Abortion laws in 2019

Published 8:51 am Friday, June 21, 2019

Safe and legal abortion in the United States has been a topic of strongly held divergent views since the Supreme Court supported Roe v. Wade.

But in 2019, the country has witnessed midwest and southern states pass abortion laws more extreme than most Americans would accept. Why? Because some think the Supreme Court has been “packed” with justices ready to overturn a law supported by 65 percent of Americans.

Trusting the court will reject precedent, reverse Roe and make abortion a state-by-state proposition again, states including Ohio, Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky have all passed highly restrictive abortion laws that would outlaw abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, roughly six weeks after inception and before many women even know they are pregnant. This would effectively make abortion in these states illegal, but without rejecting Roe outright.

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But these states are not the most extreme examples of effectively ending Roe. Alabama has a bill in its legislature that makes abortion illegal, has no exception for rape or incest, and grants rapists parental rights in child rearing. Yes, rapists could impregnate a woman, she would be forced to bear the rapist’s child, and the rapist would then have an ongoing role in raising that child. As if that is not extreme enough, doctors who performed abortions would be imprisoned for 99 years.

And all of this because these Republican legislatures and Governors think the Republican majority on the Supreme Court will simply acquiesce because they are, well, Republican. And these states may be right, but only if the court is willing to forever surrender its objectivity for blatant partisanship.

There are women protesting these medieval laws and bills in each state, and lawsuits are being filed to overturn the laws as violations of Roe, but the legislators, in some states mostly or entirely male, frankly could not care less about the 65 percent of Americans who support the right to abortion, for their districts have been so effectively gerrymandered that they face no risk of losing their elective seats.

The polling on abortion has been consistent for decades. Between 15-20 percent of Americans think abortion should be illegal always. But, in a recent CBS News poll 67 percent want Roe left as it is, and 28 percent want to overturn Roe. Yet states like Missouri face having no access to abortion due to laws or inventive legislative rules, or newly constructed regulations all designed to close clinics that perform abortions.

Missouri faces a crisis this week. The state has one clinic providing abortions, a Planned Parenthood office in St. Louis. Last month, the state created an entirely new regulation, no change in the law, that requires a medically unnecessary vaginal examination three days prior to an abortion. There is absolutely no medical reason for the exam, as an identical exam is completed at the time of the abortion. So, for 21 days, doctors at the clinic surrendered and did the invasive, abusive exam, making their patients the victims of political abuse until yesterday. Yesterday the doctors finally refused to ignore their patient care directives and now refuse to do the vaginal exam, risking the clinic’s license renewal.

In recent American political history, Republicans have benefitted at the voting booth by opposing abortion, thereby gaining the political support of evangelical Christians. But this year, given the extremes, the absolute excesses, the abortion issue may turn against Republicans as the majority of Americans see this excessive legislation for what it is: an abuse of women’s rights, a vicious, demeaning attack on women making one of the most difficult decisions of their lives.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.