Wednesday, February 22, 2012


American politics....

2011 marked a sea change for abortion rights. States passed 83 laws restricting access to abortion, nearly four times the 23 laws passed in 2010. A lot of that had to do with the 2010 elections, which ushered in a wave of Republican legislators and governors. This year, the number of states with fully anti-abortion governments — in which both the governor and the legislature oppose abortion rights — increased from 10 to 15.

That cleared the way for new restrictions. Five states banned all abortions after 20 weeks of gestation; until last year, only Nebraska had such a restriction. Seven now require an ultrasound, or the offer of one, prior to the procedure. Eight will no longer allow private insurance plans to cover the procedure. A handful of states are, to this day, battling the Obama administration over whether they can bar abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, from receiving government funds, even for the non-abortion services they provide.
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The state’s Republican-controlled House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed the “fetal personhood” bill, which now heads to the state Senate. If the bill passes the state Senate and is signed into law by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, it would be the most sweeping criminalization of abortion in the United States.

Both Colorado, Mississippi, North Dakota and Alabama have all been unsuccessful in their attempts to criminalize abortion by granting the fetus status as a “person” — but nevertheless the concept behind the bill is popular amongst anti-abortion politicians. (According to Reuters, VA seeks to identify s fetus as ”person” in the legal code, as opposed to the CO and MS bills, which sought to amend their state constitutions.) These bills fail not only because they’re so extreme in criminalizing abortion but also because they could possibly be interpreted as banning both birth control and infertility treatment, too.

Unfortunately, the “fetal personhood” bill wasn’t the only nutty and frightening piece of legislation that Virginia’s House of Delegates passed. Another bill was advanced requiring a woman undergoing an abortion to have a “transvaginal ultrasound” — i.e., to require a doctor to insert a speculum and then an ultrasound probe into a her vagina against her will and reflect that image onscreen. Not only is a bill like this rather rape-y in its forcefulness — and yes, I realize that is a strong statement, and I mean it strongly — but there is no medically necessary reason to do so. And there are no exceptions. Gov. McDonnell has stated his intention to sign the “transvaginal ultrasound” bill if it lands on his desk.
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