10 States With the Most Shocking Anti-Woman Legislation

Human Rights

If you feel like the swirl of outrageous state-based anti-woman legislation is worse than it's ever been, you’re not hallucinating. Republicans really have declared a surge in their war on women, and it’s a nationwide phenomenon. Anti-choicers are trying to destroy Roe v. Wade by a death from a thousand cuts, so that when we wake up one day and the right to a safe, legal abortion is really, truly gone in many states, it will be hard to pinpoint exactly which law killed it.

Here’s a sample of 10 states in which access to reproductive health care (and in one case, any kind of health care at all) is severely threatened.

1. South Dakota. There’s only one clinic in the entire state of South Dakota that offers abortion, a Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls. No doctors who provide abortions at the clinic live near it, so they all have to fly in from where they work full-time elsewhere to provide this service. A new abortion restriction signed into law last month now threatens even this weak access to abortion. While most media attention has been directed at a religious freedom-violating requirement that women who want abortions have to suffer a Christian fundamentalist anti-choice lecture at a crisis pregnancy center first, it may be the newly mandated 72-hour waiting period that makes it impossible for Planned Parenthood to continue offering abortions.

The law requires the doctor performing the abortion to personally meet with the patient at least three days before her appointment. Despite the lip-smacking claims from backers of the law that this is about making sure women are making “informed” choices, it’s obvious the real aim of the bill is to multiply the number of times the doctors have to fly into the state. The likelihood is high that the demands on their time will prove too much, and the doctors providing abortions in South Dakota will simply quit, leaving the state without a single legal, safe abortion provider.

2. Virginia. Gov. Bob McDonnell and the anti-choice coalition in the state legislature have a two-pronged strategy for the women of their state: attack both their ability to pay for abortion and their ability to find a safe, legal provider in the first place. McDonnell amended a bill establishing Virginia’s health insurance exchange that banned women using the exchange from having insurance coverage for their abortions. Most of these women would struggle to pay for abortion out of pocket, since the exchanges are set up to handle people who aren’t covered by their employers, usually because they’re part-time, underpaid workers or unemployed.

But even if you can get the money together, Virginia wants to make it hard for you to find a doctor. McDonnell also signed into law a bill requiring that abortion clinics meet hospital regulations in order to stay open, which is similar to requiring your dentist to work out of a hospital if he wants to drill your cavities. The move has nothing to do with safety, but will likely end up causing 17 clinics to shut their doors, leaving only four abortion providers in the entire state of nearly 8 million people.

3. Arizona. Arizona has upped the ante by passing a law that uses race-baiting to give angry, abusive men control over women's bodies. The law allows the would-be father to claim that an abortion was done for “race or gender” reasons, meaning that men who are bitter because they were dumped by wives or girlfriends can lash out at the doctor who performed the abortion. This could make clinics hesitant to perform abortions on women who often need them the most, i.e. women in abusive relationships.

Gov. Jan Brewer also signed into law a bill that requires medication abortions to be administered only by doctors. Currently, many abortion services in Arizona are performed by nurse practitioners who have the ability to prescribe RU-486. This move means the end of abortion access in at least three clinics in Flagstaff, Yuma and Prescott.

4. Minnesota. Giving abusers more control over their victims is a theme in Minnesota as well. Lawmakers there are considering requiring minors to get parental consent for any medical care, unless they get a judicial bypass proving they’re victims of incest. This is about more than abortion; minors who want contraception, STD testing or treatment, or pregnancy testing would have to inform their parents. So if it burns when you pee, but you can’t tell your parents because Jesus told them they have to beat the ever-living crap out of you for being a sinner? The price you’ll have to pay in Minnesota is infertility, sickness and possibly even death for the “crime” of being a minor with abusive parents.

5. Indiana. The war on women’s rights in Indiana, already one of the worst states in the country for reproductive rights, is notable for the viciousness of the misogyny that marked the debate. When pro-choice legislators attempted to amend a ban on abortions after 22 weeks for rape or incest victims--knowing that victims, especially very young ones, are often in denial for months about what happened to them--Rep. Eric Turner stood up and insisted that many women would wait until they were six months pregnant, capriciously change their minds about having a baby, and falsely claim to be raped in order to get an abortion that’s exponentially more expensive than one obtained early in the pregnancy. The majority of Indiana representatives agreed with this view of women as fickle-minded liars, passing the bill 72-23.

The Indiana House also passed a bill requiring doctors to read scripted anti-choice propaganda to patients before the abortion. The Senate committee killed an amendment offered by a Democratic senator that would require the propaganda to be scientifically accurate. It appears that Indiana legislators, having convinced themselves that all women are liars, believe lying is just fine when they do it.

6. Florida. Florida only got a D on the 2011 report card for the states, and I guess they’re eager to play catch-up in the Misogyny Olympics, because the legislature filed 18 separate bills restricting abortion rights. The bills are the usual scattershot of restrictions, including mandatory ultrasounds, a ban on post-20 week abortions, a First Amendment-violating law banning discussion of drugs or herbs that could induce miscarriage, and restrictions on private insurance funding for abortion. The overwhelming number of bills caused state representative Scott Randolph to crack that his wife should incorporate her uterus if she wants to have basic privacy rights, which in turn caused the censorship-happy Republican caucus to censure Randolph and attempt to silence his telling jokes in the future.

7. Missouri. Heavily Catholic Missouri, which has received an F from NARAL for all 20 years it has had state grades on abortion laws, only has abortion provisions in 4 percent of its counties. The legislature is desperate to find a way to get rid of even those few stalwarts. Missouri is trying to join the field of states that have banned post-20 week abortions, even after hearing testimony indicating that most of these very rare abortions are performed for medical reasons. Missouri is eager to ban abortions but also force women into situations where they have to have abortions. The House passed yet another law allowing pharmacists to deny women emergency contraception, with the hopes that given enough runaround, many women will become pregnant who otherwise could have avoided it. (EC works by preventing ovulation, therefore pregnancy.) The catch-22--can’t have an abortion, can’t avoid the need for one--is a common theme of anti-choice legislation.

8. Kansas. Things have been especially ugly in Kansas in the past few years, starting with the brutal murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, the subsequent victory dance of anti-choicers, and the vicious harassment campaign of Dr. Mila Means that resembles the one that led up to Dr. Tiller’s murder. Instead of discouraging the violence and threats, the Kansas legislature has signaled its approval, passing a ban on post-22-week abortions and a law requiring both parents to sign off on a minor's abortion, a law that unfairly punishes young women for having a negligent or imprisoned parent.

9. Alabama. Alabama, considered by NARAL to be at the bottom of the list in reproductive rights, has decided that worst isn’t bad enough. The legislature is considering a “personhood” law that would define fertilized eggs as persons. Laws like this not only threaten abortion rights, but could also be used to ban in-vitro fertilization, prevent non-sterilized women from holding certain jobs, be used to prosecute pregnant and potentially pregnant women for drinking and smoking, and be used to deny even life-saving medical care to women. (North Dakota's similar bill bars doctors from killing fertilized eggs, even during medically necessary care.) One of the most likely results of bills like this is that doctors will be forbidden from treating ectopic pregnancies with drugs, and will be forced to wait until a patient’s ovary explodes before administering treatment, putting the patient in danger of death. Anti-choice activists also hope to use misinformation campaigns that claim the birth control pill is “abortion” (actually, it works by suppressing ovulation) in order to use personhood bills to ban the pill.

10. Idaho. Idaho is one of the many states that is using fake science claiming that fetuses at 20 weeks can feel pain in order to ban abortions after 20 weeks. But what makes the legislature’s attempts to ban abortions after 20 weeks stand out in the crowd is that the legislature has a vendetta against one man, Dr. Leroy Carhart. State legislatures, even in small states, don’t usually write their laws to target individuals for harassment, but Dr. Carhart is the exception, since he offered to help patients in need of late-term abortions after Dr. Tiller’s assassination left a gap in nationwide services. Idaho is hardly the only state siding with anti-choicers against Dr. Carhart. Last year, the state of Nebraska was the first to ban post-20-week abortions in a law aimed directly at Carhart, who moved his practice to Maryland in response. The ban in Nebraska has already left tragedy in its wake.

Sadly, this is just a sample of the number of bills that have cropped up across the country in a nationwide attempt to wipe out women’s right to abortion--and in some cases, contraception--once and for all.

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