There is so much abortion news happening that I can hardly keep up with it. Every other day another state is jumping in with new ways to try to prevent women from having abortions. Bill after bill has been introduced, passed, vetoed, passed again, in state after state. This blog post is going to be my attempt to catch myself up on all of it, and hopefully you, too, in the process. I have no doubt I am going to miss something in this catch-all. So please help me fill in the blanks with stories I may have missed.
The state legislature there has passed two new, restrictive abortion bills. Both were vetoed by the governor, and the legislature overrode both vetoes.
One of the bills requires a woman to have an ultrasound and hear a detailed description of the fetus before an abortion can be performed. If it would provide a clearer image of the fetus, the ultrasound must be vaginal. There are no exceptions in this bill for rape victims. If you are a rape victim in Oklahoma and you get pregnant and want an abortion, a doctor may be required by law to stick a completely unnecessary wand up your vagina before you can have access to a legal medical procedure. I will say that again: a pregnant woman may be forced to have something completely unnecessary stuck up her vagina in order for her to obtain a legal medical procedure. Then the woman has to hear a detailed description of the fetus before being allowed to obtain that legal medical procedure. No matter this woman's situation -- like, say, she really really really wants to have a baby but can't because doing so could kill her.
The second bill "prohibits pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancy." This means that a doctor can flat-out lie to pregnant women about any aspect of a pregnancy, and the patient cannot do anything about it. I will say that again: Your doctor can lie to you and you cannot do anything about it. You cannot know if your doctor is telling you the truth, because they are allowed by law to lie to their patients. You know that ultrasound you have to have now, before you can get an abortion? A doctor could see something on that ultrasound and not tell you, because they don't have to. My understanding of this bill is that it applies to any pregnant woman, whether she is seeking an abortion or not. (If this is not true, someone please let me know.)
Oklahoma legislators who approved these laws: Your blatant lack of respect for women is unconscionable. These laws are unconscionable. Women are not children, and women are not stupid. We know what an abortion is. We know what a fetus is. We do not need your "protection." You do not have to "save us." You claim the first law is designed to "give women complete and accurate information" yet you passed a second law saying that doctors don't have to give complete and accurate information. For that, you should be so ashamed of yourselves that you can't even walk out your front door in the morning. That you think it is okay for a doctor to ever lie to a patient is unimaginable, let alone in a situation like pregnancy and abortion. The end result of these bills is this: you are intentionally causing emotional and physical harm to women. To mothers. To potential mothers. On purpose. And by the way? You are allowing rape victims to literally be raped again. The nerve you have. Here's some news for you: Your passing these laws is not going to end abortion in your state. It's been proven time and time again that no matter what the laws are, if a woman wants an abortion, she will find a way.
For now, at least, the ultrasound law has been put on hold, after a lawsuit was filed. The hearing is scheduled for July 19. Mark your calendars. Meanwhile, everyone, no matter what state you reside in, should let the Oklahoma legislators know how absolutely wrong they are. I, for one, know that if a state thinks this little of women, then I certainly have no reason to ever spend money in that state. I have not heard about any challenges to the second law, though surely they have to be coming. It cannot be legal for a doctor to lie to you. (Right?)
Two great resources to check on Oklahoma abortion news: Oklahoma Hates Women and Oklahoma Citizen.
As an aside: Republicans/tea partiers/anti-choicers/other supporters of these kinds of bills: You are no longer allowed to cry about the government "taking over" your health care. EVER. AGAIN. I mean it. Not ever. Because here's the thing: the government is not taking over your health care in any way, shape or form unless you are a woman seeking an abortion. Then the government is all up in your uterus and lying to you about your fetus. THAT is what government taking over your health care looks like. Is that happening to you? No? So kindly STFU.
A bill was passed by the House and Senate, vetoed by the governor, and then passed again by the House (it's not clear if the Senate also will pass it) to restrict late-term abortions, which in Kansas are after 21 or 22 weeks (information varies). The bill "would require more details from doctors providing late-term abortions. It would also allow patients or family members to sue a doctor if there was evidence the abortion violated state law." As of right now, no vote has been scheduled in the Senate, so we'll just have to see what happens here. UPDATE: The Senate fell one vote short of overriding the veto, so for now this will not become law. Sounds like it will be brought up again though, soon and if necessary when there is a new governor.
The Senate has passed, and a House committee has forwarded on to the full House, a bill that "would require that the consultation occur in person instead of over the phone and that women be given details about fetal development. Abortion providers also would have to give women a chance to see an ultrasound and listen to a heartbeat." In Missouri, a woman already has to wait 24 hours for an abortion and have at least a phone consultation about the abortion.
Also, the House "approved an amendment to keep pharmacies form being required to distribute emergency contraception and other drugs." Sigh.
But! Good news! "Missouri Personhood Amendment on Abortion Fails to Qualify for November Ballot."
Both the House and Senate have passed a bill that would "require women seeking an abortion to pay for an ultrasound and hear a doctor give a description of the fetus." It has an exception for rape victims "unless they could prove they became pregnant as the result of a crime." Good luck with that! It's not enough that you (probably) have to pay for an abortion out of pocket; now you have to pay for an ultrasound, too! OR prove you were raped, because that's sooo easy to do. Also, the bill "includes a prohibition against the use of state or federal dollars for abortion." The bill is waiting for the governor's signature, and it's not entirely clear if he will be signing it. The ACLU is asking him to, as is Planned Parenthood.
A couple weeks ago, the governor signed a law essentially banning abortions after 20 weeks of a pregnancy. "The new law grants exceptions only in cases of medical emergency, the pregnant woman’s imminent death, or a serious risk of 'substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function,' a provision experts interpreted as an effort to exclude an exception based on a woman’s mental health." Also: the governor "signed a separate law (PDF) requiring health care providers to screen women seeking abortions for possible physical or mental risks." Nice. Many people are saying the 20 weeks law is designed to directly challenge Roe v. Wade. No doubt a legal challenge will be issued at some point.
The Senate is working on a bill that would require an ultrasound before an abortion could be performed. (Hmm, I sense a theme!) Current law requires ultrasounds if a doctor thinks a woman who wants an abortion is 20 or more weeks pregnant. This law would require them for all abortions.
Well. That is just exhausting, isn't it? Hard to digest all of this, and I'm still convinced I'm missing a couple states/laws. Again, even if you don't live in any of these states, let these lawmakers know how you feel about their decisions. Because you can be sure that other states will see what's going on and start considering their own, similar bills. It's obvious that's already happening. And we need to work to stop this, now.