Encouraged by its stolen Supreme Court majority, the Republican Party is winning the war on women, blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving as much as $60 million in Title X funds, and testing the limits of Roe v. Wade with a series of extreme abortion bans.
The 2016 Republican Party platform was hailed by the right as the most pro-life in the party’s 162-year history, calling for anti-abortion Supreme Court justices; defunding organizations that perform or refer for elective abortions, especially Planned Parenthood; and criminalization of fetal tissue research.
It also praised state laws that restrict abortion, including parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation, setting up abortion as an ideological purity test.
After the confirmation of accused sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Republicans did not disappoint.
Defunding Planned Parenthood
Conservatives won a big victory last Thursday in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which allowed the Trump administration’s controversial family planning rules to take effect immediately while several lawsuits play out.
The new rules effectively block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds through the Title X program. Title X provides vital healthcare services for more than 4 million low income Americans, including:
- Birth control
- Breast cancer screening
- Cervical cancer screening
- Contraceptive education
- Testing and treatment for STDs
A panel of three judges, all appointed by Republican presidents, agreed that the rules are necessary to prevent taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers are already prohibited from using Title X funds for abortion.
Known as a domestic gag rule, the new rules:
- Require a clear financial and physical separation between Title X funded programs and facilities that provide abortion services.
- Prohibit referral for abortion.
- Remove the requirement that Title X funded programs offer abortion counseling.
Planned Parenthood has said it is cannot comply. Similar rules were upheld by the Supreme Court nearly 30 years ago, but were reversed by the Clinton administration before taking effect.
Opponents of the new rules, including the American Medical Association, Washington state’s attorney general, and Planned Parenthood, continued the legal battle by filing emergency petitions to reinstate the motion that previously blocked implementation.
Abortion Ban: Testing Roe v. Wade
Republican run states across the nation are testing the limits of Roe v. Wade with a series of laws that ban abortion at 6-8 weeks weeks, before most women know they are pregnant.
It’s hard to decide which abortion ban would cause the most harm.
When it takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020, a Georgia law could turn women into murders, and their loved ones into accomplices, simply for seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy after 6 weeks.
Meanwhile, Missouri could become the first state in the country with without access to abortion services. A Planned Parenthood location in St. Louis is the last clinic in Missouri that performs abortions, and state officials are trying desperately to shut it down.
It’s a familiar tactic in the Republican Party’s war against women—regulate abortion providers out of existence. Six states have only one clinic that provides abortion, including Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
In most other states, the number is dropping. Rapidly.
No Exceptions for Rape or Incest
But in the latest anti-abortion wave, red states are opting for a less subtle approach. These laws prohibit abortion after 6 weeks, with exceptions only for the life of the mother.
Most women find out they’re pregnant during the 4th to 7th week of pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Here’s a few details on the newest bans:
- Alabama. Bans abortions at anytime, unless the woman’s life is threatened.
- Kentucky. Bans abortion after 6 weeks, unless the woman’s life is threatened.
- Louisiana. Bans abortion after 6 weeks, unless the woman’s life is threatened or the pregnancy is medically futile.
- Mississippi. Bans abortion after 6 weeks, unless the woman’s life is threatened.
- Missouri. Bans abortion after 8 weeks, unless the woman’s life is threatened.
- Ohio. Bans abortion after 6 weeks, unless the woman’s life is threatened.
We’re obviously living in the Upside Down because, in contrast, Arkansas and Utah are relatively moderate. Arkansas bans abortion after 18 weeks, but allows exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
Utah takes a similar approach. Signed into law last March, HB 136 aligns with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which allows abortion after rape or incest, and to preserve the life of the mother.
The state bans abortion after 18 weeks, but allows exceptions for the life of the mother, and rape or incest if the doctor performing the abortion verifies the incident was reported to law enforcement.
That puts a heavy burden on sexual assault victims after a deeply traumatic incident, but in 2019 it almost qualifies as kindness.
Birth Control Is Wildly Popular, And Under Attack
In an increasingly polarized society, how much further right will the GOP slide? Hopefully El Salvator, where thousands of women sit on death row for having miscarriages, doesn’t provide a clue.
The GOP is a well developed echo chamber with an ecosystem of far right personalities on the internet, television, and radio. Donald Trump superfans can comfortably move through the world without ever hearing an opinion left of George Wallace.
The GOP is unlikely to be satisfied with anything short of a nationwide ban on abortion. But modern contraceptives, which radical anti-abortion activists refer to as abortifascents, could be next on the GOP agenda.
The pill and IUDs can prevent the implantation of fertilized embryos, they say, causing de facto abortion.
Contraceptives are wildly popular, with support from 94% of Democrats, 87% of independents, and 87% of Republicans, according to a 2016 poll by Gallup.
Still, last November the Trump administration weakened the Obamacare mandate that insurance companies cover birth control, and last month Ohio held hearings on a bill that would ban insurance coverage of abortion and unspecified birth control methods.
If the GOP copies the anti-abortion playbook by regulating contraceptives out of reach for most Americans, don’t count on Republican voters, or the Supreme Court, to save us.
We’re one catastrophe away from having a 6-3 conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, or, God forbid, 7-2.
The oldest justices, 86-year old Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and 80-year-old Stephen Breyer, are half the liberal minority. Americans are living longer than ever, but I don’t like those odds.
Hold onto your birth control, ya’ll, and be ready to fight for your rights.