By Sue Davis
Published Jul 7, 2011 6:45 PM
Just as the right of public sector workers to collective bargaining has been attacked this year in state legislatures from New Hampshire to California, so too have there been widespread legislative attacks on women’s right to legal, safe, accessible abortion.
In fact, 447 anti-abortion bills were introduced this year in 49 states, according to statistics compiled by NARAL Pro-Choice America in a June 17 letter. That’s a 150 percent increase over last year.
While those politicians who introduced the bills swell with self-righteous pride at their so-called “pro-life” agenda, a sampling of the legislation shows just how totally unscientific, burdensome, patronizing — and downright hostile — these laws are to women. If the definition of being pro-life included the right of women to freely decide what’s best for themselves, these laws would be illegal.
States impose harsh limits on abortion
In a direct attack on Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973, legislation in Louisiana has been introduced to imprison doctors for up to 15 years for providing abortions. A bill requiring police investigations of women who had miscarriages was considered in Georgia.
After anti-abortion referenda were defeated in South Dakota in 2006 and 2008, affirming the right to choice, legislators passed a law requiring a 72-hour mandatory waiting period, which would impose a huge burden on working women and mothers. Patients also have to listen to an anti-abortion lecture, rife with false and misleading information, at an unlicensed, unregulated “crisis pregnancy center,” whose purpose is to discourage women from having abortions.
Texas joined Oklahoma when it passed a law requiring doctors to perform an ultrasound on patients, play the sound of the fetal heart and describe the images — no matter if a woman objects. Then women must wait 24 hours before going ahead with the procedure.
When Wisconsin, which led the anti-worker attacks, enacted legislation eliminating public funding for Planned Parenthood, which supplies needed health care nationally for 1.5 million poor women on Medicaid, it joined Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina.
Since Nebraska passed a 20-week limit on abortion last year, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama followed suit this year. The law is based on the premise that the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, a concept disputed by medical organizations in the U.S. and Britain but promoted by the so-called “right to life” crowd. Guttmacher Institute statistics show that only 1.5 percent of the 1.21 million abortions each year (about 18,000) occur after 20 weeks, and these are almost always for medical emergencies. (New York Times, June 27)
Kansas issued provisions June 17 that would force the three abortion clinics there to comply with strict physical plant requirements by July 1. But after the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the requirements, a judge blocked enforcement. However, two women were denied needed health care before the injunction took effect. (New York Times, July 2)
In other legal challenges, CRR, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, either separately or together, were able to stop imposition of the waiting-period law in South Dakota, the one ending funding for Planned Parenthood in Indiana (also being challenged in Kansas) and the sonogram law in Texas.
What’s motivating these attacks
While poll after poll shows that the vast majority of working and oppressed people in the U.S. are more concerned about the unrelenting economic crisis, defined by rising unemployment and continuing foreclosures, and ending wars abroad, why are legislators focused on limiting women’s right to abortion instead of creating jobs?
Because these legislators are bought and paid for by the right wing of the ruling class that is hell-bent on making the workers pay for the crisis that the capitalists created. Capitalists like the libertarian Koch brothers, who believe in no government regulations — except those that protect and extend their power — are seeking to roll back all the rights won in the last century by working people, from collective bargaining to legal abortion.
These ruling class marauders hold to the patriarchal view that they, like cops or wealthy wheeler-dealers who rape, have the inherent right to force their will on women. After all, if women, particularly poor women who are disproportionately women of color, can be forced to obey the rules imposed on them, they will be too busy struggling to survive to fight back.
But the fightback is coming. And not just in the courts. What’s needed is a united army of far-seeing women and men who know what they need to thrive — comprehensive, not-for-profit health care for all; full employment; access to affordable housing and quality public education; and freedom to live in a planned society based on socialist equality and justice throughout the world. All that takes is vision and the will to fight.