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Five Ways That The GOP Is Trying To Eradicate A Woman’s Right To Choose

Tanya Somanader

South Dakota is one of the most anti-abortion states in the country. In 1994, the state banned abortion providers inside its borders. “Planned Parenthood flies a doctor in from out-of-state once a week to see patients at a Sioux Falls clinic. Women from the more remote parts of the large, rural state drive up to six hours to reach this lone clinic” and must “receive counseling and wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure.”

Now, it seems South Dakota is willing to legalize acts of terror in order to be the number one anti-abortion state in the U.S. The South Dakota House is taking up a bill to redefine “justifiable homicide” that may “make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions,” Mother Jones reports. Passed out of committee on a 9-3 party line vote, the GOP-backed bill “could in theory allow a woman’s father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion — even if she wanted one.

South Dakota’s House of Representatives is dominated by the GOP — a party that was swept into power by promising job creation, and is delivering the “most comprehensive and radical assault on women’s health in our lifetime.” The recent barrage of anti-reproductive rights bills betray “a broader national strategy” by pro-life advocates to manufacture callous, often perverse, obstacles to women’s reproductive rights. During the first months of their legislative sessions, GOP lawmakers at the state and federal level have come up with four other radical abortion restrictions to marginalize women’s rights and eradicate choice:

1. HEARTBEATS: GOP state lawmakers in Arizona and Ohio unveiled so-called “Heartbeat Bills” to “prohibit women from ending pregnancies at the first detectable fetal heartbeat.” The heartbeat can be heard “within 18 to 24 days of conception” and “in almost all cases by six weeks” — a period in which “many women don’t even know they’re pregnant.” While Ohio and Arizona have such bills in writing, Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia are watching their progress “closely.”

2. ULTRASOUNDS: By dubbing it an “emergency item,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) “fast-tracked” an anti-abortion bill mandating that “pregnant women be shown an ultrasound of the fetus at least two hours before an abortion.” Physicians would have to show the fetus’ dimensions, limbs or internal organs, and — if audible — the fetal heartbeat. The Kentucky Senate passed a similar measure requiring women receive an ultrasound and “if she chooses to avert her eyes, the doctor still would have to describe to her the image.” A Montana House Republican also proposed a bill that “would have made it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion without first providing an ultrasound.” The bill narrowly failed by a 53-47 votes. Last week, the Wyoming House passed a less-stringent bill that “would require doctors to inform women seeking an abortion that they could view an ultrasound image of their fetus before the procedure.”

3. RACE/SEX DISCRIMINATION: An Arizona GOP Rep. Steve Montenegro actually introduced bills to criminalize abortions if they’re sought because of race or sex. The bill would charge doctors with a Class 3 felony if they “knowingly perform abortions for these reasons.” While there is absolutely no evidence to prove that Arizonans seek abortions for these reasons, Montenegro apparently borrowed this idea from U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Discrimination Act which would have “criminalized abortion because of the sex, gender, color or race of the child, or the race of the parent.” Illinois and Pennsylvania already have laws prohibiting sex-selection abortions and other states, including Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, and “tried to enact legislation that would prevent sex- or race-selection abortions.” Oklahoma succeeded in 2009, but a state court struck down the measure “on procedural technicalities.”

4. THE WOMEN-LAST STANDARD: On the federal level, House Republicans took the first two months of the new year to marginalize the rights of women. First, they tried to exclude certain victims — including women who are drugged, women who do not physically fight off the offender, and some minors — from abortion coverage by redefining rape. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) then introduced the “Protect Life Act,” a bill that would “give doctors the green light to let pregnant women die if they have a life-threatening condition and need and emergency abortion.”

While these are the most egregious new efforts to constrain or even criminalize a woman’s choice, other more familiar anti-abortion efforts are making their way through legislatures too. Today, an Iowa House committee passed a bill to ban all abortions in Iowa as a means to legally challenge Roe v. Wade decision. Under “the banner of fiscal restraint,” federal House Republicans are pushing bills to ban federal funding for abortion coverage and to “cut off federal dollars to women’s health care clinics that offer abortions.” This week, the House will vote on Rep. Mike Pence’s (R-IN) amendment to eliminate Title X funding, which provides funding for family planning services provided by organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Through such stubborn attachment to pro-life policies, the GOP subordinates the choices and lives of women to a myopic and unrealistic philosophy. These GOP efforts “erect a legal barrier, another, and another,” said Elizabeth Nash, a public policy associate with the Guttmacher Institute. “At what point do women say, ‘I can’t climb that mountain’? This is where we’re getting to.”

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