Oklahoma’s newly elected Republican Governor Mary Fallin has not wasted any time making abortions harder to get for Oklahoma women. Today marks Fallin’s 100th day in office, an opportunity she used to sign into law two bills further restricting access to abortion. One bans the procedure past 20 weeks gestation and the second prohibits insurance policies sold in Oklahoma from covering elective procedures.
According to an article published in the Oklahoman, 20-week-old fetuses have the capacity to feel pain, making the measure one of “human compassion” according Republican Rep. Pam Peterson of Tulsa, the author of the legislation. The second bill essentially eliminates insurance coverage for abortions in the state. It functions primarily to prevent access to the procedure for lower-income women, as the cost of a surgical abortion ranges from $350-$550 according to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization dedicated to reproductive health education, research and policy.
Perhaps Gov. Fallin and lawmakers in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and soon Utah and Virginia (all states with recently enacted or pending restrictions on abortion) are itching to see more cases like this one in Ghana where a 28-year-old mother of 4 recently died after complications resulting from a botched illegal abortion. Her mother and son-in-law were subsequently arrested and charged with abetment since they knew about the procedure. The “physician” who performed the abortion, however, is on the run. Interestingly, abortions are legal in Ghana, but more than 10 percent of maternal deaths are caused by unsafe practices or a lack of post-abortion health care.
While it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to go back to the days of back-alley abortions where women used coat hangers, drugs, self-inflicted trauma or other horrifying methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies, it’s even harder to imagine why state governments are all but forcing women to have children they don’t want or can’t take care of. There are a whole slew of studies conducted in the U.S. and elsewhere suggesting unwanted children are a social, economic, and emotional burden. Not only that, but at the same time governments are making it more difficult for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies, they are also slashing social support services budgets, cutting funding for programs like WIC, limiting welfare benefits like food stamps and TANF, and further restricting access to medicaid benefits.
What a great idea; force women to have babies they don’t want, then refuse to provide the social support systems they need to take care of them.
It’s also pertinent to question why state governments have overlooked evidence suggesting that safe, legal abortions actually have a positive social impact. In their book Freakonomics, economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner outline a correlation between the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973 and a sharp national decrease in violent and non-violent crime rates 18-20 years later.
Perhaps I should mention here that I used to be staunchly pro-life. I didn’t think abortion should be legal except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother was at risk.
My now 5-year-old daughter, Lola
Then I got pregnant.
I was a 20-year-old college student with a part-time, barely minimum wage job and an unstable relationship. I was all of 4-weeks along when the two little lines turned pink, and I was completely terrified by the idea of motherhood. Because I was so early in my pregnancy I was eligible for an RU-486 abortion, which is non-invasive and basically chemically induces a miscarriage.
Dr. George Tiller
I called the clinic of Dr. George Tiller (who was assassinated outside of his church by a pro-life radical in 2009) and scheduled an appointment.
My decision not to go through with it, though, has nothing to do with policy, law, education, restrictions, money or morality. I simply made what I felt was the right decision for me at the time.
But that experience has irrevocably changed the way I view women who seek abortions. While I don’t think abortion should be used as a form of birth control, I fully support a woman’s right to receive a safe, legal, abortion if she so chooses, and I don’t think states should require waiting periods, ultrasounds, mandatory counseling, or impose other methods of intimidation, harassment, or discouragement.
These new, more restrictive laws in Oklahoma and elsewhere have reinforced the idea that “the personal is political.” I, for one, do not appreciate Mary Fallin or anyone else telling me what I can and can’t do with my own uterus. I resent the notion embedded in these laws that I am not intelligent enough to make a decision about what is best for me and my body. Furthermore, I find it ludicrous that at the same time some members of government are trying to take away the rights of women to control the contents of their uterus, politicians who support reproductive rights are being chastised for even using the word!
On March 31st, 2011, in a floor debate in the Florida House of Representatives about the coordinated attack on privacy and women’s health, Representative Scott Randolph said “if my wife’s uterus was incorporated,” the legislature “would be talking about deregulating.”
The House leadership then added freedom of speech to its targets by formally chastising Rep. Randolph for using the word “uterus.” His spokesman said that “uterus” was “language that would be considered inappropriate for children and other guests.”
Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Florida.
Inappropriate for children? Where do children come from?!
This exchange prompted the Florida ACLU to launch incorporatemyuterus.com, a website where women can go and unofficially incorporate their uterus.
“The point is that Republicans are always talking about deregulation and big government. But I say their philosophy is small government for the big guy and big government for the little guy. And so, if my wife’s uterus
was incorporated or my friend’s bedroom was incorporated, maybe the Republicans would be talking about deregulating,” – Rep. Scott Randolph.
Inherent in feminist theory is the idea that women should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies, and some feminist theorists like Shulamith Firestone have argued that women’s liberation requires a biological revolution in which women must seize control of the means of reproduction in order to eliminate the sexual class system.
“As soon as technology overcomes the biological limits of natural reproduction, the biological fact that some persons have wombs and others have penises will no longer matter culturally,” (in Tong, 2008, p. 75).
Radical? Yes. But, if technology were to replace biology, then it would render null the abortion debate and remove politicians like Mary Fallin, Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Dennis Daugaard (R-South Dakota) and other anti-abortion advocates from the bedrooms and bodies of American women.
I hope I don’t start seeing headlines about women dying after complications associated with illegal abortions, but I have a feeling that if this trend of more restrictive abortion laws continues, the sales of wire coat hangers will increase.