A Punishing Year

Abandoning any pretense of protecting women, a new wave of abortion restrictions focus on shaming and criminalizing women and doctors.

(Updated 8.4.16) More than a dozen abortion restrictions have been introduced so far this legislative session in Louisiana. The governor recently signed one of them into law, tripling the state’s 24-hour mandatory waiting period to 72 hours. The “Enhanced Reflection Act” is based on the anti-choice myth that women don’t sufficiently think through their own decision to have an abortion.

If that doesn’t get your back up a little, how about Kentucky’s proposed bill that attempts to guilt women into changing their minds about getting an abortion—by forcing them to review a list of adoptive parents?

In Indiana, a law aims to ban abortions for fetal anomalies—compelling women to justify their personal reasons for ending a pregnancy. It would also mandate that fetal remains are buried or cremated and would not be permitted to be donated for research.

An Alabama bill would lower the state’s age of majority to 18, except in cases where a woman is seeking an abortion—allowing her to become the legal guardian of her child, but not to make decisions whether to have a child.

And just in case all your human-and-constitutional-rights red flags aren’t fluttering rapidly: In Oklahoma, the state legislature passed a bill that would threaten a woman suspected of self-inducing an abortion with a felony charge and a three-year prison sentence. The same penalty would be imposed on abortion providers—who would face being stripped of their medical licenses—even in cases where a patient’s life or health is in danger. Thanks to outrage across the nation, Oklahoma’s anti-choice governor Mary Fallin vetoed this outrageous bill.

“At the heart of each of these measures is a fundamental distrust of women to make the essential decisions that affect their lives—and a patronizing assertion that politicians know better,” says Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  

In June, the Center filed a lawsuit against all seven of the measures that Louisiana has passed this year. And using precedent established by our landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court against Texas’ sham clinic shutdown law, we will also be challenging a number of similar measures in other states.

Already this year, the states have proposed 360 restrictions on reproductive services. More than 60 have been signed into law—and there will be more before the year is through.

Twenty-one states this year have considered “personhood” bills, which prioritize the rights of a fetus over the rights of a woman and effectively ban abortion.

One particularly disturbing bill, proposed in both New Jersey and Minnesota, would keep pregnant female prisoners who are facing the death penalty alive until they give birth, and then return them to death row for execution.

A measure in Alabama, designed explicitly to shut down one of the state’s few remaining clinics, orders that abortion providers cannot be located within 2,000 feet of a public school—in effect, treating medical professionals like sex offenders.

“It is notable how many of these bills have abandoned any pretense of caring about women’s health and are now transparently focused on shaming and punishing women and women’s health providers,” says Allen. “Most of these ridiculous—and blatantly unconstitutional—measures that will not stand up to a legal challenge. But they divert enormous amounts of resources—resources that could be spent improving women’s access to health care, sex education, and contraception and could improve maternal health outcomes and the well-being of families across the country, which is why it’s so important to put a stop to this continued assault.”

Elected officials everywhere can halt needless and cruel abortion restrictions. In Congress, our members should pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, a powerful piece of federal legislation that would prohibit states from imposing many common restrictions that limit women’s access to safe and legal services.

The proposed bill currently has 173 Congressional co-sponsors, and is championed by reproductive care providers, women’s health advocates, faith community leaders, and state legislators across the country. Through the Act for Women campaign, 60 state and national organizations have joined together to promote the bill, which will be reintroduced in 2017.

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