“If there is one thing we know, it’s what is best for women. Am I right, fellas?”
It was very obvious what was going to happen to the state of women’s health care and reproductive freedom in the United States of America when Republicans took control of not only the House of Representatives, but also a slew of statehouses and governor’s mansions following the 2010 midterms. Nick Baumann of Mother Jones wrote the following on December 2, 2010:
If you thought the abortion battle during the health care debate was fierce, just wait until Republicans take over the House in January. Strengthened by congressional victories in the midterm elections, Republican abortion foes plan to push hard in the new year. Their top goals: enshrine tough restrictions on abortion funding into federal law and defund Planned Parenthood. And they’ll have Democratic help to do it.
Once inaugurated, it was full speed ahead in the assault on women’s reproductive freedom, at the state and federal level. On the national front, House Republicans got things started with the galling “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act”:
Just one day after Republican leaders pushed through the House a measure to repeal the entire health law, a measure unlikely to even be considered by the Senate, they were back before the cameras, introducing legislation that would permanently bar any taxpayer subsidies for abortion.
“A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is the will of the people, and it ought to be the will of the land,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said.
The legislation, called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” is sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the longtime chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus.
Smith says the bill would write into permanent law existing abortion restrictions that Congress has to currently renew every year.
“Our new bill is designed to permanently end any U.S. government financial support for abortion, whether it be direct funding or by tax credits or any other subsidy,” he said.
No big deal, just your standard extremist anti-choice legislation. Well, except for that provision about redefining rape:
For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to “forcible rape.” This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith’s spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)
Thankfully, they removed that provision when people rightfully called them out for being insane.
And then they came back and passed the “Protect Life Act”:
Under current law, every hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid money is legally required to provide emergency care to any patient in need, regardless of his or her financial situation. If a hospital is unable to provide what the patient needs — including a life-saving abortion — it has to transfer the patient to a hospital that can.
Under H.R. 358, dubbed the “Protect Life Act” and sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), hospitals that don’t want to provide abortions could refuse to do so, even for a pregnant woman with a life-threatening complication that requires a doctor terminate her pregnancy. This provision would apply to the more than 600 Catholic hospitals governed by the Catholic Health Association, which are regulated by bishops and prohibited from performing abortions.
When asked about the “Protect Life Act”, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) responded by saying, “I can’t even describe to you the logic of what it is that they are doing.”
And this was just on the national front.
At the state level, Ohio has been busy trying to push through a law that would “outlaw abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat”:
An Ohio lawmaker on Wednesday touted the importance of the fetal heartbeat as an indicator of life as he urged a legislative panel to support a bill that would impose the nation’s most stringent abortion limit.
The measure would outlaw abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat. That’s sometimes as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, the bill’s sponsor, told the Ohio Senate’s health committee that doctors and nurses closely monitor patients’ heartbeats and emergency responders check for pulses.
“Why, then, should we ignore this critical indicator of life when it comes to the very young?” asked Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, as testimony began on the bill.
Texas got busy with a law that required women to experience a sonogram viewing 24 hours before having an abortion, until a federal judge told them to pump the breaks.
The law, which had been due to go into effect on Thursday, was a major part of Republican Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry’s agenda in this year’s Texas legislative session.
But the judge, in a victory for abortion rights activists, ruled in a preliminary injunction that there was cause to believe such a requirement was an unconstitutional burden on doctors.
“The act compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity, and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen,” U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said in the ruling.
It should be noted at this point that Rick “Governor Goodhair” Perry fast-tracked the legislation through the Republican-controlled legislature, proclaiming it to be an “emergency priority.”
Before getting smacked down with outrage, South Dakota thought it would be nifty to alter their “justifiable homicide” language to allow the following:
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state’s GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state’s legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person “while resisting an attempt to harm” that person’s unborn child or the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman’s father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.
Up in Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels went from saying in June 2010 that the next president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues,” to making Indiana the first state to pull federal funding from Planned Parenthood in April 2011:
“I supported this bill from the outset, and the recent addition of language guarding against the spending of tax dollars to support abortions creates no reason to alter my position.” Daniels said in a statement. “The principle involved commands the support of an overwhelming majority of Hoosiers.”
The bill would cut $3 million in federal money the state currently allocates to the women’s health group. It also would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless the woman’s life is significantly threatened, require women seeking abortions to be informed that life starts at conception, and require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital.
But the bill also puts Indiana in a financial tight spot as it risks losing $4 million a year in federal family-planning money that would be eliminated because of the state legislation.
And hey, why not show a little love to Kansas while we’re at it?
Kansas seemed to be one of the more extreme states: it passed laws banning abortion after 20 weeks, requiring written parental consent for abortions on minors, and revising its “partial birth” abortion ban. It also passed a law requiring pre-abortion counseling, mandating that medical staff tell women that abortion ends the life of a “whole, separate, unique, living human being” and provide information on the father’s liability for child support and copious lists of adoption and parenting resources.
Again, it bears repeating: The real tragedy of the 2010 midterms is that they were a launching pad for the next great escalation in the war on women’s reproductive freedom:
In 1982, there were 2,908 providers nationwide. As of 2008, there were only 1,793. In 97 percent of the counties that are outside metropolitan areas there are no abortion providers at all.
One powerful strategy of the anti-abortion forces has been to portray abortion as outside the mainstream and cast women who have abortions as immoral outliers. In reality, abortion is one of the safest and most common of medical procedures, one that about one-third of American women undergo during their lifetime.
It is a travesty that Susan G. Komen For The Cure decided to cut their funding for Planned Parenthood. But it is far from a surprise and it damn sure is not a mistake:
Now, apparently seeking to flesh out the GOP’s social agenda, [Speaker of the House, John] Boehner has invited another influential voice to the table: the far right Christian activist Randall Terry.
As the founder of the extremist, pro-life group Operation Rescue, Terry turned rabid fanaticism into a high-profile career. Known for his outlandish antics and incendiary rhetoric, Terry earns the scorn of most respectable lawmakers. But, according to an email alert obtained by Right Wing Watch, Terry’s extremism has now secured him a spot in Beohner’s inner circle. Meeting with Boehner’s staff, Terry apparently demanded the GOP “hasten the end of legalized child killing in America” and that “unless the Republicans do something concrete to save babies from murder, then they are collaborators with child killers, and we must treat them as such.”
Maybe we should talk a little bit more about the war on women that is happening in this country.