The Abortion Ticker Spirals Upward

During the Iranian Hostage Crisis a ticker ran with the days the hostages had been held, in NY there is a ticker with the national debt soaring upward, and on the Guttmacher Institute web pages there is a list of the ever-growing anti-abortion legislation that is being considered.  Given the lackluster job recovery, it is even more remarkable that so much attention would focus on diminishing the rights of women.  If state and federal legislators were as creative with ways to stimulate the economy and motivate businesses to hire more workers as they are with taking away the right to reproductive freedom, the economy would be booming.

Many of the laws revolve around the religious precepts of when life begins in the womb with little regard for scientific fact. Personhood at the moment of conception is a favorite of legislators but not voters who reject the concept whenever given the opportunity to vote for or against it.  Most voters understand the logical implications of such a law. It would render abortion impossible at any stage of pregnancy. Some of the laws revolving around this concept would allow the state to investigate miscarriages, stillbirths and any pregnancy not resulting in a live birth.  In Mississippi, Rennie Gibbs, a 15 year old, is charged with murder under the personhood law. At 36 weeks Rennie had a stillbirth. When it was discovered that she had a drug habit, she  was charged with “depraved-heart murder” of her child.  She faces a mandatory life sentence even though there is no medical proof that the drugs caused the stillbirth. Other states are also prosecuting pregnant women for crimes. Just as being a woman is a pre-existing condition to health insurers, a woman who is pregnant is being deprived of her constitutional rights. In Indiana Bei Bei Shuai is being held for murder because she tried to commit suicide after her boyfriend abandoned her. She lost the baby four days after the attempt. In Alabama women are being charged with crimes for chemical use during pregnancy. At the heart of these laws is the protection of the fetus from the moment of conception. The result is criminalization of women and depriving them of their rights. Many of the laws are being challenged in the courts. In the Rennie Gibbs case, Robert McDuff, a civil rights lawyer, asked the state supreme court, “If it’s not a crime for a mother to intentionally end her pregnancy, how can it be a crime for her to do it unintentionally, whether by taking drugs or smoking or whatever it is.”

The newest salvo on attacking abortion and Planned Parenthood is the Pro-Life Wisconsin Group’s lawsuit aimed at the University of Wisconsin’s medical department for training medical students to provide abortions. They claim it violates the no taxpayer-funding of abortion rules.  To avoid this conflict the university sends its students to Planned Parenthood where they are trained. If this latest attack succeeds in Wisconsin and in other teaching hospitals, it will mean that new doctors will not know how to provide medically necessary D&C’s.  According to Dr. Fredrik Broekhuizen, the medical director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, “It is vital for medical students to be trained in abortion services.  There are medically indicated pregnancy terminations, and physicians need to have skills to do that.  There are situations where patients have fetal death in utero at 16 to 18 weeks of gestation,” he says. “The mode of delivery in the case of a dead fetus is exactly the same procedure as an abortion procedure. So learning these techniques is an essential part of what an ob/gyn needs to know in order to provide comprehensive care to women, regardless of where they choose to practice.”

As the ticker clicks upward on more ways to prevent women from making their own reproductive and health choices, the damage to families and women is growing.  There are real emotional and physical implications for the people caught in this web.  Take the mother who is imprisoned for “chemical use” during pregnancy — who cares for her child while she is jailed?  Who cares for the psychological damage to a family when a woman dies due to lack of medical intervention because of these laws?  Who has the right to invade the most private sphere of a woman and determine that she cannot control her own health and reproductive rights?  And when do we rise up and yell “Enough!”?  It is time to stand together and tell elected officials across the country, in state and federal government, “Focus on jobs and the economy and stay out of our wombs.”


Gail Yamner

President, JACPAC

This originally appeared on JACblog!

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