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Jan 07 2014

Our Increasingly Non-Existent Reproductive Rights

Over the last few years Republican-controlled legislatures have passed hundreds of laws designed to make the right to choose an abortion die by a thousand cuts. Lindsay Beyerstein writes about how effective this has been in Texas, where in wide swaths of the state this right exists in name only, not in reality.

The anti-abortion legal group Americans United for Life says that several years of “aggressive legislative action” have transformed Texas into one of the most abortion-unfriendly states in the country. In 2000, Texas imposed a parental-notification requirement for minors. Since 2004, Texas has required that abortions after 16 weeks be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, which offer hospital-grade operating rooms suitable for gastric-bypass surgery or back surgery outside a hospital. (Abortion has complication rates comparable to wisdom tooth extraction and other procedures that are routinely performed in medical offices and clinics. Fewer than 0.05 percent result in complications serious enough to require hospitalization.)

Two years later, the state tightened the maternal-health exemption for third-trimester abortions and switched from parental notification for minors to parental consent. In 2011 the state imposed mandatory ultrasounds and a 24-hour waiting period between the scan and the procedure. This July, Gov. Rick Perry signed into law the sweeping House Bill 2, which requires that all abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital, mandates an outdated protocol for medication abortions and bans all abortions after 20 weeks. The law also requires that all abortions be performed in outpatient surgery clinics, but that requirement doesn’t take effect until October 2014.

The legal challenge brought by Planned Parenthood and a coalition of Texas abortion providers focuses on two requirements that came into effect first: local admitting privileges and medication abortions. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the admitting-privileges requirement lacked any medical justification and granted an injunction to hold that requirement in abeyance until Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit could be decided. However, on Oct. 31, a three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit overruled Yeakel and brought H.B. 2′s admitting privileges provision into effect immediately. Planned Parenthood asked the Supreme Court to block the law until the 5th Circuit could hear the case this month, but on Nov. 19 the Supreme Court refused to put H.B. 2 on hold while the conservative 5th Circuit makes up its mind.

The Valley used to have two abortion providers — Whole Woman’s Health McAllen (WWHM) and Reproductive Services of Harlingen — but now it has none that currently offer abortions, because their doctors lack admitting privileges. (Emergency rooms are required to provide the same care to all patients, regardless of whether their doctors have admitting privileges there. While the doctors at WWHM are applying for privileges at local hospitals, Reproductive Services of Harlingen’s physician has already been turned down by all the hospitals in his area.) Even if Planned Parenthood wins its lawsuit, abortions will still have to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers by this time next year, which means that neither clinic can continue to operate in its current facility.

This was the goal all along, to put the right to choose out of reach for most women. My friend Robin Marty wrote about this in her new book Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard In Women’s Health And How We Can Change That, documenting the fact that the right to choose is now all but a memory for poor women in much of the country.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    maddog1129

    How can it be constitutional to de facto prohibit what the constitution protects?

  2. 2
    Akira MacKenzie

    The scary thing is that the Christian Right is far, far better at implementing that old liberal catchphrase “Think Globally, Act Locally” far better than progressives have.

  3. 3
    lordshipmayhem

    I have to wonder if we can see the impact of this yet in rates of infant mortality, rates of complications (including death) to the mother, and in number and size of families on social assistance?

  4. 4
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    @maddog1129
    Because Roe V Wade itself may not be upheld if challenged?

  5. 5
    Modusoperandi

    …documenting the fact that the right to choose is now all but a memory for poor women in much of the country.

    Sure, but on the other hand that’s the whole point.

     
    maddog1129 “How can it be constitutional to de facto prohibit what the constitution protects?”
    It’s legal to have one. It doesn’t say anything about it being easy. Or obtainable.

     
    Akira MacKenzie “The scary thing is that the Christian Right is far, far better at implementing that old liberal catchphrase ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ far better than progressives have.”
    To be fair, most of our spare time is taken up with all that drug use and coitus.

  6. 6
    dickspringer

    The non-poor are not seriously impacted by this stuff. And they are the people who matter.

  7. 7
    theschwa

    Now that you gave birth to that kid you did not want and could not afford, we are cutting your aid, which will likely make you poorer, and your children will follow the same path.

    Yours in Christ,
    the GOP.

  8. 8
    tsig

    “To be fair, most of our spare time is taken up with all that drug use and coitus.”

    Yep, I’m just tokin’ an’ strokin’.

  9. 9
    scienceavenger

    To illustrate just how far the anti-abortion forces have gone, check out this mainstream conservative view of Wendy Davis:

    Nobody fought harder to kill babies in 2013 than Abortion Barbie. Now she’s trying to turn her lust for dead children into a springboard to make her the next governor of Texas. Good luck with that, Killer!

  10. 10
    tommykey

    Scienceavenger @9. You just can’t reason with these people at all. It never seems to dawn on them, particulary the men, that pregnancy is a serious medical condition instead of the trivial inconvenience that they seem to think it is.

  11. 11
    Michael Heath

    dickspringer writes:

    The non-poor are not seriously impacted by this stuff.

    I’m confident that this is not true. We now have enormous geographical regions where it’s difficult for any female to access an abortion. These regions are increasing in both size and area.

    Michigan is joining Texas with new laws also making it very difficult for many women across large swaths of the state to access abortion providers.

  12. 12
    MadHatter

    Yes, but to someone who isn’t poor the primary result is increases to the cost and inconvenience of getting one. But that’s it. Pretty much back to the pre-Roe days when middle and upper class women could get one, but the young and/or poor were left with back-alley abortions or coat hangers.

  13. 13
    tigtog

    No, I think dickspringer is right. The non-poor can afford to travel to a jurisdiction where abortion is still allowed, even if it means going to Canada or Europe in the not too distant future.

    Despite parents who may be anti-abortion for all those other “sluts who just can’t keep their knees together”, those same parents can always find a reason why their precious princess is justified in terminating a pregnancy so that she doesn’t “ruin her life” by “one little mistake”.

    Cognitive dissonance + discretionary income = abortion laws are for other people.

  14. 14
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @MadHatter

    I guess that depends on how your defining poor. I don’t think that most people of even the middle class could afford to take a week unpaid from work (if they can even get that amount of time off without repercussions), pay travel costs and accommodation costs to go to a neighbouring state where they can access an abortion, plus pay for the medical procedure (and maybe for travel and accommodation for a companion too) all in a compressed amount of time.

  15. 15
    Michael Heath

    tigtog writes:

    No, I think dickspringer is right. The non-poor can afford to travel to a jurisdiction where abortion is still allowed, even if it means going to Canada or Europe in the not too distant future.

    No he’s wrong. When you put barriers up, there’s always a marginal decrease in supply. Reducing access certainly hurts the poor worse than others, but the restriction of access will marginally decrease the number of the non-poor who also have access.

    Andrew Sullivan’s continuing blog post series on abortion after the George Tiller assassination does an excellent job of revealing how women with money who still couldn’t access abortions. It’s a false meme that fails the barest whiff of remedial logic.

  16. 16
    Michael Heath

    Ibis3 writes:

    I don’t think that most people of even the middle class could afford to take a week unpaid from work (if they can even get that amount of time off without repercussions), pay travel costs and accommodation costs to go to a neighbouring state where they can access an abortion, plus pay for the medical procedure (and maybe for travel and accommodation for a companion too) all in a compressed amount of time.

    Some could afford to, but not all will be able to secure one for other reasons. When you restrict easy access to abortions, some women might not be able to secure one due to issues other than money, like maintaining their privacy given the enormous effort it takes for those in say North Dakota or Texas relative to women who live close to an abortion clinic. In many parts of the country, perhaps all, there’s still a far worse stigma against women having an abortion than women who have a baby while not being either married or in a serious relationship.

  17. 17
    Pierce R. Butler

    My prediction (based on already-visible patterns in Latin America): these de-facto abortion bans will create a new market for the illicit drug trade, peddling (mostly bogus, mostly dangerous) versions of mifepristone (aka RU-486) and misoprostol.

    The next step, of course, will involve passing laws to force clinicians to report all “miscarriages” and possible complications of same to the police, thus leading to more deaths of women sinful baby-killing sluts.

  18. 18
    Donnie

    Michael Heath: I disagree. These laws target the poor. Any middle class (however defined) women with sick and/or annual leave and a small bank account can fly or drive to Canada, at least. More affluent women can fly to Europe.Of course, that leaves out alternative birth control options like IUD that are available (Note: my friend who is working poor was able to get an IUD via her limited health insurance and Planned Parenthood, which is why I donate to planned parenthood).

  19. 19
    Michael Heath

    Donnie writes:

    Michael Heath: I disagree. These laws target the poor. Any middle class (however defined) women with sick and/or annual leave and a small bank account can fly or drive to Canada, at least. More affluent women can fly to Europe.

    Whoosh on your poor quip; I never commented on whether the law singularly targets poor women.

    A simple thought experiment: Presume easy access in to abortions in North Dakota. Now eradicate nearly all abortion resources from the entire state as they’ve done. Can we predict whether the abortion rate will go up, stay stable, or is it reduced? No, but what we do know is this: When it goes up or stays stable it does so because: there’s more unplanned pregnancies due to those same resources provided birth control resources (bad, highly unlikely these unplanned pregnancies would overcome a lack of access to abortion though Portugal’s results argue otherwise), a black market is created which risks women’s health (bad). If the reported rate does down, it does so because of: lack of access reduces access to abortion (bad) or, the rate is under-reported because more women who secured an abortion didn’t have theirs reported (bad). In all cases access to abortion by credible providers is reduced.

    Of course some women can travel to get an abortion, not only is no arguing otherwise and therefore your argument is a strawman, but I already pointed this out. Instead I’m pointing out that restricting access abortion harms women in general, not just poor women, because it reduces supply and therefore we’ll see a marginal reduction in (safe) abortions. It also restricts access for girls, even if their parents have money. Of course some girls can and will get access in spite of these restrictions, but again for the umpteenth time, not all will be able to if access becomes far more difficult.

  20. 20
    Ichthyic

    Whoosh on your poor quip;

    I often wonder why you like to argue… with EVERYBODY.

    for no apparent reason other than to hear yourself prattle, Michael.

    frankly, the point remains, this so overwhelmingly affects poor people more than the rich, your point, at best, is weak, at worst is an offensive distraction.

  21. 21
    laurentweppe

    This was the goal all along, to put the right to choose out of reach for most women

    No: the goal was to put the right to choose out of reach of all plebeans. The moneyed aristocrats who hold the bigots strings can’t afford to exterminate the plebs because they need them to do the menial labors and the boring paperworks, but they’ll do all they can to reduce them to cattle and fucktoys: This is their final goal.

  22. 22
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @dickspringer #6

    For once with the GOP, I don’t think this is about classism. Men aren’t seriously impacted by this stuff.

  23. 23
    Bronze Dog

    I see it as against women first and against the poor second. It affects women of all classes, but it affects poor women the worst.

  24. 24
    scienceavenger

    @22 The men who become fathers when they didn’t want to and otherwise wouldn’t have sure as shit are. Face it, this stink reaches everyone.

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