The XX Factor

Some Good News for Pro-Choicers

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Every since Republicans swept up on the state level in the 2010 elections, it’s been one depressing news story after another regarding abortion rights. State-level Republicans seem determined to make abortion legal in name only, and certainly not something that the 1 in 3 women who will get one in her lifetime can simply just get safely without enduring humiliation and excessive expenses – and that’s if she can get an abortion at all. So it’s truly refreshing to finally be able to report some good news on the abortion rights front, and in fact, report on two good stories.  

First of all, a federal judge has blocked implementation of Texas’ new ultrasound law pending a court case, luckily before a single patient was subjected to the onerous restrictions. The law would have required women to listen to a condescending lecture about abortion (from a doctor who doesn’t even agree!), put through a medically unnecessary sonogram using the vaginal probe instead of a less invasive technique, and then sent home for 24 hours to think about what a naughty girl she is. After going through this little GOP-scripted S & M ritual, then a woman would be allowed her abortion. The Center for Reproductive Rights is fighting the law on freedom of speech grounds, because mandating that independent citizens recite government propaganda they disagree with in order to use their court-protected reproductive rights crosses the First Amendment in all sorts of ways.

It’s worth noting, since this always comes up in discussion about ultrasounds, that forcing women to endure unnecessary vaginal penetration to secure a sonogram picture of the embryo has nothing to do with “informed consent.” To suggest that indicates a belief that women who seek abortions are unaware of what a pregnancy is, which assumes a level of stupidity in women that would realistically make them unable to operate the phone and schedule the appointment in the first place. Second of all, empirical evidence demonstrates women are not as stupid as those who buy into the “informed consent” argument would  have you believe. Researchers have tracked women’s responses when abortion providers offer to show them sonograms performed to determine gestational age, which is something many doctors do as a matter of course anyway, and found that none of the women studied changed their minds, due to prior knowledge that abortion means not being pregnant anymore.  

The other beam of light in the darkness is this NPR report on the Justice Department’s amped-up efforts to prosecute abortion “protesters” who move beyond mere verbal harassment of women entering family planning clinics and into physically obstructing women or employees from entering clinics. (I say “family planning” instead of merely “abortion,” because some clinics being targeted don’t provide abortion but are being targeted for merely providing contraception.) A typical case is like this one, where a man is being charged for what sounds like physically blocking patients from entering the clinic and engaging in some pushing. Obviously, you can count on anti-choice spokesmen to flatly deny that there’s been any physical abuse at these clinic “protests,” but these are the same folks who claim that abortion causes breast cancer and depression, so relying them to accurately portray reality is an unwise move. The DOJ has filed eight suits already against anti-choicers who cross the line from harassment to more overt terrorism, which can be compared to the Bush administration’s record of prosecuting only one case in eight years. Abortion-rights organizations say that the enforcement of laws against minor acts of anti-choice terrorism appears to be working, and it’s keeping the rate of violence down as clinic harassment squads are now truly afraid to cross the line for fear of legal repercussions.