Thursday, March 15, 2012

Loving That Government Bureaucracy

The opponents of "big government" and "excessive regulation" are at it again.

Efforts to restrict the right of a woman to choose an abortion have faced a formidable obstacle, society's increasing acceptance (over the long term) of expanded, more diverse opportunities for women.     But that doesn't mean that women can't be coerced from ending an unwanted pregnancy, only by more indirect, gentle means.    If abortion can't be banned, at least regulatory obstacles can be enacted to limit access, and women shamed for even considering the option.

So it goes in Mississippi, in which doctors at the state's

lone abortion clinic would be required to be certified in obstetrics and gynecology and have privileges to admit patients to local hospitals under a hotly contested bill that passed the House on Tuesday.

During a debate that lasted more than an hour, opponents argued the requirement could close the clinic in Jackson if no doctor could be found to meet the requirement.

About three dozen representatives opposed the bill, arguing it would disproportionally affect poor women who would not be able to afford a trip to a clinic in another state...

House Public Health Committee Chairman Sam Mims V, R-McComb, said hospitals have the right to refuse admitting privileges to physicians, so it's possible that the abortion clinic would find it impossible to come into compliance with the legislation by the July 1 deadline. Two of Jackson's hospitals have Christian affiliation.

Ezra Klein finds the legislation (House Bill 1390), which is expected to pass the state's senate

... also represents a larger, national shift in the type of abortion restrictions that states pass: laws that limit the supply of doctors, instead of demand for the procedure. “Early approaches to restricting abortion access were directed largely at patients — the demand side of the market,” Baruch College’s Theodore Joyce wrote recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Increasingly, however, laws have targeted the supply-side of abortion: the doctors. Both Kansas and Virginia passed stringent new licensing standards for abortion clinics last year. The Kansas regulation requires procedure rooms of at least 150 square feet and janitorial space of 50 square feet. Dressing rooms for patients must have a toilet, washing station and storage for clothing. Virginia has required abortion clinics to comply to hospital standards, which often means widening hallways and expanding procedure rooms.

Meanwhile, in the southwest

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 Monday to endorse a controversial bill that would allow Arizona employers the right to deny health insurance coverage for contraceptives based on religious objections.

Arizona House Bill 2625, authored by Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, would permit employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment.

“I believe we live in America. We don’t live in the  Soviet Union,” Lesko said. “So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

Lesko said this bill responds to a contraceptive mandate in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law March 2010.

“My whole legislation is about our First Amendment rights and freedom of religion,” Lesko said. “All my bill does is that an employer can opt out of the mandate if they have any religious objections.”

Glendale resident Liza Love said the bill would impose on women’s rights to keep their medical records private.

Love spoke to the committee about her struggle with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis, conditions requiring her to use birth control.

“I wouldn’t mind showing my employer my medical records,” Love said. “But there are 10 women behind me that would be ashamed to do so.”

Ms. Lesko helps to break down the gender gap, for now women, too, can promote an end-around the Constitution and limit the ability of women to do as they please with their bodies. And yet, it also would afford to a few perverse male employers the opportunity to probe the sex lives of their female employees.

With remarkable insight, Digby observes 

This is just a straight up slut shaming exercise, designed to make women feel embarrassed about having sex. Back in the bad old days, this was common, but I haven't seen it so blatant since I was young. And it brings up an interesting question. I have long wondered if one of the reasons that a lot of people are as passive about abortion rights as they seem to be is because female sexuality and single motherhood have become so acceptable in society. Since the stigma of being unwed and pregnant was gone, I thought some people might have adopted the view that forced childbirth wasn't that big a deal because any woman could go through nine months of pregnancy and give up the child for adoption if she didn't want to raise it and no one would call her a whore.

If acceptance of abortion rights has been eroded, as Digby observes, (much of) the left shares culpability with (much of) the right.      In a wide swath of society, single motherhood is now a mark of honor and pride, much as wedded motherhood traditionally has been.    It is an improvement upon the days in which bearing a child, and raising him or her alone, was often scandalous, a mark of disgrace and shame bearing severe social stigma.    But the pendulum has swung too far; frequently, single motherhood has not been accepted, as it should be (and always should have been), but glorified.
Perhaps for the left, this radical shift in sentiment was motivated by a needed defense of women and of human sexuality.     For the right, support for conception under all circumstances nearly has become standard.       Whatever the impulse, however, female sexuality and single motherhood have become so acceptable in society.     The woman can give the child up for adoption- or raise the child herself- and be heralded.     That, in turn, has rendered the idea of forced childbirth acceptable to many people and to often to conservatives, quite alluring.

Individuals holding to the latter view traditionally often have resorted to a religious rationale and, in a curious twist, more so now that society has become ever more secular.     Opponents of the DHS ruling in the matter of contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act (initially) complained, however ludicrously, that it abrogated the concept of freedom of religion.      As non-feminist persons of faith, they should (though they won't) bear in mind the words of the most vociferous opponent of HR 1390 in the Mississippi House, who remarked "I don't believe the Legislature should step into the confines of my home and tell me what I can and cannot do with my body. My body belongs to the good Lord and to my husband."

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