The Passing of Roe v. Wade

We don’t have to see a Roe v. Wade overturned in the Supreme Court to end it. “¦We want to. But if we chip away and chip away, we’ll find out that Roe really has no impact. And that’s what we are doing.” – Reverend Pat Mahoney

Louisiana’s legislative session opens Monday, April 25th. While this might have gone without pause, even in the midst of some heavy duty budget cuts and near government shut-downs, this opening session will mark a very special number. Louisiana will become the 50th state to introduce an anti-abortion bill, this one specifically brought in by Representative (R) John LaBruzzoHouse Bill 587, is designed to challenge 1973’s  Roe v. Wade, potentially defining any stage of abortion as “feticide”, giving fetus’s the legal status of “unborn children” and “legal persons entitled to the right to life.” The bill would also attempt to prosecute doctors who performed abortions on charges of feticide.

“All abortions at any and all stages of the child’s life development should be banned in the state,” LaBruzzo stated. LaBruzzo went on to further say that he had been working with a conservative religious group on the bill, but would not name the group or its members. While the bill will likely not pass in its current state, LaBruzzo states that he was currently working on an updated version which would “probably” pass on the floor.

All of this, while horrific on its own terms, could be seen as just another attempt at one heavy red state bent on trying to slip more and more obstacles in between those who seek out abortions.  But it isn’t as simple as that. Without Louisiana’s bills being counted, politicians from over 49 states have released 916 pieces of legislation that attempt to challenge the legality of  Roe v. Wade, as well as other reproductive justice matters. The Guttmacher Institute released these numbers earlier this week, as a way to highlight the often deceptive practice of working the loopholes within Roe v. Wade‘s legal structure. Roe v. Wade may be the law of the land, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there trying everything in their power to actively and consistently exploit it.

And that’s exactly what these measures are – the slow and silent chipping away at one of the biggest legal pieces of reproductive justice passed in most of our lifetimes. It is an effective way to break something up bit by bit, without any real notice, instead of one dramatic swooping and possible fallout.

In just the month of March, fifteen new laws were put into place by seven states, including:

* In Mississippi, abstinence-only sex education is now required by all schools and any discussion of contraception is on a case-by-case situation and requires legal approval from the state.

* In Utah, new regulations were put in place to govern any clinic offering abortion, limited private insurance abortion coverage and allowed hospital employee’s to refuse in any participation with patients seeking abortions.

* In South Dakota, the waiting period requirement went from 24 to 72 hours and required women to seek counseling from a crisis pregnancy center. This counseling was also to be provided by the physician performing the abortion, using factually outdated and flawed support material.

56% of new legislature introduced in this chamber sessions this year have been specific to diminishing abortion rights laws, as well as other legal reproductive measures. In 11 states alone, the matter of insurance coverage for abortions has become a front-runner issue, and states like Oklahoma, Texas and Oregon have all introduced measures to restrict any coverage under private healthcare plans.  Utah has been the only state to adopt this measure as law, with the condition of rape and incest.

If the loss of insurance coverage wasn’t scary enough, 13 states have introduced measures that seek to make it mandatory for those wanting to obtain an abortion to have an ultrasound before the counseling and procedure.  States like Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio are all following in Oklahoma’s footsteps of their most recent bill to date, requiring that all persons wanting to have an abortion must have an ultrasound, as well as view and receive a verbal description of what the fetus looks like, what stage its at, and any other information that the person giving the ultrasound, whatever their moral beliefs may be, may feel at liberty to give. While this procedure only requires a two hour wait between having the ultrasound and having the abortion, Texas is currently attempting to put an even larger wait on the “meditating period” and attempting to pass bills that would require 24 to 72 hours between receiving an ultrasound and having an abortion.

Finally, in the most common attempt at limiting access to abortions, as well as the legislation that is most common in all these bills, gestational limits are being severely applied.  Nebraska lead the front with the passing of a 2010 law that bans any abortion procedure after 20 weeks, applicable in both cases of rape and incest, based on the “evidence” that there is a chance that the fetus can feel pain. The exception to this draconian law is in “severe cases of serious risk to bodily functions,” but the same authorities who deem the science behind the “fetus’s feeling pain at 20 weeks” will be the same authorities deeming “what constitutes real harm.” The scariest part about all this, as if everything in this article hadn’t made you wet your pants yet? Seventeen states are introducing similar legislation.

So “¦ what happens now? Roe v. Wade, while it still holds up as “law,” seems to no longer matter. Many politicians who are bringing in these pieces of state legislature seem just fine to having bills on the floor that don’t necessarily align with a national law? Because they will go unchallenged. With Clarence Thomas, John G. Roberts, and everyone’s favorites, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia, there is a real fear of these laws going to the Supreme Court, being potentially upheld and worse, Roe potentially being overturned.

We are witnessing the attempt to do away with abortion. It is that simple. To think that Roe v. Wade exists to protect us, is to think that we are forever protected. Roe v. Wade remains, but it doesn’t stay the same. These actions pile on top of each other, slowly unraveling each piece of legal protection that was put in place to protect those seeking out personal, medical decisions. It is degrading. It is paternalistic. It is misogynistic. The worse is, those with “means” will always be able to find a way around the very laws they create and support. But those who do not have the same set of privileges will be forced back into the places that Roe v. Wade legally made way to get rid of. Will those same people who closed every realm of access for abortion, every availability of reproductive care, be creating accessible education, nutritional programs, early childhood care and other social programs meant to help the same children that they were so desperate to protect? Or will they sit back with the same judgment, years later, when by chance happening to pass by someone, overburdened by a child and sneer to themselves, “You shouldn’t have had it, if you couldn’t afford it.


(All data credited to the Guttmacher Institute, State Center. Trends in First Quarter Reproductive Rights, 2011)


3 thoughts on “The Passing of Roe v. Wade”

  1. I am deeply troubled by these attempts to restrict abortion access. At the same time, pro-choice activists’ unwillingness to consider the possibility that late-term abortions inflict very real trauma on a fetus at 20 weeks or later is a huge liability to our side. Now that I am carrying a child, I much better understand that there is a huge difference between the mass of cells in the first trimester and the proto-human growing a nervous system in the second.

    I still think abortion should be safe, legal and rare even at a later date – but I feel like the pro-choice side’s willingness to dehumanize the fetus is nearly as damaging to our credibility as is the anti-choice dehumanizing of women.

    1. I can understand where you are coming from – especially as a soon to be mom. I think there are things you have experienced that I, a woman who has not had children, have not. I could imagine that one day, if I were to have children, I would look at it the same way.

      As far as the terming goes, i don’t think it’s “dehumanizing”. Fetus is what it is medically referred to as and there is no concrete evidence on the actual specifics of “pain”. This isn’t an excuse to further argument, but right now there is no general consensus for official use , so it offers a lot of grey area can and is manipulated by both sides, but especially manipulated by anti-choice activists.

      Do i personally feel like there might be pain – yes. But I don’t know for sure. I would never hope that anyone would have to go through a late term abortion. But it should be accessible. There is a slippery slope idea of “pain” and what pain is and how it can be manipulated. How we better articulate that in the pro-choice movement, I don’t know. It seems like we are so busy on the idea of just fighting for the basic right to access safe spaces for when we need an abortion, that it has not been deeply looked at.

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