Ohio’s “Heartbeat” Abortion Bill

Boy, do I love being from Ohio! Not only does my state rank 45th in Gallup’s well-being index, but the legislature is barging ahead with legislation that completely ignores the needs and desires of its constituents. Not only is the governor, John Kasich, trying to eliminate bargaining rights for public employees, but now an Ohio legislative committee has (narrowly) voted to send Bill 125, otherwise known as the “Heartbeat” abortion bill, on to the House. If it passes, it would be the most restrictive abortion law in the nation.

The bill would make it illegal to have an abortion if a heartbeat is detected, except for medical emergencies. If you’re raped or the victim of incest, tough. You have to have the baby.

Now, a heartbeat is detectable as early as six to seven weeks into a pregnancy. Often a woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant at that point. So by the time she has her pregnancy confirmed she would already be too far along to have an abortion. Never mind that most chromosomal abnormalities are discovered no earlier than ten weeks. By that time, pregnant women would be locked into continuing a pregnancy that may not even be viable. Or having a baby with severe birth defects. (See my post “A True Story About Loss and Making Hard Decisions.”)

Abortion opponents seem to think that most abortions are performed merely for the sake of convenience. But with abortion laws like the one Ohio is proposing, a woman wouldn’t even have a chance to have her say as to why she wants an abortion. One “Right to Life” website says that 64% of women who have abortions were pressured to have one. (The statistics do not support this claim.)

Apparently it’s okay to pressure a woman to have a baby that she doesn’t feel capable of raising for a variety of reasons, such as economic, psychological, physiological (mother or baby), and family responsibilities she already has. [Source.] What ticks me off about this attitude is that no one seems to care what happens to the mother or the baby after the delivery. She can’t afford the baby? Too bad. She’s not going to get any help from the government. Having a baby would make it hard to finish her education? Good luck trying to find affordable child care, let alone financial aid for school and living expenses.

I think it’s commendable to want to protect the life of a fetus. But will someone please explain to me why the fetus is more important than the mother? After all, she’s already here, maybe trying to support a family already, maybe without a partner, maybe in ill health herself.

Ohio has already made it illegal to have an abortion after 22 weeks. That seems like a good compromise. But after six weeks? That creates an undue hardship for the potential mother. And in fact, it gives her no choice at all.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Roe in 1973 on the basis of a woman’s right to privacy. How many children you have and when you have them seems to me to be the most private decision a woman can make. I vehemently reject the pro-lifers’ stance that they have the right to make that decision for me.

 

 

House Republicans Jeopardize Women’s Health Care

Last Friday (Feb. 18)  House Republicans voted 240-185 to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

I find this incomprehensible. Planned Parenthood is a respectable, indispensable source of health care for low and middle income women that has been around for 95 years. For some women it is their first, and sometimes only, contact with gynecological health care. Since we still don’t have universal health care in this country, that’s not likely to change any time soon.

Planned Parenthood is not an abortion mill. Only 3% of its services have to do with abortion counseling and procedures. That means that most women who walk into a Planned Parenthood facility do so for birth control, breast exams and Pap smears, and testing for STDs.  [Planned Parenthood’s 2008-2009 annual report states: “For the three million patients our doctors and nurses saw, we provided contraception (36 percent of our total services), testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (31 percent), cancer screening and prevention (17 percent), and abortion services (three percent).”]

Estimated savings from this proposed bill are $347,000. That’s peanuts in a $3.6 trillion dollar federal budget, but one-third of the yearly income for Planned Parenthood. Where is that money going to come from if the federal government withdraws its support? But if the fact that Planned Parenthood offers abortion services at all bothers some people, then why not cut the amount being given to Planned Parenthood by the amount of its income that comes from abortions: 3%?  Why take away all federal support of an institution that provides essential health care for over 3 million women a year.?

Ironically, those who argue for limited government intervention are more than willing to put the government in charge of what women can do with their bodies. Government should never be about restricting choices, but about freedom.

Some argue that the private sector will have to pick up the cost of abortions. What that means is that all women should have to pay for their abortions completely out of pocket unless they’re victim of rape or incest or their health is compromised by a pregnancy. Because more and more health insurance plans are refusing to pay for elective abortions, and some won’t pay for abortions under any circumstances. In some instances, women are being forced to buy additional riders for abortion coverage. That’s ludicrous. Women don’t plan to have abortions any more than they plan to get cancer.

If these lawmakers were really concerned about cutting the budget, they should be for, not against, abortions. For example, one of my daughters recently had a D&C after a miscarriage. It cost $4600. If she had had an abortion when her baby’s abnormalities were first diagnosed, it would have cost approximately $350-950 at Planned Parenthood. [Source here.] If she had not had a miscarriage or an abortion, but her baby had been born with severe complications, it would have cost a great deal more.

Conservatives like to cite the irresponsibility of single mothers and “welfare queens” as one reason why our federal budget is so high. And yet they are willing to severely cripple the effectiveness of one organization that helps women to be more responsible about when or whether they will have children. Shame on the House Republicans and anyone else who votes for this proposal.

Read Rebecca Traister’s excellent article about this issue here.

Protecting the Rapist

Representative Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta, GA) apparently has a soft spot for rapists. He doesn’t want them to be traumatized any more than is necessary when they’ve been accused of rape. He’s introduced a bill that would change the language of state criminal codes so that those who file charges for rape, stalking, and domestic violence will be called accusers, not victims, until there has been a conviction.

For some reason it’s still okay to say that people who have been burglarized, assaulted (other than sexually) or defrauded are victims as soon as they (or the police) file charges. But Carolyn Fiddler, communications director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, points out that ” … if you have the misfortune to suffer a rape, or if you are beaten by a domestic partner, or if you are stalked, Rep. Franklin doesn’t think you have been victimized.”

Either that, or he thinks you’re lying.

Why is it that some men are so insensitive about the suffering of rape victims? And so protective of the men who have been accused of rape? They wouldn’t protect someone who stole their car or their wallet. But when it comes to a sexually-motivated conflict between men and women, they’re awfully quick to blame or discount the woman. Because we all know that the man can’t be at fault; the woman is the one who brought the action upon herself. 

A woman who accuses a man of sexual violence is basically saying that men don’t have the right to do anything they want to women. And men don’t like being told that. There are still plenty of patriarchal Neanderthals out there who think they have been ordained by God to keep women in their place, by whatever means necessary.

They also think that women should be punished, for being too sexual (slutty), independent (uppity) or disrespectful (bitch). So if a woman dares to stand up for herself and accuses a man of sexually assaulting or abusing her, Representative Franklin wants the law to warn her that she better have an airtight case—enough for a conviction—or no one is going to believe her.

The law enforcement system is reluctant to prosecute cases of violence against women because it’s a woman’s word against a man’s. Also, it’s harder to prove rape than it is the theft of a car, for example. The reason why there was so much outrage over the wording in H.R. 3 was because the bill’s originators were basically saying that rape is not punishable unless it’s clear that it was “forcible.” Unless there’s undeniable proof that a woman was raped (by bruising or tearing, etc.), she is simply not going to be believed when she says she was raped. If the wording had gone through as planned, it would have been the same as saying that it’s the federal government that doesn’t believe her.

Why wasn’t I surprised that it was a man who introduced this bill (Rep. Chris Smith [R-NJ], who is also the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus Co-Chair), and that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) supported him? Thank God they had enough sense to back down when they saw how pissed off people were about the wording.

[To clarify: HR 3, which purports to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions and ensure that the healthcare reform law does not cover the cost of abortions, had provided for an exception only when the woman’s life is endangered, in cases of “forcible” rape, or in cases of incest if the woman was a minor. The exemption in the bill will now cover all forms of rape.]

Media Resources: CNN 2/7/11; Huffington Post 2/8/11; Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Website 2/8/11; Feminist Daily Newswire 2/4/11; RH Reality Check 2/4/11.

A True Story About Loss and Making Hard Decisions

It’s one thing to debate the fine points of feminism, such as the insistence on protecting a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It’s quite another thing to have a real-life situation come up which tests your convictions.

I found this out over the last few weeks, starting with my daughter’s phone call telling me the results of her ultrasound.

The news wasn’t good.

She ended up having a second ultrasound and then a more invasive test (CVS) where cells are taken from the placenta to be examined for some forms of birth anomalies.

The results: her baby—a girl—had Down syndrome and Turner syndrome.

Now, Down syndrome alone is not a death sentence, although the defects associated with it can be life-threatening. And there are cases of girls with Turner Syndrome functioning just fine (except for infertility). But if the chromosomal mutations are severe enough, the baby will not survive and that is exactly what my daughter was told by the doctors.

Sure enough, around the 11th week of pregnancy, the baby died and my daughter had to have a procedure to remove the baby’s remains (including the placenta) from her uterus.

But in the weeks between the initial diagnosis of a birth defect and the actual miscarriage, my daughter and her partner were haunted by the question of whether or not to go ahead and terminate the pregnancy.

I am pro-choice. I adamantly reject the idea that a woman should be forced to have a baby under any circumstances. As it is right now, most states only allow abortions in the case of rape, incest or threat to the mother’s health. I would hate to think that any woman would be denied the right to terminate a pregnancy that was going to kill her, or where she would be having the child of her rapist, forever tying her to the man who raped her, or where her child would also be her half-sister or -brother, for instance.

But I am also pro-life. I firmly believe that all life is sacred. However, I also happen to be against capital punishment and war, when, strangely enough, many pro-lifers are not. I also fail to see where the life of the mother is not as important as the life of her baby, maybe even more so if she has other children who need her.

And yet, there is a part of me that believes that sometimes a person has to make a hard decision, one that would normally be left to God, and that is to terminate a pregnancy when the results are going to be traumatic.

One thing that makes me crazy about people who are anti-abortion is their refusal to admit that some babies are not wanted, not loved and not cared for. What good does it do to force a woman to have a severely handicapped child when she doesn’t have the resources necessary for her to care for the child properly? Is someone going to step in and take over the responsibility? Not likely. (And those resources can be physical, psychological, mental, social, educational or economic.)

What if a woman with Down Syndrome gets pregnant? Are we supposed to force her to have a baby she can’t raise by herself (if at all)? And what about a woman who already has other children whose lives would be negatively impacted by the arrival of a severely handicapped brother or sister? (In other words, why would the fetus’ rights take precedence over children’s who are already born?)

The thing is, there are not clear-cut answers for these questions. Every woman’s situation is different and she has the right to decide how much she can handle. And, most importantly, she should not be made to feel guilty if she chooses the alternative that people who don’t even know her think she should.

My daughter was spared from having to decide whether or not to have an abortion because the baby died naturally. But if she had decided to have an abortion, she would have been branded by some people as a “baby-killer.” People who are anti-abortion say no matter what the problem, the baby should be carried as long as possible, even if it dies in utero or at birth. Anything less and you’ve committed murder.

I say that’s nonsense. And it’s cruel.

Continue reading “A True Story About Loss and Making Hard Decisions”

Straight Talk About Abortion

People who are against abortion try to enlist people to their cause by spreading misinformation about abortion.

Ms. Magazine Blog published two articles in 2010 listing the most common myths about abortion. The myths are below. If you believe that any of these statements are true, please go here and here for the facts that refute them.

Myth 1: Even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion would still be legal.

Myth 2: American women are able to have legal abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy in all 50 states.

Myth 3: Women who have abortions are selfish and self-centered.

Myth 4: Abortions cause pain for the fetus.

Myth 5: Abortions are readily available across the country.

Myth 6: Abortion is a very dangerous procedure.

Myth 7: Abortion providers are in it to make a lot of money.

Myth 8: If a woman doesn’t want to have a child, she should use contraception or abstain.

Myth 9: Women have multiple abortions rather than using birth control.

Myth 10: Many women who have had abortions are traumatized and suffer from “post-abortion stress syndrome.”

Myth 11: Making abortion illegal will stop abortion.

Myth 12: Abortion causes breast cancer.

Myth 13: Pregnancy as a result of either rape or incest is extremely rare.

Myth 14: Emergency contraception causes abortions.

Myth 15: Having an abortion can cause infertility.

Myth 16. Pro-choice activists promote abortion.

Myth 17. Adoption is an alternative to abortion.

Myth 18. More contraception leads to more unintended pregnancies and more abortion.

Myth 19: It is impossible to be personally opposed to abortion and be pro-choice.

Myth 20: All religions believe abortion is a sin.

My personal take on the issue is that there are some valid reasons for having an abortion. Because of that, I don’t believe that women should have the right to decide whether or not to have an abortion taken away from them. Whether men like it or not, having a baby is a woman’s issue and should be her decision. If she doesn’t feel that she can handle having that particular baby, whether it’s because it’s the result of incest or rape, it suffers from a condition that will kill or severely handicap it or it will cause undue hardship for the woman, then she should not be forced to go through with the pregnancy.

We need to realize that if abortion is made illegal (again) in this country, women will have no choice but to bear children they don’t want or don’t feel equipped to handle. That’s a pretty heavy issue that the anti-abortion contingent isn’t willing to address. Why do they think that they have the right to tell a woman that she has to go through the trauma of giving birth to a baby that is their own half-brother or sister, or who will be the child of her rapist, or who is not going to survive long after it’s born?

Many people who are against abortion think that it’s always better to give birth even if the baby will be unwanted, uncared-for or abandoned. They always imagine a rosy future for the child. But too often that’s not the reality. We can’t force unfit or unprepared mothers to give their babies up for adoption, nor is that always a sure thing. (Who is going to adopt a child with severe handicaps, for instance?)

Terminating a pregnancy is not something that a woman takes lightly. The average woman will avoid abortion at all costs. Women who do have abortions are not monsters. Nor are the people who help them through the procedure. No one celebrates when an abortion is performed.

It’s obviously much better if every baby is wanted and raised in a positive environment. But all we have to do is look at the statistic on child abuse to know that that doesn’t always happen.

For a more personal look at abortion (my own), read “A Personal Story.”

Why You Should Care About Reproductive Rights

Just because a person is pro-birth control does not automatically mean that he or she is pro-abortion. I wish pro-lifers would get that through their heads. Some groups like the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and the Family Research Council are pushing for changes to the health reform bill that would make it harder for women to get birth control. The bill, as it now stands, provides women with birth control coverage as preventive care. Get it? It’s to prevent pregnancies and the fewer unintended pregnancies, the fewer abortions. Why isn’t everyone behind that?

But the Catholic Church and various right-wing pro-life groups insist that birth control is a “lifestyle” choice, and that women therefore do not have a right to it. That’s ludicrous. Couldn’t you say that any kind of medical or dental check-up or procedure is a lifestyle choice? After all, no one says that you have to have screenings for various cancers, but let’s face it, if you don’t and you end up with end-stage cancer, your health costs are going to be much higher than they would be if you had caught the cancer in its early stages.

The same goes for preventing pregnancy. Birth control coverage is a lot less expensive than the costs associated with pregnancy.  The average hospital bill is $5,000-$10,000 for a vaginal delivery. Add at least $2,000 if you need a C-section. These figures do not include the medical costs associated with nine months of prenatal visits, ultrasound costs and other lab costs. If your baby is born premature or with health problems, neonatal costs can range from a few thousand for a short stay to more than $200,000 if your baby is born more than 15 weeks early. And that’s not even taking into account the costs you incur after having the baby! [Source:  Cost of Having a Baby.]

One reason pro-lifers are against birth control is because some of them think that birth control causes “mini-abortions,”  (i.e., they cause fertilized eggs to be expelled from the uterus before implantation can take place). While that might be true of some forms of birth control, there are many other options that definitely do not. (It’s also important to note that this can happen naturally, causing what is known as “spontaneous abortions.”)

The National Women’s Health Information Center provides a fairly exhaustive list of birth control methods on their website. Some of the methods they list do not have abortive mechanisms, some of the methods they list do have abortive mechanisms, and the rest of the listed methods are subjects of much debate. [Source.]

The United States has the highest rate of unintended pregnancies of any other industrialized country. (Nearly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned. [Source.]) And that’s in a country where abortion is legal. It’s estimated that 4 in 10 unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. If those pregnancies were prevented in the first place, 1.2 million abortions a year would be eliminated. [Source.] So why is anyone in their right mind against birth control coverage in health care plans?

Obviously, if you’re one of the 4.8 million in the U.S. who doesn’t have any health care coverage at all, you’re going to find it even more difficult to pay for birth control. Is it any surprise then that 42% of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children)?  And that 27% of women obtaining abortions have incomes between 100-199% of the federal poverty level?

You don’t have to be pro-abortion to be pro-birth control. But if you don’t want to be in a position where you have to decide whether or not to have an abortion, then you need to care about your reproductive rights. Don’t let conservatives take away the only means that most women have to prevent pregnancy. (Abstinence is not an option for most women. Forty-six percent of women who have abortions had not used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant. Of these women, 33% had perceived themselves to be at low risk for pregnancy, 32% had had concerns about contraceptive methods, 26% had had unexpected sex and 1% had been forced to have sex. [Source.])

Women can and should control their own fertility. We are the ones who have to be responsible. In a perfect world, men and women, conservatives and liberals, pro-lifers and pro-choicers would work together to make sure that every baby is not only wanted, but cared for. But until that day comes, we need to be aware of what is being done to erode our reproductive rights and to fight against it.