Abortion rights have been the target of conservatives, evangelicals and other religious extremists ever since Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that extended women the right to an abortion. Conservatives have been trying ever since to narrow the circumstances in which women are allowed an abortion, and eventually, their plan is not just to ban abortion, but to criminalize any act that would lead to the termination of pregnancy.
The precedent of criminalizing the death of a fetus would leave millions of women open to criminal charges and leave women entirely at the mercy of rapists, malevolent spouses or other non-related males.
Many states across the United States are producing legislation and radical Constitutional Amendments that severely curtail, or make practically impossible, a woman’s right to choose abortion. Highly invasive medical procedures that violate a woman’s privacy rights with such things as vaginal ultrasounds are being used, as well as waiting periods, and parental consent decrees. Women are being targeted from all flanks, squeezed into untenable positions that make abortion difficult to obtain, or in many cases, impossible.
State governments are becoming more and more intrusive with respect to a woman’s and increasingly everyone’s right to choose their own reproductive options. The hard fought and won rights of a woman to choose when and where to have children, if ever, are under attack by increasingly strident and extreme political and religious institutions across the country.
In some states, the use of vaginal ultrasounds are being forced on women that choose abortion, for no medical reason. The only feasible reason is to discourage women from continuing with a planned abortion. The state has become the instrument of forcible rape of women. Conservatives often talk about government getting out of peoples lives, but these extremist laws will impose the state on a persons body without any legal recourse.
A number of states have chosen to impose severe new medical regulations on clinics that will curtail their ability to provide abortion services. Clinics in states like Virginia are being forced to retrofit their facilities to adhere to new construction standards for hospitals, putting many of them in danger of closing due to cost. Clinics will be regulated like hospitals, which have far more rigorous standards, despite the fact that clinics do not operate in the same way as hospitals. This will force clinics to stop providing other services like screening for cervical cancer or mammograms, affecting millions of women across the US. This is a direct assault on women’s health and affects their ability to obtain safe abortion services.
Anti-choice and misogynist organizations often threaten workers at abortion and health clinics, block access to clinic buildings, harass and intimidate women seeking abortion services, and force clinics to close their doors. In so doing, they violate the privacy rights of workers and women, as well as their free speech rights.
Religious organizations like the Catholic Church refuse to allow women to have any choice whatsoever in their reproductive planning. Women are refused the right to choose to take contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy, using instead the notoriously unreliable “rhythm” method. Men can successfully force themselves on their wives, and force them to have more children than they can afford in either physical or monetary terms, by invoking their [religious] marital rights.
Catholic organizations refuse to provide reproductive choices to their employees, withdrawing the availability of contraception by their health plans, whether they are Catholics or not, citing their own religious liberty. This forces the Church’s religious imperative on all employees regardless of their religious sensibilities, imposing the organizations religious freedoms on others. The Church also imposes its reproductive beliefs on congregants through the bully pulpit, providing the Church with a convenient forum in which people are rhetorical captives to priestly decree.
Intimidation, cost and social ostracism place an additional burden on women seeking reproductive services, as well as access to clinics. At least 85% of counties, as well as 97% of non metropolitan areas, do not have clinics. The number of clinics is declining as the availability of qualified medical staff declines. Abortion clinics find it difficult to recruit and retain trained staff because of the threats and intimidation and the stress of working under these conditions.
Legislators in many states are attempting to introduce legislation that defines a fetus as a person, with all the attendant human and property rights of people. A small collection of cells can in no way be called human, any more than any random collection of human cells by themselves can be called human. A human can only be termed a human once it is ambulatory and capable of personal life-support without utilizing the body of another human being. For much of the term of a fetus, it is not capable of survival outside the parent, and thus cannot be termed human in its own right. The initial Supreme Court ruling was that a woman ought to have the right to abortion up to viability, at which point the fetus could be considered human. That standard is still a reasonable one.
Once a fetus is defined as human, the mother could be charged with a crime if she goes for a walk and aborted, takes any substance including alcohol or prescription drugs that induces spontaneous abortion, or loses the fetus for almost any reason whatsoever. Pregnancy, as dangerous as it already is, could become a legislatively enforced life or death struggle adjudicated by the Church and the State.
Florida, that bastion of personal liberty, is attempting a constitutional amendment that would prevent state funds from being provided for any clinical abortion outside the life of a mother, incest or rape. Funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood, which provides other essential low-cost health services to women would be eliminated. Since Florida has a Right to Privacy statute that prevents the state from interfering in the peoples choices, this new amendment would suspend those rights for issues related to abortion.
Since the Right to Privacy statute has been used to overturn rulings related to abortion, this amendment will open up an avenue for the state to introduce more and more restrictive anti-abortion laws. This would prevent state funds from being used to cover any health issue that related to abortion in any way whatsoever. It allows the state to impose itself on the decisions of women.
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