April 8, 2020

A War on Women

Guest Opinion
By Amy Kerr Hardin | Jan. 11, 2020

On occasion I drive by the local Planned Parenthood office and observe silent protestors, in prayer vigil, holding signs condemning abortion. I like to imagine that these dedicated souls also spend endless hours in service to children in need — tirelessly fostering and advocating. They surely must be fighting Trump’s family separation policy and the caging of babies. They must be passionate about helping the one in five Michigan children living in poverty.
 
Yet, I can’t help but wonder: Is it a genuine love for children motivating them, or perhaps some of them might be harboring a desire to control women’s bodies?
 
There does seem to be a war on women, waged largely by evangelicals who are willing to turn a blind eye to the current president’s decidedly unchristian behavior. They elected him to stack the courts, and if he puts children in cages, brags about assaulting women, pays off porn stars, insults minorities, foments violence, lies with impunity, and tramples on the Constitution on a near daily basis, they don’t care. That’s their deal with the devil. They’ve been bought.
 
The Guttmacher Institute, an international reproductive health advocacy group, publishes a state-by-state policy trend report every year. The 2019 review is grim for reproductive rights. States enacted 58 new abortion restrictions, with 25 of those banning virtually all abortions. Many of these laws are currently under judicial review, and that’s exactly the goal of evangelicals: They wish to provoke the Supreme Court to revisit Row v. Wade. 
 
A dangerous misinformation campaign is embedded in the legislative onslaught. Some states are requiring healthcare experts to disseminate misleading and inaccurate claims about reversing a medication abortion. One Ohio lawmaker introduced a bill that would require doctors to “re-implant” ectopic pregnancies in the uterus, or face a murder charge. The author of this farce happily admits that he did not research the facts. This purported procedure is medically impossible, plus an untreated ectopic pregnancy can result in maternal death.
 
Last month, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case on a Kentucky law that requires ultrasounds prior to an abortion. The law mandates that a doctor describe to the patient, in detail, the image on the screen. Guttmacher Institute refers to the Kentucky law as nothing more than a “shaming tactic.” It forces doctors to perform a medically unnecessary procedure.
 
Michigan Republican lawmakers have more than once in recent years attempted to pass a similar law. They have been known to employ covert language that would require women to submit to intravaginal imagery. One legislative attempt called for the “most advanced” equipment, which means a probe inserted in the vagina — a form of penetration considered medical rape when done against the patient’s wishes.
 
There’s little doubt that Michigan lawmakers will again take a stab at their vaginal probe law, but Gov. Whitmer will shoot it down.
 
While southern and midwestern states are rushing to turn back the clock on reproductive health rights, a number of states are countering with laws and policies that protect choice and promote good medical practices. Four states have enacted laws that affirm abortion rights and — spoiler alert — one is in the Midwest. Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont all passed legislation that support a woman’s right to choose. These new laws also put the smackdown on unwanted “counseling,” i.e. coercion and misinformation.
 
Forward-looking states have expanded sex education, contraceptive availability, and have placed limits on insurers’ ability to exercise gender discrimination in reproductive healthcare. Translation: If they pay for boner pills, they must also cover women’s birth control.
 
Several weeks ago, an anti-reproduction rights group in Michigan submitted signatures for a ballot proposal that would effectively end second- and third-trimester abortions. First, a word about the procedure. These are almost always wanted pregnancies that have gone terribly wrong. Having to terminate at a late date is devastating to the parents. It’s the height of cruelty to imply otherwise.
 
The intent of this ballot proposal is decidedly to not put the question to Michigan voters. The whole idea is to exploit a constitutional loophole that allows lawmakers to enact the proposal without public input; they know they would handily lose at the ballot box. It’s a clear abuse of power, and unfortunately, it’s also veto-proof.
 
The abortion banning law will spur an avalanche of litigation and will likely be put on ice while it works its way through the courts. Ten other states have been forced to suspend similar laws. The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal filed by Alabama, but if enough states are wrestling with the issue, the high court might put it on the docket. 
 
In a call for the removal of the president, the editor in chief of the conservative publication, Christianity Today, recently had some stern words of warning for fellow evangelicals: “Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?”
 
It’s the very the definition of a Faustian bargain.
 
Amy Kerr Hardin is a retired banker, regionally known artist, and public-policy wonk. You can hear and learn more about the state of Michigan politics on her podcast, www.MichiganPolicast.com.

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