Although some labeled 2012 as the Year of the Woman, I can assure you that many felt like it was really the Year Against Women. It seemed that any time a woman stuck out her neck, trying to drag our country forward, a Neanderthal came out from the bushes to try to yank her back. But we’re used to that. So, we dust ourselves off, and prove that we are resilient. Unfortunately, there has been an unprecedented effort by legislators to pull the rug out from under our feet. So in no particular order, I present the top 10 legislative insults against women in 2012.
- You want an abortion? That’s ok, but you’ll need to wait 24 hours. Oh, and here’s a pamphlet explaining how an abortion can contribute to your risk of breast cancer. Such is a claim that is made as part of a bill that passed New Hampshire’s legislature in March. The false claim is disputed by experts in the field including the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately, a few other states have followed suit, including Alaska, Kansas, and Mississippi.
- I’m sorry to tell you that we’re going to have to let you go. We have a moral objection to your use of birth control. But other than that, we really like the job you’ve done. A bill in Arizona would make it legal for an employer to fire an employee if they object to an employee’s use of birth control. While many women use birth control for its intended purpose, many take it for other reasons. This bill would make it perfectly legal to ask that employee why she is taking the pill. A similar attempt has been made by craft giant, Hobby Lobby. And despite a court ruling against the company, representatives say that they will defy it by paying millions in fines.
- Would you like your aborted fetus to be cremated, or would a casket suit you better? As part of a larger bill pushed through Michigan‘s lame duck legislature, women seeking an abortion are asked to make another decision – the matter of the disposal of the aborted fetus. The pain is also extended to someone who has miscarried, and it applies to a fetus as small as 10 weeks old. As part of that process, the death must be registered as a death to the state’s Department of Community Health. I shudder to think of the person who had the stomach to write such a macabre and heartless bill.
- You can have an abortion, but you should know that you will likely want to commit suicide, as a result. Sign here, and initial here. A law in South Dakota requires doctors to read a script to women who are seeking an abortion, part of which includes a statement that women are more likely to think of committing suicide as a result of having an abortion. The law was originally passed in 2005, but it has been in and out of the courts due to the suicide portion of the script. Planned Parenthood had won an injunction, but the court eventually found for the state.
- You were raped by your uncle? That’s awful. But you should know that if you choose to abort the baby, you’ll have to pay for the abortion. Taxpayers frown on that. The South Carolina legislature passed a bill in June that would make rape and incest victims feel like they were raped another time. This provision is added to a provision in the state’s employee health plan that provides abortions only in the case of rape, incest and for the life of the mother.
- You should really take a look at your fetus before it’s aborted. No? Well, that’s ok. I’ll describe it for you then. Like many other states, Texas has passed a law that involves the use of ultrasound before an abortion is performed. As part of the law, a woman must wait 24 hours between the ultrasound and the abortion, making it even more difficult. Here’s a heart wrenching story of a woman who’s had to suffer many times more than she should, as a result of this law.
- You were raped and beat up? How horrible. We can help except if you’re Native American, an undocumented immigrant, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Since 1994, Congress has reauthorized the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, a law that helps victims of rape, incest, and domestic violence. It has been passed without fanfare or hurdles, but it expired in September 2011. Two versions of the bill have been introduced, but neither has passed. The Democratic version includes the underrepresented groups, but the Republican version does not. In the meantime, service providers are left without funding.
- That poor woman has a fetus that will never make it to term. But I’m going to lie to her because I’m afraid that she’ll abort it. Good thing I won’t get sued over it. In yet another move by Arizona to restrict a woman’s right to choose, the state’s legislature passed a bill that gives immunity to doctors if they choose to lie to a woman about the viability of the fetus that she is carrying. The bill’s author, Sen. Nancy Barto (R), calls lawsuits wrongful birth lawsuits.
- Abortions will no longer be available for women who are pregnant for more than 20 weeks. We don’t care about Roe v. Wade. We’re invoking states’ rights!
Georgia is among a group of states that passed a tough abortion law that prevents abortions past 20 weeks from conception. In the case of Georgia, there is an exception if the fetus has a severe defect that threatens its life. Some of the other states include Arizona, Kansas, and New Hampshire. Currently, there’s a block by the courts against the Georgia law. Other states are facing similar backlash.
- You can’t use the word vagina anymore. However, we can regulate what you do with your vagina. In a move only seen in Communist countries, and many in the Middle East, Michigan state legislator Lisa Brown was forbidden from using the word vagina on the floor of the statehouse. In response, the play Vagina Monologues performed on the steps of the state’s Capitol. She eventually was able to use the word vagina again, but unfortunately they didn’t understand the meaning of the word no, and passed a huge anti-abortion bill.
Even though this may seem like a losing year for women, it turns out that many of the laws are being successfully challenged in the courts. Another bright point is that short-term gains for Republicans will become long-term losses as a good number of the legislators were kicked out of office in the last election. So we must hold our heads high, go hand in hand together, and make 2013 a better year for women.