Anti-choice lawmakers seem universally enamored of the strange notion that women seeking abortion care -- women who already have navigated numerous and intrusive hurdles placed in their path by the ilk of Dan Patrick -- are coerced into having abortions that they don't really want. However, in agreement with Justice Kennedy's morality manifesto, such politicians also believe that it is perfectly acceptable to coerce women into compliance with their own religiously motivated desires.
In Texas, groups representing the religious right, along with their money men, control most of the legislative agenda. Legislation restricting reproductive freedom for women is at the top of their "to do" list.
Patrick's SB 920 is a copycat version of a South Carolina measure that legislators were forced to modify when Attorney General Henry McMaster advised them that while doctors could be required to show women seeking an abortion an ultrasound image of their fetus, the bill likely would be unconstitutional if it forced an unwilling patient to view the image. McMaster wrote, "In my opinion, it would be illegal and improper for the state to force a person seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound image against her will." In Georgia, another last-minute mandatory ultrasound bill to "(p)rotect unborn children from a woman's uninformed decision to have an abortion" stops short of legally compelling a woman into compliance.
But anti-choice politicians in Texas are trail-blazers. Anticipating last week's Supreme Court ruling by two years, the Texas Legislature abolished exceptions for a woman's health in 2005 with the bill famously signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry at a Fort Worth church.
Appended to Senate Bill 419 was Rep. Will Hartnett's firm conviction that despite the imminent failure of any other vital organs she might possess, a woman can live without "anything but a brain." Both houses of the legislature voted with Hartnett that "impairment to a woman's health" is no justification for late abortion when "we could be killing off Einstein" just because "a woman might have some organ damage."
(a) A physician or an applicant for a license to practice medicine commits a prohibited practice if that person:
In the wake of last week's ruling by the Supreme Court, many legal scholars "were startled by the implicit suggestion that women need to be protected from abortion."
Columbia University law Professor Gillian Metzger said this paternalism collided with previous rulings acknowledging women's right to choose for themselves the course of their pregnancies.
But never mind. Religious right activists across the country have recognized this decision as a green light for further repression. South Dakota activist Leslee Unruh, architect of her state's 2006 abortion ban, says, "We're brainstorming, and we're having fun."
The Texas Legislature's anti-abortion forces -- medical experts such as Warren Chisum, Frank Corte, Geanie Morrison, Florence Shapiro and Dan Patrick -- think they know best, too. What they don't know is anything at all about the provision of abortion care. Perhaps they will allow someone who does know about it to enlighten them.
Obstetrical sonography is a diagnostic procedure performed for indicated medical reasons, not as a tool for emotional manipulation. A woman is free to decide that she would like to observe the screen during the ultrasound examination itself, or she may decide to accept our offer to review the image with her later, during a private counseling session. Despite anti-choice delusions, we encourage women to do so, because most women feel relieved to know that a seven-week pregnancy actually looks like this ...
... instead of this.
If a woman decides that she would like to have a copy of the image to take home, we are more than glad to provide one for her.
But Patrick's very special late-entry bill takes all that arduous decision making off a woman's shoulders, so that she won't have to worry her pretty little head about it anymore.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
And oh yes, as is usual with anti-choice TRAP laws, the physician is guilty of a criminal offense if he or she doesn't coerce a woman on Dan Patrick's behalf.
SECTION 2. The change in law made by this Act to Section 172.012(a), Health and Safety Code, applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. For purposes of this section, an offense is committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense occurs before this date. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is covered by the law in effect when the offense was committed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose.
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas properly says, "Patients are not forced to view x-rays, cat scans, or video of surgeries against their will - they may if they choose, but do not have to if they are not comfortable doing so. Singling out abortion in this way is purely political. This bill does nothing to protect the health of women in Texas; it presents an unconscionable intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship."
Most women are receptive to viewing ultrasound images, but it is understandable that others -- women pregnant as a result of sexual assaults, or those ending wanted pregnancies after being diagnosed with severe fetal anomalies -- might prefer not to see them. Dan Patrick and his allies on the Christian right shouldn't be empowered to force women to comply with his desires before they are allowed to have an abortion, and they shouldn't be empowered to force doctors, and patient advocates like me, to do their strong-arming for them.
Little has changed, and nothing has improved, since Ampersand wrote these words on the "Partial Birth Abortion" Ban in October 2003.
Pro-lifers will never escape their reputation as woman-hating fanatics as long as they'd rather see a woman crippled and infertile than permit her to get the medical help she needs for health reasons. And that's as it should be -- opposing the health exemption for women who need it, on the grounds of speculative abuses, is barbaric.
Abuses by the religious right are fast making barbarism toward women the law of the land. And if you are a woman, your body is their battleground.
Taking Liberties | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden)
Taking Liberties | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden)