The GOP has been accused before of waging a war on women, and this summer proves to be no different. The past few months have seen a steady attack on reproductive rights, as legislators work to chip away at both abortion rights and health services for women, state by state.
While the war on women is nothing new, the tactics being used are. Three states in particular — Ohio, North Carolina, and Texas — have seen some of the harshest anti-choice laws in the nation, through measures that can hardly be called transparent. These bills are being snuck in through other measures, and attempts at debate are being quickly stifled.
Ohio governor John Kasich recently signed into law one of the strictest anti-choice bills on the books. The new regulations were not debated, but rather added on as late additions to the state budget, being signed into law before being subject to scrutiny.
The Ohio budget is a major blow to women's rights. The provisions of the budget are exceptionally harsh: Planned Parenthood is essentially defunded physicians who fail to detect a heartbeat (no matter how soon after conception) could face up to six months in jail, rape crisis centers are not allowed to provide counseling about abortion to pregnant rape victims, the term pregnancy has been redefined in such a way that women may even be prevented from using IUDs, and new provisions regarding transfer agreements may cause many abortion clinics to shut down.
The state budget not only puts abortion clinics in jeopardy, it defunds clinics that provide cervical and breast cancer screenings, STD testing, and birth control. A measure that will inevitably cause a great deal of harm and hardship to women across the state was signed into law with hardly any opportunity to challenge it.
North Carolina has adopted a similar backdoor approach, attaching anti-choice regulations to a bill banning Sharia law. It is impossible to miss the irony in this approach, as a bill to ban Muslim ideology from being imposed, sneaks in measures that have little basis other than in religious ideology. The bill was voted on with no reproductive rights advocates at the scene, for none had been alerted to the new provisions tacked on at the last minute.
The North Carolina bill would impose new standards for abortion clinics, which could potentially cause all but one of the state's clinics to close. Additionally health insurance coverage for abortions in plans offered through the Affordable Care Act would be prohibited, except in cases of incest, rape, or danger to the life of the mother.
Texas has adopted similarly restrictive policies on women's health. That state's anti-choice bill would likely lead to the closing of all but five abortion clinics in the state, leaving many women living in rural areas hundreds of miles away from their nearest abortion provider. Many worry that this would likely lead to unsafe, "back-alley" abortions, putting women's lives at risk. In addition the law bans abortions after 20 weeks, even in the case of rape and incest. Republican State Rep. Jody Laubenberg explained that exemptions for rape victims were unnecessary because, “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out." Laubenberg did not appear to understand that rape kits were not Akin-inspired safety valves, shutting down pregnancy from rape.
The bill was originally unable to be passed due to protests, a highly publicized filibuster on the part of State Senator Wendy Davis, and thousands of individuals signing up to give testimony. As a result, Gov. Rick Perry called for a 30-day special legislative session. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst then suspended the Texas Senate rule that requires two-thirds approval before a bill can be considered for a floor vote, and warned that anyone who caused a disruption in the gallery could face up to 48 hours in prison.
Legislators with little understanding of reproductive health are enacting measures that would restrict the choice of women in potentially dangerous ways. The war on women is being fought with underhanded, guerrilla tactics, stifling debate and reason.