Shit Is Fucked Up And Bullshit In Reproductive Rights News

Monthly Report: April

It’s almost June and it has already been a bad year for reproductive rights. Not as bad as last year, whose first quarter saw 127 bills approved by at least one legislative house, and 38 enacted — a banner year for abortion restrictions. This year hasn’t been quite as nasty — 76 approved and 9 enacted in the first quarter — but even this level is unusual in an election year. (Info thanks to Guttmacher).

April, however, saw a marked uptick in anti-reproductive rights bills, once most state legislatures were in session. I am restricting this analysis to bills enacted, because to do otherwise would prompt a ten-thousand-word screed and possibly a screaming naked run through these suburban streets, and no one wants that.

Arizona is our clear winner this month, to absolutely no one’s surprise, with a full four new abortion restrictions. On April 12, Governor Jan Brewer signed the most controversial of the state’s recent laws. While seven other states currently ban abortion after 20 weeks, Arizona takes it a step further and declares that now, legally as well as medically, pregnancy begins on the date of a woman’s last period, not on the date of actual fertilization, thus effectively banning abortion after 18 weeks. As others have noted, 18-20 weeks is usually around the time that fetal abnormalities can be seen, which leaves families with very little time to make a decision about whether to terminate the pregnancy.

Not to worry, though — that choice, too, has been effectively taken away altogether, since on April 17 Brewer signed a bill that prevents families from suing a doctor who withholds information that otherwise could have resulted in abortion — drastic fetal abnormalities, for example. I remember this argument from February, when former Senator Rick Santorum came out against amniocentesis, and my response is the same: do you think, maybe, even a family who would plan on giving birth to their disabled child would like a little bit of time to prepare for having a disabled child?

And of course that’s not all. Arizona, as well as Wisconsin and Tennessee, banned the practice of “telemedicine” in April. Telemedicine is the process wherein a doctor Skypes with a patient and prescribes mifepristone — the abortion pill — from a distance, a real boon for women in the early stages of a pregnancy who live too far away from a clinic to go there in person. Moreover, Arizona now (as of this same April) requires doctors to have hospital privileges 30 miles from where the non-surgical procedure takes place. As in, from where a woman takes a pill. Real cute, guys.

No one else comes close to Arizona in the race to become April’s Shittiest Place For Women, but a few other states are doing their due diligence to male supremacy. Mississippi only has one clinic, but lawmakers are doing their best to shut it down. On April 17, Governor Bryant signed into law a bill requiring that all abortion providers be licensed OBGYNs with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Of course, all of the doctors in the Jackson, MS clinic are already board-certified OBGYNs, but only one has admitting privileges. On the face of it, this law seems reasonable, concerned for the welfare of women undergoing a medical procedure. Abortion providers should be licensed OBGYNs, and they should have the insurance of being able to provide hospital support should things go wrong. If only things were that simple. The Jackson clinic has not historically had enough emergencies to require more than one doctor with admitting privileges, and, moreover, Mississippi lawmakers have explicitly stated on the record that the aim of the law is to close Mississippi’s only clinic. (Curious? Ask Republican State Rep Bubba Carpenter.)

April’s winner of the “Son, I Am Disappoint” prize belongs to Wisconsin. Four dumb laws were signed into effect, which technically ties Wisconsin with Arizona in terms of quantity, if not egregiousness. The previously-mentioned ban on telemedicine was one; the others were mandatory counseling to ascertain that no one is getting pressured into abortion — added cost and time — a ban on private insurance paying for abortion services except for the standard rape/incest/health exceptions, and a new abstinence-only sex education program. One last hurrah for Scott Walker before the recall election. Fuck you, Scott Walker, I hope you lose horribly.

Stay tuned; in a couple of weeks I’ll have a list of all that transpired this month. And don’t we have fun.

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