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The abortion wars 2011: Opposing sides trade trenches | Hunter of Justice

The abortion wars 2011: Opposing sides trade trenches

by on December 13, 2011  •  In Reproductive rights

From Salon:

This was the year politicians and women’s groups started using “war on women” to refer to the Republican obsession with regulating uteruses. So if it’s a war, who’s winning?

The answer, frustratingly, is no one. This year saw the cementing of a consensus that neither side particularly likes: Abortion is still legal, but Republicans are doing an ever-better and more innovative job of making it as odious, expensive and shaming as possible to obtain. Although every side needs a sense of urgency to rally the troops, the good-ish news is that the federal court system helped hold back the tide on the worst laws. And for better or worse, anti-choicers got more honest than they’ve ever been about their hostility to birth control, which is used and supported by the vast majority of Americans.

Broadly speaking, the first half of the year saw Republicans in statehouses passing ever more outrageous laws — 80 in all this year, more than double the previous record — followed by a series of judges rolling their eyes and sending them home mostly empty-handed, for now at least…

“Judges know the score,” says Linda Greenhouse, who since retiring from the New York Times has co-edited a book and several legal articles focusing on reproductive rights. “They know that there’s a movement out there that’s going to push and push and push, which the political system in some of these states seem powerless to stop. These enactments have certainly gone beyond anything the Supreme Court has permitted.”

What the Supreme Court has permitted is not, in fact, what’s laid down in Roe. Instead, women are living under the “undue burden” standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which turns 20 next year.  To put it bluntly, you’re allowed to burden a woman seeking an abortion, but only so much. Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, says of Casey, “I think 20 years have shown that  is unworkable. What does it mean that you have a fundamental right to access abortion services but the government can make it really hard to do so?”

But given the court’s current composition, that’s the best pro-choicers have implicitly decided they can hope for… 

And if anti-choicers are paying attention, they aren’t going to push outright bans anyway, especially not after 58 percent of the electorate in deep-red Mississippi rejected a Personhood amendment that had the support of the state’s political establishment. Personhood, with its no-exceptions abortion ban and at least the intent to ban popular forms of birth control and reproductive technology, proved to be the suicide death cult of the movement, validating the incremental anti-choice strategy of just chipping away at access…  

In all of this, pro-choicers are still putting out fires. According to Guttmacher, that’s never been more true: “Legislators are proposing little in the way of proactive initiatives aimed at expanding access to reproductive health-related services; this stands in sharp contrast to recent years,” adding, “For the moment, at least, supporters of reproductive health and rights are almost uniformly playing defense at the state level.” (There was one major victory nationally, when copay-free contraception was adopted as part of the Affordable Care Act provisions, which also happened to be another moment where “pro-lifers” in office showed their disgust for birth control.)

So 2011 was a year when the consensus held: You can get an abortion, but depending on which state you live in, anti-choicers are still going to make you suffer as much as possible for it and make it as hard as possible to pay for with even private insurance. (And plenty of Democrats in Congress continue to tout the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding for abortion in almost every case, as a form of ass-covering in the culture wars). That consensus combined with the state of the economy has meant terrible things for the most vulnerable women.

According to recent data, unintended pregnancies continue to drop among wealthier women, but in recent years they’ve skyrocketed among poorer ones, along with, unsurprisingly, the abortion rate, which is declining generally but rising among poor women since 2000. The courts may be the most visible battle, but those disparities make up the war.

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