According to a new Guttmacher Report, in the last six monthsâ€”from the beginning of January through the end of Juneâ€”states across the country have enacted a record breaking 162 new laws or changes to current law that impact our reproductive health care and rights. Of those, 49% (80 new laws!) are targeted at restricting access to abortion. The 80 new laws are more than double the record set in 2005 of 34 enacted restrictions, and triple last yearâ€™s number of 23.
New laws in five states seek to ban abortion completely after 20 weeks, and Ohio wants to ban it as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at approximately eight weeks. (All of this appears to conflict with existing Supreme Court precedent that prohibits bans on abortion prior to viability, which occurs Â several weeks laterâ€”but with todayâ€™s Supreme Court, who knows.) These 2011 changes have all occurred in just 19 states.
The bad news is that it can and is happening here in New York.
Just last week, a Federal Court judge for the Southern District of New York, Federal Judge William Pauley, blocked New York City from enforcing its new law requiring Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs)* to disclose what services they do and do not provide. The focus of the law was/is transparency. It had been carefully studied to ensure protection of First Amendment rights of all involved.
The meaning inherent in the judgeâ€™s decision is that it is okay to trick women, and to mislead us about to the full range of medical services of which we might legally avail ourselves.
In Albany every year, we battle back against anti-choice legislation. This past May, Assemblyman Katz, newly elected to represent the 99 A.D., introduced a bill, A07841, that calls for â€œno state aid allocated, transferred, or given to the organization known as Planned Parenthood or any of such organizationâ€™s affiliated entities or any organization which performs abortions.â€ Â Our pro-choice elected officials were waiting!
Even under a Democratically controlled State Senate in 2009, we could not get a vote to pass the much needed Reproductive Health Act that would update New York Stateâ€™s abortion law, establish a fundamental right to reproductive privacy, treat the regulation ofÂ abortion as an issue of public health and medical practice, and remove it from the penal code provisions.
We are represented by those whom we elect. Last November, voters across the country turned out in droves to vote for anyone promising to reduce taxes and who was not an incumbentâ€”no questions asked. No questions about Choice, about Jobs, about the Environment-nothing. Candidates only needed to disparage the then-office holders and all existing programs. They were not asked to offer a single concrete course of action.
And it worked. Disguised as concerned citizens, extremists with right-wing anti-social agendas were able to get elected to State and Federal government. The key was to avoid discussion about social issues but to promise key supporters to advance their ultra-conservative agendas.
That is exactly how we ended up with this record-breaking number of anti-abortion restrictions. Our rights are too hard to come by to allow this to happen again, not in Albany, not in Westchester County and not in Washington D.C.