The Republican war on women continues unabated. The same week that conservatives argued in the Supreme Court that employers should be able to stop their employees from getting contraception coverage outside of the company health plan, Indiana joined the ranks of states like Texas and Florida in passing a draconian law that purports to protect women while in fact endangering their health by making safe abortion much harder to get. Gov. Mike Pence signed it Thursday night.
The bill is one of those omnibus anti-choice bills Republicans are fond of these days, a giant bill stuffed with as many asinine restrictions on abortion with an eye towards making abortion as miserable and humiliating an experience as possible, and ideally something women can't get legally at all. The sadism of the whole thing is truly breathtaking. Despite the legalistic language, it is as clearly woman-hating in its intent as anything Donald Trump tweets.
The bill requires doctors to offer "parents" the "remains" (which in most cases looks mostly like a really heavy period) after the abortion, a clear attempt to make women feel like they are child-killers just because they had a brainless embryo removed from their uterus. In the same vein, doctors are required to do an ultrasound where they try to obtain a heartbeat, just one more bit of anti-choice theater designed to make women feel bad. There's also a misleadingly named "informed consent" requirement which actually is about feeding women lies to scare them into thinking abortion is dangerous when it is not.
On top of the humiliation rituals Indiana requires women to endure, the bill also has an admitting privileges requirement. On its surface, requiring abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals seems like a good thing, which is why anti-choice forces like this regulation. In reality, however, most hospitals only give privileges to clinics who actually admit a certain number of patients a year. Since abortion is incredibly safe and hospitalization is almost never required, most clinics can't come up with the minimum number of admissions to get the admitting privileges. States who do this are requiring clinics to meet an impossible standard as a pretext to shut them down.
But the provision that is getting the most attention, no doubt because of the sheer sadism of it, is the ban on abortion for race, gender or disability. You can feel the self-satisfied gotcha-style pleasure of conservatives who came up with this one. How can you liberals be against this? It's a ban on discrimination, and you guys love that stuff!
In reality, however, this provision is both deeply racist and misogynist. There's no real evidence that aborting based on a fetus's race or gender is a thing that happens. Conservatives believe it, however, based on some ugly urban legends, starting with the unsavory assumption that women of all races would abort rather than give birth to a child of color.
The gender provision is also based on a racial stereotype, because it's based on claims that Asian-American women abort rather than give birth to girls. In reality, there is no evidence that such a thing is going on.
"By assuming that because of our culture Asian American and Pacific Islander women will choose to terminate pregnancies based on sex, this law turns AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) women into suspects in their doctor’s offices," the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum explained in a press release. "This encourages invasive scrutiny of our motives that other women will not be subjected to."
The part of this provision that gets the most attention is the ban on aborting pregnancies after a doctor determines that the fetus has an anomaly leading to disability. Unlike like race- or gender-based abortions, this is something that happens — a common example is aborting pregnancies after a Down's syndrome diagnosis — and once again, anti-choicers are hiding behind a supposedly noble cause (protecting the disabled) for no other purpose than to force childbirth on the unwilling.
After all, Pence and Indiana Republicans have not expanded services for families with disabled children to go along with this bill forcing childbirth on women. That's because they are exploiting disabled children as a cover for their true misogynist purpose. If they really cared about the wellbeing of disabled children, they would want them to be provided for. Forcing them on women who don't have the capacity to raise a disabled child and then refusing to help with the child's care is not what compassion actually looks like.
"I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families," Pence said in a statement, after signing a bill designed to wreak havoc on the lives of mothers, their children, and their families.
Texas's law, which is currently under consideration by the Supreme Court, is a perfect example of how destructive these laws are to the lives of women and their families. A recent study showed that after the law closed about half the clinics in the state, nearly 4 in 10 Texas women lost access to their local clinic. That meant they had to drive an average 4 times as far to get an abortion, with a quart of those women driving over 139 miles to get an abortion.
The result is that women pushed abortions later into their pregnancies and the cost of getting one skyrocketed. Women had to pay for gas, child care and often hotel just get a 15-minute outpatient procedure. To drive home how serious a burden this is: Forty-two percent of women who get abortions live below the poverty line and 61 percent have children.
God is going to need to bless these women and their families a lot, because Pence is clearly out to destroy them.