Despite the struggles of the Great Recession and the need for jobs, Republican legislatures across the country have engaged in a concerted effort to legislate a woman’s right to choose. There is settled case law that abortion is a legal medical procedure in the United States, and yet several states have banned late-term abortions after 20 weeks, the so-called “fetal pain” bill, so far this year. This conflicts directly with the fetal viability standard ruled by the Supreme Court, and seems destined for a challenge. And that’s just one of the host of anti-abortion laws that have passed, including forced viewing of ultrasounds, increased waiting periods and other restrictions. In an increasing number of states, access to abortion facilities has become nearly impossible.
Tied up in this is the war on Planned Parenthood. Indiana was the first to attempt to ban state funding of Planned Parenthood through their Medicaid program. A federal judge blocked the defunding law, and the Obama Administration has warned that the law could lead to the pullout of billions in matching Medicaid funds for Indiana. But that has not stopped Indiana, or some of its counterparts. Wisconsin defunded Planned Parenthood inside their state budget, which Gov. Scott Walker signed over the weekend. The same bill slashes school funding by $800 million while giving tax breaks to corporations. But the Planned Parenthood restrictions put the lives of 12,000 patients who don’t have insurance at risk.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin says it has 27 health centers across the state, which provide birth control, cancer screenings, annual exams, and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment to 73,000 patients every year.
Texas would also deny funding to Planned Parenthood clinics in their new health care omnibus bill, which also illegally block grants its own Medicaid program and sets up an interstate health care compact of questionable legality.
The bill would deny $34 million to Planned Parenthood from family planning grants, curb abortions at public hospitals and promote use of adult stem cells from the patient’s own body in new medical treatments.
“Early in the session, I didn’t dare dream that we could make the gains this bill would accomplish,” said Joe Pojman of Texas Alliance for Life.
Federal funding is already banned from reproductive choice services, so all these bills do is help close down Planned Parenthood clinics that hundreds of thousands if not millions of women rely on for their care.
Planned Parenthood is going to court to block a similar provision in Kansas’ next budget. But even if they succeed in beating back these attacks (and if the Indiana precedent holds they will), they will have spent millions defending themselves, money that could be better spent on women’s health. And they will continue to be a bugaboo, a polarizing force for the right to exploit.
The war on women is progressing nicely for conservatives.
UPDATE: I should point out where lawmakers have stood on the side of women, such as in North Carolina, where Governor Bev Perdue just vetoed a bill that would have forced long wait periods before an abortion.