The 2012 election was meant to be a referendum on, among other things, the tide of Republican extremism that swept reproductive rights to the edge of existence in many states between 2010 and 2012. Although the Tea Party was allegedly given votes in the midterms to address financial issues, abortion restriction and defunding Planned Parenthood immediately rose to the top of the new Republican priority list.
That was all supposed to end with this election -- but did it?
This absurd period of legislative history that became dubbed the “war on women” (though it affected people of all genders) culminated in the notorious spate of comments from Tea Party-approved candidates about rape -- legitimate, god-willed or otherwise -- and resulted in the biggest anti-misogynist backlash at the ballot box we’ve seen in a long time.
Women handily voted for Obama, vetoed extreme anti-choicers and listed abortion as an important issue in exit polls. But in several states, GOPers seemed not to get the message. At all. Some of them are continuing to fight the same battles, in some cases putting women’s access at risk.
Could it be because they have no ideas besides digging back into the “dump on women’s rights” bag of tricks?
1. Ohio. Already during Ohio's lame duck session, members of the state GOP decided that it might be a good idea to revive some battles they lost, like the dangerous and restrictive “heartbeat ban,” which would ban abortion while a fetal heartbeat was detected (and whose potential effects many have compared to the situation in Ireland that led to Savita Halappanavar’s death). They also tried to defund their state’s Planned Parenthood -- again.
This led to state Sen. Nina Turner creating a T-shirt that said “Get Out of My Panties” and calling the GOP insane.
At last this week, the Ohio GOP efforts to curtail reproductive freedom came to an end, but not after they wasted a lot of time and energy on all ends trying to remind women of their desire to legislate in the womb.
2. Arizona is worthy of a double prize, not only because the state is continuing to fight an appeal in court to keep funding away from Planned Parenthood -- even though they’ve lost.
Even worse, there’s a new shame tactic from the state, which has already instituted a highly constitutionally questionable 20-week ban: a website that tries to manipulate women out of having abortions. At Jezebel, Katie JM Baker offers an analysis of the site’s true intentions:
Make no mistake: the website is biased, ...The title itself — "A Women's Right to Know" — is incredibly patronizing. The first paragraph on the home page doesn't define abortion or even explain why a woman might choose to terminate a pregnancy; instead, it states that "... If your doctor performs an abortion on you without obtaining your voluntary consent or without allowing a private medical consultation they may be liable to you for claims in a civil action." Because it's that easy for women to get abortions, you guys! Those wily doctors will give you an abortion even if you don't want one! Lock your windows!
Rather than offering women medically accurate information, the site offers half-truths and shame.
3. Arkansas GOPers, finding themselves in charge of both legislative chambers, are wasting no time trying to do what they do best: get all up in Arkansas uteri. They are introducing measures to ban abortion by “telemedicine” as well as a controversial 20-week ban:
Mayberry said he plans to reintroduce legislation next year that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on the disputed claim that a fetus can feel pain after that point. Mayberry's bill was one of 10 anti-abortion measures that failed to clear the House Public Health Committee during last year's session, and it's one of three measures that Arkansas Right to Life says it plans to push for in the legislative session that begins Jan. 14.
...The Arkansas attorney general's office last year opposed the measure, telling the panel that it was in conflict with established law and would likely be struck down as unconstitutional.
4. Wisconsin. Despite their state’s hearty endorsement of President Barack Obama’s reelection, Wisconsin Republicans are also gearing up for more anti-choice measures along the same lines as other states, eager to take advantage of a GOP-dominated state government:
The state's largest anti-abortion group sees opportunities to place further regulations on abortion, including requiring women seeking the procedure to view an ultrasound of her fetus.
Wisconsin Right to Life is also proposing banning abortions that would cause pain to the fetus, barring abortions that are sought based on the sex of the fetus and prohibiting the ability of state employees to use their state healthcare plans to access abortions.
5. Mississippi’s only abortion clinic is embattled by a law designed to shut it down and is in danger of closing. A press release from the Center for Reproductive Rights notes that ideology trumps medical sense in this fight:
Although all the doctors currently providing abortions to women at the Mississippi clinic are board-certified ob-gyns, the physicians responsible for the lion’s share of the clinic’s patients have not been granted privileges by any of the hospitals in the area. In fact, several of the hospitals refused to even process the physicians’ applications, citing their biased policies and practices towards abortion care.
CRR has filed suit to prevent the law from going into effect, while anti-choice protesters targeting the clinic continue to “harass and terrify” patients.
All these states show that the misguided crusade against women’s rights is not over, despite the overwhelming “out of our exam rooms, out of our bedrooms” message sent by the 2012 election. In 2013, keep your eye on the states to see whether the “war” on reproductive health services comes to an end, continues or, as some activists wish, goes the other way.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if, instead of fighting retrograde bills, we focused on expanding access, coverage and information about abortion and sexual health?