In recent weeks, in the wake of the release of doctored videos falsely depicting Planned Parenthood as the illegal purveyor of fetal body parts, a spate of conservative lawmakers nationwide are seizing the opportunity to introduce new, more restrictive measures to limit women’s access to necessary healthcare and abortion services by specifically targeting abortion providers.
Last Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a press release detailing his new LIFE initiative, a four-point plan designed to criminalize abortion providers and defund Planned Parenthood. Tenets of the broad effort include designating second-trimester abortion procedures felony offenses, criminalizing the harvesting of fetal tissue by an abortion clinic “for any purpose whatsoever,” eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood “both at the State and local levels” as well as introducing vague proposals to improve adoption services and “increase awareness” about Texas’ child-support enforcement program.
Abbott is not alone. Nebraska Sen. Tommy Garrett (R), in partnership with Nebraska Right to Life, is crafting legislation to outlaw dilation and evacuation procedures commonly performed following miscarriages and during second-trimester abortion care. Rep. Laura Cox (R) introduced similar legislation last month in Michigan and Arkansas Right to Life is already preparing to make their case for banning the procedure during the state’s 2017 legislative session.
Meanwhile in Ohio, presidential hopeful Gov. John Kasich (R) is expected to sign a bill banning abortions for pregnancies with a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Co-authored by Ohio Right to Life, the legislation has already been approved by a health committee in the Ohio House of Representatives predicted to pass easily in the state legislature (two-thirds of whom enjoy National Right to Life Committee endorsements). The bill, which would threaten physicians with up 18 moths of jail time should they knowingly perform the procedure on a woman carrying a fetus with the condition, is danger of becoming one of some 16 TRAP laws enacted during Kasich’s tenure. Since Kasich took office in 2011, half of the state’s abortion providers have been forced to close their doors.
And most recently, top officials for Gov. Rick Scott in Florida went so far as to change and re-write a press release that had found no wrongdoing in the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics. Many feel that this act of deception confirms Planned Parenthood’s claim that investigations into the organization are politically motivated.
But advocates for women’s reproductive rights are not taking new measures such as these lying down. This week, several allied women’s health care providers, with the support of the Center for Reproductive Rights, requested the U.S. Supreme Court reconsider their recent decision to uphold a Texas law which would shutter more than 75 percent of abortion clinics in the state. The law, which mandates all abortion providers secure admitting privileges from local hospitals as well as requires reproductive healthcare facilities to shell out millions of dollars in unnecessary ambulatory surgical center updates, has closed 41 clinics in the state since its enactment. Only 10 remain.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: these restrictions have nothing to do with protecting women and everything to do with closing down clinics and pushing abortion care out of reach,” says president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health Amy Hagstrom. “Our ability to get safe medical care should not depend on whether we have the resources necessary to navigate a horrific and complex obstacle course dreamt up by anti-choice lawmakers. This is the real world and these laws have real implications on real women’s lives.”
Media Resources: Press Release 8/28/15; RH Reality Check 8/31/15; Feminist Newswire 8/24/15; Center for Reproductive Rights 9/3/15; Politico Florida 9/2/15;