Several readers have asked me why I haven’t written anything about Indiana’s horrific House Bill 1337.
To be honest, words fail. Once again, national news outlets are using Indiana as an example of right-wing extremism untempered by even a hint of compassion or common sense.
As Salon noted, if it is somehow upheld, this measure–on Mike Pence’s desk for a signature that is a foregone conclusion–will end virtually all abortions in the state.
The legislation authorizes an entire menu of grotesquely unconstitutional anti-choice TRAP(Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws, as well as new forms of authoritarian, misogynistic devilry, each of which could be defined as reproductive Jim Crow laws. Put another way, the new Indiana bill is in keeping with a series of laws that don’t outright ban abortion, but which makes it really, really difficult to have a safe and legal abortion.
The bill is a mashup of grisly, gratuitous measures having no purpose whatsoever other than to punish women who choose to exercise their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
The bill itself is an abortion. It requires burial of the fetus–a funeral for what in most cases is little more than a microscopic clump of undifferentiated cells. It mandates fetal ultrasounds. It requires the woman to listen to the fetal heartbeat (despite the fact that, in many if not most cases, the procedure occurs too early to allow detection of a heartbeat).
The fetal heartbeat screening and the ultrasound procedure have to be conducted 18 hours prior to having an abortion. What makes this waiting period particularly vile is that previous TRAP laws have closed most of Indiana’s abortion clinics, leaving just four counties out of 92 with abortion facilities. In other words, if you choose to terminate, you’ll likely have to travel not-insignificant distances in order to find a clinic. From there, you’ll have to bed down at a hotel or elsewhere while your 18 hour waiting period winds down. Yet another expense on top of the abortion itself.
There’s much more, but by far the most offensive provision–in a bill filled with offensive provisions–requires a woman to carry a pregnancy to term if the motive for the abortion is that the fetus is deformed or disabled.
Think about that. The men at Indiana’s General Assembly have decided that they know best whether a woman who finds herself pregnant with a profoundly damaged fetus has the financial and/or emotional resources to spend the rest of her life caring for a disabled child. These legislators know better than the woman and her husband–who may have desperately wanted the pregnancy–the emotional toll of giving birth to a child who cannot live more than a few hours or weeks after birth.
And don’t get me started down the legal rabbit-hole of determining a pregnant woman’s “real” motive for aborting.
As one ob/gyn observes, this bill is just another assault in social conservatives’ dogged and persistent war on women’s autonomy. It is all about control. There is nothing medical about it.
The truth is, these legislative fights over reproductive choice aren’t really fights about the decision to abort. They are fights about who gets to make the decision.
Giving government the right to decide whether an individual woman should carry a pregnancy to term is no less dangerous than giving government the right to dictate her reading material or religious affiliation. The Bill of Rights rests on the Founders’ belief that—although individuals may certainly make bad or dangerous choices—empowering government to make those choices for us is far more dangerous.
The government that can prohibit abortion today can require it tomorrow. Ask the Chinese.