Choice challenged: Abortion is on the defensive around the country
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When historians look back, they may note this as a time when extreme voices dominated the national conversation and those with moderate views gave a collective shrug.
An example of this concerns the seemingly settled issue of abortion rights. Thirty-seven years after the Roe v. Wade decision in which the Supreme Court established reproductive choice as a right, the passion is almost all on one side.
Those who see abortion as murder rally each year on the anniversary of the decision, but they do not stop there. Politicians who represent them are trying to attack the reproductive rights of women in increasingly creative ways, heaping onerous burdens on top of the practical exercise of those rights. They seek to ban abortion -- not outright yet, as they ultimately wish, but as a death by a thousand cuts.
That observation finds support in a report, "A First Look Back at the 2010 State Legislative Session," released last month by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which advocates for abortion rights. It details the excesses of the worst offending states -- Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia -- where the sentiment to get government off people's backs is strong, yet doesn't extend to women's wombs.
The report notes that while anti-choice state legislators propose measures to restrict abortion every year -- 600 bills on average are offered annually and dozens are passed -- "2010 has been one of the most challenging state legislative sessions for women's access to abortion in many years."
States did it in multiple ways. One was by passing "biased counseling requirements," which force patients to listen to state-mandated information before having an abortion -- information that "may not be medically accurate or that may be inappropriate for her circumstances (such as telling a rape victim that the father may be liable for child support)."
Another popular tactic is to insist that health-care providers perform ultrasounds before proceeding with an abortion, so patients have the option to view the ultrasound image or hear a fetal heartbeat. The ultrasound requirement is often hard on victims of rape, incest or abuse and can result in unnecessary emotional suffering.
To top it all, the national heath care bill was passed only after an amendment was added to limit insurance coverage for abortion in the state insurance exchanges -- as if abortion wasn't a legitimate part of health care.
Apathy isn't total, however. The report did praise the pro-choice legislators, advocates and governors who stood up to resist this trend. But they need more vocal help from those who think this is an settled issue. It isn't. A new Supreme Court, stacked with anti-abortion justices, could change everything with a single new ruling.
First Published September 7, 2010 12:00 am