2011 is turning into the year of the fetus. And women will suffer as a result.
Republicans campaigned on economic issues during the 2010 midterm elections, but have focused on delivering the Christian right's agenda. That agenda was set forth in an 8-point "warning" to the 112th Congress signed by 47 conservative groups that included:
Conservatives recognize that government policies which weaken the family take a special toll on the poor. The results of families falling apart has huge moral and financial costs for all of us since society will pay through wasteful and fraud ridden programs supporting the welfare state. Congress should immediately ban tax-payer funding of abortion providers, promote policies that uphold the sanctity of human life, and oppose policies & programs that are destructive towards traditional marriage and families.
Conservative lawmakers in the states have also embraced this agenda. During the first three months of 2011, legislators in 49 states introduced 916 measures related to reproductive issues and more than half of these reduce abortion access.
In The Founding Fathers' Day, Abortion Was Legal.
One of the rallying cries of the anti-abortion movement is that the Founding Fathers never intended that the Constitution guaranteed a woman the right to choose. What they fail to acknowledge is that abortion was legal until about the mid-1800s, Civil War period. During this time, states started passing anti-abortion legislation for a variety of reasons, including fears that birth rates of immigrant populations were exceeding those of "native" Anglo-Saxon women.
The Invention of the Abortion Debate Birthed in Jerry Falwell's Racist Attitudes.
The fervent anti-abortion movement was manufactured by the religious right when they lost their battle for segregation in religious schools. Jerry Falwell remarked after the Brown v. Board of Education decision,
If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made," Falwell boomed from above his congregation in Lynchburg. "The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.
After Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones were unable to keep their tax exempt status with their racially segregated schools in the 1971 case, Green v. Connally, they knew that they were losing political power. The answer they found, was to unite as a Moral Majority and refocus their political efforts on the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Prior to the rise of the Moral Majority, the Southern Baptist Convention advocated laws that supported abortion. Evangelicals were indifferent toward abortion. (Note: The following video has a good overview, but contains some language that would be offensive to some.)
The Merger of Social Issues Into the Conservative Movement.
Conservatives with roots in the 1950s and 1960s opposed the religious right's agenda. For instance, when supporting the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, Barry Goldwater vehemently opposed the Moral Majority's abortion policies, saying that abortion is not a conservative issue.
A Brief Overview of Recent Anti-Abortion Legislation.
Although the states have gradually been passing restrictive laws that make abortions more difficult to get over the past few years, an avalanche of anti-abortion bills have been introduced and passed during the first quarter of 2011.
In Arizona, women seeking abortions must attest that they are not having abortions due to the race or gender of the fetus.
A number of states are targeting Planned Parenthood, which they incorrectly characterize as being solely an abortion provider. Planned Parenthood provides numerous health care services, such as cancer screening, cancer and STD prevention services, and dispensation of contraceptives. Its abortion services do not use federal funds. In Texas, for instance, lawmakers have banned Planned Parenthood from delivering services under the state's Women's Health Program. If Planned Parenthood sues then the state will simply dissolve the Women's Health Program. In Arizona, Governor Brewer signed House Bill 2384 into law. This bill singles out and disqualifies Planned Parenthood Arizona, a nonprofit organization that serves the working poor, from eligibility for the Arizona Working Poor Tax Credit. The bill prohibits Arizona taxpayers from receiving the Working Poor Charitable Tax Credit if they contribute to an organization that refers for or provides abortion.
"Fetal pain" bills are being passed that ban abortions after 20 weeks. These "fetal pain" bills based on dubious science have passed in Nebraska, Idaho, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Indiana. Another type of legislation that the states have seen are "sonogram bills," which require that women seeking abortions have a sonogram that they can choose not to view, but which generally require that they listen to their doctor explain the condition of the fetus before having the abortion procedure.
Women in the military who become pregnant because of rape cannot receive federal health benefits to fund an abortion.
Kansas banned abortion coverage in general health insurance policies except in the event a woman's life was endangered. Women must buy abortion insurance policies there. In debating the issue, Republican Rep. Pete DeGraaf argued that women should plan ahead for rape or other situations in which they might want an abortion, likening this planning to carrying a spare tire in a vehicle.
Robin Marty at RH Reality Check notes that under the Republican plans to repeal the health care bill, a prohibition on gender discrimination will be lifted, and women will pay 30 percent more for insurance than men do.
South Dakota enacted HB 1217, considered one of the toughest anti-abortion laws in the country. The state, which has only one abortion provider, now requires women seeking abortions to wait 72 hours before having the procedure. They are required to consult a crisis pregnancy center registered with the state whose mission is to make the women change their minds. This is a de facto ban on abortion because the crisis pregnancy centers are not registering with the state. Planned Parenthood is suing.
As Rachel Maddow points out, voters in South Dakota had rejected anti-abortion legislation two times. The legislature's restrictions are not in line with public will.
One of the most comprehensive lists of anti-abortion legislation introduced in the states has been compiled by the Guttmacher Institute.
Real Life Consequences.
The anti-abortion bills have real life consequences, including repercussions for women who intended to keep their babies. This is because in the Christian, anti-abortion worldview, fetuses are more important than the women who carry them.
As we reported earlier, a Christian woman in Nebraska was forced to carry to term a fetus that had no chances for survival, and because of the state's laws, unnecessarily suffered tremendous pain for six days and became infected.
In January, a Walgreens pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for someone with a bleeding uterus under the Idaho conscience clause because of she suspected that the woman might have had an abortion.
In Chicago, a woman almost died because no doctor in the emergency room would perform a life-saving abortion. Mikki Kendall shares her disturbing story in Salon:
I was taking an afternoon nap when the hemorrhaging started while my toddler napped in his room when I woke up to find blood gushing upward from my body. Though I didn't know it at the time, I was experiencing a placental abruption, a complication my doctor had told me was a possibility. My husband was at work, so I had to do my best to take care of me and my toddler on my own. I managed to get to the phone and make arrangements for both of my children before going to a Chicago hospital.
Everyone knew the pregnancy wasn't viable, that it couldn't be viable given the amount of blood I was losing, but it still took hours for anyone at the hospital to do anything. The doctor on call didn't do abortions. At all. Ever. In fact, no one on call that night did. Meanwhile, an ignorant batch of medical students had gathered to study me — one actually showed me the ultrasound of our dying child while asking me if it was a planned pregnancy. Several wanted to examine me while I lay there bleeding and in pain. No one gave me anything for the pain or even respected my request to close the door even though I was on the labor and delivery floor listening to other women have healthy babies as the baby I had been trying to save died in my womb.
A very kind nurse risked her job to call a doctor from the Reproductive Health Clinic who was not on call, and asked her to come in to save my life. Fortunately she was home, and got there relatively quickly. By the time she arrived, I was in bad shape. The blood loss had rendered me nearly incoherent, but she still moved me to a different wing and got me the painkillers no one else had during the screaming hours I'd spent in the hospital. After she checked my lab tests, she told us I would need two bags of blood before she could perform the procedure. Her team (a cadre of wonderful students who should all go on to run their own clinics) took turns checking on me and my husband. They all kept assuring me that soon it would be over, and I would feel much better. My husband had to sign the consent for surgery (I was clearly not competent enough to make decisions), and they took me away along with a third bag of blood to be administered during the procedure.
Later I found out that the doctor had taken my husband aside as they brought me into surgery. She promised him she would do her best to save me, but she warned him there was a distinct possibility that she would fail. The doctor who didn't do abortions was supposed to have contacted her (or someone else who would perform the procedure) immediately. He didn't. Neither did his students.
The entire story can be read at Salon — and concludes with a cousin's call to Mikki that "she had interfered with God's plan" by having the abortion.
Personhood and Other Draconian Measures.
The so-called Personhood Amendments, which declare that fertilized eggs are human beings having Constitutional rights, have not passed … yet. Personhood Amendments generally do not take into account the health of the mother, how the zygote was conceived (rape, incest, cloning) or the viability of the fetus. According to Personhood USA, "Personhood USA’s amendments and bills recognize that every human being is a person, and every person has a right to life. Personhood amendments and bills protect every child, no matter their size or age." Under Personhood Amendments, it is possible that certain forms of contraception may be banned and that women may be criminally liable for miscarriages.
Provided it is not prohibited by the courts, Mississippi voters will vote on their state's Personhood Amendment this year.
Besides declaring zygotes to be people, the religious right is eying ectopic pregnancies.
Ectopic pregnancies are the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths. What happens is that the conceptus implants and matures outside the endometrial cavity, which ultimately ends in death of the fetus. Without timely diagnosis and treatment, ectopic pregnancy can become a life-threatening situation. The Catholic Church's John Paul II Bioethics Commission has deemed it "immoral" to kill the fetus in these situations, stating:
"The use of salpingostomy or the drug methotrexate in resolving an ectopic pregnancy involves a freely chosen action that is intended to result in the direct death of an innocent human being. Any attempt to justify the direct killing of human embryos in ectopic pregnancies is morally unacceptable. There are alternate methods available that do not result in a direct abortion and we need to do a better job of educating the public on these moral considerations."
The End Game.
The religious right wants abortion banned. Fertilized eggs are people having Constitutional rights in their view. If a woman's life is jeopardized by this fetus, it's God's will. >As we have reported before, Mexico's conservative states serve as an example of the climate we might expect as these anti-abortion bills gain traction. Contraceptives are banned in some places. Women who have miscarriages are in jail for manslaughter. Women having clandestine abortions are turned into the police by their doctors. Doctors are unwilling to perform abortions for rape victims.