Nov 14, 2011
Last week voters in Mississippi rejected by 59% to 41% a proposed law that would call a fertilized egg in a woman’s body a “person,” so as to stop the right to abortion or even some forms of contraception. The rejection was a significant push back against the constant introduction of anti-abortion measures in state legislatures.
This past summer, Kansas lawmakers passed a new law to prevent health insurers from covering abortions. They also passed a law to prevent Title X federal funds from going to health care clinics in Kansas that provide abortion services.
Kansas is hardly an exception to state legislators attacking women’s right to abortion. Several states have used the tactic of ridiculous guidelines, for example, the size of the janitor’s closets in health care facilities. In the first eight months of 2011, sixty-one laws were passed similar to the ones in Kansas, all deciding to further restrict the right to abortion.
The problem is not only at the state level. The federal government was not slow to attack abortion rights after Roe v. Wade passed in 1973. As soon as it passed, a “liberal” Democratic senator, Frank Church, shepherded through a bill to allow hospitals to “opt out” of performing abortions if abortions went against their “moral or religious beliefs.” The Catholic Church quickly made sure that Catholic hospitals no longer provided abortion services. Four of the ten biggest hospital chains or health care systems are owned or under the control of the Catholic Church. In 1976, the Hyde Amendment passed in a Democrat-controlled Congress to restrict federal funding for abortions provided to poor women. Better-off women could still have abortions under their health plans. (Today several states besides Kansas have passed laws to tell health insurers they may not pay for any abortions in their states.) The Republican-controlled House of Representatives in May 2011 passed a bill called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” in a 251-175 vote. Again, it is poor women who will suffer the most if this bill gets through the Senate.
All these measures passed in state legislatures and in Congress helped to create a climate in which violence against those favoring abortion was acceptable. Thousands of health care clinics were attacked by anti-abortion extremists. Nine abortion providers have been murdered and attempts made on the lives of others; over the past 30 years the attacks have included bombs, arson and throwing acid at people working in clinics.
The violence has had its impact. By the year 2000, seven out of eight counties in the U.S. had not a single abortion provider. In rural areas, the blockade was almost total: 97% of rural counties have no doctor who performs abortions.
Yet poll after poll shows that the majority in this country are in favor of women having access to abortion. The recent Mississippi vote was further proof, if any was needed, that it is only a religious minority that wants to end the right to abortion and other medical services that impact women.
These anti-abortion extremists would take women back to the days before Roe v Wade when 90% of abortions were performed illegally, resulting in hundreds of deaths each year.
If we don’t want to be pushed back to those days of illegal abortions, women must defend their rights the same way they got them – by the enormous mobilizations of the late 1960s and early 1970s. At that time, the demand was that abortion be a decision made by a woman privately, without interference from the religious, medical or government institutions.
Put an end to religious minorities imposing their backward views on the rest of us!