Abortion Rights Under Siege in Healthcare Passage

Saturday, 06 Mar 2010 03:04 PM

By L.D. Breen

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As Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., leads a dozen House Democrats threatening to hold President Barack Obama’s health reform hostage over language that would fund abortions with taxpayer dollars, abortion rights advocates admit they are under siege on multiple fronts.

An urgently worded recent report from the National Abortion Rights Action League concludes that abortionists’ ranks “are diminishing across the country in the face of restrictive laws and outbreaks of violence” at abortion clinics, and warns supporters that the political tide is against them.

The 19th edition of “Who Decides: the Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States” noted that “14 states enacted 29 anti-choice measures in 2009” which means that “Between 1995 and 2009, states enacted 610 anti-choice measures,” by NARAL’s tally. By contrast, “14 states and the District of Columbia enacted 21 pro-choice measures in 2009.”

Assessing the health reform legislative process, NARAL said the House of Representatives’ version of the reform “includes sweeping new restrictions on women’s access to abortion care, including provisions that would even make it virtually impossible for women purchasing insurance in the new health-care system with their own, private funds to obtain abortion coverage.”

In the Senate, on the other hand, according to NARAL, “several threats continue to loom, including a similar ban as well as measures that would grant broad license to health-care providers and entities (including hospitals, HMOs, and insurance companies) to refuse to provide or cover medical services and proposals to reinstate funding for failed ‘abstinence-only’ programs.”

It was at the state level, however, that NARAL saw the most serious threats to its agenda. The January report notes that “two states implemented measures that ban a safe, medically appropriate abortion procedure with no exception to protect a woman’s health – laws that are enforceable due to the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse precedent and uphold the Federal Abortion Ban in 2007.”

On top of that, “several states considered so-called ‘personhood’ measures intended to impose near-total bans on abortion. These bills gained traction in some legislatures” and “states also considered and enacted a wide variety of other anti-choice bills, including those that support discredited and dangerous ‘abstinence-only’ programs, block women’s access to birth control, force providers to tell women ideological and factually incorrect information about abortion care, restrict young women’s access to abortion services, and place unnecessary and burdensome requirements on abortion providers.”

Turning to the judiciary, NARAL noted that “several courts upheld anti-choice state provisions in question, further legitimizing these harmful laws and opening the door for other states to enact similarly restrictive measures.”

In spite of abortion being legal throughout the United States since 1973, NARAL complained that “87 percent of counties in the United States have no abortion provider” as pro-lifers push “legislative measures that run the gamut from granting pharmacists the right to refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions to outright bans on abortion in all circumstances, even when a woman’s health is in danger.”

The Winter 2010 issue of Gloria Steinem’s Ms. Magazine warns that “abortion facilities nationwide have … been affected by new legal strategies undertaken by conservative legal groups against local governments.” Those groups’ focus on First Amendment freedom-of-assembly rights has meant a “worsening climate” for abortionists, Ms. reported.

In the context of this deteriorating political environment, abortion advocates have been utilizing some increasingly “in-your-face” tactics. “I Had An Abortion” t-shirts are gaining in popularity, for instance. And the latest issue of Newsweek features a prominent article on 27-year-old Florida mother Angie Jackson “trying to take the shame out of the procedure” by posting a video of herself on YouTube recorded after she took the RU-486 abortion pill. She also used Twitter to “live-tweet” all the details of her abortion experience.

In the video, Jackson says she is trying to “demystify abortion” and prove that abortion is “not that bad, not that scary.” After taking the abortion pill, Newsweek reports that she “traveled as far as the United Kingdom and Australia and has been featured on ABC’s ‘World News,’ earning Jackson an outpouring of accolades and denunciations – and a few death threats.”

Such exploits make for a high-risk political strategy. NARAL’s report analyzed governors and state legislatures and found them leaning pro-life by 2 to 1. The Washington Examiner on Thursday reported on a series of polls in eight Democratic congressional districts in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania finding that three in five voters believe “abortion and abortion funding have no place in healthcare legislation.”

The Susan B. Anthony List commissioned the surveys, which were conducted by inc/WomanTrend. According to SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, “In these districts, voters reflect national pro-life trends.”

With so many Americans and their elected representatives believing that abortion is the taking of human life, how far can the defiant message that it’s “not that bad” go?

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