5 Outrageous Anti-Choice Bills That Might Become Law
In the first quarter of 2015 alone, over 300 anti-abortion bills have been proposed in 43 states, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, which studies the topic. Fifty-three of these bills have passed through a legislative body.
“The pattern of anti-choice legislation is three-pronged,” says Jodi Jacobson, editor-in-chief of the website Reproductive Health Reality Check. “First: limit access by increasing the cost and expense of abortions. Second: question peer-reviewed medical evidence that doesn’t fit the propaganda. Third, create more opportunities to shame and intimidate women seeking abortions.”
It’s the third prong that’s most insidious, and hides in legislation extending wait periods or expanding informed consent provisions. Here are five of the most intrusive proposed laws under review now.
1. Kentucky: Required Ultrasounds
A bill has passed in the Kentuky Senate that would require a woman seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound of the fetus. The doctor is required to indicate “the presence and location of the unborn child,” although the pregnant woman is allowed to “avert her eyes.” A similar law in North Carolina, now overturned, went even further, requiring that the doctor continue his description of the ultrasound even if the woman covers her ears or eyes or requests him to stop. Abortions do not routinely require ultrasounds for health purposes, so this legislation is just a new method to create guilt and shame in women requesting the procedure.
2. Alabama: Fetal Heartbeat Laws
A proposed bill in the Alabama legislature states that no abortion can be performed once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The problem is that a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks, which is still well before the fetus itself is fully formed. With abortions possibly being banned as early as six weeks into gestation, the proposed bill seeks to circumvent Roe v. Wade, which held that women have a due process right to abortions until viability—which the Supreme Court decided was at 28 weeks, not six.
3. South Dakota: Pregnancy Counseling
Despite an injunction, legislation that forces women to receive counseling before an abortion is still pending in South Dakota. The proposed law requires that each woman must go through “pre-abortion” counseling with a local crisis/pregnancy clinic—often run by religious and anti-choice groups—to avoid the possibility that she’s being “coerced” into the procedure. South Dakota’s anti-choice lawmakers are clearly hopeful the injunction will be removed soon; they’re already working to extend the waiting period—possibly up to a week—so that clinics will have “sufficient time” to counsel each woman before abortion.
4. Missouri: State-Sponsored Abortion Video
A woman who wants an abortion in Missouri must sit through a state-sponsored video (and wait an extra 24 hours) for one. While not labeled “anti-choice,” the graphic video, shown under a doctor’s supervision, illustrates the physical risks, fertility problems and “adverse psychological effects” that can occur after the procedure. Such claims have no scientific basis and have been refuted repeatedly by the medical community. Nonetheless, anti-choice activists have long used them to intimidate and frighten women seeking abortions.
5. Oklahoma: Misinformation on Fetal Pain
A proposed bill coming up before the Oklahoma Senate would ban the standard and safe procedure of surgical abortions, on the basis that the fetus can feel pain. These “dismemberment” laws rely upon the idea that a fetus supposedly feels pain during a surgical abortion. However, the medical evidence is plain: the sensory receptors required to feel pain are not developed until 29 weeks of gestation, and the fetus cannot feel pain until at least 36 weeks of gestation. It’s clear that anti-choice lawmakers are counting on evoking a visceral response to justify their illogical legislation.