By Gail Yamner
Scandals from DC consumed the country this May and June. Benghazi, the IRS, the APS and the latest leaks about the NSA monitoring Americans’ emails and phone records. Immigration rights, gay marriage and gun violence prevention occupy the agendas of both the conservative and progressive movements. It reminds me of when Nero fiddled, Rome burned.
While our attention is on other rights, women's reproductive rights are being legislated away. A record number of laws have been proposed or enacted that limit or restrict abortion and contraception on the federal and state level. The media focuses on the most sensational news while ignoring these legislative bodies taking away our rights.
Ever hear of Representative Trent Franks? No? He is an Arizona Republican with no medical background who wants to dictate women’s reproductive health and control their families. He recently introduced HR 1797, The District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (http://judiciary.house.gov/news/2013/05232013.html).
This bill, with 184 co-sponsors, asserts that at 20 weeks a fetus can feel pain and that Congress has the power to override the right to abortion after 20 weeks.
Congressman Franks and his cohorts are using the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell — who was recently found guilty of murdering babies born alive in his abortion clinic in Philadelphia — to push their agenda of abolishing abortion. In fact, Franks has expanded this bill to ban abortions nationwide at 20 weeks, except in cases of “documented” rape or incest, or in cases of irreversible physical harm or imminent death for the woman. Representative Eric Cantor says he will bring it to the House floor even though a federal court struck down the same Arizona bill as being unconstitutional.
Once again, women’s health is the subject of a panel of males who seem to know more about a woman’s life then she does. There is little regard to the health or life of the woman, and none for her mental health.
These men, who have never been pregnant, presume to tell a woman how to protect her health. They speak of welcoming the pain-feeling fetus into the human family. Whose family? Which of these sponsors is planning to take on the care of these fetuses? Which of them is planning to care for families or the women who might be injured due to the birth of the fetus? And when many of them vote to slash food stamps, health care, Headstart programs, and education, who will pay for these now living beings?
Last week the House passed a Homeland Security Appropriations bill with an amendment that would go beyond the current, restrictive federal policy concerning the ability of women held in immigration detention centers to access abortion services. The provision would allow an employee with no medical training to determine whether a woman's pregnancy is "life-threatening," and, even if the pregnancy is considered life-threatening, to grant that employee the right to refuse to facilitate an abortion.
On the state level, the Republican-controlled legislatures in Wisconsin and Ohio have passed or are poised to pass laws that close a significant number of clinics providing healthcare and reproductive services to women by either defunding Planned Parenthood, making onerous regulations, or refusing to allow Medicaid to pay for services. Many women who depend on these clinics for routine exams will no longer have health care. Additionally in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is in favor of forced ultrasounds for any woman seeking a legal abortion.
Iowa deserves its own paragraph due to the draconic measures it is proposing. The Republican House there passed a bill banning abortions 18 weeks after gestation, making it the strictest abortion ban in the country. No floor debate was allowed. According to the bill, physicians who perform abortions after 18 weeks face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, unless the woman's life is in danger. There is no exception for rape, incest, or the health of the mother if her life is not at risk. Fortunately, the Democratic-controlled Senate will not pass this bill.
Gov. Terry Branstad has a bill on his desk that would make him the sole decider of payments for Medicaid-funded abortions. If he signs it, which he says he will, it will mean that he makes the medical decision of which abortion was medically necessary and covered by Medicaid, which is largely funded by the Federal government. This could greatly restrict abortion access for poorer women.
Who can obliterate the picture of an all-male body testifying before the House committee on women’s contraception? Or erase the image of the eleven military men and one woman discussing the appalling sexual attacks in the armed forces?
These images will continue until women understand the pernicious attacks that are being made on them every day in terms of their health and control of their own lives. When we stand together as more than 50 percent of the country, our voices will be heard over the roar of the last males who want supremacy over females.
Work with Jac to elect members of the House and the Senate who will support a woman’s right to make her own choices. Work for gun violence prevention, work for immigration, work for the environment, work for gay rights, but never let choice become a bargaining tool. Support us as we fight for you.