The war against women’s control of their own reproductive healthcare has been intense and often ugly since the landmark Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. That battle seems to be picking up steam over the past five years with hundreds of new (mostly) state laws seeking to set up obstacles to women seeking abortions.
Laws requiring invasive trans-vaginal ultrasounds, personhood laws, waiting periods, mandated counseling provisions, TRAP laws that set unrealistic and unnecessary minimum guidelines for facilities and personnel that provide abortions, and laws that constantly attempt to lower the gestational threshold at which legal abortions can be performed have exploded onto the political scene. Republicans in general and red states in particular, are taking draconian measures to end legal abortion.
Grassroots efforts by pro-choice groups around the country have been heartening, as public concern about the future of legal abortion grows. But Democratic leadership has been conspicuously silent on the abortion issue. Some Democratic leaders have made public statements denouncing state intrusions on women’s reproductive health issues, but legislative action in support of women has been virtually non-existent. Until yesterday!
According to a piece in Think Progress, “On Wednesday, a group of pro-choice senators plan to introduce the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013, a measure intended to stem the barrage of state-level restrictions on reproductive rights.”
Think Progress continues: “the new bill would preempt state’s efforts to indirectly restrict abortion by requiring new laws to be medically necessary. The measure emphasizes that new abortion regulations shouldn’t decrease access to abortion services or require doctors to go against their best judgment.” This new legislation comes on the heels of a Republican bill reported last week by Americans Against the Tea Party, introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would outlaw abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy at the federal level.
Pro-choice groups remember the days before Roe in which thousands of women became sick and died painful deaths as a result of illegal back-alley abortions. Procedures performed with bent coat hangers, unsanitary equipment wielded in unsanitary settings, and untrained and uncaring providers were literally killing (mostly poor) women all across America. The situation was a dark and bloody stain on the national consciousness and ended only after the Roe v Wade decision. Roe welcomed women into sterile and safe clinics. It provided medical professionals, doctors and nurses, as an alternative to “a guy I know.” And it’s not just poor women or “sluts” who have abortions. The Guttmacher Institute has reported that by age 45, 50% of women will have had an unintended pregnancy and that 33% will have had an abortion.
Women have been getting abortions since the human race began. Argument about when life begins, when (and if) the soul enters the body, when a fetus becomes viable, and distinctions between a baby and a fetus will probably always be with us. Good people will always have differing opinions on all these matters. But in the final analysis, the actual decision should not be a matter of public consensus. That gut-wrenching decision must be left to the pregnant woman. It’s probably one of the most personal decisions a woman will ever have to make, and it almost always is painful and difficult. Government has no place in that conversation.