Anti-Abortion Movement Takes A State-By-State Approach
The “war on women” continued on Monday when a new controversial Kansas abortion rule took effect requiring abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood to link their websites to a state Department of Health and Environment web page on abortion and fetal development.
In addition to the link, abortion providers are now required to include a statement on their website stating that any information found on the state’s abortion website is not only “objective” but is “scientifically accurate.”
Planned Parenthood expressed concern about the requirement because the state’s abortion website contains a statement that a fetus feels pain by the 20th week of pregnancy — a claim that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says they don’t have evidence to back up.
Last month, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement that pointed to a 2005 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that said “it’s unlikely a fetus perceives pain” as early as 20 weeks and that “no studies since 2005 demonstrate fetal recognition of pain.”
Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit saying the website requirements were a violation of their First Amendment rights. On Friday, Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood, saying the website requirement could not be enforced at least until a lawsuit filed by two Kansas doctors who perform abortions was resolved.
Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, are challenging the entirety of the state’s new abortion laws. Crotty ruled that until their lawsuit was resolved, the website requirement should not be enforced.
But on Sunday, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil ruled that Planned Parenthood had to follow the website requirements. While Vratil said the website rule will likely be overturned in a federal court since “non-patients” visit sites like Planned Parenthood, she decided the state could enforce the “overbroad” rule because the group didn’t prove they would suffer irreparable harm by doing so.
Mary Kay Culp is the executive director of Kansans For Life, a large and powerful anti-abortion group in Kansas. She said that abortion providers “scream, ‘The sky is falling,’ no matter how reasonable” an abortion bill is.
She said that website rule is important because “women have a right to know” about fetal development, the risks of abortion and alternatives to it.
In addition to the website requirements, Kansas’ new abortion law also banned sex-selection abortions, blocked tax breaks for abortion providers, prohibited abortion providers from providing materials or instructors to public-school health classes, and enacted a general policy that life begins “at fertilization.”
Abortion legislation contested across the U.S.
The phenomenon of stricter abortion laws is not limited to Kansas.
Last week, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) made headlines when she attempted to filibuster a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill also would have shut down all but five of the state’s 42 abortion clinics by requiring that abortions only occur in facilities equipped with a surgical center.
An amendment seeking an exemption in cases of rape or incest was denied, as the bill’s author, state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), said such an amendment was not necessary.
“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out,” she said, insinuating errantly that the procedure in which physical evidence is collected in cases of sexual assault would prevent a woman from getting pregnant.
In North Carolina, state legislators passed a bill last week that would require teachers to instruct students that having an abortion will cause a woman to have premature births later in life. If signed into law, students will be taught starting in seventh grade that abortion causes preterm births, which can lead to development complications and even death for the unborn fetus.
Students will also be taught about of the consequences that can result if the mother doesn’t seek adequate prenatal care or decides to smoke, consume alcohol or use illicit drugs during her pregnancy.
Opponents of the “abortion education” bill argue that there is no evidence that abortions lead to future pregnancy issues. The language of the bill has since been adjusted to change “cause” to “risk.”
In Ohio on Monday, the signing of the state’s two-year budget bill included five anti-abortion provisions that will “defund Planned Parenthood clinics, reallocate family planning funding to right-wing ‘crisis pregnancy centers,’ strip funding from rape crisis centers that give their clients any information about abortion services, impose harsh restrictions on abortion clinics that will force many of them to shut down, and require doctors to give women seeking abortion information about the presence of a ‘fetal heartbeat.’”
In response to the passage of the new laws in Ohio — which are thought to be the most strict in the U.S. — Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said politicians are sneaking restrictive abortion-related laws into other bills because they know that’s the only way to pass them.
“Like Governor Perry in Texas, politicians in Ohio knew they couldn’t pass these unpopular measures if they played by the rules — that’s why they tried to bury these provisions in the pages of a must-pass state budget,” she said.
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