Thursday, May 22, 2014

Another Domino Falls

Louisiana joins Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama in further restricting access to abortion:
BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana State Legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that could force three of the state’s five abortion clinics to close, echoing rules passed in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas and raising the possibility of drastically reduced access to abortion across a broad stretch of the South.
The new rules passed by Republican legislatures require that doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, a provision likely to shut down many abortion clinics across the region.
Anti-choice activists make the argument in court that these laws are necessary to protect the health of women seeking abortions - the procedure is so dangerous, that doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital to admit patients if something goes wrong.

Of course, the actual healthcare experts oppose these laws, understanding that: number one, abortions are very low-risk procedures (much less risky than pregnancy and child birth, in fact); number two, hospitals must legally admit the very rare emergency case resulting from abortion, regardless of a doctor's admitting privileges; and number three, the more you restrict access to abortion, the worse women will fare, as they either try to self-induce abortions or go to black-market abortion mills.

Although they can't make the argument in court and expect to win their case, the activists themselves will admit in public what the real intent of these laws is:
Tanya Britton, a board member for Pro-Life Mississippi, said the laws enacted in her state and others, including the admitting-privilege requirement, were intended not just to make abortion safer but to end them.
“These incremental laws are part of a greater strategy to end abortion in our country,” she said. “It’s part of it, and one day, our country will be abortion free.” 
Like so much conservative ideology, the notion that making abortion illegal will stop women from ending unwanted pregnancies is magical thinking. The same thinking guides their policies on sex education (abstinence only!) and birth control access (no slut pills for you!), and leads to more unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Of course, we know the ultimate point isn't stopping abortions, or anti-choice activists would be doing everything possible to encourage comprehensive sex ed and widespread use of effective birth control. As always, with conservatives of every stripe, the point is controlling women, particularly their sexuality.

At least today women have access to medical abortion in the form of RU-486, but Anti-choice activists have passed laws in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Arizona limiting that option as well (although courts in Oklahoma and North Dakota ruled against those laws).

While the thought depresses and exhausts me, I don't think this battle is ever going to be over. I think those of us who believe women should be able to have autonomy over their bodies, and make their own decisions regarding sex and reproduction, are going to have to remain vigilant. Reactionary conservatives have been unbelievably effective on this issue, taking what were considered extreme positions 20 years ago and pushing them into the mainstream.

Like the gun nuts, a very vocal, very committed minority is driving the conversation and the policy on this issue. Once again, the focus on state-level governance has proved to be the key for advancing their agenda. I'll say again how encouraged I am by the Moral Monday movement here in North Carolina because it is bringing together the smaller groups of issue voters on the progressive side (environmental issues, gay rights, reproductive freedom, workers' issues, minority rights, supporters of public education) to try to counteract the rabid one-issue voters on the conservative side. It is going to take awhile to overcome their momentum (not to mention the structural issues baked into the pie after the last redistricting), but at least there seems to be a growing awareness of the thousand cuts they have been administering to us over the years, and that it is long past time to stop the bleeding and take from them the knife.

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