Vicious attacks on women’s healthcare

From the March-April 2011 issue of News & Letters:

Vicious attacks on women’s healthcare

During February, the Republican Party has led the largest legislative attack on women’s reproductive rights and health in recent history. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed several bills that, if passed by the Senate and signed by the President, would have a devastating impact on women’s health as well as abortion rights. One would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal Medicaid funding for abortion. It would pressure insurance companies to drop abortion coverage by making it an economic liability. Another bill would allow healthcare providers to refuse to provide abortions even to save a woman’s life. Another would deny Title X funding to Planned Parenthood and any organization providing abortions, even though this funding is never used to pay for abortions in the first place. If made into law, it would gut Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide poor women with birth control and other basic healthcare services such as tests for cancer. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner hopes to reintroduce the global gag rule–a rule directly responsible for hundreds of women’s deaths in other countries.

State legislatures have also introduced a large number of anti-abortion bills this month. The Texas state Senate passed a bill forcing women to have a sonogram and wait 24 hours before having an abortion. After public uproar, the South Dakota state House shelved a bill expanding the definition of justifiable homicide to include killing to save the life of an “unborn child.” However, the Nebraska state legislature has now taken up a similar bill. The Kansas House passed a parental consent bill as well as one prohibiting abortion after a fetus supposedly develops the ability to feel pain, even though scientists dispute that this develops as early as the religious right claims. The Iowa House has introduced a “justifiable homicide” bill, and one stating that “personhood” begins at conception. The Georgia House introduced a bill calling for the investigation of “unsupervised” miscarriages. Virginia is set to pass a law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of hospitals. Requirements such as widening hallways, not required of any other type of clinic, would shut down reproductive health clinics that provide other types of healthcare as well as abortion.

WOMEN FIGHT BACK!

Pro-choice advocates have been fighting the religious right’s attempts to discredit Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights in general. In the U.S. House, Rep. Mike Pence, who introduced the bill to restrict Title X, read a passage from a book purporting to describe a second-trimester abortion. Rep. Jackie Speier responded with why her own second-trimester abortion was necessary. Rep. Gwen Moore responded to Rep. Paul Broun’s assertions that Planned Parenthood is racist by stating that, as a Black woman who had a child at “the ripe old age of 18,” she was well aware of the right’s “utter contempt” for poor women and poor children.

Media Matters, a watchdog group that debunks right- wing propaganda, discredited Lila Rose’s group Live Action. Rose made a series of undercover videos at Planned Parenthood. Media Matters pointed out that Rose’s films were misleadingly edited and that she lied about Planned Parenthood employees not alerting the authorities when her actors posed as child sex traffickers.

The protests of reproductive justice organizations SisterSong and the Trust Black Women Partnership led to the removal of a billboard in New York City which claimed that abortion was Black “genocide.” Public outrage led to removing part of one U.S. House bill that limited the rape exception to only “forcible” rape. Many demonstrations have been held across the country supporting Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights. The religious right lies when it claims that it has the public’s support, and the public is showing that we have the ability to defeat this sexist, racist, and classist attack.

–Adele

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