Miles to Go
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Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 11:30:10 PM EST
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWith the advent of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the US House, many pro-choice Americans have breathed a sigh of relief. But except for the Hyde Amendment, the most effective attacks on reproductive freedom have come not from Congress, but from statehouses under the control of Republicans and anti-choice Democrats.

Last year Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco, signed a trigger law that would ban all abortions in that state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. This year, several states will consider such trigger laws, as well as numerous other bills to place more immediate restrictions on access to safe and legal abortion care.

As state legislative sessions begin, the perennial anti-choice assault is already well underway. We still have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep.

Georgia

Last week, abortion abolitionists sang hymns at a five-hour-plus public hearing held to discuss a bill in the General Assembly that would ban all abortions in Georgia. One cosponsor of the bill, Rep. Martin Scott, says an abortion ban is needed "to paint a vision for where the state needs to go."  

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting  The bill's author, GOP Rep. Bobby Franklin, is a political ally of Doug Phillips' Vision Forum. Franklin (left) was graduated from Covenant College ("In All Things Christ Preeminent") with a degree in Biblical Studies and Business Administration. In 2003 he filed a bill requiring a woman seeking an abortion to obtain a death warrant.

"Due Process and Equal Protection Restoration Act of 2003"; to define certain terms; to provide that any person seeking to have an abortion performed shall first seek a grand jury indictment against the fetus for an applicable capital offense; to provide that only if the grand jury returns an indictment against the fetus for the commission of a capital offense shall the court appoint a guardian ad litem and shall a criminal prosecution of the fetus commence; to provide for a jury trial; to provide that no execution shall take place without an adjudication of the fetus´s guilt and unless a court has issued a death warrant; to provide for an expedited appeal; to provide for penalties; to provide for automatic repeal

That measure failed, but with backers such as the Georgia Christian Coalition, Franklin has high hopes for HB 1: "We expect great things to happen with this bill this year."

"I know this is not the most popular thing to do,'' Rep. Melvin Everson, a Republican co-sponsor added. "It's the right thing to do.''

Linda Schlueter, vice president of the Texas-based Justice Foundation, a pro-life law firm which has worked to make the public aware of the millions of women who regret their abortions, supports the legislation.

"Abortion hurts women physically and psychologically,'' she told Georgia lawmakers in an informal hearing about the bill, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post newspaper. "That is the reality these women are speaking.''

During the Tuesday hearing, Schlueter's group filed affidavits from 2,000 women who wish they hadn't had their abortions who want to see abortion made illegal.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingFinanced by the Justice Foundation --  which advertises itself as a defender of "fundamental freedoms and rights" -- those ubiquitous affidavits and their authors crisscross the country, traveling the statehouse circuit. Although they represent an infinitesimal percentage of the 43,000,000-plus women who have had safe and legal abortions since 1973, their subsequent regret about their own freely made decisions is touted as justification for depriving all other women of reproductive autonomy. By that reasoning, the nation's 50% divorce rate ought to justify outlawing not just same-sex marriage, but all marriage.

Indiana

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingLegislation that would make Indiana abortion law among the strictest in the nation is back again this year.

Under a pair of Senate bills ... Indiana doctors would be required to tell women seeking an abortion that life begins at conception and that a fetus could feel pain.
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"I believe if this gets to the floor for a vote, it will pass both the House and the Senate," said Sen. Patricia L. Miller, R-Indianapolis (right), an author of one of the bills.

Four states -- Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota and Oklahoma -- have passed fetal-pain legislation, according to Americans United for Life.
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[Betty Cockrum, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Indiana], said House committee testimony by physicians last year made it clear that there is "total uncertainty" about whether a fetus can feel pain. She said science shows life does not begin with conception, but when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall.

But science takes a back seat to ideology when the President Pro Tempore of the state senate has a history of voting in lockstep with Indiana Right to Life 93% of the time.

South Carolina

State Senator Kevin Bryant and South Carolina's Focus on the Family affiliate, the Palmetto Family Council, want to give women choices by removing their right to say no.

Pregnant women seeking an abortion in South Carolina would first have to look at ultrasound images of their fetus under legislation introduced this week.
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Before performing an abortion, doctors would be required to verify the gestational age of a fetus with an ultrasound, then show the ultrasound images to the patient, who must sign a consent form saying she's reviewed them.

NARAL Pro-Choice America believes women should have the option of an ultrasound, but they should not be forced to undergo a medically unnecessary procedure and view the images against their will.

"The women of South Carolina are fully capable of asking their doctor for information they need to make private, personal medical decisions. Politicians don't belong in the examining room," said Nancy Keenan, president of the Washington-based group.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingBryant feels there's plenty of space in the exam room for him, a member of the NRA, National Right to Life, Christian Coalition, Concerned Women of America and the Palmetto Family Council who posts on his own blog that he only wants women to have a "more informed choice" -- just as long as they "choose life."

Before an abortionist can perform the procedure on a patient, they must verify the baby's gestational age with an ultrasound, they must review the ultrasound pictures with the mother, and the mother must sign an informed consent that she has reviewed the ultrasound pictures. ... I am told by those in crisis pregnancy centers that when an ultrasound is viewed, most patients (an estimated 85%) choose life.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
It has been my experience that almost all of our abortion care patients appreciate our offer to review their ultrasound results with them, and they almost always feel relieved after we have done so -- because the vast majority of those images look very much like this one.

But women who decline that opportunity, for whatever their own personal reasons might be, shouldn't be compelled. Not by law, and not by religious ideologues like Kevin Bryant.

Texas

Many Texas politicians are obsessive about taking control of women's reproductive lives. Among several bills limiting access to abortion care and contraception, the Texas Legislature will consider not one trigger bill, but two.

Two conservative lawmakers want a new law triggering an abortion ban in Texas should the U.S. Supreme Court ever reverse its landmark 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion.

Freshman Sen. Dan Patrick, the Republican talk-radio host from Houston, made the abortion ban the subject of his first bill, SB186, which he filed Wednesday.

Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, filed an identical bill, HB175, in the Texas House on Nov. 13, the first day to pre-file.

The bills would ban abortion except to "prevent the death" of the mother -- if Roe is overturned. They contain no exemptions for rape, incest or to protect the health of the mother.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingJoe Pojman of Texas Alliance for Life and pro-choice groups agree that other bills further restricting Texas' already limited abortion rights will rank higher on their respective agendas this year.

Patrick says that because Texas does regulate abortion so heavily, its numerous abortion laws could justify classifying Texas as a "pro-choice state." Since in his view it's "is only a matter of time" until Roe is reversed, a trigger bill would ensure there will be no abortions in Texas when that day comes -- or at least no safe and legal abortions.
[Photo: Troy Fields, Texas Observer]

Oklahoma

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting In the event that the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, Oklahoma needs to be ready, a state lawmaker said Wednesday.

In preparation for that possibility, Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, has filed a bill with the state Legislature to trigger a return to Oklahoma's anti-abortion laws.
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"This legislation will ensure the state of Oklahoma acts immediately to save the lives of the unborn if we are given the chance," he said.

Reynolds said his constituents are strong opponents of abortion.

He must not have polled the 6,500 women a year who obtain abortion care in Oklahoma, not to mention those of his constituents who travel to doctors in Texas or Arkansas.  

Linda Meek, executive administrator of Reproductive Services Inc. of Tulsa ... said that if Roe v. Wade were overturned and Oklahoma were to pass a bill such as the one Reynolds has proposed, she foresees a return to the days when women went out of state for abortions, or women who did not have money resorted to "back-alley abortions."

Desperate women risked their lives before 1973, and as has been true throughout history, they most certainly would do so again.

Virginia

After its victory in last year's fight over a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Virginia, the Family Foundation of Virginia announced Thursday that it will push to change the state's divorce laws to make it more difficult for parents to end their marriage.
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And, in what has become a yearly battle in Richmond, the group plans to push for laws to reduce the number of abortions in the state.
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[T]he group will advocate changes to the informed consent law so that abortion clinics would be required to perform an ultrasound before administering an abortion. Another proposal would require clinics to give women information about how anesthesia could be used on fetuses during late-term abortions.

Family Foundation president Victoria Cobb and her General Assembly allies say that last year's success in passing an amendment banning same-sex marriage is fueling this year's push for restrictions on divorce.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingDelegate Robert G. Marshall explains: "People were saying, 'It is not the homosexuals wrecking marriage, it's the heterosexuals,' so we are saying, 'Is there any truth to that?' You can just walk away from someone right now. There is less security in the covenant of marriage than if you and I agree to open up a hamburger joint."

Marshall's current effort to reduce the number of abortions in Virginia is no halfway measure, either. House Bill No. 2124 is yet another state abortion ban to be triggered by the demise of Roe v. Wade.

If any person administers to, or causes to be taken by a woman, any drug or other thing, or uses means, with intent to destroy her unborn child, or to produce abortion or miscarriage, and thereby destroys such child, or produces such abortion or miscarriage, he shall be confined in the penitentiary not less than one nor more than 10 years.

If any person, by publication, lecture, advertisement, or by the sale or circulation of any publication, or in any other manner, encourages or prompts the procuring of abortion or miscarriage, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

That last provision would subject a physician to criminal charges even for counseling a severely ill woman about traveling to another state for a medically necessary abortion procedure.

Wyoming

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingRep. Bob Brechtel, R-Casper, is sponsoring the "Woman's Right to Know Act," with several other legislators.
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The bill would require doctors who perform abortions to give women "medically accurate information" about the risks of abortion, including what it states is the "increased risks of breast cancer."

It would also require the Wyoming Department of Health to print materials about abortion and require abortion doctors to refer their patients to those materials.
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[T]he Health Department materials should state that agencies exist that are willing to help women carry pregnancies to term. The bill would require the state materials to proclaim: "The state of Wyoming strongly urges you to contact one or more of these agencies before making a final decision about your abortion."

The Wyoming Department of Family Services has indirectly funded "crisis pregnancy" centers that have a strong religious orientation and try to steer women away from abortion.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingRobert Frost wrote, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."  

And so do we.

[Title image, detail from WoodAcresFarm.com]




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(like now, for instance) when just the thought of another session of the Texas Lege makes me long to take ship for the Hebrides.

But tomorrow morning the women will still be there, women who need help in navigating the intricacies of Texas TRAP law before they're legally allowed to see a doctor.

They will always be there, and I will be there, too.

by moiv on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 11:51:47 PM EST


This is a fantastic round-up, and, all piled together, gives a true picture of the assault of reproductive justice.  Thank you for doing this.  For anyone nodding, this offers the ringing alarms of a dozen wake up calls.

by cyncooper on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 02:17:11 PM EST
When you pile it up all in one place, it does make quite a heap.

I'm persuaded that most people are nodding, and have been for some time now, as these state-level measures increase in number, and combine to tremendous effect.

Taken individually, most of what all too many people consider to be "reasonable" restrictions" don't sound too bad. But almost no state has only one or two restrictions. For example, here in Texas we have the following laws:

  • Doctors are obligated by law to give women false info about a link between abortion and breast cancer, provide women with anti-abortion materials from the state that direct women to crisis pregnancy centers, and then the woman is required to wait 24 hours before she is allowed to have an abortion

  • All abortions after 15 weeks of gestation must take place not in a clinic, but in a hospital or ambulatory surgical center. No hospitals in Texas admit women for elective abortion, and there are only two surgical centers in a state the size of France.

  • Minors must have written, notarized parental consent, or apply to a court for judicial bypass of that requirement. A doctor who fails to obtain consent from a parent in that form can be subject to charges carrying the death penalty, as s/he has then performed an unlawful procedure -- and performing a "lawful procedure" is the only exception to yet another Texas law that makes causing the death of a fetus the "homicide of an individual under six years of age." So doctors who mess up their paperwork could be charged with capital murder.

You pile together the effects of all those laws, add 69 pages of state regulations that apply only to abortion providers, and you get a living illustration of what "safe, legal and rare" really means.

As you know, because of the cumulative effects of TRAP laws and regulations, fewer doctors every year remain willing to expose themselves to the medicolegal and personal risks that providing abortion care entails. Without providers, the Roe v. Wade ruling is nothing but paper.

In PBS Frontline's The Last Abortion Clinic, a friend and colleague said it all.

I think that most women and men are asleep. I don't think they realize what's going on. And in that respect, I think that the assault on abortion rights is very clever; it's very smart. And we are losing. ...


by moiv on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 08:58:26 PM EST
Parent
I'll bet you're even forgetting a few regulations, like limitations on Medicaid payments for abortions, and limitations on state funds for abortions, or use of state facilities, and on medical training, and probably one or two 'conscience' clauses, and then there are the federal ones that apply in the state --such as ones that prevent women in the military or partners of men in the military from getting abortion services ... etc and so on and so forth.  Ugh.

It's always bugs me up when pollsters ask 'do you think there should be more regulation of abortion' -- one of their standard questions ... as if people actually have ANY idea at all of the vast number of regulations already in force, or as if the pollsters actully have an idea of all the regulations that exist!

Again, great work.  

by cyncooper on Thu Jan 18, 2007 at 12:35:32 AM EST
Parent

As in other "anti" states, Texas Medicaid refuses to pay for abortion care even when a woman's life is directly and immedicately threatened by a pregnancy -- let alone for such frivolous reasons as rape.

We had a patient undergoing treatment for a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. Her oncologist submitted 21 pages of records and a letter stating that the pregnancy was a threat to her life. We called the NNAF abortion funds, who were able to cover most of the cost, and passed the hat among ourselves for the rest.

Training? Hah! OB/GYn residents requesting training are routinely blocked by their hospital administrators.

And the military? Good God, the military. When Bush stood on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln and made his "mission accomplished" speech, he especially thanked the crewmen who had become fathers since the invasion for their "personal sacrifice" in being away from home at such an important time. All I could think about was all the servicewomen, from Ft. Hood and from Sheppard AFB, who paid their own medical fees and travel expenses to have abortions just before leaving for Iraq. Every last woman among them said to us, "This is what I've trained for, and I can't let my unit go without me." And they shipped out still bleeding. Those women could tell their Commander-in-Chief something about "personal sacrifice."

by moiv on Thu Jan 18, 2007 at 10:03:47 PM EST
Parent





that no woman can afford to marry without a contract stating in the correct legal language, that if a husband decides to move to a state that will damage a woman's legal right to physical and economical autonomy, a non punitive divorce will be granted her due to her husband's abandonment of the marriage when she refuses to join him.

by tikkun on Thu Jan 18, 2007 at 03:14:27 PM EST
with all the "covenant marriage" bills looming on the horizon.

by moiv on Thu Jan 18, 2007 at 10:05:26 PM EST
Parent



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