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“State Sanctioned Rape”: When States Abuse Women

Here’s what a woman in Texas now faces if she seeks an abortion.

Under a new law that took effect three weeks ago with the strong backing of Gov. Rick Perry, she first must typically endure an ultrasound probe inserted into her vagina. Then she listens to the audio thumping of the fetal heartbeat and watches the fetus on an ultrasound screen.

She must listen to a doctor explain the body parts and internal organs of the fetus as they’re shown on the monitor. She signs a document saying that she understands all this, and it is placed in her medical files. Finally, she goes home and must wait 24 hours before returning to get the abortion.

“It’s state-sanctioned abuse,” said Dr. Curtis Boyd, a Texas physician who provides abortions. “It borders on a definition of rape. Many states describe rape as putting any object into an orifice against a person’s will. Well, that’s what this is. A woman is coerced to do this, just as I’m coerced.”

“The state of Texas is waging war on women and their families,” Dr. Boyd added. “The new law is demeaning and disrespectful to the women of Texas, and insulting to the doctors and nurses who care for them.”

That law is part of a war over women’s health being fought around the country — and in much of the country, women are losing. State by state, legislatures are creating new obstacles to abortions and are treating women in ways that are patronizing and humiliating.

Twenty states now require abortion providers to conduct ultrasounds first in some situations, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization. The new Texas law is the most extreme to take effect so far, but similar laws have been passed in North Carolina and Oklahoma and are on hold pending legal battles.

Alabama, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Mississippi are also considering Texas-style legislation bordering on state-sanctioned rape. And what else do you call it when states mandate invasive probes in women’s bodies?

“If you look up the term rape, that’s what it is: the penetration of the vagina without the woman’s consent,” said Linda Coleman, an Alabama state senator who is fighting the proposal in her state. “As a woman, I am livid and outraged.”

States put in place a record number of new restrictions on abortions last year, Guttmacher says. It counts 92 new curbs in 24 states.

“It was a debacle,” Elizabeth Nash, who manages state issues for Guttmacher, told me. “It’s been awful. Last year was unbelievable. We’ve never seen anything like it.”

Yes, there have been a few victories for women. The notorious Virginia proposal that would have required vaginal ultrasounds before an abortion was modified to require only abdominal ultrasounds.

Yet over all, the pattern has been retrograde: humiliating obstacles to abortions, cuts in family-planning programs, and limits on comprehensive sex education in schools.

If Texas legislators wanted to reduce abortions, the obvious approach would be to reduce unwanted pregnancies. The small proportion of women and girls who aren’t using contraceptives account for half of all abortions in America, according to Guttmacher. Yet Texas has some of the weakest sex-education programs in the nation, and last year it cut spending for family planning by 66 percent.

The new Texas law was passed last year but was held up because of a lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights. In a scathing opinion, Judge Sam Sparks of Federal District Court described the law as “an attempt by the Texas legislature to discourage women from exercising their constitutional rights.” In the end, the courts upheld the law, and it took effect last month.

It requires abortion providers to give women a list of crisis pregnancy centers where, in theory, they can get unbiased counseling and in some cases ultrasounds. In fact, these centers are often set up to ensnare pregnant women and shame them or hound them if they are considering abortions.

“They are traps for women, set up by the state of Texas,” Dr. Boyd said.

The law then requires the physician to go over a politicized list of so-called dangers of abortion, like “the risks of infection and hemorrhage” and “the possibility of increased risk of breast cancer.” Then there is the mandated ultrasound, which in the first trimester normally means a vaginal ultrasound. Doctors sometimes seek vaginal ultrasounds before an abortion, with the patient’s consent, but it’s different when the state forces women to undergo the procedure.

The best formulation on this topic was Bill Clinton’s, that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Achieving that isn’t easy, and there is no silver bullet to reduce unwanted pregnancies. But family planning and comprehensive sex education are a surer path than demeaning  vulnerable women with state-sanctioned abuse and humiliation.

 

By: Nicholas Kristoff, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 3, 2012

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Abortion, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Utah House Passes Bill To Allow Schools To Skip Sex Education

A bill to allow Utah schools to drop sex education classes — and prohibit instruction in the use of contraception in those that keep the courses — moved significantly closer to becoming law Wednesday. The House passed HB363 by a 45-28 vote after a late-afternoon debate that centered largely on lawmakers’ differing definitions of morality.

“We’ve been culturally watered down to think we have to teach about sex, about having sex and how to get away with it, which is intellectually dishonest,” said bill sponsor Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden. “Why don’t we just be honest with them upfront that sex outside marriage is devastating?”

It was a viewpoint that met with equal conviction from those opposed to the bill.

“You cannot speak of abstinence without talking to students about methods of birth control that are not certain, about protecting oneself from [sexually transmitted diseases] and all the things that can happen in a negative sense to a young person who engages in sex ,” said Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay. “It’s really immoral not to teach kids about what the consequences are.”

Over the course of nearly an hour, lawmakers took turns trying to change the bill. Ultimately, the version the House passed would allow school districts to forgo teaching about sex altogether.

Lawmakers also, however, changed the bill on the House floor to prohibit schools that continue to teach sex education from instructing students in “the use of contraceptive methods or devices.” It was a change from the version that passed out of committee earlier this month that would have prohibited “instruction in the advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices.”

Wright said the version of the bill that passed Wednesday would prohibit instruction in contraception, although teachers could respond to student questions about the matter.

It would be a big shift from current law, which prohibits only the advocacy of contraceptive use. Current law requires high schools to teach sex education, allowing them to choose whether to simply stress abstinence or teach abstinence-only.

 

By: Lisa Schencker, The Salt Lake Tribune, February 22, 2012

February 25, 2012 Posted by | Women's Health | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The GOP Health Care Assault On Planned Parenthood Exposes The Hypocrisy Of The Pro-Life Movement

I tend not to get involved in discussions on abortion because I have never been able to resolve the conflict which comes from understanding both sides of this difficult issue. I understand those who believe in the pro-choice approach. Certainly, a woman wants, needs and deserves to be in control of her own body and make the decisions that she believes are best.

But I also get the pro-life movement. If an individual believes that a life is ‘in being’ at the moment of conception, I can well appreciate the distress such a person would feel over such a life being terminated.

What I cannot understand is how the very people who are so profoundly committed to the pro-life movement seem to lose all care, concern and compassion for that life once the child is born into the world.

Nowhere is this hypocrisy more prominently on display than in the current war being waged by the GOP on Planned Parenthood – the organization that spends 97% of their efforts and money providing millions of impoverished American women with critical front-line health care, essential medical testing to discover disease before it is too late to successfully treat a patient, and the very family planning and sex education services that might help women avoid an unwanted pregnancy and thus moot the question of abortion.

Yes, the remaining 3% of the Planned Parenthood budget is dedicated to providing abortion services but, contrary to what the anti-abortion forces would have you believe, not one cent of taxpayer money – federal or state – pays for so much as an IV needle used in an abortion procedure. The legal prohibition against taxpayer money being spent on abortions is as clearly enforced as the Roe v. Wade decision that confirms a woman’s right to choose in the United States.

Despite the important work done by Planned Parenthood – and the lives they save – the GOP has made it a cornerstone of their social agenda to put this vital service to the working and non-working poor out of business.

Should you doubt that the organization does, in fact, save lives, take a look at this letter written by Maggie Davis of Saratoga Springs in response to her Congressman’s voting to defund Planned Parenthood.

I am writing this in answer to Congressman Gibson’s vote against the funding for Planned Parenthood. I have no idea why he did this. Regardless of the pro and con of Planned Parenthood, they do save lives. I speak from experience.In the early ’70s I went to Planned Parenthood here for a checkup and they found something that was wrong and advised me to see my doctor right away. I did and within one month I had to have surgery to save my life. I would not be here today writing this letter. If it were not for Planned Parenthood and Dr. Streit of Saratoga, I would be dead. I will always be thankful to Planned Parenthood for discovering something and telling me to go to my doctor.

Mr. Gibson, I think you should take another look at how many lives Planned Parenthood does save. When we voted for you, we expected you to work for the taxpayers who pay you.

Maggie Davis, Saratoga Springs

Via The Saratogian

So, how do the pro-life forces defend their position that Planned Parenthood must go because, on occasion, they perform medical procedures that end what these folks perceive to be lives in being while fully understanding that closing the organization’s doors will result in the loss of lives of women we know are in being?

How did the 240 Members of the House of Representatives (a total which included 10 Democrats) justify their votes when they passed a bill in February to defund Planned Parenthood knowing that while their vote may or may not have resulted in a few less abortions had the Senate agreed (they did not), that same vote would also take the lives of people like Maggie Davis as a result of the legislation?

Had the House had their way, how many additional abortions would result – under conditions one shudders to contemplate – due to the loss of the counseling services designed to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies?

Now, as we watch the GOP assault on Medicaid – the federal and state funded health program relied on by over 40% of women who visit Planned Parenthood – one is left to wonder just how much of this drive to destroy the state-based medical safety net is based on actual budgetary concerns or whether budget difficulties are simply a cover for the effort to win the battle against legal abortion.

And while we are looking at the questions, maybe someone can answer how the eleven states that have either passed or introduced legislation this year designed to ban groups like Planned Parenthood from receiving family-planning funding or prevent them from contracting with the state for payment for services provided by these organizations, justify their own actions?

The simple truth is that there is no rational way to conclude that these alleged pro-life forces are, in fact, pro-life as it is difficult to fathom how one can desire to protect the life of the unborn by sacrificing the life of the already born. If you believe in protecting the unborn, does it not necessarily follow that you are equally as concerned about protecting the lives of those already here in the flesh.

What I can work out is how pro-life politicians are, in reality, ‘pro’ their political careers and are more than willing to sacrifice the lives of the poor who rely on the services of Planned Parenthood to burnish their anti-abortion credentials.

Seriously, does it get any worse than that? Making the matter even more despicable is the reliance upon religion as the basis for the pro-life consciousness. I fully understand and respect that religions teach that taking the lives of the unborn is morally wrong just as I understand and respect that it is up to each individual to hear those teachings or not. This is the way we roll in America.

Yet, I am aware of nothing in any of the competing religious tomes suggesting that while is it essential to protect the unborn so that they may have life, protecting those currently here so that they might continue life is no big deal. I’m also pretty sure that the Bible does not endorse allowing people to get sick and die because ‘we can’t afford it.’

Here’s a thought for those dedicated GOP ‘fighters for life’ – show a little consistency and maybe you’ll have more success in convincing the public that your closely held religious beliefs are something more than just the worst kind of cynical and despicable politics.

Show you are as concerned for the lives and health of those already walking the planet as you profess to be for those who have not yet arrived. Then, and only then, can any one willing to scrutinize your motives view you as the God fearing, compassionate human beings you pretend to be.

Failing the same, even the most religious and zealous among us should not, in good conscious, avoid the fact that our elected officials are picking and choosing between the lives they save and the lives they sacrifice in the name of good politics.

If your beliefs lie with the pro-life side of the abortion issue, I respect that. I encourage you to continue your fight just as I heartily support both your right and need to do so.

But don’t effectuate that fight by requiring the taking of the lives and health of others because you have not yet won your battle.

While you may be right that compassion for life must begin with conception, there is no logical or emotional basis that suggests that the same compassion should end with birth.

Tell your elected representatives to back off on Planned Parenthood. Then, and only then can you truly be among those who are pro-life.

By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, June 13, 2011

June 14, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Anti-Choice, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Health Care, Human Rights, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Planned Parenthood, Politics, Pro-Choice, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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