A Republican lawmaker in the Nebraska Legislature has proposed a bill that would require reproductive health clinics to post notices "alerting" women seeking abortion care that it is illegal to force someone to obtain an abortion.
"We have signs in bars about fetal alcohol syndrome for pregnant women. On airplanes we go through all the safety procedures, every time you're on the plane you have to listen to it," state Sen. Bill Kintner said of the measure. "We have all kinds of warnings that we put out there that we think people need to see during critical times."
The bill "seeks to add another important piece of information to our informed consent laws," Kintner added.
A clinic found without such a message posted to its walls would be fined up to $10,000 a day.
What Kintner did not mention while explaining the rationale for his bill is how reproductive health advocates have long recognized that reproductive coercion -- whether forcing a woman to terminate a pregnancy or to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term -- is a form of violence. He also failed to mention the many barriers women seeking abortions in Nebraska must overcome in order to access that care, making the possibility of forced abortion perhaps less pressing of an issue than the very real threat of women being denied access to the care they need.
In order to obtain an abortion in Nebraska, a woman must first undergo mandatory and coercive counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from going forward with the procedure. (This counseling also includes information about the illegality of forced abortions.) She then must wait 24 hours, which often involves taking time off of work, finding childcare and securing transportation and, in many cases, a place to stay overnight, since 97 percent of counties in Nebraska do not have an abortion clinic. If she is able to do these things in order to access basic medical care, there is a strong possibility that her employer-provided or private health insurance does not cover abortion except in exceptionally narrow circumstances, leaving her to finance the procedure independently or take out costly "abortion riders" to secure insurance coverage.
In the history of abhorrent and dangerous abortion proposals, this is a minor blip on the radar. But Kintner's proposal is in keeping with a new tactic employed by anti-choice lawmakers: essentially forcing medical establishments to display propaganda.
Alan Peterson, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, told the Associated Press that the law empowers the state to promote anti-choice messaging "using the walls of a private entity," he said. "That's not how this country is supposed to work."