Anti-abortion-sign

TUCSON, Ariz. (WOMENSENEWS) — U.S. abortion rights are under mass attack in increasingly devious ways.

Consider examples right now in two states where lawmakers are seeking –or recently sought–to either override the Supreme Court or rename abortion in order to incite public response.

In Kansas, a bill (S.B. 95) seeking to redefine abortion as "dismemberment abortion" is making its way through the legislature. The term "dismemberment" abortion is not one used by the medical professionals, it appears to be a new nomenclature coined since the popular misnomer "partial birth abortion" fell out of favor.

In essence, this bill seeks to curtail second trimester abortions. After 14 weeks gestation, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure must be used to perform abortions.

If made into law, this bill would prevent that procedure from occurring. A woman’s ability to make her own health care decisions would be taken away by lawmakers who will then make that decision for them. The women of Kansas deserve better than to have their bodies and decisions legislated for them.

Missouri Bill

In Missouri, state Rep. Rick Brattin, a Republican, has introduced a bill (H.B.131) that forbids a woman from seeking an abortion "unless and until" the father of the unborn child has provided a written, notarized affidavit allowing the abortion.

This would apply even in cases of domestic violence because in the words of Brattin: "What does that have to do with the child’s life? Just because it was an abusive relationship, does that mean the child should die?" He went on to say that women in these situations can obtain protective custody.

This "permission-slip abortion" law would further lessen the autonomy and control women have over their bodies, force them to obtain permission from the child’s father and, if that man says no, require that she give birth to that child.

If she is in an abusive relationship, Brattin’s bill is incredibly presumptuous in two ways. No. 1 it assumes a battered woman will obtain protective custody, which is far from assured. Often battered women have difficulty doing that in family courts. No. 2 it assumes she can live happily ever after the order is granted. How is that possible when her child will have forced her into a lifelong connection with an abuser?

It is already difficult enough to obtain an abortion in Missouri. With a population of over 6 million there is only one health center in St. Louis–a four-hour drive from Kansas City for example–where the procedure is provided.

Double Standard

The proposed legislation presents a galling double standard. While seeming to seek to protect the life a woman is carrying, it simultaneously puts her life and that of her child in danger, particularly in a domestic violence situation.

In 1992 the United States Supreme Court ruled on the abortion-permission issue in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and made it clear that a woman did not have to obtain her husband’s permission prior to obtaining an abortion.

"The liberty of the woman is at stake in a sense unique to the human condition and so unique to the law," the court reasoned. "The mother who carries a child to full term is subject to anxieties, to physical constraints, to pain that only she must bear."

However, when Justice Samuel Alito sat on a lower court in 1991, he wrote an opinion that the requirement for a married woman to certify she had notified her husband that she was seeking an abortion was not an "undo burden" on pregnant women. Thus, anti-choice activists such as Brattin may have their eye on Alito’s crucial vote if his "permission slip" provision ends up before the High Court.

Anyone concerned with protecting women’s reproductive autonomy needs to call these bills out. If not, our right to treat abortion as a matter of our constitutional right to privacy will keep slipping away without anyone really understanding how and why it’s happening.

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