On the 41st anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to govern their own bodies, there’s good news for reproductive rights and bad news. Let’s start with the good news: there are now many more birth control options for women than there were in 1973. The morning-after pill, medication abortion, and many new low-dose, longer-lasting birth control pills, just to name a few. In addition, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) there are no co-pays for birth control as it is seen as preventative care.
But the good news pretty much stops there. The bad news is that opponents of abortion, frustrated by their failed attempts to overturn Roe, are turning to state legislatures and the courts to limit women’s reproductive rights. Anti-choice advocates have devised ways to go around Roe by limiting access to services by getting laws passed that make it difficult—and expensive—for clinics to provide the services that are constitutionally protected by Roe. While not able to ban abortion, these laws require clinics to jump through hoops, such as mandating hallway width, doctors having admitting privileges in local hospitals, certain numbers of parking spaces, covered entryways, or specialized HVAC systems.
Due to these laws and new restrictions, clinics are shutting down across the country at an alarming rate. Some 200 measures in 30 states over the last three years have forced more than 50 clinics to shut down. These closures also create a ripple effect of overburdening the other clinics in the area. Pro-choice advocates call these laws “TRAP” laws, or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, because clinics cannot comply and are forced to shut down.
“In many states, antiabortion legislators have mostly exhausted legal means to badger women into not seeking an abortion, for instance, by requiring multiple in-person visits or mandating biased counseling and medically unnecessary ultrasound exams,” says Rachel Benson Gold, co-author of a recent Guttmacher Institute Report, an organization that tracks reproductive trends. “A wave of laws is now bluntly focused on driving providers out of business via a thicket of regulations designed not to benefit patients but, as some of their proponents admit openly, to make it impossible for many providers to come into compliance.”
Although the ACA makes birth control free, and more widely available, this stipulation is not without controversy. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit brought by the privately-owned retail chain, Hobby Lobby, because the owners of the chain are against contraception that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. Should we really have employers with devout religious convictions determining what kind of health care coverage their employees have? Where is the line between church and state?
And then there are the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Little Sisters, an order of Catholic nuns, are also challenging the ACA requirement that employers provide coverage for birth control. Under the law, religious-affiliated organizations do not have to provide contraception to their employees, but they must sign a form saying they object which passes the mandate onto the insurer. The nuns are refusing to sign the form and now this case is in court.
It is so interesting to me that lost in the debate is what happens after the child is born. Anti-choice advocates are so focused on how the fetus is treated for the first few months and not on the life of the person once he or she is born. Every child should start life being wanted by his or her parents. Parenthood is much longer than 24 weeks.
No one should tell a woman to have an abortion, or to take birth control for that matter, but the opportunity to make that choice should be hers and hers alone. Not the legislators, not the judges, not employers, and no, not even the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Ann Ormsby is the author of The Recovery Room, a novel that explores the topic of choice. Available on Amazon.com.
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