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Abortion politics: House bills would add hardship for women

Another opinion

June 24, 2012
The Battle Creek Inquirer

State Republicans may hope to frame the latest anti-abortion debate as an effort to protect women, but it's a flimsy argument that's bound only to enrage the very people they purport to defend.

The legislation that sailed through the House on Wednesday - with the help of six Democratic votes - could be called brilliant were it not so cynical in its disregard of the rights of women.

With its rapid passage of an omnibus bill that left committee with minimal debate less than a week prior, state Republicans have opened a multi-front battle in a grand plan to stop abortions altogether.

Proposed revisions to licensing standards, with detailed requirements about the facilities where abortions take place, and increased requirements for malpractice insurance, would place an extreme financial and logistical burden on clinics, forcing many to close.

That the revisions have limited support of clinicians or the medical community only reinforces the conclusion that bills are driven by an ideological or political agenda.

Similarly, the proposed ban on abortions after 20 weeks is based not on any established medical justification, but upon a theory that the fetus can feel pain at that point, a notion that has little support in the mainstream medical field.

The proposed ban is in direct conflict with rules set out by the Supreme Court four decades ago in Roe v. Wade, which established that abortions cannot be banned until the fetus becomes viable.

Viability, or the ability to survive outside the womb, usually occurs at the 24th week of pregnancy.

The bills also would prohibit video consultations for prescribing RU486, the so-called abortion pill, and would make it a crime to coerce women into abortion.

In following this line of attack, House Republicans have adopted a strategy that's been rolled out in several other states, where campaigns to persuade women considering abortions have done little to reduce the number of abortions.

What could be more effective, after all, than shutting down the clinics that provide the service?

The ban on abortions after 20 weeks is itself a strategy to turn public opinion - the notion, however unsupported, that the fetus will feel pain is something to which the people on the fence in this issue can relate.

Facts don't seem to matter, if it will help to advance their agenda.

Further, the ban is a calculated risk for opponents of abortion. No one has yet challenged the ban in court, in part because advocates for abortion rights worry that a weak case could ultimately end up in the Supreme Court and upend the legal structure established in Roe v. Wade.

Few issues divide Americans as deeply as abortion. While we support the right of women to make decisions regarding reproductive health, we believe that incendiary attacks on the morals and motivations of those who disagree only serve to deepen that divide.

It's difficult, however, to see the Republican-led effort in legislature as anything other than a well-orchestrated attack on a woman's right to control her reproductive health.

The bills don't protect women, but rather add hardship for women already facing difficult circumstances.

We'd like to see a different outcome when the Senate takes up the bill later this summer, but given the Senate's composition, the bills are likely to make it to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk intact.

If that happens, we call on the governor to veto the legislation.



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