Sisterhood Blog

New Abortion Restrictions: Wide in Scope, Sneaky in Passage

By Sarah Seltzer

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Media Matters for America

In some ways, my feminist activist dreams are coming true right now. There’s a populist uprising happening across the country, with marches and flash mobs and occupations, and it’s a feminist one. Through civil disobedience, activists are risking their bodies to save women’s bodies from state control. It’s a beautiful awakening, a proverbial sleeping giant.

But these uprisings are in reaction to a series of new abortion restrictions that are as appalling in scope as they are swift and sneaky in passage. Across the country, women’s ability to access abortion care is dramatically shrinking. By the minute.

Texas politicians came back from the Wendy Davis Filibuster to ram through a raft of anti-choice laws. North Carolina snuck its anti-choice provisions into a motorcycle safety law. Ohio passed a nasty law that requires clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals — but forbids public hospitals from entering into those agreements.

The Ohio bill was parodied in a video that has gone semi-viral because of the truth embedded in its humor:

But how will all this really affect women given that many of these laws contravene Roe v. Wade? Emily Bazelon breaks the results of these measures down at Slate, noting that only some of the laws will be held up in court, but they may really affect patients.

How much is all this affecting women who seek abortions? And if you’re pro-choice, how worried should you be? If you live in a state with a TRAP law that has teeth, clinics may well be shutting down. If there’s a telemedicine ban in effect and you live out in the country, you probably have to drive to a city now to take the pills you need. The overarching point is this: In many red states, abortion is truly becoming less accessible. But as significant as these new laws are, no state has yet succeeded in winning the race to be the first without a clinic. The courts still stand between the legislature and the patient. And for the most part, they are on her side.

And the media isn’t much help. It treats these battles as political footballs (which they certainly are) without paying enough attention to the ramifications for actual patients. Media Matters reports of the Texas measures: “In the two weeks following June 25th, when Sen. Davis filibustered the bill, cable news hosted a total of 92 guests to discuss the bill, only four of whom were women’s health experts.

Rachel Maddow, unsurprisingly, is one pundit who has been unflagging in her coverage of this issue from a health perspective as well as a political one. And her point is that state by state by state, the bills and the subsequent pushback are adding up to be a big freaking deal. “This is a national story that is significant in terms of how it’s going to affect women’s health, women’s lives and American families for generation to come,” she said this week. “This is a national story.”

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