Monday, December 03, 2012

Legal, But Blocked

The trouble began when in August, 1996 when the man who later would be embroiled in a scandal involving a female White House intern (a cheap shot, but warranted) declared "Abortion should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare."

If progressives had at that time recognized the huge loophole in women's rights that created, they might at least have complained that President Clinton neglected to add that abortion is safe.  Or it is at least relatively safe, given that abortion has been less risky than childbirth for the pregnant woman for several decades.  In January, US News found that a study led by Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, found in pregnancy 8.8 deaths per 100,000 and in legal abortion, 0.6 deaths per 100,000.   That would be safer by a factor of 14.

In September, an otherwise reliably liberal attorney and syndicated columnist Margaret Carlson asked in frustration "Why has the party removed the sentence 'Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare' from its platform? It was in the 2004 document but not in 2008’s or this year’s. Can’t Democrats just throw a crumb to the many millions who are pro-choice but not pro-abortion?"  Carlson went on to maintain "Walk into any neonatal unit and you’ll see newborns weighing 2 pounds; they’ll be playing basketball one day."  (She might have said "conducting a symphony orchestra, performing open heart surgery, or arguing a case before the United States Supreme Court."  She might instead have opted for "playing baseball or football one day," but instead chose "basketball."   Conclude whatever you wish.)

Events in the state of Kansas or, as Rachel Maddow doubtless would put it, provide a clue as to why Democrats have found that "safe, legal, and rare" provides little relief from the roadblocks placed in the path of women wanting to exercise reproductive rights. In May, Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a measure extending the state's conscience clause to create a right of a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription he or she "reasonably believes may result in the termination of a pregnancy.  Two months later, the Associated Press found

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration plans to enact new regulations for abortion providers, possibly identical to ones blocked by a federal judge, and providers appear likely to challenge them in court.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment already had plans for a new set of rules even as it finished regulations that would have taken effect Friday. The agency described the first set as temporary, which allowed it to avoid taking public comments and get the rules in place within weeks, though they could remain in effect afterward for only four months. The next set of rules would be considered permanent and require public comment.

A new state law requires abortion providers to obtain a special annual license from the health department. The agency’s accompanying regulations would tell providers what drugs and equipment they must stock, require them to make patients’ medical records available for inspection, establish qualifications for staff, set minimum sizes for some rooms and limit the temperatures in procedure and recovery rooms.

Efforts to circumvent Roe v. Wade continue throughout the nation.   In July, Reuters reported

American women face increasing legal obstacles to obtaining abortions as more states pass laws restricting access, some so stringent they approach a ban on the procedure, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The New York-based advocacy group cited nearly 40 laws enacted across 15 states this year having the potential to restrict women's access to reproductive health care, nearly 40 years after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade made the controversial procedure legal.

Among the measures are some the group claims seek to ban abortion by imposing rules so burdensome upon women and providers it is nearly impossible to comply.

Mississippi and Tennessee passed such measures this year. The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged the constitutionality of Mississippi's new law, which requires abortion providers to be certified in obstetrics and gynecology and have hospital admitting privileges.

Now from some of the folks who preach fiscal responsibility:

Michigan lawmakers are considering legislation that would let parents claim a tax deduction for fetuses, extending them the same benefits as children.

House bills 5684 and 5685 would amend the state's tax code to include fetuses that have completed at least 12 weeks gestation as of the last day of the tax year as "dependents."  Doing so would allow the fetus' tax-paying parents-to-be to save an estimated $160 on their taxes.  Critics of the bill, which had its first hearing in the House Tax Policy Committee on November 20, say that such a law is just another way to make it harder for women in Michigan to get abortions.

"It is a backdoor attempt to get personhood for a fetus," said Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for the ACLU of Michigan.  "These are just ways to begin to build the record, so one day they can say there's enough in our legislative history to say that the intent is to say that a fetus is a person."

And in Arizona, life begins before conception.  Legislation signed by Governor Jan Brewer in April and which took effect in August

calculate(s) a woman's pregnancy as starting the very first day of the last menstrual period, reports the Daily Beast, which could be two weeks before the actual conception.

Women usually ovulate (and conceive) two weeks after the start of their last period.  By saying that pregnancy starts two weeks before conception, Arizona;s new law narrow the window in which a woman can get an abortion.

The pattern of reducing a woman's access to abortion, block the ability of the medical profession to meet the demand for the procedure, or persuade a vulnerable woman to carry a fetus to term is continuing, partly because Republicans in 2013 will control more state legislatures than will Democrats and will occupy 31 governor's seats.    "Safe, legal, and rare," however sincere or calculating on the part of Bill Clinton, sounded lofty and inoffensive in 1996.   But with activists and politicians who refuse to admit that abortion is safe for the pregnant woman and largely constitutionally protected for the first two trimesters, it now is clearly balderdash.

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