what adds to their campaign war chests.

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