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Which State Is Winning the Race to the Bottom to Become the Worst Place for Women?

The war on women remains in full swing. Which state has become the worst for reproductive rights?

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In a state where abortions are already difficult to obtain, these regulations mean one thing: clinics will shut their doors, and low-income, disabled, single parents, and otherwise disadvantaged women who can't travel out of state will be out of options and out of luck.

These laws are based on similar TRAP regulations in Kansas that are now the subject of an intense legal battle.

South Dakota: "Informed consent" laws full of lies and manipulation

South Dakota has been the focus of endless legal, legislative and ballot-box battles over abortion--even though the Guttmacher Institute tells us there are barely any providers in the state: "In 2008, 98% of South Dakota counties had no abortion provider. 76% of South Dakota women lived in these provider-free counties."

Nonetheless the legislature and anti-choice lobby in the state has remained zealous, producing a number of insanely difficult restrictions that center around the bogus concept of "informed consent." Right now a judge has upheld parts of a law requiring any woman seeking an abortion to be told that she will "terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being," a statement which of course is subject to debate. The court did strike down the part of the law that says abortion can lead to suicide. 

Another judge blocked an even worse law, perhaps the most paternalistic, biased and dangerous law of its kind, requiring a 72-hour waiting period combined with a visit to an anti-choice, almost exclusively Christian, "Crisis Pregnancy Center" before an abortion could be obtained. This law actually made it through the legislative process.

Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah and others: Nearly every restriction on the book, including limitations on insurance coverage.

While these states vie for the most obscene anti-women laws, a number of other states continue to have a panoply of restrictions, as this  interactive chart from "Remapping Debate" indicates (see this post for the chart).

Indiana, for instance, isn't one of the states with the fewest number of providers. But it does have limitations on abortion coverage for insurance, counseling and waiting periods, parental involvement laws, hospital requirements, and TRAP laws on the books, among others.

The "limitations on insurance coverage" stipulation that well over a dozen states have adopted is a particularly alarming restriction because it means that abortions will have to be paid for out-of-pocket, creating a nearly insurmountable obstacle for poorer women.

Fighting Back Strategically

With this race to the bottom seeing no end in sight, what are pro-choicers doing to fight back? The answer is, carefully vetted lawsuits that aim to hit the anti-choice movement where it's most vulnerable.

Back in May, as the war on women gained national attention, Emily Bazelon covered the issue for the New York Times magazine, explaining which lawsuits the pro-choice movement was focusing on:

Instead, lawyers representing their side have been challenging the laws that hurt women most — which are also the ones most likely to sway public opinion back to their side. Can it really be good politics for a state to tell private health insurers what kind of coverage for women’s health they can and can’t provide? Or to take away the money that allows Planned Parenthood to prescribe birth control and treat S.T.D.’s? Quinnipiac and CNN polls from earlier this year both found majority support for continuing government financing of Planned Parenthood. There’s also a clear argument against laws like the ones that permit Virginia to regulate abortion clinics like hospitals...

Bazelon wrote that she believed this strategy would work, even though it's frustrating not being able to go on the offensive and push back against every single bad law coming down the pipes: