Abortion is legal in this country. And it has been since 1973, when Roe vs. Wade was decided. But Republican lawmakers are constantly seeking ways to circumnavigate the law, to make it more difficult and more painful for women to get abortions.
In 2012, Virginia Republicans pushed a law mandating that women get an ultrasound before receiving an abortion. This is a medically unnecessary procedure that often involves a painful vaginal probe. The law was designed for one purpose: to humiliate and shame the patient. In that same year, similarly invasive measures were proposed in Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Earlier this year, Republicans in the North Carolina State Legislature approved a bill with a party line vote requiring women to wait three days before receiving an abortion. There was already a law on the books requiring women to wait 24 hours. And this is in a Southern state that deplores government encroachments upon individual freedom. As Manny Schewitz noted, Republicans in North Carolina see no reason to impose comparable waiting periods for gun purchases.
The latest anti-abortion gambit occurred in Ohio, where “State lawmakers are introducing new legislation that would require women who have abortions or miscarriages to designate arrangements for burial or cremation of fetuses,” according to a report by WVXU in Cincinnati. And no, that wasn’t a typo – women treated for miscarriages are also required to sign a form “designating burial or cremation of fetal remains,” because 6-week old embryos are human persons with friends and family members who need closure after their death.
This is yet another politically-motivated attack on women’s rights. This won’t stop abortions, but it will make life for those who need them harder. And that’s the point. The cost of this measure, as the WVXU report notes, “would be passed on to the facility which could then pass it on the women being treated.”
“None of this is medically necessary,” says Gabriel Mann of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, “The only reason that these bills are being introduced is because they want to try to harass abortion providers and harass women that are seeking a safe a legal procedure.”
The bill also appears to be a petty retaliatory response to Attorney General Mike DeWine’s failed investigation into Planned Parenthood in Ohio. Inspired by the debunked Planned Parenthood videos, DeWine looked for evidence that the organization was selling the body parts of aborted fetuses. No evidence was found, and this proposed bill is how Republican lawmakers responded.
One can’t help but notice that anti-abortion activists have become more desperate of late. The Planned Parenthood videos, for example, took years to produce and were part of an organized effort to discredit Planned Parenthood. All of this makes sense against the backdrop of the broader culture war, which the religious right has already lost. The country has changed. Public opinion has shifted dramatically on a number of social issues, particularly same-sex marriage and abortion, and the law now reflects that.
Culture warriors, and the Republicans they’ve elected, are reacting against this. They will fight to the bitter end, it seems, no matter what the Supreme Court says. But none of it matters. They’ve been waging this Sisyphean struggle for decades and the fact remains: Abortion is legal and women have sovereignty over their own bodies.
What makes stunts like the Ohio bill so invidious is that it doesn’t really aim to change the law on abortion, which isn’t going to happen. Instead, the goal is to embarrass law-abiding women who are exercising their constitutional right to privacy. It’s a deeply cynical strategy and an affront to settled law.
The good news: It won’t succeed. It may placate the hard-liners on the Right, but it won’t become the law. And that’s really all that matters. Anti-abortion fanatics will, eventually, run out of gimmicks, and when they do, abortion will still be legal.