Though the Tea Party-backed Republicans who stormed into the House and into state legislatures around the country promised to focus on jobs and fiscal responsibility, the reality is that they have instead pushed an anti-choice agenda that is absolutely breathtaking in the sheer number and scope of the bills proposed (and often passed). ThinkProgress has just a few examples:
– Redefining Rape: Last May, every House Republican and 16 anti-choice Democrats passed H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act. Anti-choice activists Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) tried to narrow the definition of rape to “forcible rape,” which meant that women who say no but do not physically fight off the assault; women who are drugged or verbally threatened and raped; and minors impregnated by adults would not qualify for the rape and incest exception in the Hyde Amendment. Smith promised to remove the language but used “a sly legislative maneuver” that essentially informs the courts that statutory rape cases will not be covered by Medicaid should the law pass and be challenged in court.
– Abortion Audits: The No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act also bans using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or insurance. Thus, a woman who used such a benefit would have to prove, if audited, that her abortion “fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.” This requirement turns the Internal Revenue Service into “abortion cops” who, agents noted, would have to force women to give “contemporaneous written documentation” that it was “incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger” which made an abortion necessary.
– Let Women Die: This October, House Republicans also passed the “Protect Life Act”, known by women’s health advocates as the “Let Women Die” bill. The measure allows hospitals that receive federal funds to reject any woman in need of an abortion procedure, even if it is necessary to save her life. Though federal law already prohibits federal funding of abortions, the GOP insisted that the health care law “contains a loophole that allows those receiving federal subsidies to use the money to enroll in health care plans that allow abortion services.”
– Personhood: Mississippi entertained the idea of passing a “personhood” amendment to its constitution this year, one that defines a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” The measure’s “profoundly ambiguous” language regarding the definition of fertilization not only would ban all abortions, it could potentially outlaw birth control, stem cell research, and in vitro fertilization for couples struggling to conceive. Mississippians rejected the amendment but personhood activists are making headway with versions for other states and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is championing a national personhood amendment.
– Race/Sex Abortions: Taking their queue from Arizona, House Republicans introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) — a so-called “civil rights” bill that bans physicians from performing abortions based on the fetus’s race or sex. The problem of selective abortion is virtually non-existent, as not one state official or independent research offered any evidence of race-based abortions. Only 5 percent of abortions occur after the point when a fetus’s sex can be determined. Arizona’s measure, now law, sends doctors and clinicians to jailfor three years if they knowingly provide such abortions. The federal bill PRENDA allows for civil suits against the physicians.
All of this is done with one hope, which is that the current Supreme Court would uphold those restrictions or — their dream scenario — even vote to overturn Roe v Wade and thus push abortion back into the alleys. We know how close this was to happening before. They had the five votes necessary to do so in 1992 until Justice Kennedy was persuaded by Justices O’Connor and Souter to change his mind, but Kennedy has since made clear that while he won’t overturn the central holding of Roe, he will gladly go along with most restrictions the legislature can think of on that right.
This is another area where I think, as bad as the Democrats can be and as bad as Obama has been on so many important issues, it is important to prevent the Republicans from retaking the White House. At least one of the next two vacancies on the Supreme Court are likely to come from the liberal side of the court, most obviously Justice Ginsburg. If a Republican replaces her, Roe is history. Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito would vote to overturn it without a moment’s hesitation.
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