Reproductive Freedom – The Week in Review

I’m posting in segments this week because I’m running behind.


There’s a good summary on Think Progress this week about the seven states determined to shut the doors to abortion clinics and send women back to coat hangers for abortions. Those seven are Alabama, Indiana,  Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. The Washington Post has a nifty interactive graphic that shows the spread of anti-abortion extremism. Planned Parenthood’s president believes that abortion is headed back to the Supreme Court for another round.

The Think Progress post really just scratches the surface of these states’ egregious attacks on reproductive rights, though. Alabama has taken a often-copied page from the Mississippi, Tennessee and North Dakota playbook to require lots of expensive and medically unnecessary steps, staffing, and facilities for places where abortions are provided. North Dakota, of course, now has the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, eclipsing even Neanderthal, mysogynist Arkansas, prompting at least one pro-life citizen (yes, pro-life) to push for a referendum to repeal those overly-restrictive laws. In addition to unnecessarily burdening abortion facilities with pointless requirements, Virginia wants to make abortion more expensive, but mandate that it cannot be covered by health insurance. Indiana wants abortifacient drugs to be used only under the same circumstances – and in the same surroundings – as surgical abortions. Likewise, Mississippi wants a woman to take those drugs only in the presence of a doctor. Kansas, not mentioned in Think Progress’s list, is considering the most sweeping anti-abortion bill in the nation, which will prohibit abortion based on the gender of the fetus. (Is that a thing in the US? In China, maybe, but here?) Florida, also not on the list, wants to prohibit not just sex-selection, but race selection, too.  (Like the baby might turn out to be a race other than that of the parents? Seriously? Go home, Florida. You’re drunk.)


Planned Parenthood is under attack all over the country, even though abortions account for a whopping three percent of its total services. Kansas doesn’t want immoral abortion providers to participate in sex education in public schools, and is expected to pass a bill this week to prevent that. Not content with making its state the most hostile to pregnant women, North Dakota also wants Planned Parenthood  and North Dakota State University out of the sex education business, at least in populations where it might matter. The Kansas House passed a bill this week to say that human life and its attendant inalienable rights begin at the moment of fertilization. Never mind that 71 percent of the organization’s services go to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which is supposedly a big chunk of what sex education is all about. The other 26% of Planned Parenthood’s services are geared to maintaining reproductive health, with is what the rest of sex education is all about.


Remember the Hobby Lobby case objecting to Obamacare? The Federal District Court said that Hobby Lobby had to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees in the health care plan because it was not a religious institution that was exempt from federal law. Citing that its owners were conscientious objectors to women having control of their own bodies, Hobby Lobby decided to pay millions of dollars in fines rather than comply with the order pending appeal. The appeal was heard, and the decision of the District Judge was upheld by a three-judge panel at the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Tenth Circuit has agreed to hear the case en banc, though – which means that all of the judges of the Circuit, not just a panel, will reconsider the decision in the case. Without a single justice in dissent, the 1981 Supreme Court explained in United States v. Lee, “[w]hen followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.” Religious liberty does not permit an employer to “impose the employer’s religious faith on the employees.” Presumably that includes the employer’s religiously-based objections to birth control.



Got a legal question? Email me at anne@aramink.com. I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. I’m on Twitter as @aramink, and you can see my regular blog at www.aramink.com, where I write book reviews, ruminate on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and occasionally – frequently – rant about Stuff.

About Anne

Civil rights activist Anne Orsi is one of the spokespeople for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and is the primary organizer of Reason in the Rock, a conference on science, secularism and skepticism. Got a question? Email her at anne@aramink.com. She's a lawyer but may not be licensed in your state. Sending her an email or reading her blog posts does not create an attorney-client relationship. Find Anne on Twitter as @aramink, and read her regular blog at www.aramink.com.

  • Michael Busch

    This all would be absurd, if it were not so scary.

    The Indiana and Mississippi laws are particularly ridiculous, since the usual chemical abortifacients have many other clinical uses. If someone has ulcers from taking too much ibuprofen, is misoprostol not permitted? That’s actually a weak example since misoprostol isn’t a first-line treatment for ulcers anymore. But if a patient comes with Cushing’s syndrome, is the doctor not allowed to begin treatment with mifepristone? If the patient is in need of chemotherapy for leukemia or Crohn’s disease, can she not be given a course of methotrexate? And so on.

  • baal

    Current SCOTUS has a hard time with starie decisis. The 1981 case is directly on point but I suspect the Hobby Lobby suspects the SCOTUS is willing to over look if not overrule it. Horrible public policy is a winning argument necessarily if it’s something the christianists want.

  • Still Wondering

    Is it wrong to kill unborn healthy viable fetuses if they are no threat to the life or health of the mother?

    For example, because someone has decided they don’t want another girl?

    • Glodson

      Look, someone JAQing off in an reproductive rights posting. How novel. And talking about a situation in which one can “reasonably” ask when they can place restrictions on a woman’s autonomy.

    • Nate Frein

      Every fetus poses a threat to the life and health of the mother. Pregnancy is incredibly physically demanding and even “normal” pregnancies carry massive risks.

      Further, is it wrong for a landlord to evict unlawful tenants if they pose no threat to the life or health of the landlord?

    • http://smingleigh.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      What if the baby would grow up to be Batman, but the Joker would inevitably arise in response?

      • Glodson

        What if the baby would be Hitler with super AIDS?

    • UsingReason

      Since most Doctors won’t even attempt to determine the sex of a fetus until 16-20 weeks and the vast majority of abortions are performed before 16 weeks; your question is not a real question, it’s just an attempt at incitement.

      Ah fuck it, you are stupid.

    • Loqi

      I’m going to rephrase your question as, “Should a woman be allowed to terminate a pregnancy for any reason she wants?” and respond in the affirmative. Even if we grant that the fetus is a person, what gives it the right to use her body? If she doesn’t want something inside her, she has the right to remove it, full stop.