430 abortion restrictions introduced this year alone.

I’ve had an abortion. (If you’re an old hand around these parts, you’re aware of this fact, because I’ve noted it before).

I’ve had an abortion, but I’ll be honest: For me, it wasn’t an easy decision. I don’t believe I ended a life, but I know I ended the potential for life, and while it was the best of (what felt to me like) two bad choices, that didn’t make it a happy thing.

I figure that’s ok. I’m not required meet the anti-choice stereotype of just loooooving me some good ol’ abortions in order to have the right to avail myself of a legal medical procedure. One may be conflicted, unsure, sad, even grieving, and still be pro-choice.

Which is why, despite whatever ambivalence I may have had about my own abortion, the following information (from a post by Sarah Kliff on the Washington Post‘s WonkBlog) makes my hair stand on end:

“We’re looking at about 430 abortion restrictions that have been introduced into state legislatures this year, which is pretty much in the same ballpark as 2011,” says Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group that focuses on health and reproductive rights. This year, Nash says, “is shaping up to be quite busy.”

Keep in mind, 2011 was already a watershed year for abortion restrictions: States passed 83 such laws, more than triple the 23 laws passed in 2010.

In terms of specifics:

Next week, Texas will enact a law that bans Planned Parenthood clinics from participating in a Medicaid-affiliated family planning program….

Virginia has moved forward with its much-protested bill to require a woman to undergo an ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy. At the request of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), legislators tweaked the bill to guarantee that it would not require more invasive, transvaginal ultrasounds. [McDonnell signed the changed bill this afternoon]. “It’s not any better than what they introduced in the first place,” says Nash.

…The Oklahoma Senate passed a requirement Wednesday that women be invited to hear the fetus’s heartbeat before the pregnancy is terminated. Georgia is weighing a ban on late-term abortion (passed by five states in 2011); Alabama is looking at an ultrasound requirement.

I would argue that for the Virginia women who will not now be required to undergo state-sanctioned rape at the hands of their doctors, the new law is, in fact, “better than what they introduced in the first place” — but that’s still a very, very long way from “good,” in that it exists at all.

I’m not willing to chalk up the furious round of efforts to limit women’s reproductive autonomy to any one cause. I think some people (and it’s definitely not just men) are genuinely seeking to punish women for having the temerity to have active sex lives, but I also think some people genuinely believe abortion to be murder — that doesn’t give those people the right to determine my fate for me, but I can see being strongly opposed to the murder of babies, if that’s what you think abortion is. I think some folks are following religious dictates that they haven’t thought much about, and I think others are craven opportunists who either don’t know, or don’t care about, the impact their band-wagon hopping will have on real people’s lives. And I’ve probably missed a few reasons.

But that’s a big part of why it’s so hard to stem this tide. There’s no one thing, no one person, no one idea against which we can rally. There’s no one way to direct our energies, and our energies are being desperately sapped right now, in no small part because some anti-choice advocates are smart enough to know that if they hit us on 430 fronts at once, we’ll have a very hard time hitting back.

But we have to keep fighting, and it is absolutely vital that we understand just where the front line lies: elections.

“This is still fallout from the 2010 election,” says Nash. “On the state level, just like on the federal level, we had a number of conservative candidates elected. They shifted very quickly to a social issues agenda, and they’re continuing it as we head into another election year.”

I believe (and on this I have no ambivalence) that the Tea Party-infused GOP currently passing all these heinous, damaging laws is losing the American people, and that progressives and pro-choice advocates are on the right side of history. I’ve said so here, and here, and I absolutely believe it to be so.

But in the meantime, as we push ahead and plow on, actual lives are destroyed.

If we want to see an end to this assault on the dignity and autonomy of half of America’s citizens, we have got to see to it that 2012 is a banner year for Democrats, at all levels. Elections have consequences — at least 430 of them.

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  1. corkingiron

     /  March 7, 2012

    Sigh. This is just so counterproductive. Consider this, from a Report in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality:

    Among the four countries compared for 2006, Canada boasted the lowest teen birth and abortion rate per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 (27.9), followed by Sweden (31.4), England/Wales (60.3), and the United States (61.2).

    Now, why is this so? From the same report:

    “In comparison to the United States, we tend to have a more balanced, sensible approach to adolescent sexual health. Generally speaking what you find is that the more a society has an accepting attitude toward the reality of adolescent sexuality, the lower the teen pregnancy rate is. Canadians tend to have a more relaxed attitude towards adolescent sexuality than people in the United States.”

    Oh, and Public Opinion Polls show that – while there is a stark divide between Pro-Choice and Pro-Life positions, a majority of Canadians think it is the woman’s right to make the final decision.

  2. I’m right there with ya on the opinions, girly. I’ve never had an abortion, nor do I have any children. But, I know what’s right.

  3. Ash Can

     /  March 8, 2012

    I really am believing these days that the “War on Women” rhetoric is not hyperbole, and if anything is overdue. The GOP practice of systematically punishing people not likely to vote Republican dates back to the Reagan administration (one of the two main reasons I believe Ronald Reagan was one of the most destructive presidents this nation has ever had, along with his abysmal foreign policy). Zeroing in on health care for lower-income women (see today’s excellent post by the always-outstanding Balloon Juice frontpager Kay on the GOP attack on Title X) accomplishes multiple goals. It targets the lower-income populaces, many of whom are minorities, and women in particular — three groups that tend not to vote GOP.

    Now, this is not to say I think political retaliation is the only impetus behind this abhorrent trend, not by any means. The racist element is self-evident. So is the misogynistic element. Additionally, mass ignorance of what Planned Parenthood actually does is an enormous problem and leads to the election of nefarious people who work to cripple and destroy it. And, in the case of the Catholic bishops, the ACA flap gave them an ideal opportunity to throw their ecclesiastical weight around (like it makes any difference to us rank-and-file laity). However, I do believe that this now time-honored GOP tradition of retaliation upon the electorate is an important impetus, and the reason the war on women’s health care as a whole (including, prominently, contraception), which appears so absurd to the rest of us, goes all the way to the top in the GOP leadership.

    • Ash Can

       /  March 8, 2012

      P.S.: Happy International Women’s Day.

  4. dmf

     /  March 8, 2012

    What Can the White Man Say to the Black Woman?
    By Alice Walker, address in support of the National March for Women’s Equality and Women’s Lives in Washington D.C., 22 May 1989

    What is of use in these words I offer in memory of our common mother. And to my daughter.

    What can the white man say to the black woman?

    For four hundred years he ruled over the black woman’s womb.

    Let us be clear. In the barracoons and along the slave shipping coasts of Africa, for more than twenty generations, it was he who dashed our babies brains out against the rocks.

    What can the white man say to the black woman?

    For four hundred years he determined which black woman’s children would live or die.

    Let it be remembered. It was he who placed our children on the auction block in cities all across the eastern half of what is now the United States, and listened to and watched them beg for their mothers’ arms, before being sold to the highest bidder and dragged away.

    What can the white man say to the black woman?

    We remember that Fannie Lou Hamer, a poor sharecropper on a Mississippi plantation, was one of twenty-one children; and that on plantations across the South black women often had twelve, fifteen, twenty children. Like their enslaved mothers and grandmothers before them, these black women were sacrificed to the profit the white man could make from harnessing their bodies and their children’s bodies to the cotton gin.

    What can the white man say to the black woman?

    We see him lined up on Saturday nights, century after century, to make the black mother, who must sell her body to feed her children, go down on her knees to him.

    Let us take note:

    He has not cared for a single one of the dark children in his midst, over hundreds of years.

    Where are the children of the Cherokee, my great grandmother’s people?


    Where are the children of the Blackfoot?


    Where are the children of the Lakota?


    Of the Cheyenne?

    Of the Chippewa?

    Of the Iroquois?

    Of the Sioux?

    Of the Mandinka?

    Of the Ibo?

    Of the Ashanti?

    Where are the children of the “Slave Coast” and Wounded Knee?

    We do not forget the forced sterilizations and forced starvations on the reservations, here as in South Africa. Nor do we forget the smallpox-infested blankets Indian children were given by the Great White Fathers of the United States government.

    What has the white man to say to the black woman?

    When we have children you do everything in your power to make them feel unwanted from the moment they are born. You send them to fight and kill other dark mothers’ children around the world. You shove them onto public highways in the path of oncoming cars. You shove their heads through plate glass windows. You string them up and you string them out.

    What has the white man to say to the black woman?

    From the beginning, you have treated all dark children with absolute hatred.

    Thirty million African children died on the way to the Americas, where nothing awaited them but endless toil and the crack of a bullwhip. They died of a lack of food, of lack of movement in the holds of ships. Of lack of friends and relatives. They died of depression, bewilderment and fear.

    What has the white man to say to the black woman?

    Let us look around us: Let us look at the world the white man has made for the black woman and her children.

    It is a world in which the black woman is still forced to provide cheap labor, in the form of children, for the factories and on the assembly lines of the white man.

    It is a world into which the white man dumps every foul, person-annulling drug he smuggles into creation.

    It is a world where many of our babies die at birth, or later of malnutrition, and where many more grow up to live lives of such misery they are forced to choose death by their own hands.

    What has the white man to say to the black woman, and to all women and children everywhere?

    Let us consider the depletion of the ozone; let us consider homelessness and the nuclear peril; let us consider the destruction of the rain forests_in the name of the almighty hamburger. Let us consider the poisoned apples and the poisoned water and the poisoned air and the poisoned earth.

    And that all of our children, because of the white man’s assault on the planet, have a possibility of death by cancer in their almost immediate future.

    What has the white, male lawgiver to say to any of us? To those of us who love life too much to willingly bring more children into a world saturated with death?

    Abortion, for many women, is more than an experience of suffering beyond anything most men will ever know; it is an act of mercy, and an act of self-defense.

    To make abortion illegal again is to sentence millions of women and children to miserable lives and even more miserable deaths.

    Given his history, in relation to us, I think the white man should be ashamed to attempt to speak for the unborn children of the black woman. To force us to have children for him to ridicule, drug and turn into killers and homeless wanderers is a testament to his hypocrisy.

    What can the white man say to the black woman?

    Only one thing that the black woman might hear.

    Yes, indeed, the white man can say, Your children have the right to life. Therefore I will call back from the dead those 30 million who were tossed overboard during the centuries of the slave trade. And the other millions who died in my cotton fields and hanging from trees.

    I will recall all those who died of broken hearts and broken spirits, under the insult of segregation.

    I will raise up all the mothers who died exhausted after birthing twenty-one children to work sunup to sundown on my plantation. I will restore to full health all those who perished for lack of food, shelter, sunlight, and love; and from my inability to see them as human beings.

    But I will go even further:

    I will tell you, black woman, that I wish to be forgiven the sins I commit daily against you and your children. For I know that until I treat your chil dren with love, I can never be trusted by my own. Nor can I respect myself.

    And I will free your children from insultingly high infant mortality rates, short life spans, horrible housing, lack of food, rampant ill health. I will liberate them from the ghetto. I will open wide the doors of all the schools and hospitals and businesses of society to your children. I will look at your children and see not a threat but a joy.

    I will remove myself as an obstacle in the path that your children, against all odds, are making toward the light. I will not assassinate them for dreaming dreams and offering new visions of how to live. I will cease trying to lead your children, for I can see I have never understood where I was going. I will agree to sit quietly for a century or so, and meditate on this.

    This is what the white man can say to the black woman.

    We are listening.

  5. Darth Thulhu

     /  March 8, 2012

    My own belief is that women’s medical rights will never be secure until the various movements in support of those rights can look the argument of “Abortion Is Murder” directly in the face and rebut it. It does not do to say that one doesn’t personally believe it is, because in a political war between someone who believes it is murder and one who doesn’t, the True Believers will always be more motivated, more persistent, and more successful on 430 fronts per year.

    My own beliefs:
    1) Abortion is homicide. Abortion ends a unique human genome in a unique human organism, different and distinct from its father and its mother. However immature that human is, it is being killed, and that reality is always a sad one.

    2) Abortion is justifiable homicide. Abortion ends a threat to the mother’s health and very life, for the human gestation cycle threatens human mothers as gestation threatens no other species. Ruptures, ectopics, and many other complications can threaten the mother’s life at any point. Meanwhile, the fetus is a wholly parasitic tenant occupying the woman’s private property. Self-defense justifies homicide against even adults, and the mother is the steward of her property rights and may evict any delinquent squatter she chooses. She may justifiably evict and if need be kill any child that threatens her life, even if both said child and said child’s father were somehow to disagree.

    Ergo my assertion: abortion is not murder, in either the first or second degree. It is, at worst, negligent homicide or fetus-slaughter, and is most often fully justified homicide and eviction.

    That is a grim and terrible reality to confront, but it is far less grim and far less terrible than legally mandating the universal coercion of all women to harbor potentially life-threatening, unwanted squatters in their private property for months without compensation.

    There is horrible, and then there is horrific. Abortion will always be horrible, but the laws the Republicans seek to pass and enforce are clearly horrific.

    • caoil

       /  March 8, 2012

      And according to the Medecins sans Frontieres email that came today, the WHO estimates that 1000 women (around the globe) die every day in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications. I guess the lives of already-here women count as less important than the non-viable fetuses the legislators are so busy thinking about.

    • In addition to this, I’ve been thinking lately: as a society we’ve mostly come to believe that non-consensual sex is a bad thing. Isn’t non-consensual pregnancy also a bad thing?

  6. Tom Campbell

     /  March 16, 2012

    I’m reminded of a tale from my homeland, Scotland. There was this newly graduated MD in a small village in the Western Highlands. He was making his rounds and had to travel out to this very remote croft -small farm- in an isolated glen – valley. He was welcomed into the house and asked to stay for dinner. There were four children in the kitchen and he was introduced to them by their mother saying, “these are the twins Katy and Fiona, and the twins Angus and Donald”, Just then two more children came into the room and their mother introduced them as Ian and Calum. The doctor said, “So was it twins every time then?” “Ach no”, the mother said, “Most times it was nothing at all!”

    This illustrates the fact that around 85% of all possible pregnancies result in failure of either fusion of sperm and egg or failure of implantation.

    One might reasonable derive the conclusion that “abortion”, as defined by some authorities is a natural state and therefore contraception simply reinforces those natural processes.

    We have a genetic responsibility to our partners and our species to limit the number of children that we produce. Contraception is therefore of benefit to the survival of the human race, the jury is still out on the question of whether or not religion, with all it’s distortions of human behavior should claim to be of such benefit.


  7. Sarah

     /  March 17, 2012

    The Virginia law is kinda fuzzy, it still requires that there be an ultrasound that determines the age of the fetus, and with when many abortions take place the only way to know it is transvaginally, but they say they won’t be requiring transvaginal ultrasounds, they don’t say how they’re going to solve the contradiction