Women’s Diminished Right to Abortion May Soon be Gone

The start of 2011 is a dire time for civil rights and liberties, including the right of women to control their own bodies. On Jan. 22, the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that nominally legalized women’s right to abortion, women’s access to abortion remains severely restricted. States have placed so many hurdles and restrictions on the right over the years as to effectively deny it to most women. Those unable to get abortions include poor women whose insurance or state’s Medicaid excludes it; young women, who in many states must get parental consent to the procedure; those far from urban areas, because abortion providers have been so harassed (and several murdered) that few of them remain; and more women because of degrading, delaying, and expensive hurdles such as mandatory waiting periods and anti-choice “counseling.”

Today even the legal right to abortion is increasingly threatened with elimination. This is a bedrock demand of the religious Right. The Supreme Court, now made up of a majority of right-wingers, could reverse Roe v. Wade. Or the states, Congress, and the President could simply make it impossible for anyone but the rich to obtain abortions. Even before they controlled one house of Congress, the Republicans managed to contort the new health insurance law into a vehicle for eliminating insurance coverage for abortions, and they imposed a ban that prevents abortion from being provided in the health care for women in the military.

The most immediate threat to women’s rights comes from the states. Last November’s elections increased the number of governors and state legislatures who vow to place more and more restrictions on abortion rights. Twenty-nine governors are now solidly anti-choice, and in 15 states, both the governor and legislature are anti-choice. Some of the laws they favor passing right away include outlawing abortion after the twentieth week, and forcing women seeking abortions to view ultra-sound pictures of the fetus.

Even in New York, where abortion rights are fully protected, an anti-choice group recently began picketing and harassing women when they enter a clinic in the Bronx. The anti-choice forces are undoubted emboldened not only by their electoral victories, but also by the temper of the times in Washington, where Obama has been willing to go along with many new restrictions on abortion rights.

Prior to Roe v. Wade, the slogan of the women’s movement had not been legalization alone, but rather “Free abortion on demand.” Our large and loud movement led to the Supreme Court decision. But afterwards, the movement was unprepared to keep fighting over and over, as it must do not only to keep the right legal, but to turn it into a reality for all women by treating abortion like any other health matter and by providing health care to all.

Like racism, the ideology behind controlling women’s lives can’t be uprooted by a law. It will take a revolution made by people who want to start a new way of life.

–Old Feminist

1 Comment

  1. Bill in Congress that Would Allow Hospitals to Let Women Die!

    The following call for opposition was issued Feb. 9 by the National Organization for Women, http://www.nownyc.org:

    The bill: “Protect Life” Act (H.R. 358) Excludes Women: Will Allow Hospitals to Let Women Die, Introduced by Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA)

    What the bill will do:
    1. It will allow a hospital to deny life-saving care to a pregnant woman on religious or moral grounds. Already 100 members co-sponsoring H.R. 358 agree that they would rather let a woman die then allow her access to a necessary abortion. Under current law, all patients are protected by the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, which requires hospitals to provide treatment to any patient in an emergency regardless of ability to pay. This new bill creates an exception for pregnant women.

    2. It attempts to ban all insurance coverage for abortion.
    Similar to the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3), the bill also sets out to ban all insurance coverage for abortion by denying ANY federal subsidies to plans that cover abortion, even though private funds must already be segregated to cover any abortion care. Ultimately, the bill will result in a ban of abortion coverage for individuals and small businesses accessing coverage through the health care exchanges, and it will threaten all private insurance coverage of abortion.

    3. Vastly expands “conscience clause” protections.
    The bill would vastly broaden “conscience clause” protections so that anyone involved in the provision of abortion services – from receptionists who make appointments to insurance company employees that process claims – to refuse to provide services on any grounds.

    These are only some of the many provisions the bill includes to expand the ability of health care workers and facilities to deny access to abortion and to attempt to ban all insurance coverage of abortion.

    Act NOW! Email your Representative (you can use our message below or write your own) and tell them to reject this extreme bill that will put women’s lives in danger and threaten insurance coverage of abortion (which is already severely restricted and inaccessible to low-income women.)

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