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Op-Ed: State Abortion Restrictions About Controlling Women, Not Safety

Op-Ed: State Abortion Restrictions About Controlling Women, Not Safety

May 4, 2015 — The trend of state lawmakers passing antiabortion-rights measures under the guise of protecting women's safety is "a tiresome, fill-in-the-blank news story," columnist Patt Morrison writes in the Los Angeles Times.

Morrison describes antiabortion-rights legislation in several states, including a 72-hour mandatory delay measure (HB 465) in North Carolina that "is so nakedly intrusive that it might as well be wearing a 'Sue Me, I'm Unconstitutional' sign." Similarly, she notes that "South Dakota upped the waiting-period ante by excluding weekends, federal and state holidays from its three-day requirement"; Oklahoma's "legislature just sent a 72-hour waiting period bill [HB 1409] to the governor"; and Florida approved legislation (HB 633) imposing a 24-hour delay before an abortion.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Morrison notes that one state lawmaker "wants to extend the state's ban on abortions after 20 weeks' gestation to include fetuses with severe genetic abnormalities, and another wants to prohibit even private health insurers [SB 575] in Texas from covering abortions except as medical emergencies." According to Morrison, these measures "would be on top of" a Texas law (HB 2) that mandates "that abortion facilities meet several criteria that have nothing to do with providing safe abortion services and everything to do with forcing the providers out of business."

Morrison also touches on a Tennessee bill (SB 1280) that would require the state's seven abortion facilities "to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers, potentially putting them out of business too -- for the good of the state's women, of course, though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls such rules 'medically unnecessary.''' Moreover, she notes that a new Arizona law (SB 1318) "will force doctors who perform drug-induced abortions to tell women the procedure can be reversible, which most physicians say is medical malarkey."

Morrison writes that amid such restrictions, she is "waiting for more sinister and macabre bills to emerge, maybe one requiring pregnant women to fill out death certificates for their fetuses before having an abortion." No such law has been passed yet, she writes, though a Kentucky measure (SB 7) would "not only requir[e] an ultrasound for women seeking an abortion, but fin[e] a doctor $100,000 if it doesn't happen."

"None of these laws is really about women's health," Morrison notes, adding that "[l]egal abortion is safer than any number of other surgeries." Rather, the antiabortion-rights legislation is "about preventing women from getting abortions, and controlling them by controlling their fertility," Morrison writes. She adds, "If legislators were sincere about safeguarding women's health" laws would address "better sex education, more and cheaper health clinics and counseling and contraceptives" (Morrison, Los Angeles Times, 5/1).