So, it’s been suggested that “nothing’s changed” in women’s health and choice access. Well, I’m here to set that record straight.
For starters, let’s begin with this chart, from the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion issues nation- and world wide:
As the graphic clearly shows, there was a marked increase in abortion legislation enacted (not just proposed, but actually put into practice) after the 2010 mid-term elections. Apparently, instead of getting right to work on the “jobs, jobs, jobs” platforms they campaigned on, the newly-elected Republican Congress decided that their most important priority was restricting abortion rights. In fact, HR3 – THREE, the third piece of legislation this Congress undertook! – was a bill about restricting abortion rights (HR1 ensured the Congress get paid (natch), and HR2 was the first of – what are we up to, now? 33? Something like that – attempts to repeal Obamacare).
The Guttmacher Institute research shows that “fully 55% of U.S. women of reproductive age now live in one of the 26 states considered hostile to abortion rights.” We’ve got forced ultrasounds (which, by the way, the women have to pay for) and regulations that apply ONLY to abortion clinics in Virginia. We’ve got Congress holding the budget hostage over Planned Parenthood funding. Eight states restrict insurance companies’ coverage of abortion. Seventeen states mandate that women be given counseling before an abortion that includes information on at least one of the following: the purported link between abortion and breast cancer (5 states), the ability of a fetus to feel pain (11 states) or long-term mental health consequences for the woman (8 states). Twenty-six states require a waiting period (usually for 24 hours) that necessitate a woman’s making two trips to the clinic; for some women, this can be literally hundreds of miles. There are efforts to place restrictions on women’s access to contraceptives under their insurance plans (S 2043, which says that your boss can deny you coverage if your boss’s religion says so) and Arizona’s anti-abortion law, which not only bans abortion after 20 weeks, but also calculates that time from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period, effectively declaring a woman pregnant two weeks before she has sex. No, really.
Beyond the very demonstrable changes in legislation is the palpable change in the nature of discourse around women’s health. Rush Limbaugh (and others like him) think that it’s perfectly acceptable to call women who stand against efforts to limit their choices and options “sluts.” GOP candidates (up to and including their vice presidential candidate) are saying, out loud and in public and seemingly ALL THE TIME, that there should be no exceptions to their hardline abortion ban for women who are victims of rape.
A lot has changed. Anyone who claims otherwise just isn’t paying attention.