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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

Texas Gov. Rick Perry not only supports a bill similar to Kentucky’s, he also considers it an “emergency” priority, despite his state’s grappling with more urgent issues—such as a $27 billion deficit.
Credits: Robert Scoble

New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state, has conservative leanings, but has thus far refrained from policing women’s bodies, embracing a libertarian ethos toward the issue, as it does to many others.

But the state’s first major anti-abortion law could be on its way. Although state legislators claim to be focused on financial issues, they’ve hinted that “social issues,” like abortion, are on the radar. Specifically, New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien says he anticipates the introduction of a parental notification act—yet another law that would make life extremely difficult for minors who may be faced with disapproving, controlling or even abusive parents.

The state has held out against such legislation in the past, so why the change? Women’s eNews reports that “proponents think they’ll finally be able to get [a parental notification law] passed, not only because Republicans control the Senate but also because men are now the majority, unlike in 2008 when the Senate was female dominant.”

That’s certainly depressing, but hopefully some conservative women will help stem the anti-choice tide, as has happened in the past. Take Wyoming, where an anti-choice ultrasound law (which would have severely hampered women traveling across the state for an abortion) was voted down, and several Republican women spoke up against it. While we hold out for that reality, is circulating a petition asking New Hampshire to stay true to its flinty nature and keep its legislative paws off of young women’s bodies.

In Idaho, a pharmacist recently refused to fill a prescription written by a Planned Parenthood nurse for a bleeding woman, citing the state’s “conscience” law because the woman may have had an abortion. The pharmacist reportedly asked the woman seeking the prescription (for Methergine, which is used to control uterine bleeding after childbirth and abortion) if she needed the medicine for post-abortive care. If that question sounds less than kosher to you, that’s because it’s not OK; such questions are not allowed under patient confidentiality rules.

Still, the Idaho Board of Pharmacy found that the pharmacist was not guilty of any wrongdoing. A letter from the board’s Executive Director Mark Johnston said that the group “had concluded its investigation into the incident and found no violations of state laws the board is tasked with enforcing.” Needless to say, the board has established a dangerous precedent.

In Nebraska, state legislators already have on the books an extremely dangerous “fetal pain” law, which bans abortions after 20 weeks based on shoddy “scientific” findings that fetuses can feel pain at that stage of development. One of the law’s aims was to run out of the state Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who is one of the few abortion providers in the country who will provide much-needed late-term abortions for women who need them. (Late-term abortion providers and their families are routinely targeted, harassed and even killed by anti-choice extremists. One infamous case is that of Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered in 2009 by an anti-choice activist.)

The passage of the Nebraska “fetal pain” law emboldened legislators in Iowa, where Carhart has started to practice, to put a copycat law on the books. And now other states, including Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma and Indiana, are following suit, intending to keep Carhart and other abortion providers from providing a necessary service to women.

In Ohio, a terrifying “heartbeat bill” is being proposed that would define “life” as starting at the first sign of a heartbeat. Since this occurs extremely early in a pregnancy, the bill is Republican legislators’ sneaky way of banning virtually all abortions and rolling back Roe v. Wade to the point of near-nonexistence. As Robin Mary writes at AlterNet:

“By establishing heartbeat as the criteria for banning abortion, the bill effectively rejects abortion from any point after roughly four weeks post conception, a time in which fetal heartbeat can be seen via high quality ultrasound machine. For most women, that would provide a window of two weeks or less in order to learn she was pregnant, make her decision about the pregnancy, arrange for an appointment, gather money for an abortion, obtain the mandatory counseling and sit through the required 24 hour waiting period. For a woman with irregular menstrual cycles, by the time she realizes she is pregnant it likely would already be too late to do anything but continue the pregnancy.”

The bill is expected to be introduced the week of Valentine’s Day, with copy-cat laws sure to follow in other states.

The Santa Fe chapter of NOW created these T-shirts as part of a campaign to destigmatize abortion.

There’s a silver lining in Washington state, which is considering legislation to target misleading Crisis Pregnancy Centers—centers that advertise themselves as full-service reproductive health facilities, but are actually run by anti-choice organizations that steer all women away from abortion as a choice, often citing dubious pseudo-scientific findings.

As Amie Newman reports for RH Reality Check, the law would “require centers to disclose that they do not ‘provide services or referrals for abortion or comprehensive birth control’ or ‘medical care for pregnant women.’” Newman also notes that the legislation would require these centers to immediately test women for pregnancy instead of stalling them, which can make it more difficult for women to have abortions.

The sad thing about this excellent legislation from Washington is that, if it passes, it would make Washington the only state to have such a statute. At the moment, CPCs are running rampant with few regulations, while abortion clinics are utterly bombarded with regulations. There’s no question we’re in an all-out war to protect women’s bodies, health and autonomy.

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