Today, the reproductive rights activists across the country are celebrating the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the legal decision that made abortion a legal right in every state, without any restriction prior to the viability of the fetus. From the moment that decision was announced, abortion opponents have urged politicians to restrict that right via legislative means, passing regulations, restrictions and bans meant to whittle away that right and try to overturn the decision itself.
In many states, politicians have been all too willing to help. They have proposed expensive, medically unnecessary clinic and doctor regulations, onerous waiting periods and pre-procedure lectures and ultrasounds, and unconstitutional bans limiting the time limit in which a pregnant person can have an abortion, despite the Roe ruling.
Some of these bills have been introduced on their own, by those who have been upfront about their desire to restrict the right to choose. Others, not so much. They issue has been tucked into must pass bills, bundled into an omnibus or slid into unrelated legislation.
Today’s anniversary should serve as a reminder for anti-choice legislature: abortion is a legal right. And here’s a reminder of what abortion is not:
Abortion is not a form of domestic violence. A Kentucky senator anxious to force the legislature to vote on a 20 week abortion ban has tacked it onto a bill regarding domestic violence, saying, “The most brutal form of domestic violence is the violence against unborn children, and this particular bill would prohibit abortions after the fetus feels pain, which is 20 weeks and older.” Besides being medically untrue, it’s a huge insult to those who have experienced domestic violence. Then again, considering how hard the GOP worked nationally to block the reauthorization of VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act) this attitude shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Abortion is not making motorcycle riding dangerous. North Carolina legislators desperate to get an omnibus bill that among other things would give the Board of Health power to write clinic regulations that could potentially close every abortion provider tried tucking the law into a bill outlawing “sharia law.” But when that didn’t work, they stripped out a “motorcycle safety” bill and passed it through that. Because, helmets?
Abortion is not a cause of pre-term birth. If shutting down abortion clinics as a way to make motorcycle riding safer wasn’t confusing enough, the state also proposed legislation to teach studentscommon preventable causes of preterm birth, such as smoking, doing drugs and abortion. Except abortion doesn’t cause preterm birth. Perhaps the people behind the science on that one should wear their helmets more often when they ride.
Abortion is not a state budgetary line item. Ohio doesn’t provide any state funding to abortion clinics, allow state Medicaid recipients to use their insurance to pay for terminations, or in any other way have anything to do with abortion services. That didn’t stop the GOP from putting a number of abortion restrictions into the state budget, a massive hundreds of pages long document. Included in those restrictions were mandatory ultrasounds and the power for the medical board to start drawing up reasons to close clinics one by one via lack of transfer agreements, which could no longer be provided by any publicly funded hospital. Since it didn’t have any bearing on the budget, there was absolutely no reason that Republican Governor John Kasich couldn’t use his veto power to remove those restrictions from the budget. But he didn’t. Now, yet another clinic in the state is closing.
Abortion is not a child homicide. Mississippi has done a number of things to try to end abortion in the state, including shutting down the state’s only clinic by requiring admitting privileges for the doctors at the clinic, knowing no local hospital would offer them. But the state also came close to being the first to ban abortion at the point in which a fetal heartbeat could be detected, by tacking it onto a "child homicide" bill. The bill never made it out of committee.
Abortion is not a circus. Taking abortion bills onto unrelated issues is an age old process. When Minnesota couldn’t manage to get abortion restrictions out of Democratic committees, the Republicans did a little maneuvering to get them free. In 2003, they placed a so-called “informed consent” and waiting period bill, the “Women’s Right to Know Act,” onto a bill that was eliminating an old law that said you couldn’t hold a circus within 18 days of the state fair. Once the bill was free of committee, it then received a full vote and passed both chambers of the legislature. Included in that bill? A then mostly unheard of claim that fetuses could feel pain at 20 weeks, so if an abortion is done later than that, a pregnant person should be offered anesthetic for the fetus. That claim became the basis of today’s plethora of “fetal pain bills.”