According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black women are three to four times more likely to die due to pregnancy complications. This means that there is a lot more at stake in their decision to carry a child to term. Legislation directly affects lives and deaths. The 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in every state. A recent strengthening of strategic legal action by anti-choice activists has made moves to restrict rights provided by the Roe v. Wade decision.
Historically, Black women have been subjected to unauthorized and unnecessary uterus removal and were used for experiments in gynecology without their knowledge or consent. Being forced to take a pregnancy to term, women are subjected to yet another form of involuntary servitude. America continues to legislate to control decisions about reproduction for women.
Georgia ‘Heartbeat Bill’
The fetal heartbeat bills, as they are called across America, are problematic for several reasons. An embryo is defined as a fertilized egg until eight weeks when it becomes a fetus. Heart development takes seven weeks (50 days) for the anatomy to develop and heart muscle cell organization can take up to 20 weeks to place muscle cells in appropriate orientation for the heart wall. Is it a heartbeat if it’s not a whole heart that’s beating? Many neo-natal experts believe the term “fetal heartbeat” can be misleading as it refers to embryos six weeks old or less, that have an underdeveloped organ which media refers to as a “heartbeat” for emotional appeal and manipulation. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law a bill that would ban abortions if an embryo heartbeat can be detected.
Similar bills in other states
Summarized as a “heartbeat bill,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed a similar bill into law. Kentucky passed a heartbeat bill now blocked by a federal judge. Arkansas signed into law a bill that decreases a woman’s time limit to have an abortion to 18 weeks. The Utah law is a copy of the Arkansas law, but is being blocked by a federal judge. Iowa made a similar law, but a state judge struck it down. This month, federal judge, Carlton Reeves, struck down a Mississippi law that forbade abortions after approximately six weeks of pregnancy whereby a fetal heartbeat is detectable. Judge Reeves stated the law “threatens immediate harm to womens’ rights, especially considering most women do not seek abortions services until after six weeks.”
No exception for rape or incest
Alabama passed a law that leaves no exceptions for rape or incest, and would seek to penalize abortion providers with up to 99 years in prison. This is now the most restrictive abortion law of any state in the nation. The Georgia abortion ban places new restrictions on pregnancy that goes beyond six weeks, often the earliest time when an embryo has a detectable heartbeat. Because of social and economic inequality, Black and Latina women are reportedly more heavily impacted by the abortion ban.
Legalese and legislation
The Guttmacher Institute reports that the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade made clear that the right to an abortion was protected by the Constitution. The Hyde Amendment, in effect since 1977, essentially bans federal dollars from being used for abortion coverage for women insured by Medicaid, the nation’s main public health insurance program for low-income Americans. “Women who are low-income and lack insurance coverage for abortion often struggle to pay for the procedure,’” the Guttmacher Institute found. Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote that the Hyde Amendment, which drastically restricts access to abortions via funding constraints, “is designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion.”
California is among nine states that have a policy which protect abortion rights if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Since the Georgia and Alabama laws were signed into law, states like Nevada and California have made moves to lower barriers to the common medical procedure. Women have shared their feelings of outrage about the recently passed anti-choice laws.
“At the same time that unintended pregnancies have decreased for women who live at 200% of the federal poverty line, impoverished women were less likely to benefit from the progress. In 2014, 49% of abortion patients had family incomes below the federal poverty level, a significant increase from 42 percent in 2008, and 27 percent in 2000,” states the Guttmacher Institute.
According to FiveThirtyEight.com, a website covering national news, bans on abortions in the first trimester of a pregnancy (up to 13 weeks) aren’t in line with most Americans’ views on abortion. Targeting abortion clinics, health professionals who perform the procedure–and the women who need to access abortions–the strategy for the overturn of the Roe v. Wade decision have been under way at the state level for years. States are permitted by the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, to regulate abortion after it is predicted that a fetus is viable, usually starting between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. LifeWay, a Christian research group, has released the findings of a national survey containing a surprising statistic: 70 percent of women who have abortions in the U.S. are Christians, and 23 percent of those women identify as Evangelical Christians.
According to a report in the American Journal of Public Health, “Population Group Abortion Rates and Lifetime Incidence of Abortion”: “If the 2014 age-specific abortion rates prevail, 24 percent of women aged 15 to 44 years in that year will have an abortion by age 45 years. Between 2008 and 2014, the abortion rate declined 25 percent, from 19.4 to 14.6 per 1000 women aged 15 to 44 years. The abortion rate for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years declined 46 percent, the largest of any group.
Although the abortion rate decreased 26 percent for women with incomes less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level, this population had the highest abortion rate of all the groups examined: 36.6. The percentage of Black women and other women of color who accessed abortion services, according to the survey, is substantial.
“Abortion rates declined for all racial and ethnic groups but were larger for non-White women than for non-Hispanic White women,” according to the survey.”
Political affiliation and religious beliefs are not strict predictors of women’s choices about abortion. “Republicans don’t have fewer abortions than Democrats or liberals or anarchists or communists. It’s that our political rhetoric paints people who have abortions as largely the same — poor women, young women, irresponsible women, women who hate children,” said Amanda Reyes, president of the Yellowhammer Fund, which provides funding for women seeking care at any of Alabama’s three abortion clinics. “It’s gotten us to a point where we can’t see the fact that we’re all having abortions, and we’re doing it for reasons we personally think matters — and that’s all that matters. Pro-life women are having abortions, too.”
Gloria Steinem, a long-time proponent of abortion rights, said, “Women in such anti-abortion groups are more likely to be deprived of birth control and so do need an abortion.
Reaction in California
California elected officials have spoken out against steps to impede a woman’s right to abortion. The State Senate passed a bill requiring the state’s public universities to offer the abortion pill on campus. If the bill passes in the Assembly, Gov. Gavin Newsom could conceivably sign legislation that applies to all University of California and California State University campuses. Newsom has stated that he will not sign an anti-abortion bill.
Assemblymember Luz Rivas (39th District) is sponsoring a bill that gives businesses an incentive to support women while saving money. The California Share Our Values Film Tax Incentive would be available in January 2020 and intends “to offer tax breaks to film and television productions that relocate from states with restrictive abortion bans, including Georgia and Alabama,” according to MSNBC.
“We’re willing to expand [the program] to other states, but right now we’re highlighting those states with strict abortion bans,” Rivas said. “Assembly Bill 1442 will expand on the tax credits for qualified productions in film and television pending legislation or existing law that prohibits access to, criminalizes the provision of, or otherwise restricts a woman’s access to abortion services after six weeks from the beginning of the pregnancy or earlier.”
Los Angeles County has instituted a one-year travel restriction to Alabama in response to the state’s new law, HB 314, which makes it a felony for doctors in Alabama to perform or attempt to perform an abortion. Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis authored the travel ban on all L.A. County employees traveling to Alabama for official business. Exceptions were made for legally required trips including emergency response training. All states considering their own restrictive abortion