the Missouri press has been diverted by the flap about an abortion bill that
hasn’t even been filed (the federal Freedom of Choice Act), a series
of very real anti-choice bills has been wending its way through the
Missouri General Assembly. Phantom FOCA deflected attention from three
inane state bills criminalizing "coerced" abortions. Through the
miracle of legislative alchemy, they have become one bill, HB 46/434,
which is in a procedural posture to strike Missouri’s most vulnerable
women like an unseen timber rattler.
46/434 is a jaw-dropper, the sort of bill that is difficult to explain
to people because their first response is that you must have made this
up. But I couldn’t make stuff like this up. That sort
of imagination is reserved for right-wing zealots.
advocates agree that no woman should be coerced into having an abortion
any more than she should be coerced into pregnancy. The rub is
in how the bill’s scriveners want to define "coerced" abortion.
you a female whose husband, ex-boyfriend, or parent beat you upon learning
you were pregnant, after suggesting abortion? Are you a pregnant
female whose husband or boyfriend stalked you after suggesting abortion?
Are you a pregnant female unlucky enough to live with someone who would
poison you in order to persuade you to have an abortion? If so,
the Missouri General Assembly is on the verge of deciding that you are
incompetent to make the decision about whether to terminate your pregnancy,
even if your reason is to avoid bringing a child into such miserable
abuse. It will make that choice for you by sending your doctor
to prison for a felony if he or she knows these things and acts in accordance
with your wish to end your pregnancy.
Missouri in 2007, law-enforcement authorities reported 37,215 incidents
of intimate-partner violence. Statistically, a significant number
of those women had to have been pregnant, because domestic violence
increases exponentially during pregnancy. Instead of dealing with
this problem, the General Assembly wants to further disempower women
by taking from them the decision to refuse to give an abuser another
women don’t matter to the anti-choice lobby’s propaganda machine.
If they can pretend that there is some groundswell of "coerced abortions"
out there that legislators need to address, they achieve two objectives:
(1) they perpetuate their absurd claim that women don’t really choose
to have abortions but are the unwitting dupes of others, and someday
they will suffer mental trauma as a result, and (2) compulsory pregnancy
(for those with the fewest resources to fight back), which means they
can block one more abortion. But once their children are born,
Missouri women can’t count on their legislators to fund safehouses
or preventive programs for intimate violence, or to provide a level
of care for their (living) children to pry them from the grip of poverty.
disbelief is the only possible response to a General Assembly with such
lousy judgment and perverted priorities.