900 Anti-Woman Laws to Appease Conservative Extremists -- Is Abortion Becoming Legal in Name Only?
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
When does a legal right become theoretical instead of real? If you want to know the answer, take a look at what’s happening to reproductive rights. States across the country are denying women what they need to protect their health and plan their families. And they’re often doing so in the name of religion and God. The laws, which we review below, should concern any American who cares about women’s reproductive health.
Antichoice laws on the rise
More than 900 antiabortion laws have been introduced since the midterm elections last November, and more than 60 have been passed. For instance, in Kansas a new licensing law for abortion clinics mandates what size and temperature clinic rooms must be, requires that staff dressing rooms have toilets, that clinics stock particular medical equipment and supplies, and that they be connected to nearby hospitals. Antichoice legislators came up with 36 pages of regulations, which one doctor called “bizarre” and “ out of date with modern medicine.”
Right now there are only three abortion clinics in the state of Kansas. Soon there may be none.
South Dakota enacted an antiabortion law with requirements so onerous they essentially deny a woman her legal right to an abortion. The bill mandates a waiting period of 72 hours before a woman can have an abortion and requires two separate visits to a doctor. It also requires that a woman get counseling at a “crisis pregnancy center,” a place explicitly created to oppose abortion. On top of these obstacles, South Dakota spreads across nearly 755,000 square miles and has only one abortion clinic. A doctor is flown in from out of state once a week to see patients.
Indiana recently defunded Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the state. The new law makes any organization that performs abortion ineligible for state funds. Lack of clarity in the state’s antiabortion law is affecting hospitals, too. Since its enactment, doctors in hospitals have stopped terminating pregnancies that pose a high risk to the health and life of a woman for fear of losing Medicaid patients.
According to Elizabeth Ferries-Rowe, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Wishard Memorial hospitals, the law has “ tied the hands of physicians attempting to provide medically appropriate, evidence-based care.”
Dr. Ferries-Rowe gives this example: A woman loses her amniotic fluid at 16 weeks of pregnancy. If her pregnancy isn’t quickly terminated, she risks serious infection that can damage her organs and cause brain damage or death. Given Indiana’s law, however, doctors would not be able to terminate her pregnancy.
Twenty-week bans: An extremist trend
Among the most dangerous laws are those that restrict or ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. So far, six states—Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma—have passed 20-week laws, and more are likely to follow. Only about 1.5 percent of all abortions occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but those that do are often medically necessary.
Danielle and Robb Deaver felt the consequences of Nebraska’s law last fall. As reported by The New York Times, Danielle was 22 weeks pregnant when her water prematurely broke. Before passage of the law, it would’ve been routine for a doctor to induce labor to prevent serious infection. At 22 weeks the fetus is not viable outside the womb.
But the Nebraska law defines “inducing labor” as “abortion” if the goal is not to save the fetus. Danielle’s doctor and hospital lawyers determined that the procedure she needed would be illegal under the new law, so nothing was done. Danielle eventually did go into labor. The baby died within 15 minutes, and she developed an infection that required antibiotics.