New Laws Aim to Limit Reproductive Rights

Kris Hamel

DETROIT - Every year thousands of anti-choice laws aimed at eliminating or restricting abortion rights are introduced into state legislatures around the U.S. The result is that a majority of states now have one or more onerous laws which impede women's right to make and carry out crucial health care decisions about their reproductive capacity. These include "waiting periods" before a doctor can perform an abortion, being forced to read or hear a scientifically unsound propaganda script about the "dangers" of abortion [sic], and parental notification and/or consent laws aimed at young women.

This year has been no exception. Even with the U.S. Supreme Court's reactionary ruling in April 2007 banning certain types of post-first trimester abortion procedures, at least 18 states have passed their own version of the law.

In Michigan on May 27, the Democratically-controlled State House passed 74 to 32 a Senate bill that mirrors the federal abortion ban. The House rejected amendments to include exceptions to safeguard women's health and in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape and incest. Twenty-four Democrats-including Detroit's Shanelle Jackson-joined 50 Republicans to pass the measure, which Gov. Jennifer Granholm is expected to veto. The law includes felony penalties of two years in prison and $50,000 in fines for physicians.

Because 2008 is an election year, so-called National Right to Life and other anti-choice organizations are also focusing on state ballot initiatives to whittle away or wipe out completely women's right to choose.

The Colorado Secretary of State's office announced on May 29 that a random sampling of petitions indicated enough valid signatures to put "the Colorado Equal Rights Amendment" on the state's November ballot. This law, with the outrageously misleading title, would change the state constitution to confer "personhood" and equal rights to fertilized eggs.

The law would criminalize all abortions immediately, including those to save a woman from death or permanent injury. Birth control methods such as emergency contraception, like the "morning-after pill," intrauterine devices and some oral contraceptives, would become illegal.


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Surgical or medical removal of ectopic pregnancies could also not be performed under this law. In ectopic pregnancies, an embryo imbeds in an organ other than the uterus, usually the fallopian tubes. According to a Mayo Clinic study, one in every 40 to 100 pregnancies is ectopic, and no ectopic pregnancies can result in a birth. If the embryo continues to grow, the tubes will eventually rupture and may cause massive hemorrhage, creating a life-threatening situation for the pregnant woman.

In South Dakota, voters will once again decide on a state abortion ban. In 2006, voters there by 56 to 44 percent defeated a law that would have outlawed all abortions except to save a woman's life.

Now the anti-choice zealots have put exceptions for women's health and cases of pregnancy caused by rape or incest into the law. But the rules regarding these exceptions will be difficult for women to comply with as they require contact with police and state officials, intrusive physical examinations, DNA samplings and other measures that inhibit use.

Along with local groups like South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, national reproductive rights and women's organizations such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and NOW all played large roles organizationally and financially in helping to defeat the South Dakota abortion ban in 2006. What happens in South Dakota has national repercussions. That's why, though many women may be focused on the presidential election, a thorough-going national mobilization is needed again in 2008.

Workers World asked Debbie Johnson, a leader of the Detroit Action Network For Reproductive Rights (DANFORR), to comment on the current anti-choice attacks. "These situations like South Dakota and Colorado are going to keep playing out all over the country. They are very difficult to fight on a state by state basis, especially when leaders for reproductive rights are entangled in the electoral process, believing that somehow Democrats are going to protect women's rights," stated Johnson.

"It is vital that all pro-choice people continue to support and show solidarity with the struggles unfolding in the various states. But more than that, we need to revitalize a militant national movement all around the country. We need to mobilize independently of the politicians because no matter who is in the White House or the state houses, things will not fundamentally change unless and until we step up to take the steam out of these rightwing, anti-women initiatives. We need to link up with everyone who is ready to fight back in this period-whether it's to roll back high food and gas prices, stop foreclosures or put an end to police brutality. Women have had enough. There is no alternative but to struggle."

Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World.

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