To paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How do I loathe thee? Let
me count the ways -- and the number of states falling all over themselves
to legislate against women's right to privacy, reproductive health care
and freedom, and human rights.
But first some history. As the Gutttmacher Institute points out, after the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade
legalized abortion in this country, several states tried to impose
strict regulations on abortion clinics that went beyond what is
necessary to ensure patient safety. Many of these regulations were
struck down by lower federal courts so states looked at new ways to
restrict access to abortion, including limiting public funding and
instituting ridiculous rules about clinic facilities.
rules and regulations were, and still are, blatantly ridiculous given
that, as Jon Oliver pointed out on his weekly HBO show, Last Week Tonight,
"you're statistically more likely to die during a colonoscopy than an
abortion." Many proposed or passed laws, like mandatory waiting periods
or the viewing of ultrasounds, have nothing at all to do with "safety"
or a woman's health, the purported reasons for the obstructive nonsense
Republican politicians are attempting to promulgate. What they do,
however, is make women face horrendous decisions -- and consequences -
women like the one who called a clinic to ask what she could do on her
own with stuff in her kitchen cupboard since she couldn't afford
transportation to the clinic.
States like Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia and other offenders need to remember that in 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey
allowed states to place restrictions on abortion clinics only so long
as those restrictions didn't place "an undue burden [or] substantial
obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion."
wake of that Supreme Court decision we've seen an increase in state
regulations of abortion clinics resulting in a serious decrease in
clinics, particularly in some states including North Dakota, South
Dakota, Mississippi and Utah, which now have only one clinic each.
a recent egregious instance of de-funding Planned Parenthood and other
reproductive rights clinics, a bill passed in the Florida legislature
would prevent state agencies from working with any organization that
provides abortion care other than for victims of rape, incest, or if the
life of the woman is at risk. It remains to be seen whether Gov. Rick
Scott will sign the bill. Meanwhile, several Florida lawmakers have
insisted that plentiful alternatives exist for reproductive and sexual
healthcare, citing dentists, optometrists, and elementary schools as
viable alternatives to health centers.
As of last year, 24
states had laws or policies that regulate abortion providers in ways
that go well beyond what is necessary to ensure patients' safety.
Fourteen states regulate physicians' offices where abortions are performed
in unnecessary ways. Twenty-two states have onerous licensing standards
and ten states require abortion facilities to be within a set distance
from a hospital. A total of 21 states require a provider to have a
relationship with a hospital. And this is just a partial list of
requirements imposed on clinics and providers.
North Dakota legislatures have tried to ban abortion beyond 12 and six
weeks of pregnancy respectively. In a seemingly spurious move Michigan
governor Scott Walker signed into law a bill that requires county clerks
to provide information on fetal alcohol syndrome and substance use
during pregnancy to marriage licensees and domestic partnership
applicants. South Dakota's House passed a measure banning abortions at
20 weeks and added new abortion reporting requirements. The measure also
required erroneous counseling. Mississippi has tried to ban dilation
and extraction abortions and West Virginia passed a ban on the most
commonly used method of second-trimester termination.
what's all this humiliating and intimidating legislation really about?
One answer is articulated in Rebecca Traister's latest book, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation.
The rising number of single, autonomous, economically and politically
independent women in America, she points out, is challenging patriarchal
patterns and control once managed more efficiently via marriage. Single
women, conservatives realize, threaten the status quo, nowhere more
potently than in the voting booth, and Republican stalwarts are
resisting mightily having to lose power and to meet new challenges as
women define their lives beyond the proscribed historic roles defined by
Within that wider context, reproduction once again
becomes a battlefield in which the warrior aims to hold, or reclaim,
control over women. But as Traister puts it, "The future has arrived,"
and men in power don't much like what they see the future offering them.
It's the "worst nightmare of social conservatives," she says. "The
expanded presence of women as independent entities means a
redistribution of all kinds of power, including electoral power, that
has until recently been wielded mostly by men."
Let's get real here.
Today only 19 percent of Americans believe abortion should be
universally illegal. Thirty-six percent think it should be allowed in
some cases and 29 percent think it should be allowed on demand. There
are good men among these Americans, and I suspect there are also some
conservatives who have reason to be closeted on the abortion issue.
Isn't it time the right wing joined others in recognizing reality so
that we can all face our future together -- sanely, humanely, and truly safely?