The Sneaky, Unexpected Ways Anti-Choice Right-Wingers Are Chipping Away at Women's Rights
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The Supreme Court determined in Roe v. Wade that abortion is a fundamental right, which means that access to abortion should have the same protections throughout our country and not vary based on where a woman lives. Yet in a subsequent 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court upheld several state restrictions on abortion, finding that they did not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
From that point on, antiabortion advocates have fought hard to restrict abortion at the state level in any way they can. They introduce literally hundreds of state bills across the country each year aimed at limiting access to abortion and testing the limits of Roe. And each year they succeed in enacting a handful of those bills. Some 600 such laws have passed since 1995.
States currently have abortion laws that, among other things, mandate biased counseling and burdensome waiting periods, impose costly and unnecessary clinic regulations, require parental notification or consent, restrict funding for abortion, ban a safe pre-viability abortion procedure, and allow health care providers to refuse to provide needed medical care.
In some ways, this year is no different than any other—abortion opponents have once again introduced a multitude of bills to restrict abortion. But what has changed is that, on the heels of the fight over abortion in federal health insurance reform legislation, antiabortion activists have gained renewed momentum.
Antiabortion Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) brokered language in the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act that all but invites states to ban coverage of abortion in private health insurance plans by “opting out” of abortion coverage in the state health insurance exchanges that must be established by 2014. Americans United for Life noted the opening and had model legislation ready to go the second the health reform measure was signed. The result: 29 states already have abortion opt-out bills in the pipeline for the 2010 and 2011 legislative sessions.
The sponsors of these bills claim that their legislation only restricts public funding of abortion care. But closer inspection reveals that these bills mimic the infamous Stupak Amendment, which abortion-rights proponents fought so hard to beat back in federal legislation, and will broadly limit private coverage of abortion in the states where these bills are enacted.
In addition to the insurance restrictions, abortion opponents are also using their newfound leverage to advance many of their old ideas—such as requiring ultrasounds before an abortion—and to push through a few novel ones, as well.
Here are the high—or should we say low—lights:
23: The number of provisions that have passed in the nine states that have enacted new abortion-related restrictions so far this year—Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.
14: The number of states that have introduced laws this year that ban or limit abortion coverage in private insurance plans—either those purchased in the new health exchanges, in private markets outside of those exchanges, in government employee plans, or some combination thereof. So far, Arizona, Mississippi, and Tennessee have enacted such bills.
18: The number of states that have introduced legislation this year that requires abortion providers to offer their patients an ultrasound. Half of these bills mandate that the provider perform the ultrasound, regardless of whether the woman wants one, and a few go so far as to require the provider to show and/or describe the image to the woman. None of these bills provide state funding to cover the extra cost of the ultrasound. So far, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia have enacted ultrasound bills.*