Population Matters

Bringing the War on Women to a Legislature near You

March 6th, 2012

As the contraception debate continues to rage on Capitol Hill – from the all-male panel testifying on the birth control health care mandate to the defeated Blunt amendment in the Senate, which sought to allow employers to deny coverage of contraceptives on moral grounds — you may not have noticed what’s been happening in a state legislature near you.

On Saturday New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof looked at what’s happening at the state level (“When States Abuse Women”). In his column, Kristof takes a critical look at a law recently signed by Governor Rick Perry of Texas.  The new restriction requires women seeking an abortion to undergo an invasive and medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound, during which their doctor is required the describe the features of the fetus. The woman must then sign a document stating that she understands what she was told before waiting a further 24 hours for an abortion. Many critics of the procedure are decrying it as “state-sanctioned rape” and “demeaning” to women and medical professionals alike. “State by state,” Kristof wrote, “legislatures are creating new obstacles to abortions and are treating women in ways that are patronizing and humiliating.”

A similar measure was recently debated in Virginia before being revised to omit the controversial procedure. However, women in Virginia are still required to undergo an abdominal ultrasound 24 hours prior to having an abortion.

Similar “informed consent” measures like the one in Texas are being put on the table in Alabama, Kentucky, Rhode Island, and Mississippi. Family planning and sex education programs around the country continue to be at risk. According to the Guttmacher Institute, state legislators in 2011 introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions.

Just over two months into 2012, it appears that the legislative attacks on reproductive health and rights are escalating. It’s time for women and men alike to stop the assault on women’s health. Contact your local representatives and let your voice be heard.

Posted by Christina Daggett, Program Associate

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