Roe v. Wade Turns 39: Top 5 Threats to Women's Right to Choose

Source: IBTimesAuthor: Pulsihed Time: January 22, 2012 email Print this article
Roe v. Wade turns 39 today, but the number of threats to women's right to choose has balloned in recent years.

In 2011, a record high of more than 1,100 anti-abortion provisions were introduced in the country's state legislatures, representing a sharp increase over 2010, which saw 950 such provisions introduced according to a Guttmacher Institute study.

Roe v. Wade turns 39 today, but the number of threats to women's right to choose has grown in recent years.

MappingOurRights.org has made a map available that ranks states according to how much a women's right to choose is currently endangered.

Of the 1,100-plus proposals nationwide, 36 states successfully enacted new restrictions on women's right to choose in 2011, according to The Huffington Post.

Here's the top 5 threats facing abortion rights today:

1. Mississippi's push for a "personhood" constitutional amendment - The "personhood" proposal, which entered the national spotlight last year as the most restrictive such restriction proposed in the country, would have declared fetuses, or unborn children, as full "persons," granting them full rights to "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness," according to the Personhood USA advocacy group. The group is taking the Personhood movement nationwide, hoping to get such amendments added to state constitutions from Mississippi to Florida.

"A person, simply put, is a human being. This fact should be enough," Personhood USA's website reads. "The intrinsic humanity of unborn children, by definition, makes them persons, and should, therefore, guarantee their protection under the law."

The implications of such a change to Mississippi's constitution would be monumental. Some critics contend that it would make abortion a crime equal to murder of a full-grown adult.

2. Ohio's "heartbeat" bill - This legislation would outlaw abortion as soon as a doctor can detect the first fetal heartbeat.

The first heartbeat can often be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, meaning that many women won't even know she was pregnant by the time she would be unable to lawfully get an abortion. The Ohio bill allows no exception for incest, rape or mental health issues.

The pro-choice movement has mobilized against the legislation, saying it unfairly endangers women and limits their right to choose.

As Think Progress has reported, a Cleveland obstetrician named Dr. Lisa Perriera, who opposes the bill, told Senate Republicans that "lawmakers do not belong in the consultation room with me and my patients," adding that, "Banning abortion has never stopped abortion from happening. It has only made abortion unsafe or more difficult to obtain."

3. TRAP laws - Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws impose requirements on doctors on abortion providers that go beyond those imposed on other medical practices. Some such laws require further expensive and sophisticated facilities, some allow unannounced state inspections of facilities.

A number of states, from Kentucky to North Dakota have enacted such laws, which ReproductiveRights.org has come out hard against.

"These excessive and unnecessary government regulations - an ever-growing trend among state legislatures - increase the cost and scarcity of abortion services, harming women's health and inhibiting their reproductive choices," the ReproductiveRights.org website says about TRAP laws.

4. Laws mandating parental involvement - Laws that require parents to either approve or otherwise be involved in minors' reproductive rights decisions are some of the most common abortion-restricting laws in the nation

These laws make it more difficult for minor females to make their own decisions about their reproductive health, and have even led to situations in which young women have been forced to make a choice between either getting an illegal abortion or giving birth to a child conceived via rape or incest.

The Center for Reproductive Rights calls such laws a major threat to the right to choose, and wrote in 2009 that more than 35 states mandate parental consent or parental notification before minors can obtain abortions.

"In their efforts to make inaccessible to as many women as possible, anti-choice forces have focused on burdening minors' access to abortion," the center wrote.

5. Mandatory and biased counseling laws - Laws mandating women obtain counseling before obtaining an abortion are one more restriction on choice that abortion-rights groups to which have been strongly opposed

Even worse, such groups say, are "biased" counseling laws, which require that such counseling be state-provided information that encourages carrying the pregnancy rather than getting an abortion.

The Center for Productive Rights has pushed hard to stop such laws from being passed, and wrote a major critique of them in 2010:

"The information is designed to persuade women to carry their pregnancies to term, and it generally includes descriptions of fetal development, adoption programs, and state laws requiring fathers to pay child support," the center wrote. "In some states, this information must be provided to the woman orally, often by the physician, and in other states the information is contained in written materials prepared by the state."

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