Ladies, please remove sharp objects from the spot in your desk where you like to bang your head, do all of your yelling vocal warm-ups, and ready your cervixes — it's time for a brand new abortion debate. Forget all that "personhood" business — that comical overreach was rejected by voters so hard that if it were a cartoon, it would've seen tiny unburdened storks flying around its head. But the next wave of bills is more subtle, more sneaky, and more perilous.
This new trend of laws won't propose waiting periods or other barriers between women and abortions. They won't attack abortion providers, it won't attempt to ascribe feelings to 18-week-old fetuses, and it won't force teenagers to get permission from their parents before terminating a pregnancy. The new frontier in abortion restriction is writing laws governing why women are allowed to terminate their pregnancies. And they're more popular than you might think.
State battles are often defined by model legislation crafted by anti-choice groups like Americans United for Life (did you think that low-level legislators just magically and simultaneously came up with shitty laws on their own? Psh.). Every year, they create a packet called Defending Life, a sort of Forced Pregnancy Mad Libs for the on-the-go conservative politician who really wants to make a splash with his rabidly anti-choice constituents without doing any of his own thinking. And this year's edition of Defending Life contains a bit of legislation that we'll likely see in other states very shortly — rules that restrict why you can have an abortion.
So-called "motivation bans" have started small and without much controversy; at the federal level, a bill known as PRENDA aims to outlaw abortion based on the race or sex of the fetus and would allow parental or spousal intervention to stop a woman from aborting her pregnancy. Even though the bill nakedly sucks ass, the prospect of outlawing sex-selective abortion is a popular one — according to LifeSite News, more than 75% of Americans say they'd support a ban on the practice. But it's a solution in search of a problem; in the US, there's no evidence or noteworthy numbers to indicate that women are having abortions based on the sex of the infant — if that were the case, we'd start seeing proof in a lopsided birth rate. There's no proof, either, that women are aborting babies based on the future child's race.
Earlier this year, the push to expand the list of "unacceptable reasons to have an abortion" to include fetal abnormality intensified. At a Catholic Church-sponsored conference this January, the anti-choice Family Research Council (and, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an "anti-gay hate group") devoted an entire day to discussing motivations of parents who chose abortion because of a genetic defect like Down Syndrome, and how the Faithful can fight for laws aiming to prevent the termination of these pregnancies. Since then, there's been an uptick in the number of people writing about fetal abnormalities and abortion on the anti-choice side.
In addition to attempting to ban race- and sex-based abortion at the federal level, lawmakers in a few states, including Arizona and Kansas, have acted accordingly, introducing laws protecting doctors from lawsuits if they fail to disclose fetal abnormalities to expectant parents. Theoretically, anti-choice doctors or ultrasound technicians would be legally allowed to lie to women about the presence of a birth defect if they thought it would prevent her from having an abortion.
But it doesn't have to end here; what we're seeing right now is likely the first stage in a series of proposals that will get more and more ridiculous, because this is part of a larger strategy to bring a woman's motivation for abortion into the debate. If it's not okay for a woman to abort based on expected gender or race of the child, and it's not okay to abort because of expected fetal abnormalities, then what other reasons can be examined as inappropriate? Will lawmakers attempt to enact economic barriers in the procedure in order to prove that the woman on trial genuinely cannot afford to raise a child? What about spousal permission? Will woman be forced to prove that they weren't coerced into abortion? Will it only be allowed among women below or above a certain age?
These laws — and they questions the propose to ask of abortion-seeking women — sound increasingly like a guilty-until-proven-innocent scenario. It's a slippery slope argument, but it's an argument that is sliding right toward your slippery uterus.