Well, Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that gave women in the United States the right to an abortion.
None of us needs reminding that January 22, 1973 wasn't the end to the abortion debate, nor to legislative maneuvers designed to make abortion hard or impossible to obtain. There isn't enough time or space here to discuss all the obstacles to legal abortion in this country.
What we can do is look at just a few of the 135 new anti-choice laws passed in 30 states over the past two years (2011 saw the most anti-choice laws passed since Roe; 2012 came in second). And, you know, then we can freak out. Or, more constructively, use this information as motivation to write to our elected representatives, sign petitions, donate to our friends at Planned Parenthood, and more.
So, with that said, take a deep breath, and dive in.
1. Arizona banned abortion at 18 weeks post-fertilization. That's two weeks earlier than any other state.
2. In Missouri, an employer, enrollee or insurer may deny coverage of an abortion.
3. In Iowa, Medicaid coverage of abortion is restricted to cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.
4. Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia all banned abortion coverage under the health exchanges that will be established to conform with the Affordable Care Act.
5. Nebraska and Kansas now require parental consent before a minor can obtain an abortion.
6. In Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota, courts and/or clinics are required to collect data on abortions obtained by minors.
7. In Mississippi, doctors who perform abortions must now have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
8. Kansas has made it illegal for state agencies or employees to participate in the elective termination of a pregnancy. This means public hospitals can't provide abortions.
9. Utah and South Dakota now require a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion. That's the longest waiting period in the country.
10. Indiana and Kansas now require counseling to say that a fetus is a person.
11. North Dakota requires that clinics spread the bullshit pseudo-science claim that abortion increases a woman's chance of breast cancer.
12. Louisiana requires abortion providers to make the fetal heartbeat audible to patients.
13. Creepily, Louisiana also requires providers to display and describe the ultrasound.
14. Oklahoma requires providers to offer patients the option to do so.
15. Weirdly, Arkansas requires abortion doctors to perform the procedure at least 10 times a month in order to meet state requirements.
16. Virginia women are now required to receive in-person counseling and an ultrasound 24 hours before their abortion, so long as they live within 100 miles of a clinic.
17. Arizona requires specific counseling on the so-called negative mental health impact of an abortion.
Anti-choice groups figured out a long time ago that a grassroots fight to pass a state law is a lot easier than overturning a United States Supreme Court decision. They're publicity-savvy, well organized, and motivated by the belief that they are actually saving children's lives by getting these measures enacted.
I understand their feelings, because I used to be one of them. Sometimes it's hard for me to get angry at people who fight to impose abortion restrictions, because I know exactly where they're coming from.
They're not sitting in some den of oppression, putting their fingers together like Mr. Burns and cackling over how they're going to destroy women's rights. They don't think of legal abortion as a woman's right; they see it as murder. They really, really think they're on God's side. And I guess because I agreed with them when I was younger, it's hard for me to characterize them as anything other than people who have a certain viewpoint that I no longer share.
That said, I know we can't allow them to impose their views on our bodies and our lives. I believe that to be pro-choice is to accept a sometimes-grim reality rather than live in a dream world in which every child is wanted and cared for, in which population growth does not put stress on resources, in which sex is always consensual, in which motherhood is the right choice for every sexually active woman.
Fairy tales were fine when I was a kid, but as an adult I can't see the wisdom of play-acting a life that made sense to me in childhood. In the end, that's really why I'm pro-choice: I grew up.