On Feb. 12, 2015, Arizona passed Senate Bill 1318 to further infringe upon women’s reproductive rights. Under this bill, abortions will not be covered by federal or private health care. This means Arizona joins 23 other states that have banned abortion coverage. Once again, the government is continuing to try to block women from accessing abortion providers. By banning abortion coverage, many women will be forced to pay for the cost of the procedure and potential aftercare out of pocket.
According to the Washington Post, there was also a recent bill brought to the House to ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. The current law bans abortions after 24 weeks, with exceptions for health conditions that may jeopardize the life of the mother. According to Planned Parenthood, 99 percent of abortions happen before 21 weeks. Why are politicians concerned with making abortions even more time-sensitive? In addition to the above restriction, the new bill would only make exceptions for rape victims if they can prove that they reported the assault to police. That measure will intimidate and discourage pregnant survivors of rape from getting the medical care they need. Aside from the fact that the woman may simply not want to be pregnant or have a child, she may not want to have the child of her rapist. Rape is undoubtedly a dehumanizing crime, and many women would not want to have the child of the person who disrespected their human rights. Reporting the crime leads to being forced to face the attacker in court, and that can be immensely difficult when the survivor may only want time to heal.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), an average of 68 percent of sexual assaults went unreported annually for the past five years. The mandatory reporting requirement in the bill brought to the House is attempting to prevent more abortions by making women feel ashamed of the fact that they were raped. While it is true that the attack is not the fault of the victim, women are often blamed or “slut-shamed” for being sexually assaulted. They are criticized for “asking” for sexual assault based on clothing, intoxication level, or actions.The investigation and litigation process itself is difficult and time consuming, involving invasive tests and police reports. It isn’t uncommon for police officers to treat rape cases with skepticism or outright disbelief. Because of fear of these consequences, sexual assault is one of the least reported crimes.
Interestingly, the 20-week ban was to be proposed on the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that established current law. However, the GOP canceled the bill in exchange for a bill that would cut funding to Planned Parenthood and other social welfare nets for women’s reproductive care. This bill can be more easily passed because it infringes less on current law, but it will still profoundly affect women in the U.S. Many rely on the birth control and abortion services of institutions that provide reproductive care. This means women have to pay for their own care, but if they can’t pay, then they won’t be able to access that care. By preventing access to reproductive care, many women will be forced to make financial sacrifices to get the care they need. Equal access to resources should be allowed, no matter what anyone’s personal beliefs are on abortion. Opposition of abortion due to religious beliefs is the reason for the separation of church and state.
According to PBS, the Casey v. Planned Parentood case ruled that state and federal governments are not supposed to pass laws in regards to abortion that put a “substantial obstacle” or “undue burden” in the way of receiving the procedure. Evidently, cutting funding is clearly not considered a burden — because it is waiting to become law — but don’t we have other substantial obstacles in place already? Minors are required in some states to get permission from one or both parents before having a legal abortion. This can be a substantial obstacle, depending on the family situation. If parents or legal guardians do not give permission or approve of the choice, that could lead to potentially dangerous situations for the teen seeking abortion. This can be avoided by a judicial bypass, which involves a decision by a judge, but many teens could be kicked out of their homes or shamed by their community because they weren’t able to get an abortion confidentially.
It seems that politicians are trying to reduce the availability of abortions because of personal beliefs against the procedure. However, women should be allowed to make the reproductive choices that are best for them without being forced to have a child for any reason that they don’t want to.