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Deconstructing the Diabolical Anti-Abortion Movement

March 26, 2013 By  

In many ways, the anti-abortion movement is one of the most hypocritical and downright diabolical elements of the Republican party platform. It’s been over 40 years since the Supreme Court decided that a woman has the right to choose a safe abortion for her pregnancy, but the Tea Party surge in 2010 and Republican gains at the state level in 2012 have put that in jeopardy. Abortion bans in some form have been passed in 10 states since 2010, and are moving forward in other states at this very moment. Not only that, but abortion clinics have been facing unprecedented regulations in states across the country, designed with the sole purpose of shutting them down–effectively making it harder for any woman seeking a safe abortion to receive one.  One case in particular, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Mississippi, is facing the possibility of getting shut down after a license revocation hearing scheduled for April 18th. As the last abortion provider in the entire state, being forced to close would make it impossible for any woman to receive a safe abortion in Mississippi. But what exactly is the anti-abortion movement attempting to accomplish? Once we take a further look at the numbers and real life consequences, we see just how dangerous this “movement” is.

Let’s say we did issue an outright ban on abortion–how many women would end up dead or severely injured from seeking an unsafe alternative? How many children would end up in abusive homes, or in an already overburdened foster care system? Are the anti-abortion activists going to guarantee help for the mother if they give birth and keep the child? Early childhood assistance, WIC, food stamps and even free lunch programs at schools have been ridiculed and railed against by many of the same people (and elected officials) who are anti-abortion. But what about the adoption option?  What if the mother gives the child up–are they going to guarantee that all of these children will be adopted at birth? Absolutely not. Take away a woman’s right to choose and we’ll have a whole new society of unwanted children being raised in foster care and orphanages, many for their entire childhood.

The statistics back it up. Currently, there are about 1.2 million abortions per year in the United States, according to data and estimates analyzed by the Guttmacher Institute. Let’s think about that number as we take a look at this data collected on FosteringConnections.org. The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System tells us there are between 50,000 – 60,000 children adopted from foster care per year in the United States, with another 115,000 or so ready to be adopted but left behind. Of these, over half will not be adopted this year–or next year. For some, the dream of a loving home will never be realized.

So let’s assume for the sake of argument that half of the would-be abortion total were to instead end up in the foster care and orphanage system every year. Somebody please tell me–where is an already overburdened system going to find the resources, necessities and billions of dollars to care for an extra 600,000 newborns every year? And what about the rest of those children who aren’t given up to the system but are instead kept by the birth mother or family? There is no way to know how many of these children would grow up in loving as opposed to abusive homes, which is perhaps the most important and saddest aspect of the entire hypothetical situation. What we can estimate are ballpark dollar figures on what this would cost the nation, since many of the same anti-abortion fanatics are also staunch fiscal conservatives who claim we can’t keep adding to our debt. If we take a conservative approach and assume only 300,000 of these children end up receivingSNAP and WIC benefits, the total cost per year would be approximately $630 million. This doesn’t take into account the mother, who would also most likely collect SNAP and WIC for herself. It also doesn’t take into account health care costs paid for by the government, as well as any cash benefits the mother may qualify for. When you factor in and estimate everything, the cost is easily well into the billions per year. Now, I personally am not one to put a price on life–it is my feeling that after a child is born into this world, they should receive basic, quality health care and access to nutritious food regardless of whether or not the parents can afford to pay for it. However, I wanted to put the dollar totals in print for the specific benefit of these “staunch fiscal conservatives” who love to complain about government assistance but also want to ban abortion. I’ve got news for you–you can’t have it both ways. Is every “life” precious enough to protect and provide for? If so, why are you pushing to limit and sometimes deny basic health care and food support to the millions of children already alive in our country today?

What it boils down to is a movement which likes to define itself as “pro life” but is actually about as anti-life as one could possibly be. Part of me could understand their strong feelings if they were consistent. If these people were discussing real solutions instead of stomping their feet in contradiction, it would be much easier to take them seriously. Instead, many of them reject even the simplest way to prevent an abortion–easy access to contraceptives. When they can’t even rally together and agree on that as a start, there’s really no hope that they’ll ever push for truly “pro life” solutions. Knowing that these types of people have already gained power in states across our nation should be a wake-up call to Progressives and sensible moderates alike. It’s time to reclaim the meaning of “pro life”–no longer should it mean pushing for the uninterrupted development of a fetus. To be truly PRO LIFE should mean caring and providing for a CHILD after birth, assuring that they have access to health care, food, a home and most importantly a loving family. If that message resonates with at least one “anti-abortion” advocate, I will have hope that more will understand.

Filed under forward progressives abortion women's rights reproductive rights feminism

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North Dakota Senate Passes Two Unprecedented Abortion Bans

Posted: 03/15/2013 4:04 pm EDT  |  Updated: 03/15/2013 5:33 pm EDT

North Dakota Abortion
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple speaks on Monday, April 16, 2012, to a group of North Dakota state agency administrators in the Brynhild Haugland Room of the North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. (AP Photo/Dale Wetzel)

The North Dakota State Senate passed two anti-abortion bills on Friday that would be the first laws of their kind in the United States and would ban most abortions in the state. One bill would prevent women from having abortions as soon as the fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, and the other bans abortions in cases of fetal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome.

House Bill 1456, the heartbeat ban, passed the North Dakota House of Representatives earlier this year and now heads to Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s (R) desk to be signed. The law would subject doctors to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison if they perform an abortion after the fetal heartbeat can be detected, surpassing Arkansas’ new 12-week abortion ban to become the strictest abortion law in the country. The Republican-controlled Senate voted to pass it on Friday without any discussion.

The Senate also passed House Bill 1305, which bans abortions that are performed based on gender selection or a genetic defect. Three other states — Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Arizona — have laws banning abortions based on gender selection, but North Dakota would be the first state to prevent a woman from aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down Syndrome or other fetal anomalies.

Opponents of the heartbeat bill argue that it would ban abortions in some cases before the woman even realizes she is pregnant, which places an undue burden on a woman’s constitutionally protected right to abortion. “North Dakota politicians are now leading what appears to be a nationwide competition among anti-choice extremists to see who can do the most to strip women of their dignity and autonomy and endanger their lives,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement on Friday. “The passage of this law is nothing short of a frontal assault on the U.S. Constitution, 40 years of Supreme Court precedent, and the health and fundamental rights of women.”

State Rep. Bette Grande (R), the author of both bills, said during her testimony before the Senate this week that she is not concerned with their constitutionality. “Whether this is challenged in court is entirely up to the abortion industry,” she told the Associated Press. “Given the lucrative nature of abortion, it is likely that any statute that reduces the number of customers will be challenged by the industry.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently representing North Dakota’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic, in a case challenging the state’s restrictions on medication abortions, which are commonly used for abortions in the first trimester. North Dakota lawmakers also are considering a personhood bill, which would give a fertilized egg legal personhood rights, and a law that would require abortion physicians to be granted admitting privileges at the local hospital.

The center called on Dalrymple to veto both of the new restrictions.

“This will not stand,” Northup said of the heartbeat ban. “We strongly urge Governor Dalrymple to protect the rights and health of the women of North Dakota by vetoing this noxious and dangerous bill.”

Dalrymple has three days to veto the bill.

Filed under North Dakota Abortion Illegal unconstitutional roe v wade Feminism women's rights reproductive rights we are not your incubators

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Charts: This Is What Happens When You Defund Planned Parenthood

Dozens of clinics have shut down in Texas, leaving nearly 200,000 women in search of affordable health care.

| Thu Mar. 14, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

In the past two years, Texas legislators slashed funds for family planning and passed up $30 million a year in federal Medicaid money, largely to squeeze Planned Parenthood out of the state’s women’s health programs. Last week, hundreds gathered at the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin to protest the resulting public health mess: Researchers say nearly 200,000 Texas women have lost or could lose access to contraception, cancer screenings, and basic preventive care, especially in low-income, rural parts of the state. I reported from the rally:

Given that anti-choice legislators in other states could draw inspiration from Texas’s “winning” strategy to defund Planned Parenthood—several have tried and failed in recent years—it’s worth surveying the damage.

About a year after Texas slashed its family-planning budget by two-thirds, with 50 clinics shutting down as a result, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project surveyed 300 pregnant women seeking an abortion in Texas. Nearly half said they were “unable to access the birth control that they wanted to use” in the three months before they became pregnant. Among the reasons: cost, lack of insurance, inability to find a clinic, and inability get a prescription. The state’s health commission says Texas will see nearly 24,000 unplanned births between 2014 and 2015 thanks to these cuts, raising state and federal taxpayer’s Medicaid costs by up to $273 million.

Nearly half of the women said they couldn’t access birth control in the three months before they got pregnant.

In a state where half of all pregnancies were unplanned in 2011, and 1 in 3 women of childbearing age lacks health insurance, this is only going to get worse.

The Planned Parenthood clinics that anti-choice legislators booted from the state’s Women’s Health Program serviced nearly 50 percent of the program’s patients. Along with contraceptive counseling, the clinics provided basic screenings for cancer, hypertension, and other key problems. There’s no shortage of need: women in Texas suffer high rates of STIs and unintended pregnancies compared to national figures, and the state ranks 50th for diabetes prevalence in women. Nonetheless, Republican lawmakers went after the clinics in 2011, thanks to their long-standing beef with the organization, and forfeited tens of millions in Medicaid reimbursements to the Women’s Health Program so they could defund Planned Parenthood clinics without breaking any federal rules governing how states have to spend Medicaid money.

Despite losing its highest-volume providers, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission insists the revamped, wholly state-run and state-funded Women’s Health Program can reshuffle all the displaced patients and keep providing the same levels of care as before. But last October, researchers at George Washington University examined five Texas counties and found that in order to effectively replace Planned Parenthood, other clinics would need to increase their caseloads two to five times.

That seems unlikely. The remaining clinics are already straining under these changes, according to a survey by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. More than a fifth have reduced their hours of operation, while others, like Planned Parenthood in East Austin, are staying shakily afloat on community donations. Instead of offering IUDs, a highly effective birth-control method with higher up-front costs to the provider, clinic staffers are now more likely to offer lower-cost birth control pills. They also tend to give out fewer packs of pills per visit, making it harder for patients to be consistent. Others are seeing fewer patients or increasing their fees.

Lone Star Circle of Care, for example, lost 62 percent of its Title X funding over the last year. Now it’s charging more patients a $20 to $35 fee for an annual exam. That’s still low, in part because Lone Star isn’t affiliated with an abortion provider and therefore hasn’t lost funding altogether. At Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas, on the other hand, the same exam can now cost nearly $100; before defunding, they were virtually free.

"If you put fees in place, even if they’re pretty modest, patients just don’t come in, or they don’t come in as often," says Sarah Wheat, vice president for community affairs at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “We’ll have patients who, if they had a high gas bill that month, or a high electricity bill, they’ll think, ‘Okay, well maybe next month I can go in.’ Or they’re going to say, ‘Let me just get the gonorrhea test. I’ll pay for the chlamydia test next time.’”

It’s hard to tell whether displaced patients are finding care elsewhere. After Hill Country Community Action announced it was closing its family planning clinics in the central Texas town of San Saba last summer, only a hundred or so of its 2,000 clients called to ask about other providers, the Texas Observer reports. Many of the remaining clinics in the area are charging new fees since the cuts, and none reported an uptick in new patients from San Saba, except for the Planned Parenthood in Waco.

Meanwhile, anti-choice legislators are touting these cuts as a way to wipe out the “abortion industry," but it turns out none of the 53 clinics that closed since September 2011 were providing abortions to begin with. None of the Planned Parenthood clinics formerly involved with the Women’s Health Program provided abortions, either—Texas has never allowed abortion clinics to participate in WHP. And under the Hyde Amendment, public health providers can’t use federal funding to administer abortions, anyway. ”Ironically, this whole conversation is about abortion services, and yet clinics providing abortions in this state were untouched by these cuts,” says Wheat.

In 2011, there were about 70,000 abortions in Texas, a 10 percent drop from 2010. But it’s too soon to know whether this is the result of the state slashing its family planning funds or other measures​, says Dan Grossman, vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health and a researcher at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. What we do know, Grossman adds, is that most women showing up for abortions are not changing their minds after seeing their ultrasounds, as they’re now required to do in Texas.

It remains to be seen whether anti-choice lawmakers in other states will adopt Texas’s costly strategy for defunding Planned Parenthood within their own borders.Since 2010, nine states have tried to cut family planning funds; Montana, New Hampshire, and New Jersey have slashed their family planning budgets by more than half. Seven have made it harder for clinics like Planned Parenthood to receive state or federal family planning grants. Last month, four Planned Parenthood clinics in Wisconsin shut down in the face of cuts.

Now with the Texas Legislature back in session, some state senators are proposing to add $100 million back into the state’s primary care program, specifically for women’s health services; and last week a Democratic legislator introduced a bill to reverse the Affiliate Ban Rule. But Wheat says these measures are unlikely to repair the damage of the past two years.

"It’s hard to put back together a system that’s been dismantled," she said.

Filed under Texas Planned Parenthood abortion women's rights contraception Health Care family planning politics GOP

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Missouri GOP Bill Allows Doctors And Hospitals To Refuse To Provide Reproductive Services To Women

2013/03/11

By 

thumb_0301dv_contraception_vote_x070a

The Republican war on women continues. A week after Hawaii Democrats pushed a bill through the state Senate that would require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims, Republicans in Missouri unveiled a bill in the general assembly that would do the opposite and more.

HB 457 is sponsored by House Speaker Timothy Jones (R). According to the Kansas City Star, the bill would “allow medical professionals to opt out of providing birth control, sterilization and assisted reproduction services and stem cell research. They would also be able to deny referrals for care,” and “would be shielded from punishment for refusing to provide this type of care if it violates their religious or moral principles.”

In short, doctors and hospitals could refuse to provide women contraception services for religious reasons and could refuse to refer patients to medical professionals and institutions that would help them. Rape victims could be denied emergency contraception to prevent becoming pregnant by their rapist. And even women with ectopic pregnancies could be refused care until their lives are in jeopardy because her health provider believes a certain way.

Michelle Trupiano of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri told the Star that,

“A woman with an ectopic pregnancy that isn’t considered life-threatening could be denied care, including a referral as to where to receive care, until she comes back so sick that her life is in danger.”

Trupiano added that rape victims would be denied “the minimum standard of care determined by leading health care organizations such as the American Medical Association,” which includes emergency contraception.

Bills such as these have been a current trend running rampant in Republican circles. Republicans have pushed similar bills Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and many other states including Kansas, where it was signed into law last spring.

Republicans claim such bills are needed to protect the religious freedom of doctors but what these bills really do is trample on the rights of female patients to receive the care that they need and want. The fact that these bill target only women’s health care proves that. If a doctor were to deny a man a vasectomy or Viagra on religious grounds, Republican heads would explode with rage. They wouldn’t give a damn about protecting religious freedom in this kind of reverse situation. These bills create a double standard in the medical field.

The Star interviewed Dr. Ed Weisbart, a St. Louis family physician. Weisbart made it clear that medical professionals are supposed to put their patients first and that what doctors believe or don’t believe in religious matters is irrelevant to how they treat them. “Medicine is not supposed to be about the values of the physician or the institution,” Weisbart said. “It’s supposed to be about the values of the patient. Period.”

And Dr. Weisbart is absolutely right. Bills like these have zero disregard for what patients believe. By passing such bills, Republicans are violating the beliefs of patients. Religious freedom is a two-way street. You can’t protect the beliefs of doctors and disregard the beliefs of patients at the same time. Doing so creates mistrust between doctors and patients in a field where trust is absolutely necessary. That’s why patient needs should always come first. Doctors are in hospitals to practice medicine, NOT religion. And mistrust between doctors and patients is a serious threat to health that could result in death.

Doctors have every right to practice whatever religion they want. What they do not have the right to do is to force their beliefs onto their patients. The second a doctor walks into the office their religious beliefs must be left at the door. If a patient wants contraception, the doctor should only refuse if there is a medical reason to do so. That’s the way medicine and doctoring should work.

The Missouri House is expected to take up the bill as early as Monday.

 

Filed under Missouri GOP reproductive rights Health Care women's rights contraception abortion religion separation of church and medicine

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The Fight is Far From Over

Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses Are Not People In Malpractice Suit

The Colorado Independent  |  By John TomasicPosted: 01/23/2013 11:49 am EST  |  Updated: 01/24/2013 11:03 pm EST

From The Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic.

Lori Stodghill was 31-one years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill’s husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple’s then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, or at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian-section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins.

The lead defendant in the case is Catholic Health Initiatives, the Englewood-based nonprofit that runs St. Thomas More Hospital as well as roughly 170 other health facilities in 17 states. Last year, the hospital chain reported national assets of $15 billion. The organization’s mission, according to its promotional literature, is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” and to be guided by “fidelity to the Gospel.” Toward those ends, Catholic Health facilities seek to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Those rules have stirred controversy for decades, mainly for forbidding non-natural birth control and abortions. “Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death,’” the directives state. “The Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn.”

The directives can complicate business deals for Catholic Health, as they can for other Catholic health care providers, partly by spurring political resistance. In 2011, the Kentucky attorney general and governornixed a planin which Catholic Health sought to merge with and ultimately gain control of publicly funded hospitals in Louisville. The officials were reacting to citizen concerns that access to reproductive and end-of-life services would be curtailed. According toThe Denver Post, similar fears slowed the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth’s plan over the last few years to buy out Exempla Lutheran Medical Center and Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in the Denver metro area.

But when it came to mounting a defense in the Stodghill case, Catholic Health’s lawyers effectively turned the Church directives on their head. Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.

As Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defense, the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

The Catholic Health attorneys have so far won decisions from Fremont County District Court Judge David M. Thorson and now-retired Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Arthur Roy.

In September, the Stodghills’ Aspen-based attorney Beth Krulewitch working with Denver-based attorney Dan Gerash appealed the case to the state Supreme Court. In their petition they argued that Judges Thorson and Roy overlooked key facts and set bad legal precedent that would open loopholes in Colorado’s malpractice law, relieving doctors of responsibility to patients whose viable fetuses are at risk.

Whether the high court decides to take the case, kick it back down to the appellate court for a second review or accept the decisions as they stand, the details of the arguments the lawyers involved have already mounted will likely renew debate about Church health care directives and trigger sharp reaction from activists on both sides of the debate looking to underline the apparent hypocrisy of Catholic Health’s defense.

At press time, Colorado Health did not return messages seeking comment. The Stodghills’ attorneys declined to comment while the case was still being considered for appeal.

The Supreme Court is set to decide whether to take the case in the next few weeks.

And for your reading pleasure, my personal response to this:

This is a prime example why this entire reproductive fight has absolutely NOTHING to do with saving actual human lives.  The only purpose these restrictions and further bullshit serves is to control women.  The purpose of this entire feminist fight is to give the woman the ultimate decision whether the life inside her is a person or something to be removed.  In family situations, it should be a partner decision, but the protection is really for single mothers and rape victims.  The fact that the Catholic Church would even DARE to argue against their own controlling practices to avoid any wrong doing is despicable.  The fact of the matter is, if the lives in the mother’s womb are considered lives by the parents, then the doctors are expected to keep those lives safe AND ALIVE.  Murderers can be charged with double homicide if they kill a pregnant woman.  Doctors should also be held accountable if the the woman has already taken the steps to ensure a healthy pregnancy as this woman clearly did.  It is absolutely despicable that the year is 2013 and women are still being treated as disposable baby machines (unless that baby could lead to a malpractice suit…then the women are just plain disposable).  This article has two things in it that get me the most worked up:  Abortion rights and the Catholic Church. Also…you know…hypocrisy.

(Source: The Huffington Post)

Filed under Catholic Church Abortion Fetus Hypocrisy Women women's rights reproductive rights

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Walsh, Duckworth clash on Medicare, abortion

Walsh said he was against abortion “without exception,” including rape, incest and in cases in which the life or health of the mother was in jeopardy.

Asked by reporters after the debate if he was saying that it’s never medically necessary to conduct an abortion to save the life of a mother, Walsh responded, “Absolutely.”

“With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance,” he said. “… There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing.”

Walsh is running on his record and outlined his philosophy by saying he “generally tried to make a rule when I went to Washington that I was going to try to cut government spending wherever I could.”

Filed under Walsh Duckworth Abortion Medicare Debate Election 2012

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Abortion rates plummet with free birth control

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 19:36 in Health & Medicine

Providing birth control to women at no cost substantially reduced unplanned pregnancies and cut abortion rates by 62 percent to 78 percent over the national rate, a new study shows. The research, by investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, appears online Oct. 4 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

This is amazing.  Too amazing for words.  Proof that Obamacare needed to happen.

Filed under Obama Obamacare Abortion birth control science

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Column: How would a woman "prove" rape to qualify for Romney's abortion exception?

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his wife Ann (R) arrive for services at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Wolfboro, New Hampshire August 26, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his wife Ann (R) arrive for services at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Wolfboro, New Hampshire August 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:45am EDT

(The views expressed are the author’s own and not those of Reuters.)

By Steven Brill

In the wake of the Todd Akin firestorm, Mitt Romney and a flip-flopping Paul Ryan have emphasized that their anti-choice stance excludes rape. In a Romney administration, abortions would be outlawed except in the case of women who have been raped, the Republican ticket has promised.

So here’s an idea, first suggested by my daughter and one of her friends: Who’s going to be the first reporter to ask Romney or Ryan how that would work? How would they implement that exception?

Would a woman’s rapist have to be convicted in court? How would that work, given that in most criminal cases it takes longer than nine months from when the crime is committed to catch the criminal (assuming the criminal is caught), prepare charges and reach a verdict. In fact, the window would be significantly less than nine months; it would start from when the pregnancy is discovered and end somewhere around the 16 to 20 weeks left during which abortions can be performed most safely.

Or would the exception be triggered just on the woman’s say-so? (Maybe that’s part of what the mentally challenged Akin was talking about when he referred to “legitimate” rape.)

Or would there be some kind of new quasi-judicial process falling somewhere between a full-fledged trial and a simple statement of victimization? Would each state have to set up a new tribunal to handle these “cases”? Who would be the judges or juries? What evidence would be admissible? Would there be an adversary engaged to challenge the woman’s claim and whatever evidence she offers? Who would that be? Could those challenges include references to her prior sexual history? Would there be criminal penalties for perjury? And, if as the Republican platform decrees, the outlawing of abortion should be implemented via a “human life” amendment to the Constitution, would Romney suggest that language defining rape and how it would qualify for the exception also be written into the Constitution? How would he craft language establishing that a fetus that is the product of rape is not a human life?

If each of these scenarios seems so absurd that it leaves Romney or Ryan tongue-tied when asked these simple, practical questions, maybe that says something about getting the state involved in these decisions, let alone rewriting the Constitution to codify them.

Beginning in 1976, a federal statute known as the Hyde Amendment inserted government into a sliver of this issue, with results that cannot be satisfying to either side. The Hyde Amendment generally forbids federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or when the woman’s life is in danger. The blog post last week by the Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews found that states generally require a doctor’s certificate or a police report for women to qualify for the rape exception. However, Matthews reported, quoting from a study from Ibis Reproductive Health, that “over half of eligible abortions — that is, of pregnancies due to rape or incest or in cases where continuing the pregnancy would threaten the mother’s life — conducted for Medicaid beneficiaries were not reimbursed by the program. By and large, hospitals and doctors who did not get Medicaid reimbursements said that the paperwork for getting the money was too onerous, and it was easier to fund the procedures from nonprofit groups that focus on assisting low-income women with abortion funding.” In other words, the abortions happened anyway, but the exception provided for in the law was typically not implemented. In other cases, Matthews reported, women seeking coverage under the exception could not meet the paperwork requirements and, because they were not able to pay for an abortion, gave birth to babies they claimed were the product of rape.

Matthews concluded by quoting Stephanie Poggi, the executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, as saying: “Basically these exceptions don’t work. It’s really a myth that there is coverage that is still provided.”

The Romney-Ryan exception presents far greater challenges because it is not simply about insurance coverage. The only issue under the Hyde Amendment is who pays for an abortion for a woman on Medicaid, not whether any abortion for any woman can happen. Thus, women are exponentially more likely to seek the exception under the Romney-Ryan plan than they have under the Hyde Amendment. And those opposing abortions would be equally more likely to contest those exceptions to prevent what they view as murder.

So these are hardly tongue-in-cheek questions. Nor is the broader question, which only the late Tim Russert ever regularly asked anti-choice politicians: With Romney and Ryan planning to make any abortions that are not subject to their rape or incest exceptions a federal crime, what is the specific prison term they would impose on offending women? And if they would penalize only doctors, wouldn’t that undermine the enforceability of the law as well as their stated principle that abortion is murder?

(Steven Brill is the author of Class Warfare: Inside the Fight To Fix America’s Schools, has written for magazines including New York, The New Yorker, Time, Harper’s, and The New York Times Magazine. He founded and ran Court TV, The American Lawyer magazine, ten regional legal newspapers, and Brill’s Content magazine. He also teaches journalism at Yale, where he founded the Yale Journalism Initiative.)

James Ledbetter Op-ed editor, Reuters.com Thomson Reuters Phone: 646 223 7503 James.Ledbetter@thomsonreuters.com <mailto:James.Ledbetter@thomsonreuters.com> thomsonreuters.com

Filed under Romney Election 2012 Women's Rights Abortion Politics