Mallory Kruper, AHA advocacy intern, gives an alarming report on the recent anti-abortion laws passed in Ohio and Texas, making it even harder for the reproductive freedom movement.
While there are many states that have passed, or tried to pass, very conservative bills regarding abortion, for the sake of simplicity we’ll be taking a look at the bills passed in Ohio and Texas in the past month.
On June 30, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 59, the new two-year state budget,. While this new budget includes many generally popular tax cuts, especially for small businesses, the bill also includes a controversial provision related to abortion, which will require women seeking an abortion to have a trans-abdominal ultrasound to determine if there is a “detectable fetal heartbeat of the unborn human individual the pregnant woman is carrying.” According to Reuters, the bill will block public hospitals from arranging transfer agreements with abortion clinics, as well as threatens to suspend public funding for rape crisis clinics that counsel victims of sexual assault about the option of abortion.
The budget also puts Planned Parenthood last on the list of family planning dollars, which will, according to the Columbus Dispatch, strip the organization of $1.4 million in federal funding, a move that will likely cause several clinics in the state to close. However, the bill does provide funding for “crisis pregnancy centers” which are often run by religious organizations and, according to Planned Parenthood, do not provide accurate health information.
The abortion provisions included in the Ohio budget are considered some of the most restrictive anti-abortion measures in the country. While Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, praised the Ohio pro-life legislature and governor for “[standing] up to the abortion industry that blatantly pressured them,” and ensuring that “tax dollars are not used to fund abortions,” the pro-choice community has been understandably critical of the decision. Stephanie Kight, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio criticized the bill for its impact on women seeking abortions, stating, “The budget is only the latest in a series of restrictive laws signed by John Kasich that have hurt the women in our state who need more access to health care, not less.” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio criticized medical side of the provisions, claiming that the new law will “prescribe medically unnecessary procedures, force doctors to mislead their patients and will force quality medical centers to close.”
Even doctors are concerned about the new provisions regarding the actual medical care. Communications Director for the Ohio State Medical Association, Reggie Field, explains that Ohio doctors “are concerned any time the legislature moves beyond addressing the scope of medical practice to legislating the appropriateness of medical procedures.” The new laws are not only limiting a woman’s ability to receive an abortion, but will also lead to a more expensive and complicated process, as well as an overall greater invasion of privacy.
Texas has also recently passed legislation limiting abortion. The state first gained national attention earlier this summer when on June 26, state Senator Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours to try to run out the clock on the Senate’s session, and therefore prevent the proposed anti-abortion bill from being voted on, and undoubtedly passed. The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks, limit usage of the abortifacient drug RU486 so that the pill to induce an abortion must be taken in the presence of a doctor at a certified abortion facility, require abortion clinics to have ambulatory surgical centers, and require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.
Although Davis’ filibuster was able to initially stop a vote on the bill, Governor Rick Perry, a supporter of the bill, called a second special session for the state Legislature to discuss and vote on the bill, which passed in the state Senate on July 13. Gov. Perry, who has applauded those responsible for the bill for “tirelessly [defending] our smallest ad most vulnerable Texans and future Texans,” is expected to sign the bill into law this week.
While the bill has received copious support from the pro-life community, there has also been a tremendous opposition. Huge protests outside the state Senate by pro-choice women gained national attention this weekend, as the Senate debated and voted on the bill. There has also been a strong opposition by many doctors, including leaders of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who, according to the New York Times , have run local advertisements questioning the scientific legitimacy of the legislation, and tell legislators to “Get out of our exam rooms.” Much like the medical community opposing the Ohio legislation, the Texas medical community feels that the changes made, with the goal of protecting women’s health, are unnecessary and are only complicating the process of getting an abortion.
The law would also make it more difficult for women to find an abortion clinic, as only five of the forty-two existing abortion clinics meet the new requirement of having a surgical center. According to Bloomberg, most clinics will not be able to afford to build new facilities or gain the necessary admitting privileges to a nearby hospital. Even if clinics could afford new facilities, the cost would only be handed down to the patients, leading to more expensive procedures. As of 2004, Texas law required all abortions after 16 weeks to be performed in surgical centers, and several clinics upgraded their facilities, according to research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute. However, fewer that 2 percent of all abortions in Texas take place after 16 weeks, allowing the other 98 percent to still be completed at clinics. One Texan owner of six abortion facilities built a surgical center, costing $1.5 million dollars compared to the $398,000 spent buying a clinic, and had a $400,000 annual loss since opening, even though patients are still paying more for the procedures. The upgrade to surgical center is a simply illogical investment few clinics can afford.
Reflecting on these two states’ new legislation, it is clear that pro-life government officials are hiding behind the premise of protecting women to create new requirements for abortion facilities, when in reality these changes are unneeded and are just an excuse to limit a woman’s ability to procure a safe and affordable abortion. It’s time for all of the country, pro-life advocates included, to remember that every woman deserves the right to fully exercise her right to decide if and when to safely become a mother.