Last week's Congressional passage of the Let Women Die ("Protect Life") Act capped off a year characterized by a dismayingly high number of abortion restricting bills, and there's no end to the fuckery in sight. Since Roe v. Wade has withstood decades of legal challenges, the next wave of abortion restricting laws won't try to take on Roe v. Wade directly; rather, they'll attempt to gradually ebb away at a woman's right to bodily autonomy by eliminating funding, legally redefining "life," and harassing and intimidating doctors interested in providing abortion services. This is going to be the best fall ever.
Federal law already prohibits tax money from providing coverage for abortion services directly, but this hasn't stopped states from cutting funding from clinics that simply refer women to places that provide abortions or that segregate the part of their operation that provides abortions from the part of their organization that simply provides preventative care. The effects of such cuts are, unsurprisingly, harming women and children who depend on low-cost clinics for their care.
The New York Times reports that Texas, under the leadership of now-Presidential Candidate Rick Perry (in the movie version, he'll be played Tommy Lee Jones on muscle relaxers), chose to cut family planning funding by two-thirds. As a result, low cost women't health clinics around the state have been forced to close their doors. Some analysts fear that these cuts and subsequent closures may result in the births of 20,000 additional babies into an already cash-strapped state. Similar "budget cutting" measures have passed in several states. Is this fiscal responsibility?
Maybe politicians who think that cutting funding from family planning services is a good long term money-saving strategy think that babies can solve our current health care crisis like how pioneer families used to think more babies could solve the lack of hired hand on the farm crisis. Maybe the extra Texan babies will be trained at an early age to conduct routine physicals at a low cost to the state. By fourth grade, they learn how to diagnose UTI's in a lab. By middle school, bloodwork. And what would Texas do without its new crop of baby pharmacists helping address the drug needs of a rapidly aging population? And wasn't this legislative session supposed to be about jobs? How is America supposed to go back to work if it keeps being filled up with all these young, ambitious babies?
Texas is also attempting to dissuade women from having abortions by forcing them to listen to a doctor describe a sonogram to a pregnant woman interested in termination. Ohio is currently debating a so-called "Heartbeat Bill" which would outlaw all abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which happens at around 6 weeks' gestation. (Roe V Wade allows for abortions to occur at any time before fetal viability, which happens at around the 22nd week.) The state of Mississippi, in between being just about the worst state at everything ever, is allowing its voters to decide on an amendment that would define "personhood" as beginning at the moment of conception, which would outlaw all forms of abortion, throw into question the legality of hormonal birth control, and prevent women who are experiencing pregnancy complications from receiving life-saving care.
Time's Adam Cohen notes that not all states are going as far as Ohio, Texas, and Mississippi in directly confronting Roe V. Wade. The hottest trend among anti choicers of late has been pushing for legislation that requires abortion seeking women to listen to the fetal heartbeat before deciding to terminate their pregnancies. That Michele Bachmann, bless her heart, has introduced a bill at the federal level called The Heartbeat Informed Consent Act (an absolutely terrible band name), which would impose a national "you don't know what you're doing, you murderous harlot!" standard to abortion seekers and require all of them to sit there and listen to the unwanted, unfeeling, sexless cellball in their uteruses pulse unconsciously before deciding on abortion. A national right to life group has claimed that they're planning on introducing heartbeat legislation in all 50 states over the course of the next year. One can only assume that Congress's militant vegetarians will introduce similar legislation in the future that requires all steak eaters watch a video of a baby calf toddling around in a field after its mother before sitting down to dinner.
Affronts to abortion rights aren't always organized or cooperative; sometimes they're just one zealot on a personal crusade against a legal medical procedure. Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is in hot water for his bizarre obsession with destroying the life and practice of since-murdered abortion provider Dr. Tiller. Kline spent years using his position as AG to target and bully Tiller, and last week, a disciplinary panel in the state recommended he have his law license revoked. While this is good news for the pro-choice community, it's truly disheartening to consider the fact that Kline was allowed to pursue his anti-Tiller vendetta for six years. During that time, he had staff record license numbers of patients at the clinic and then subpoenaed the DMV for the identities of the cars' owners, all while stating multiple times under oath that he was not attempting to discover the identities of abortion seekers, he used data that he knew to be flawed to justify his multiple investigations into the clinic, and he stored medical records he acquired from the clinic in an unsecured garage, among other things. Despite his harsh rebuke, Kline says he regrets nothing in his pursuit of Tiller.
Anti choice groups have all but given up on outlawing abortion outright, but this doesn't mean they'll ever stop trying to make it impossible to access the services to which women are legally entitled. And if they get their way, by this time next year, we'll all be pregnant.