While most of the nation's focus is on political manueverings in DC, most of the action that really affects our lives occurs at the state level. Although the watered down filibuster reform
is aggravating, and watching Republicans shoot themselves in the foot while attemping to grill SoS Hillary Clinton and future Sos John Kerry is entertaining, none of that is very germaine to our daily lives.
If you are a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, however, the laws of the state you call home are definitely affecting your life. Since Roe -vs- Wade has made abortion legal at the national level, anti-choice activists have been working hard at the state level to make abortion so difficult as to eliminate it completely. Some states have only one abortion clinic serving the entire
state. One of those states is Mississippi, and it faces closure when a new law goes into effect
The Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, which has become a focus of the bitter fight for abortion rights across the nation, successfully won an injunction in July which allowed its medical staff time to try to comply with the law. But the injunction has run out, and, earlier this month, the facility’s owners were told by officials from the Department of Health they were not in compliance with House Bill 1390, passed and signed by Republican legislators in April.
Mississippi lawmakers have openly stated that the legislation, which requires the clinic’s doctors to gain admitting privileges at local hospitals, is aimed at closing JWHO and thus ending abortion in the state.
That's how they do it. I'm sure there was some rational-sounding explanation for the law, along the lines of "if there are medical complications during the procedure, the doctor needs to be able to admit the patient to an ER and continue treatment". Of course - any hospital that gives the doctors that privilige gains nothing but a lot of grief from anti-choice crusaders.
Laws like these attack the doctors and the facilities. There are also the laws that create hoops that women must jump through (like waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, counseling) in an effort to discourage them. There are also attempts to protect the fetus via various means. Mississippi voters defeated a "personhood bill" meant to grant legal rights to a non-viable clump of cells. A state legislator in New Mexico is trying another tack, probably one of the most disgusting attacks on women yet: It would outlaw abortion for rape victims as "tampering with evidence"
State Rep. Cathrynn Brown ® has put forth House Bill 206, which would compel women to carry pregnancies caused by rape to term or else be charged with a third-degree felony.
“Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime,” reads the bill.
Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to three years in prison. Other crimes classified as third-degree felonies in New Mexico include voluntary manslaughter, assault with intent to commit a felony, driving under the influence and aggravated battery.
It's likely this will get voted down in this state, but it's a model for other states with a Republican lock on the statehouse and governor. A lot of this stuff got tossed aside this past year for fear of alienating voters. Now that the election is over, watch for more of these types of bills to float to the surface like a dead bloated fish.
There is one interesting hypocritical wrinkle in all of this. Part of the big bruhaha last year was over contraception. It was posited that forcing religion-founded businesses (ie: Catholic, Methodist, and Baptist hospitals) to include contraceptive coverage in their insurance plans was unconstitutional. Part of the problem with the clinic in Mississippi is that the nearby hospitals are all religion-based and unlikely to give an abortion provider admitting privileges. The Catholic church's positions on birth control
are pretty well known.
That's why it's amazing that a chain of Catholic hospitals argued in a malpractice case
that fetuses aren't people:
A chain of Catholic Hospitals has beaten a malpractice lawsuit by saying that fetuses are not equivalent to human lives. According to the Colorado Independent, in the death of a 31-year-old woman carrying twin fetuses, Catholic Health Initiatives’ attorneys argued that in cases of wrongful death, the term “person” only applies to individuals born alive, and not to those who die in utero.
Catholic Health Initiatives’ promotional literature states that its mission is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” and be guided by “fidelity to the Gospel.” The chain’s refusal to dispense contraceptives, perform abortions or to offer end-of-life services has placed it at odds in business deals attempting to acquire secularly governed hospitals in the past.
The Independent wrote, “In 2011, the Kentucky attorney general and governor nixed a plan in which Catholic Health sought to merge with and ultimately gain control of publicly funded hospitals in Louisville. The officials were reacting to citizen concerns that access to reproductive and end-of-life services would be curtailed. According to The Denver Post, similar fears slowed the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth’s plan over the last few years to buy out Exempla Lutheran Medical Center and Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in the Denver metro area.”
Nonetheless, when it came to mounting a defense in the Stodghill case, the firm was clear that only people who are “born alive” count as “people” as under the law. The argument has won favorable rulings from Fremont County District Court Judge David M. Thorson and now-retired Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Arthur Roy.
At 7 months, the fetuses may have actually been viable outside the womb. If the Catholics are willing to argue they aren't people under the law to protect their finances, then they have no moral ground to prevent abortions for women in their first trimester. Then again - considering the long bloody history of the Christian religion, they really have no moral standing on anything.