Hands Off My Womb: Looking at New Legislation Aiming to Restrict Abortion Access on “Blog for Choice Day”

If you’ve been a loyal reader of my blog (a big thank you if you have!!), you probably know that I passionately believe in protecting abortion access and a woman’s right to choose.  With the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade tomorrow, today commemorates NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 6th annual Blog for Choice Day.  It’s a way to increase dialogue around reproductive rights.

For this year’s blog topic, NARAL Pro-Choice America posed the question:

“Given the anti-choice gains in the states and Congress, are you concerned about choice in 2011?”

Hell yes…I am fucking scared.  We’ll need to brace ourselves for even more attacks on access to abortion.  Yesterday, U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), Co-Chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, introduced a lovely new piece of legislation, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” bill (H.R. 3).  First of all, there is NO frakking taxpayer funding for abortions!!  Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said as much yesterday.  Many people won’t realize just how detrimental this bill is due to its deceptive name.  Even if they’re pro-choice, many people may say to themselves that it’s okay to pass since taxpayers shouldn’t be held responsible for paying for women’s abortions.  But called “Stupak on Steroids,” this bill would severely and ridiculously restrict women’s reproductive rights.

In a press release about the bill, NOW President Terry O’Neill declares,

“It would drastically reduce access to medically necessary emergency abortions at state and local public hospitals; impose tax penalties on individuals and businesses using private health care plans; and further whittle exemptions for rape, incest and health.”

Here we go again.  As if the Stupak amendment wasn’t bad enough, now we have to deal with this nightmare.  If abortion is taken away, women will turn to back-alley abortions and other dangerous, illegal methods.  Beyond abortion, what about emergency contraception (EC)?  When EC was first released, anti-choice proponents spewed false propaganda claiming it was the abortion pill, even though it’s not (it prevents implantation).  But will anti-choice legislators make birth control illegal too?  Where does it stop?  No one has the right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body.

But that’s precisely what many in the government are trying to do.  According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 15 states have completely anti-choice governments and “16 states enacted 34 anti-choice measures in 2010.”  Since 1995, the government has steadily increased passing anti-choice legislation, from 18 in 1995 to 644 in 2010.  That is frightening.  Speaker of the House John A. Boehner, “said House Republicans would push for much stricter limits on abortion in federal programs…,” making attacks on abortion his number one priority.

States That Enacted Anti-Choice Laws in 2010

In The Huffington Post, Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America said,

“In all of these cases, there is a disconnect between the public’s priorities and what we’re seeing from anti-choice lawmakers. Remember all those election promises about job creation, fiscal responsibility, and “limited government”? I sure do. But what we’re seeing in Washington, D.C. and many legislatures across the country is more government interference in our personal, private lives, not less.”

That’s what always kills me.  The GOP rambles on and on about less government, yet they want to invade our wombs.

Living in Boston, people assume I live in a liberal city and state.  And it’s true that our state legislature and governor are pro-choice and that we have quite a few pro-choice laws such as access to EC, access for women with low-incomes, and protection of women and clinic workers from anti-choice violence.  Yet we also have anti-choice laws such as lack of insurance coverage for abortion, restrictions on women under 18 obtaining abortions, a “conscientious clause” where medical providers can opt-out of providing reproductive services and an unconstitutional abortion ban still on the books.

I live about 10 minutes away from a large Planned Parenthood clinic near Boston University.  Every week when I go to the grocery store, which happens to be right next door to the Planned Parenthood, I see anti-abortion protesters gripping their signs, chanting abortion equals murder and pleading to women to not abort their babies.  They call out to everyone entering the building, whether they’re employees or patients.  Years ago, another clinic in Brookline, a town adjacent to Boston, faced violence when two clinic workers were killed.  While I support dissent, it sickens me.  They care more about a bunch of cells than a woman.  For some women, getting an abortion can be a trying experience; the last thing they need is an anti-choice zealot making them feel terrible about their decision.  They have no idea what a woman’s circumstances are or what she’s going through.  And they have no right to tell a woman what she should or shouldn’t do with her body.  If women have to face this in a supposedly liberal haven like Boston, what must women endure in more conservative parts of the country?

Abortion also affects women of different racial and socio-economic statues differently.  Jessica Arons, Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at American Progress, argued the inequities in abortion policy, particularly regarding the Hyde Amendment as it bans Medicaid from abortion coverage, significantly impacting women with lower incomes and women of color.  In The Huffington Post, Arons contends,

“Even before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, affluent women were usually able to access abortion safely through a network of private doctors or by traveling to other states or countries where it was legal. Meanwhile, poor women risked their health, fertility, and often their lives to end a pregnancy. Unfortunately, because of the Hyde Amendment, similar inequalities exist today — nearly 40 years after the Supreme Court declared that all women have a constitutional right to abortion.

The Hyde Amendment prohibits Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for the indigent, from covering abortion care in almost all circumstances. Most people think of this as a “woman’s issue,” which of course it is. But the Hyde Amendment intentionally discriminates against poor women and has a disparate impact on women of color. In this way, the Hyde Amendment is a civil rights issue as well…We do not subject other fundamental constitutional freedoms — voting, free speech, freedom to worship, the right to a fair trial, the right to counsel — to poll taxes or income requirements. But a woman’s ability to act on her constitutionally protected decision to have an abortion is subject to the whims of a fickle legislature and what is (or is not) in her pocketbook.”

Women of all races, ethnicities, classes and incomes should be able to have their rights protected; they should be able to determine their reproductive choices without being encumbered by fiscal constraints, restrictive laws or extremism.  Women, not the government or religious officials, should decide what to do with their own bodies.  Enmeshed in a culture of hate speech and violence, Dr. Tiller’s murder two years ago reminds me that anti-choice zealots will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

My mother once told me that the fight for abortion was over, that Roe v. Wade will never be overturned.  I wish that were true.  Yet each year, anti-choice proponents erode more and more of our freedoms.  The fight for reproductive justice has never been greater.  But we can make a difference.  Call or write your legislator.  Vote.  Blog, tweet or post articles on Facebook.  Donate money or your time to a clinic, non-profit or lobby.  Rally your friends and family.  We must continue to take a stand and make our voices heard.

Want to tell your legislator to vote “no” for “Stupak on Steroids?”  Contact them now.

2 thoughts on “Hands Off My Womb: Looking at New Legislation Aiming to Restrict Abortion Access on “Blog for Choice Day”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Hands Off My Womb: Looking at New Legislation Aiming to Restrict Abortion Access on “Blog for Choice Day” « The Opinioness of the World -- Topsy.com

  2. “No one has the right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body.”

    You’re incorrect. There are laws that people can’t use drugs, that people can’t have doctor-assisted suicide, and women get in trouble for giving fetal alcohol syndrome to their fetus. If you are truly pro-choice, then we women should have these rights to do with their bodies what we choose, outside of abortion.

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