by Jeremy Leaming
Tea Party activists and many of today’s Republican politicians claim to loathe big government. They say they want a limited government role in our lives. But when it comes to the autonomy of women or privacy rights of gay couples, many of those same activists and politicians clamor for government interference.
A few weeks after Arkansas lawmakers adopted one of the nation’s most restrictive measures on abortions, banning them at 12 weeks of pregnancy; North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law an even more outlandish attack on abortion. The law forbids abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, as The New York Times reported earlier this week. Fetal heartbeats, the newspaper noted can be detected “as early as six weeks” by using an invasive procedure, a transvaginal ultrasound.
In his statement announcing signing of the bill, HB 1456, into law, Gov. Dalrymple said “the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question,” but it is nevertheless “a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”
Discovering the boundaries of Roe is a euphemism for lawmakers’ efforts to topple the landmark Supreme Court opinion. State lawmakers have been on a tear over the last few years passing measures aimed at making it incredibly difficult for women to obtain abortions, especially for women with little means to travel long distances to find a physician willing and able to perform abortions. It is not enough that lawmakers have crafted laws that force women to listen to government propaganda about the alleged dangers of abortions or undergo invasive medical procedures; they want the ability to bar women from receiving abortions.
In Roe, the high court held that the Constitution’s protections of privacy include the decision to have an abortion. The Roe Court only said that states could regulate that right at the point of viability, about 24 weeks.
Right-wing lawmakers and groups have been gunning for Roe ever since it was handed down. In states controlled by an increasingly conservative Republican Party the actions to roll back the opinion have become much more aggressive. These folks are obsessed with protecting fetuses, but do not seem particularly concerned about safeguarding constitutional rights of humans or creating a social safety net or improved educational opportunities for the marginalized and vulnerable among us. It’s a wildly contradictory movement, one that is highly influence by the Christian Right, and aimed at shredding privacy rights of women.
Groups devoted to protecting the rights of women, such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, have their work cut for them. A lot of deeply red states are obsessed with killing Roe, the authoritarian laws just keep coming.
NARAL President Ilyse Hogue blasted “anti-choice politicians” who are striving to “send women back to a pre-Roe era, and North Dakota just topped the list.” She continued, “To deny women options to care before they even know they’re pregnant is just plain cruel. Adding insult to injury, even survivors or rape or incest would have no control over their own bodies if their attacks resulted in a pregnancy. This law could force women to take drastic steps with no other option than unsafe, illegal abortion.”
And that’s where the injustice rests – with lawmakers who are not concerned about the health of women, and certainly not their privacy rights. Instead they are driven by fundamentalist Christian ideals and a longing for a time long ago, when women had little autonomy.