"Here We Go Again"
The Attacks on Women’s Health Keep Coming
It’s only January 15, but Republican legislators and their activist allies are not wasting any time when it comes to the war on women. Just today, both the Supreme Court and Congress considered new restrictions that could limit basic access to abortion.
1. A panel of House Republicans, all of which are men, is advancing a bill that contains far-reaching restrictions on abortion access. The bill, the so-called Rape Audit, H.R. 7, aims to limit access to abortion by making it much more difficult for women to purchase private insurance that covers abortion (as most private plans currently do) with their own money. (Similar laws were passed by seven states last year.) In addition to increasing taxes on women and small businesses, it would also empower the IRS to conduct audits of rape survivors to ensure they’re not merely pretending to be raped. Pro-choice legislators and advocates have been pushing back against this assault, including a group of Democratic congresswomen who sternly told the GOP to “stop wasting taxpayers’ time and dollars waging attacks on women’s constitutionally protected right to make informed health care decisions about their own bodies.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, claimed the bill is actually a jobs plan because denying women access to abortions will make them have more children, who will in turn help grow the economy. Another leading anti-abortion legislator, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), blocked a Democratic effort to amend the bill with legislation that cracks down on workplace discrimination against pregnant women by claiming that abortion access has nothing do with pregnant women.
CREDIT: DEMOCRATIC LEADER NANCY PELOSI
2. The Supreme Court may rule to eliminate buffer zones at abortion clinics, allowing protesters almost unlimited access to patients and staff. Depending on how the Justices rule in McCullen v. Coakley, a case they heard today, cities and states may no longer be allowed to enact buffer zones around reproductive health care facilities. Since protests outside of clinics often turn violent, abortion providers say that buffer zones are critical for ensuring the safety of their patients and staff. In fact, there have been over 4,700 incidents of clinic violence and 140 clinic blockades since 1995.
Justices Scalia and Alito incredulously claimed that anti-abortion activists who gather outside clinics and harass patients and staff aren’t actually even protesting, they merely want to “speak quietly” to patients. It appears likely that Alito, Scalia, Kennedy (who has long opposed buffer zones) will be able to find at least two other justices to strike down the Massachusetts law and perhaps overturn a 2000 ruling that upheld a similar law in Colorado.
It’s worth noting that the Supreme Court bans protests on its own plaza.
3. In the past 3 years, states have enacted more abortion restrictions than during the entire previous decade. A new report from the Guttmacher Institute notes that between 2011 and 2013, state legislatures enacted 205 laws that restrict women’s reproductive rights. In the decade prior, between 2001 and 2010, states enacted 189 such restrictions. While the campaign against abortion rights rages on nationwide, Guttmacher points out that the multiple, often overlapping restrictions enacted just a few states — North Dakota, Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina — helped drive the spike.
CREDIT: GUTTMACHER INSTITUTE
4. States with anti-choice governors and state legislatures outweigh states with pro-choice ones. The two charts below illustrate the imbalance. And in a new state-by-state report card released this week by NARAL Pro-Choice America, 25 states receive a failing grade for reproductive rights while America on the whole gets just a ‘D’ grade.
BOTTOM LINE: Women’s health advocates are hopeful that this year will prove to be a turning point in the fight over women’s reproductive rights, but so far we’re seeing more of the same from their opponents.