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War Against Women

Proposed laws from Republicans would have dire consequences for women’s health

February 9, 2011, 1:00 am

New Mexico state Sen. William Sharer has introduced numerous anti-abortion bills, some with bizarre conditions.

The Hyde Amendment itself remains deeply problematic, turning abortion into a privilege for those who have money and access rather than a basic right, in line with other standard medical care. The reproductive justice movement, born out of organizing efforts by women of color, has long fought against the discrimination embedded in Hyde, and many feminists were disturbed by President Obama’s assurances that Hyde was a settled compromise. Because while pro-choice politicians like Obama are OK with the discriminatory statute as a compromise, his opponents are not.

From the Stupak amendment through HR3—the evidence is that Hyde is no longer enough for the right wing. HR3 will target all insurance coverage for abortion, and even decades of rape awareness activism as well. Indeed, “abortion” is now being used as a wedge-word to undermine all health care for women and women’s rights on the whole.

Though HR3 is likely to be defeated, it is not a stand-alone attack—in fact, it’s part of a broad-reaching movement from state legislatures to curb abortion access and insurance coverage, place hurdles before and infantilize women with ultrasound and parental notification requirements, and generally prove that shaming women is much more important to Republicans than tackling the economic crisis or any of the myriad other problems facing Americans today.

All across the country, legislatures are moving abortion restrictions forward on the docket, and although there are a few bright spots, overall the picture is pretty grim. Even The New York Times editorial board is up in arms after its own paper’s story on the subject, offering us some frightening statistics:

Twenty-nine governors are considered solidly anti-abortion, up from 21 before the election. In 15 states, both the legislature and the governor are anti-abortion, compared with 10 last year. This math greatly increases the prospect of extreme efforts to undermine abortion access with Big Brother measures that require physicians to read scripts about fetal development and provide ultrasound images, and that impose mandatory waiting periods or create other unnecessary regulations.

The following pieces of legislation are not the only efforts that could quash women’s rights this year, but they are indicative of a bold, cruel and determined Republican-led movement happening across the country. If successful, these laws will make it unimaginably more difficult for women to access basic health care.

Since the November midterm election, the number of states with anti-abortion governors and legislatures has increased dramatically.

Here in New Mexico, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is one of many anti-choice state leaders to have been sworn in following the November elections. Martinez, who has said she opposes pro-choice legislation because women rely on abortions as a “form of contraception,” supports legislation requiring the parental notification of women under the age of 18 before they can receive an abortion.

So it is disappointing, though not surprising, that the New Mexico Legislature is now considering a parental notification bill—disappointing because, as reported by SFR, such measures have little to no effect on reducing abortion rates, and they force many young women, including those whose parents are abusive, to have children against their will. According to one study by Baruch College researchers, parental notification laws in Texas reduced the overall number of abortions in the state, but they also increased the number of young women seeking “late-term” abortions by one-third. And a New York Times study of several states found only a “scant decrease” in total abortion rates, as well as no decrease in teen pregnancies.

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