Writer ST rounds up the latest developments in abortion legislation. What are old men without medical degrees telling you to do with your ovaries/womb/vagina? Come with us on a tour.
The Good: It often feels like we are being inundated with terrible news about reproductive rights, but there are good things happening too. For all the gynoticians out there telling us what we can and cannot do with our bodies, there are reproductive-rights champions fighting back at every level.
• On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a 4th-circuit court ruling stating that North Carolina’s ultrasound law (which required women to view an ultrasound of their fetus prior to receiving an abortion) placed an undue burden on…wait for it…doctors. That’s right: the law was changed not because it limits women’s freedoms, but because forcing doctors to narrate ultrasounds to their patients violates their first-amendment right to freedom of speech. But hey, at least the ruling has a good outcome, right? (I’m appreciative of everything doctors do in this fight, but it’s pretty depressing that women’s agency over their own bodies isn’t enough).
• In unequivocal good news (well, for people who support reproductive rights), women in Oregon will now be able to get a year’s worth of birth control at a time, sparing them from going through this rigmarole every 30 days. Yay Oregon!
• In more potentially good news out of the PNW, Senator Patty Murray introduces a bill to make over-the-counter birth control available while keeping it covered by insurance companies. The bill is called “Affordability IS Accessibility,” and you can sign the petition for it here!
The Bad: In slightly more-familiar territory, the past week has seen another rash of clinic-shut-downs, bans, and insane lawsuits.
• Wisconsin, home to Scott Walker, misogynist extraordinaire, has a bill in the works that would implement a 20-week ban on abortions. While the future of the bill is unclear, Walker has said he will sign it into law, and even if it is later overturned by a federal court, it could do some serious damage (see below for why).
• I guess this is technically good news: apparently, murder charges against a Georgia woman arrested for taking an abortion pill have been dropped—but the mere fact that she was arrested—for murder—in the first place is pretty awful. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem Kenlissa Jones is fully off the hook, another reason I’m including this with “the bad.”
• A new ruling in Texas effectively shut down a majority of the state’s abortion clinics, in addition to banning abortions after 20 weeks and restricting the use of RU4-86, colloquially known as the “abortion pill.” With only 8 clinics left in the state, many Texas women are now hours away from abortion access, adding yet another hurdle to an ever-expanding list.
The Absolutely Terrifying: All I can say here is that I am deeply thankful for the power of veto; while I don’t know what will happen in the senate, I feel at least 90% confident that Obama will not allow the following law to come to be.
In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a national 20-week abortion ban, initially introduced by Senator Trent Franks (AZ-R).Now, South Carolina senator and presidential hopeful Lindsay Graham is determined to see this bill through. Perhaps this ban is simply part of a presidential bid, or perhaps it’s part of an effort to get the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for the future of reproductive rights.
And in case you’re not sure why this law would be so terrible, here are some stories from women who have abortions beyond 20 weeks. Abortions after 20 weeks are incredibly rare; roughly 63% of abortions occur before 8 weeks, and less than 2% of abortions occur at the 21st week or beyond. As the above stories indicate, this ban would have very little effect on most women seeking abortions, but would be catastrophic to those who need late abortions for medical reasons.