There was a time not long ago when those of us dedicated to protecting reproductive freedom viewed the surge in attacks of 2011 as an aberration, an extreme political reaction. But 2012 and the first six months of 2013 have proved beyond a doubt that extremist politicians will not relent until abortion is entirely banned.
In state legislatures across the country, we have seen some of the most extreme legislation proposed since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the U.S. in 1973. By this year’s midpoint, more than two dozen anti-choice bills had become law in 15 states, each one chipping away at access to reproductive health care in underhanded and dangerous ways.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has responded to the most egregious and unconstitutional laws with force, mounting fierce court battles to overturn these offensive assaults on the rights of women.
The Center’s Mid-Year Report documents the far-reaching hostility toward women’s constitutionally protected reproductive health care, including details of the most significant and potentially dangerous restrictions.
North Dakota grabbed a large share of the anti-choice spotlight by passing five bills in the bi-annual legislative session. The most outrageous is a ban on abortion at the first sign of cardiac activity—usually at around six weeks of pregnancy and most often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. The Center recently challenged that law and another unconstitutional ban in federal court.
Extremist politicians also made a blatant attempt to shutter the Red River Women’s Clinic, the sole abortion provider in North Dakota, with a law that would require the clinic’s doctors to unnecessarily have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The Center will fight this law in state court.
Finally, another bill places a personhood measure on the ballot in 2014, which, if successful, could not only ban abortion, but threaten access to essential family planning methods and services like contraception and fertility treatments. All personhood ballot measures in other states have failed by wide margins to date.
For a short period of time, Arkansas held the title as the state with the most extreme ban on abortion. That state passed a law that would halt all abortions before the end of the first trimester, at the beginning of the 12th week. The Center has already prevented that law from taking effect temporarily and will wage a fierce battle to permanently strike the law down.
In Kansas, the Center is fighting a laundry list of infringements on women’s reproductive rights, one of which puts the health of women in grave danger. Kansas’ HB 2253 virtually eliminates a woman’s ability to obtain a needed abortion in a medical emergency, defining an emergency so narrowly that it would be extremely rare for a woman’s circumstances to qualify for an emergency abortion. As a result, doctors would not be allowed to bypass the state’s 24-hour waiting period requirement or other time-consuming restrictions—creating an immediate threat to the life and health of a woman in need of critical care.
Among many other efforts to attack reproductive health care, the Kansas bill requires doctors to lie to patients, in clear violation of medical ethics, by forcing them to affirm scientifically inaccurate information, such as a nonexistent link between abortion and the risk of breast cancer. Perhaps most ominously, HB 2253 adds “personhood” language into Kansas law, raising the specter of a future in which Kansan women lack any access to reproductive health services like contraception, fertility treatments, and abortion.
These are just some of the laws that state legislatures have passed. Elsewhere, politicians are seeking to ban the abortion pill, passing more legislation designed to stop abortion providers from delivering care, and making this health care unaffordable for low-income women. More detailed information can be found in the 2013 Mid-Year Report.
And more anti-choice laws are certainly on the way, even in the wake of the courageous stand taken by Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, who successfully filibustered a bill that would devastate reproductive health care. Her actions, and the protests across the state by thousands, demonstrated just how out of touch extremist legislators are with women’s issues.
Unfortunately for the women of Texas, Gov. Rick Perry has called another special session for the express purpose of passing this insidious legislation.
Anti-choice politicians in the United States do everything they can to couch their actions in terms of protecting women. In fact, each new law is just another volley in a war that won’t seem to end. The Center will continue to defend the front lines with an unyielding legal counterattack to protect the very foundation of women’s reproductive rights.