America’s Ongoing Obsession with Controlling Your Uterus: The Saga ContinuesPosted on: April 15, 2018, by : Mary Ann Felt
By Amy Foxworthy
Forty-Five years ago, the nation’s highest court determined that a state cannot ban abortion before viability, or, the point at which a fetus can live outside of the womb, and that states cannot enact restrictions that create an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion. This “undue burden” standard was decided in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, and again in the 2016 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Since then, state-level abortion restrictions have passed that include parental consent requirements for minors, limitations on or elimination of public funding, mandatory counseling to dissuade women from having abortions, a mandatory waiting period before a woman can obtain an abortion, and unnecessary and burdensome regulations on health facilities that perform abortion procedures. Indiana has attempted all of these and more over the past several years.
States in the U.S. enacted 338 new abortion restrictions between 2010 and 2016, making up 30% of the 1,142 abortion restrictions enacted by states since Roe v. Wade in 1973. That is an average of 190 restrictions passed per year.
In 2014, 95% of Indiana counties had no clinics that provided abortions, while 66% of Hoosier women lived in those counties. According to pro-life organization, Right to Life, currently there are abortion centers operating in Merrillville, Lafayette, Indianapolis, and Bloomington; only 4 out of Indiana’s 92 counties.
Choice restrictions in Indiana as of 2018 according to the Guttmacher Institute:
- A woman must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion, and then wait 18 hours before procedure is provided. Counseling must be provided in person and must take place before the waiting period begins, thereby necessitating two trips to the facility.
- The use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion is prohibited.
- The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion is provided.
- A woman must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion; the provider must offer her the option to view the image and hear the heartbeat (facilities sometimes play the heartbeat or show the ultrasound image without first asking if the woman wants to hear or see it).
- An abortion may be performed at 20 weeks postfertilization (22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period) only if the woman’s life or physical health is severely compromised. This law is based on the assertion, which is inconsistent with scientific evidence and has been rejected by the medical community, that a fetus can feel pain at that point in pregnancy.
Emergence of “Crisis Pregnancy Centers”
While watching a recent episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, I noticed that Indiana was listed as one of several states that allowed federally funded “crisis pregnancy centers” to set up their deceptive and manipulative practices in our state. These faith-based facilities spread false information, try to scare women, outright lie about the services they do and do not offer, park mobile sonogram vans outside of Planned Parenthoods, don’t have to register as healthcare providers—allowing them to avoid liability or responsibility, and do not have to comply with privacy (HIPAA) laws. They do not offer birth control, and the only advice they offer is to deliver a child, regardless of circumstance or individual ability to care for a child. Did I mention these facilities receive taxpayer money? That means, not only are these organizations lying to and manipulating the most vulnerable women, but we are paying our money for them to do so. There are more than quadruple the amount of “crisis pregnancy centers” in Indiana than there are facilities that provide abortions.
If a woman was raped, or feels she is not capable financially or physically to care for a child, she has the right to choose whether to keep the child, allow it to be adopted, or have an abortion. No one knows better than that woman and her own family what the best decision is for them. She knows her life circumstances, her financial situation, her employment situation, her level of support, if any, and for most women, it is far from an easy decision. If a woman concludes that terminating a pregnancy is the route best for her, it is most likely something into which she put a great deal of thought and consideration.
There are multiple reasons why a woman might determine that giving birth is not the right choice. Either the pregnancy was unintended, she was a victim of rape, abuse, or incest, or she may have previous children that she struggles to care for, and knows that she cannot financially support yet another child. The reasons may vary, but at the end of the day, those reasons are irrelevant; it is her choice. When she is forced to carry that child to term, the republican-controlled government does not make it easy (or even possible) for that mother of a new baby when she cannot afford to seek many forms of assistance. Paid leave, assistance with childcare, medical bills, frequent baby immunization visits, having to miss work and possibly lose a job, are not things Republican lawmakers are exactly bending over backwards to help new mothers with who find themselves alone and unable to care for a child.
Though most times it is the Republican legislators who tend to vote against measures that allow women to make their own choices about their own bodies, there are certainly exceptions at both the State and Federal levels.
State Senator Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville) has been a champion of women and children’s issues for years. Not afraid of going against her party if she feels it is right, she has voted to defeat bills that were harmful to women or impeded their ability to make the choice best for them. In 2015 there was a bill before the General Assembly that said a woman could not get an abortion if she learned she was carrying a severely deformed fetus. Knowing she could not singlehandedly defeat the bill, Senator Becker did the sensible thing of filing an amendment. Her argument was that if the government could force a woman to raise a severely handicapped child, the State should have to provide health care for the child through the age of 21. The amendment of course did not pass, but Senator Becker had the wisdom to see that this proposed legislation would not only deny women rights, but also result in a tax increase to Hoosiers, because that is ultimately who the cost falls back on when women are forced to have children they cannot support. The government wants to force us to have children when we cannot provide for them, yet the government does not want to be there to help these children once they are born. Instead, we often look for ways to cut funding from programs that could potentially help these families. (2015: SB 344 passed the Senate 35-15, but died in the House. Senator Becker was joined by 3 other Republicans who opposed the bill. The bill came back in 2016 and passed both houses and was signed by then Governor Pence. As of April 2018, the Supreme Court just struck down the law as unconstitutional. A victory for women).
Contrary to the beliefs of some, women were not just put here to grow babies inside of us, give birth and raise children. Some women feel that is not the right life choice for them. If those women were raped or experienced an unplanned pregnancy, they have the right to make the choice that best suits their lives and unique circumstances. The government claims to want less regulations on business, and guns, but they seem to want more and more control over women’s bodies and reproductive plans. What happened to Republicans wanting to “keep the government out of our bedrooms?” I, for one, do not want any Republicans in my bedroom, OR my uterus.
What can we do?
Spread the word about harmful crisis pregnancy centers and tell the women you care about to instead visit a reputable facility like a doctor’s office, a licensed therapist, or Planned Parenthood.
Vote for pro-choice candidates, tell your friends about them, donate your time or money to their campaigns. Every little bit helps; even if you don’t have days or weeks of your time to donate, or thousands of dollars.
Donate money to Planned Parenthood, since the state eliminated their funding and they now depend on private donations to fund their healthcare facilities. For many low-income women, Planned Parenthood offers the only affordable healthcare they can obtain. Planned Parenthood is NOT an abortion clinic; they offer cancer screenings, birth control, family planning information and advice, routine exams, and many other vital services.
Write to your legislators to voice your opinion.
Amy Foxworthy is an Indianapolis-based writer concerned with cultural, civil rights, and social justice issues.