UPDATED FEBRUARY 21
By Lina Thorne
From the “guerrilla activists” trying to take down Planned Parenthood to the state and federal legislators (from both parties) further restricting women’s access to abortion, 2011 has seen more assaults on women’s most fundamental rights yet – even more even under the Bush years. There are 3 anti-abortion federal bills and more than 200 state level bills restricting access to abortion (and cutting funds for birth control, cancer screenings and other basic care for women into the attacks for good measure). Many of the state-level bills pose fundamental challenges to Roe v. Wade, paving the way for Supreme Court challenges down the line. What we need is an outpouring of resistance to this assault on the humanity of women!
Merle Hoffman, director of Choices Women’s Medical Center says: “the right to reproductive freedom is like the right to breathe: it transcends laws.” Why is that the case? And why must justice-loving people stand against this new wave of attacks on women? Listen to a conversation with Debra Sweet, Sunsara Taylor, Dr. LeRoy Carhart, Merle Hoffman and Carole Joffe on why abortion is such an important moral and political right.
The two specifically anti-abortion bills currently under debate differ only slightly from each other. One, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” is co-sponsored by a Democrat, Rep. Lipinski of Illinois. The other, the “Protect Life Act” (sic) is sponsored by Rep. Pitts (the Republican half from last year’s Stupak-Pitts amendment). Lipinski and his co-sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith claimed to have withdrawn language from their bill that would have redefined rape, allowing abortion coverage only in cases of “forcible rape” after a round of righteous protests (the language has not yet been removed as of this writing). However, they then went on to insert language that matched the Pitts’ bill, which would reverse standing law and authorize hospitals to refuse to provide abortions even when a woman’s life is in danger.
Also: Amie Newman: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion? A New Bill With An Old Face
Jodi Jacobson: Protecting Life? New Bill Says Its OK to Let Women Die
On February 18, the House of Representatives voted in favor (with the support of 10 Democrats) of sweeping aside Title X funds provided by the federal government that subsidize birth control, cancer screenings and routine gynecological care for low-income women through organizations like Planned Parenthood. According Planned Parenthood, 1 out of 5 women in the US visit their clinics at least once in their lives, receiving basic medical care and paying on a sliding scale. This action makes the anti-abortion movement's larger agenda even clearer, as federal funds for abortion have not been available in decades. This attack on Title X, billed as a way to "eradicate" access to birth control by the "pro-life" movement, came separate from the larger budget cuts being proposed which will slash into programs like WIC which provide low-income women, infants, and children with food (which, it should be noted, make up a tiny fraction of military spending).
In Ohio, an abortion ban starting "when there is a fetal heartbeat" (as early as 18 days from conception) is pending. This law stands out from many for it's potential to pose a direct legal challenge to Roe, and to bring about a showdown in the Supreme Court.
Well, these restrictions may actually mean fewer abortions – and they may mean that some women will die – but the larger point is certainly true. The culture war far underway is about nothing less than the social role of women and our most basic rights. It time we start talking about it in these terms.