Feminist Majority fights on every front to protect women’s reproductive rights, from access to birth control to keeping the doors open at women’s health clinics. Here are just a few of the battles we are fighting right now:
- Threats to Women’s Health Clinics and Planned Parenthood
- “Religious Freedom” Used to Deny Access
- Outright Bans on Abortion Services
- “Fetal Personhood” Laws and Ballot Measures
- State Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP)
- Pre-Abortion Requirements Such As Ultrasounds, Waiting Periods, Inaccurate “Counseling”
Feminist Majority has long been active in the defense of women’s health clinics that are targeted because they provide abortion and contraception, as well as comprehensive preventive care. We provide legal and organizing assistance to clinics that are under attack from anti-abortion zealots, as well as those targeted by anti-abortion politicians and politically motivated medical boards. Recently anti-choice politicians have passed laws defunding family planning programs and specifically to defund Planned Parenthood. We work to oppose such legislation.
In 2012 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops put tremendous pressure on the Obama administration to expand the religious exemption for provision of birth control in the preventive care package of the Affordable Care Act. If they had been successful, students and employees of religiously-affiliated institutions that are not churches (e.g. hospitals, universities, insurance agencies) would not have had the same right as students and employees of other institutions to access birth control in their health plans without co-pays or deductibles. The bishops, with the support of Republican leaders in the House and Senate, are pursuing federal legislation that would allow any religiously-affiliated institution to refuse coverage.
In North Dakota this year, feminists led the effort to turn out student votes against Measure 3, a “religious freedom” constitutional amendment. It was soundly defeated, 64% to 36%, after the voters understood what was at stake. Measure 3 would have threatened access to birth control as well as laws against sex discrimination, domestic violence, child abuse and more. The amendment could have provided a defense to wife beaters and child abusers – who would have been able to claim their religious beliefs allow them to use violence against family members. It would have also opened the door, based on moral or religious beliefs, to sex discrimination and the denial of birth control and other fundamental services and protections.
Some states aren’t subtle. They’re simply adopting bans on abortion after a certain time, often 20 weeks, and with few exceptions. Many do not even have exceptions, such as for rape, incest, or to protect the life or health of the woman.
In April 2012 Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a law banning abortion coverage in private insurance plans, so that women will not be able to choose a policy that contains abortion coverage, and private policies with existing coverage will have to drop it. Other states are considering similar bans, as well as bans on medication abortion (mifeprex or RU-486), a safe way to end an early pregnancy.
Bills and ballot measures have been introduced in many states to declare a fertilized egg to be a “person” with full rights from the moment of conception. This would ban a wide range of vital women’s health services, including lifesaving treatment of ectopic pregnancies, in vitro fertilization, common forms of birth control, and all abortions.
Feminists were instrumental in the defeat of the Mississippi personhood amendment, but similar measures will be on the ballot or in the legislatures of several states in 2012.
The passage of TRAP provisions (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) has increased in recent years, despite the fact that abortion clinics are already heavily regulated. TRAP laws are unnecessary regulations designed to be difficult or prohibitively expensive to follow, with the intention of forcing the closure of small clinics.
For example, Feminist Majority has been fighting recent regulations in Virginia that would essentially require clinics to meet the same requirements as a hospital. These kinds of regulations are spreading, and they can have disastrous impact – for example requiring clinics to have hallways wide enough for two gurneys to pass side-by-side, or worse yet, an elevator large enough to fit two gurneys at once. Clearly this is a ridiculous requirement for a clinic with only one or two procedure rooms, and the goal of these rules is simply to drive small clinics out of business through unnecessary regulation.
Mississippi legislators are trying to close the one remaining clinic in that state by requiring that each abortion provider be a board-certified ob/gyn and personally have admitting privileges at a local hospital (it is insufficient to have an agreement with a doctor at a local hospital in case of complications. This clearly isn’t about women’s health – doctors in Mississippi don’t have to be board certified or have admitting privileges to deliver a baby, even though women are about 14 times more likely to die during or after giving birth to a live baby than to die from complications of a legal abortion, according to a report published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. This is another transparent effort to close the one remaining clinic in the state.
These kinds of provisions introduced by anti-abortion legislators are now widespread, with many states requiring that doctors read misleading “information” to their patients, increasing costs to the patient by requiring that pre-abortion counseling be done by the physician instead of a trained nurse or counselor, and increasing travel costs for rural women by imposing mandatory delays after the counseling. The most recent limitations are coming in the form of mandatory ultrasound tests, which are prohibitively expensive for low-income women.
Feminist Majority was a leader in the statewide protests when Virginia lawmakers tried to pass an invasive vaginal-probe ultrasound in 2012. The protests resulted in dropping the probe, but a regular (expensive and unnecessary) ultrasound is still a prerequisite for abortion in Virginia. Several states are considering enacting new laws of this kind. The purpose of these kinds of restrictions is not to advance womens’ health, but to mislead women and create additional delays and expenses in the hope that the procedure will become too costly for many women.