During another in a long series of attacks against access to safe, affordable reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards came before GOP lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week. Richards testified in order to defend against this latest congressional effort to strip Planned Parenthood’s funding, despite the fact that none of its critics have been able to offer concrete proof that the organization has broken the law.
The trouble started after the release of a video campaign alleging that Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. The videos were surreptitiously recorded and heavily edited by an anti-choice group. It is legal, and not uncommon, for abortion patients to opt that their fetal tissue be donated to scientific research. During the hearing Ms. Richards was incessantly interrupted by Republican lawmakers during more than five hours of questioning.
For 30 years the GOP has been targeting abortion access in general, and Planned Parenthood in particular. But, in the unlikely event that Republicans start to demonstrate that they actually care about the rights of pregnant women, mothers and children, let’s offer them a little help to diversify their issue portfolio. It must be getting tedious to repeatedly go after the same organization (and lose). Here are two other important women’s health issues for them to address.
Making miscarriage a crime
Purvi Patel is a 33-year-old Indiana woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for both neglect of a child and feticide, for the same pregnancy. She had a miscarriage and showed up at the emergency room in South Bend, Indiana, with heavy vaginal bleeding. She was arrested in the hospital, and prosecutors now claim that she took drugs to induce abortion, despite the fact that her toxicology reports did not support that allegation.
Now, there’s no proof that Ms. Patel induced her miscarriage, but the case is instructive for us because people who oppose the right to an abortion say that if the procedure were ever banned, women wouldn’t be prosecuted for having illegal abortions -- only the doctors performing them would be subject to jail time. But Purvi Patel’s case proves otherwise.
Feticide laws are almost exclusively presented as a means of protecting both pregnant women and their “unborn” children. These kinds of laws are often introduced in the wake of violence against pregnant women. When the Indiana feticide law was proposed and enacted, none of it’s proponents claimed it could or should be used as a basis for prosecuting and incarcerating women. Marjorie Dannfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List went so far as to say, “Women were not punished by the legal system before 1973s Roe v. Wade decision and there is absolutely no drive to punish her now.”
So, if the GOP cares so much about pregnant women, shouldn’t they turn their attention to the unjust persecution of women who have miscarriages?
Arresting undocumented women for going to the OB/GYN
Blanca Borrego went to the Northeast Women's Healthcare clinic in Atascocita, TX because she was dealing a potentially dangerous and painful cyst in her abdomen. She took her two daughters along with her, and the two girls were sitting in a waiting room with their mother when she was arrested, put in handcuffs and taken out of the clinic. The clinic staff had determined her ID to be fake and called the police.
“Blanca Borrego’s arrest — which took place in the middle of a visit to her doctor — is a tragic reminder of the ways our flawed immigration laws make it difficult for immigrant women and families to live with dignity and health,” Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), said to RH Reality Check.
It is because of the policies enacted by GOP lawmakers in Texas that the state’s family planning services have been essentially destroyed. Slashing state funds to Planned Parenthood and forcing clinic after clinic to close, more Texas women now say they face barriers in getting the reproductive health care they need.
GOP lawmakers are often touting their concern for women’s health and safety. Perhaps they should consider the impact on the health of women and families if we allow health care clinics to be sites of fear and health care providers can call the police instead of providing health care.
It’s election season in America, and the GOP presidential contenders are gaffing their way through questions about women’s health. Given how desperately they need women’s votes, they’d do well to start turning their attention away from politically motivated witchhunts and to the dire issues that so many women face.