The 2010 midterm election has proven to have been the most perilous election for women’s reproductive rights and health in all of American history. As a result of that unfortunate November election, Republicans swept into office, capturing governorships and claiming control of state legislatures in states across the nation. Instead of wielding their new-found power to focus on jobs like they had promised, the GOP immediately began introducing record-breaking numbers of anti-abortion and anti-contraception legislation that kicked off what is now known as the Republican war on women.
Since its founding in 2010, Addicting Info has made every effort to inform readers of the various bills and laws being introduced and enacted by conservatives in the many states they now control. Since 2010, conservative lawmakers have introduced a staggering number of anti-abortion bills. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 1,100 bills were introduced alone in 2011 and 92 of them became law, a record number. In 2012, Republicans cut the number of bills by half, only enacting 43, probably due to the fact that Republicans were attempting to soften their image among women before the 2012 Election. Republicans lost by a landslide partly because of the mass exodus of female voters from the GOP. Conservatives have once again picked up the pace on anti-abortion bills, introducing 694 in the first three months of 2013 alone, 93 of which have been approved by at least one legislative chamber. In short, Republicans are trying to break the record they set in 2011. By comparison, Republicans only enacted 34 anti-abortion measures in 2005, a non-election year just like 2011 and 2013.
It’s impossible to cover every single anti-abortion measure that has been introduced or enacted in every red state. It’s even more impossible to write about each one within one comprehensive guide. But the following will demonstrate the relentless and ruthless effort being made by Republicans at the state level to strip women of their reproductive rights.
Since Scott Walker became Governor of Wisconsin, he has signed multiple anti-abortion measures passed by the Republican controlled state legislature.
All the way back in 2012, Wisconsin Republicans took a swipe at women’s health care by passing a bill banning private insurance companies from covering abortion services as part of the private health plans of women. Walker would go on to sign that bill and two others along with it, including a bill that repeals a Wisconsin law requiring teachers to include lessons on contraception and forces them to teach abstinence-only instead and a bill that requires doctors to question pregnant women in an effort to determine if they are being coerced into obtaining an abortion.
And just in July 2013, Walker cowardly signed a bill behind closed doors that will force women seeking an abortion to undergo an invasive transvagianal ultrasound, otherwise known as state sanctioned rape.
In just over a year, women have seen their reproductive rights disappear before their very eyes in a state that used to value women’s health. Now women’s health decisions are nearly entirely controlled by the state from sex ed to the real world.
Ohio Republicans have tried to pass anti-abortion legislation before, but they’ve always failed when following proper and fair legislative procedures. When Republicans attempted to legitimately pass abortion measures in 2012, Democratic state Senator Nina Turner turned the tables on her male GOP colleagues and introduced a bill to regulate the reproductive health of men. That’s why they decided to unleash a sneak attack on women’s health in 2013 by using the state budget legislation to slip several abortion measures into law without debate. Signed by Governor John Kasich in July 2013, the sweeping measures are considered one of the most extreme anti-abortion packages ever to be passed in this country. Among the provisions includes defunding Planned Parenthood, defunding rape crisis centers, banning patient transfer agreements with hospitals that will require abortion clinics to close, funneling tax dollars to right-wing operated pregnancy crisis centers designed to bully women into carrying pregnancies to term, and forcing women to undergo ultrasounds to find a fetal heartbeat and then be lectured all about it by their doctor.
But that isn’t all. The law also includes a personhood measure that declares that human life begins weeks before a woman begins ovulating, which would effectively ban many forms a birth control. And to get any form of birth control, women in the state will have to wait 24 hours to get it once it is prescribed to them.
Despite the fact that thousands of women signed petitions and rallied in opposition of the legislation, Kasich signed the bill while flanked by men to add insult to injury. Ohio women used to have reproductive rights. Now they’ve lost them in a matter of weeks.
Iowa Republicans haven’t exactly been tame when it comes to women’s reproductive rights either. In February 2013, the GOP introduced a complete ban of abortion even in cases of rape. Iowa Republicans also sought to define abortion as murder, which would have sent rape victims to prison for aborting their rapist’s baby. Both bills were as extreme as it can get, but both have gone nowhere thus far.
However, Iowa Republicans have passed one measure that gives Governor Terry Branstad the creepy distinction of having the final say on whether or not a woman can get an abortion if they are covered by Medicaid. In short, the Governor gets to personally decide on a case by case basis if a woman can have an abortion, even though he isn’t a physician.
Iowa Republicans haven’t succeeded in passing their most extreme abortion measures but women there should still be worried about Republicans branding them as criminals for exercising their right to choose as protected by the Constitution.
Ah, Mississippi. Home of the conservative lawmaker who has no problem with women having to resort to dangerous coat hanger abortions as a last desperate resort as a result of the TRAP law enacted by the state in an effort to close the last remaining women’s health clinic in the state. It was Governor Phil Bryant who signed that law and bragged about how his party was ending abortion in Mississippi.
Mississippi has been particularly hostile to women in recent years, to the point where abortion may be banned entirely at any moment once the last clinic closes. Not only did they start the conservative trend of passing laws designed to force clinics to close, they also passed an onslaught of anti-abortion measures in 2012 that includes a fetal heartbeat bill that would ban abortion as early as six weeks, forced transvaginal ultrasounds, a personhood provision, and a measure that would restrict accessibility to contraception.
Even though personhood has failed on the state ballot before, conservatives are desperate to try again even though their last attempt was soundly and overwhelmingly defeated.
But despite all this, the most extreme effort currently being made by Mississippi Republicans is one that would imprison women simply for having a natural miscarriage. Talk about cruelty.
One has to truly feel sorry for women who live in Mississippi. Their rights are being viciously assaulted by conservatives who don’t care about science or the Constitution or the health and well-being of women. Before long, the only option low income women will have is to swim across the Gulf into Mexico to get deadly back alley abortion instead of the legal procedure they should have rightful access to.
To put it bluntly, next to Mississippi, Kansas may be ground zero for anti-abortion legislation. Since Governor Sam Brownback won election in 2010, Republicans have passed anti-abortion measures every year, with each year seemingly out-doing the previous one.
One bill passed early on in 2012 allows doctors to lie to women about abortion and requires women to pay a tax to get one. Doctors would have the ability to not tell women about potentially fatal ectopic pregnancies in order to prevent a decision to abort. It also forces doctors to tell women that abortion causes cancer.
Only a couple weeks went by before Republicans introduced another bill designed to allow pharmacists and doctors to deny women birth control if the pharmacist or doctor has a religious objection. Brownback went on to sign that bill.
2013 hasn’t been much different. In April, Governor Brownback signed a bill barring women from deducting abortion services on their tax forms, banning abortion providers from receiving tax breaks, prohibiting employees of abortion providers from participating in sex education courses in school, forcing doctors to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer even though science says otherwise, and declaring that life begins at conception, a declaration that could be used to ban abortion entirely in the future. The bill does not include exceptions for victims of rape or incest. During the signing ceremony, Brownback’s own noted made it clear that the bill is religiously motivated. For years, Kansas Republicans have also made efforts to pass a fetal heartbeat bill that would ban abortion at six weeks. They’ve so far been unable to pass it.
Kansas used to be known as “Bleeding Kansas” due to the violence that occurred in the 1850s between pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers prior to the Civil War. Now it could be known as “Bleeding Kansas” again once women begin attempting self-abortion out of sheer desperation because Republicans have made abortion incredibly restricted in the state.
• North Dakota
Not to be outdone is the conservative state of North Dakota where Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the most extreme anti-abortion legislation in the nation thus far. Among the provisions include a fetal heartbeat measure that bans abortion as early as six weeks, and a TRAP law designed to shut down the last abortion clinic in the state. In addition, Republicans also passed a 20 week ban on abortion under the dubious claim that fetuses can feel pain at that point of development.
But Republicans still weren’t done. They also passed a personhood ballot measure that voters will have to decide on in 2014. If approved, abortion would be totally banned in North Dakota.
On a more positive note, women did manage to score a victory for their reproductive rights in April when a federal judge struck down North Dakota’s medication abortion ban as unconstitutional.
North Dakota women face the loss of their reproductive rights. Perhaps no women in any other state have it worse at this point in time. North Dakota Republicans are clearly challenging Roe v. Wade with their new laws. The question is, will those laws stand? If so, North Dakota women won’t be the only women in America to lose their right to choose.
• South Dakota
South Dakota has been relatively quiet on the issue of abortion, which is surprising considering the way Republicans are going crazy over it. The most recent bill passed in South Dakota is one that requires women to wait 72 hours. This includes being required to sit through a lecture by a conservative leaning pregnancy crisis center employee who will do nothing but berate poor women into not having an abortion. Not only that, holidays and weekends don’t count as part of the three day wait because the GOP believes women are incapable of thinking on those days. It’s really insulting legislation that Governor Dennis Daugaard happily signed.
Make no mistake, however. South Dakota Republicans are still extreme. They’ve passed bills requiring doctors to read scripts to women about human life before performing abortions and have required doctors to give untruthful information to women about abortion risks. They’ve even attempted to legalize the killing of doctors who provide abortions. And any legislative body that can do that is dangerous indeed.
Arkansas is the state that kicked off the competition among conservative states to see who has the most extreme anti-abortion laws in the nation. North Dakota won in the end, but Arkansas started it. Arkansas originally passed a so-called fetal pain bill banning abortion after 20 weeks. Then they decided to double down and pass a bill banning the procedure after 12 weeks. Both bills were vetoed by Democratic Governor Mike Beebe, but both vetoes were immediately overrode by the Republican dominated legislature
Republicans in Arkansas took control of the legislature for the first time since the 1870s and the first thing they do is strip women of their reproductive rights. I guess Republicans in the state longed for those good ole years when women were the property of men.
Indiana got a new Governor in 2012 and since his first day on the job, Mike Pence and his colleagues in the legislature have made efforts to restrict abortion including an effort to one-up states with transvaginal ultrasound mandates by forcing women to undergo two of the invasive probes in order to get the abortion drug known as RU-486. The bill also requires abortion clinics to adhere to new building regulations or be shut down.
Indiana may not be the worst state for women to live in, but any state that sanctions forcible rape via probe is pretty bad.
Michigan Republicans tried to sneak through anti-abortion measures long before Ohio Republicans did. I guess that’s their newest rivalry in addition to football. Except that this rivalry could kill women and reduce them to second class citizens.
In December 2012, Republicans used the lame duck session to push a measure that effectively bans health insurance companies from covering abortions. The Michigan GOP passed other provisions just days later, including one that requires doctors to be physically present when women get an abortion, even rural women who rely on telemedicine technology to essentially Skype with their doctor. Another provision places new burdens on clinics in an effort to force them to close. Republicans labeled the bills as “immediate effect,” meaning they are now law in Michigan.
Like neighboring women in Ohio and Wisconsin, Michigan women are losing their reproductive rights in a state that has traditionally supported women’s health. But with the GOP in control, women’s health care couldn’t be more vulnerable.
In all honesty, Arizonans must be angry with the Obama Administration for picking Janet Napolitano to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Why? Because the action had the effect of promoting crazy conservative Jan Brewer to the Governor’s office in the state. And since then, women’s reproductive rights and health have gone down hill.
First, Arizona Republicans passed a bill allowing doctors to not inform women about prenatal issues such as ectopic pregnancy that could result in the choice to have an abortion. Then Governor Brewer signed legislation banning abortions after 18 weeks while simultaneously defining pregnancy as beginning two weeks before conception.
If that weren’t enough, Brewer then signed a bill allowing employers to deny female employees contraception if they have a religious objection. When it comes to women’s reproductive rights, even female Republicans have no problem signing legislation that places lady parts under the jurisdiction of the state. And that is just really sad.
Louisiana is a red state and the conservative there are just as anti-abortion as those in other states. After being persuaded by anti-choice groups with a hearty breakfast, Louisiana Republicans immediately went to work on four pieces of anti-abortion restrictions, including a fetal pain bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks, a bill demanding Congress end Planned Parenthood funding, a bill requiring women to listen to the fetal heartbeat and view the forced ultrasound, and a bill that forces women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion. Governor Bobby Jindal, of course, supported every last measure even though he would later state that Republicans needed to stop being the stupid party. Louisiana Republicans should be the first to follow Jindal’s advice.
Missouri Republicans haven’t been near as extreme as their counterparts in neighboring Kansas or Arkansas, probably because Governor Jay Nixon is a Democrat. But even the fact that a Democrat occupies the Governor’s mansion in Jefferson City hasn’t stopped Republicans from enacting legislation to give doctors and employers the right to deny women contraception. The legislation has since been struck down by a federal judge, serving as a warning to other states that have passed similar legislation. The Missouri GOP also passed a bill allowing pharmacists to deny contraception to women as well.
As a resident of the Show-Me State, it is embarrassing that elected officials would wage war against half of the population in an effort to impose their religious will. It is just as embarrassing that elected officials are putting their own personal religious beliefs above the health needs of the women they are supposed to represent. I’ve heard of people being as stubborn as a Missouri mule. But I’ve never heard of people being stupider than a Missouri mule until Republicans began attacking women.
Georgia’s attempts to restrict abortion are enough to make anyone angry, but what one Republican said about women during the debate is absolutely enraging. During a debate that resulted in Republicans passing a 20 week abortion ban, even in cases of rape, Rep. Terry England decided it was a great idea to insult women by comparing them to livestock. Governor Nathan Deal would go on to sign the bill into law.
Female lawmakers were so disgusted with their Republican colleagues that they literally walked out of the legislature during debate of the bill. Their voices were meaningless to the conservative men in the room just as the voices of millions of women around the country are meaningless to them as well. These sexist men want to be in charge and they want women to submit to their will. That’s what has become of the GOP.
Yet another Bible belt state to make its way to this list, Oklahoma could be considered another ground zero for anti-abortion legislation since it is the most conservative state in America. Most recently, Republicans in the state wanted to ban birth control pills because they allegedly “poison” women. This allegation is, of course, a baseless accusation designed to anger people into crusading against contraception. Okalahoma is also the home to the never-ending GOP attempt to enact personhood legislation to ban all abortions, something Republicans tried to do in 2012 but failed as usual, thus wasting taxpayer dollars and valuable time that could have been spent on legislation Americans actually support.
Tennessee Republicans have been a special kind of stupid for many years now. They hate homosexuals, Muslims, kissing and holding hands, the poor, and the hungry. So, anti-women legislation often falls through the cracks unnoticed. But such legislation does exist. In 2012, the Tennessee GOP pushed for criminalizing naturally occurring miscarriages, just like a similar effort in Mississippi.
Additionally, Republicans pushed a bill that would have led to the publication of the names of women who get abortions, opening these poor women to constant harassment, bullying, and even violence from fanatical anti-abortion advocates.
In 2013, Tennessee Republicans were at it again, this with a bill that would allow counselors to refuse to treat women who want an abortion. The bill would also have opened the doors for doctors and pharmacists to use their religious beliefs as a crutch to deny women abortion and contraception services. Like I said, Tennessee Republicans are a special kind of stupid.
• New Hampshire
Not quite the conservative stronghold it’s made out to be, New Hampshire Republicans have their fair share of crazies who support bills that force doctors to tell women that abortion causes cancer, but for the most part, enough sane Republicans exist in the state to prevent complete lunacy. After all, New Hampshire is part of New England, not the South.
Speaking of the South and complete lunacy, welcome to Texas. In addition to forcing women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds to get an abortion, Texas Republicans also stripped Planned Parenthood of all state funding, severely crippling women’s health.
Over a year later, Republicans stripped women of their reproductive rights by passing a bill that will shut down all but five of the state’s 42 abortion clinics, and impose a 20 week abortion ban on women across the state. Governor Rick Perry gleefully signed the bill, that only passed because of a special session of the legislature, while surrounded by men. Past abortion restrictions in Texas have already force women to flee to Mexico to access medication to end an abortion, some instances with heartbreaking results. Now that Texas has passed more extreme measures, more women are likely to put themselves at risk to get the health services they desperately need.
Oh, you thought Texas was done? It’s Texas. They’re never done hating women. Mere hours after Perry signed the massive bill into law, Republicans introduced a fetal heartbeat bill in the legislature that would ban abortion at six weeks. Apparently, even sexism and arrogance is bigger in the Lone Star state.
Idaho is another one of those states that don’t seem to be as flashy and flagrant with abortion legislation. The state tends to fly under the radar quite a bit. However, Republicans did pass a 20 week ban on abortion, which a federal judge has struck down, and in 2012, the GOP voted to oppose contraception. The Iowa GOP has also pushed for forced ultrasounds.
So, yeah. Iowa Republicans are just as extreme. The scary part is that they’re kinda quiet about passing their agenda.
Pennsylvania Republicans have been in a tizzy ever since the Kermit Gosnell case, which is causing many in the GOP to call for stricter abortion legislation in an effort to close more clinics.
But Pennsylvania Republicans are more notorious for trying to force women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds, a bill that Governor Tom Corbett excuses by saying that women could just shut their eyes. Considering such probes are basically state sanctioned rape, does that mean Corbett thinks women should just shut their eyes during a sexual assault? Republicans, right? They never seem to think before they talk.
Utah is very conservative but not as crazy as some states are. The Utah GOP passed a bill in 2012 to ban teaching contraception in sex education and then passed a bill to expand abortion waiting periods to 72 hours only a couple weeks later. Women also have to undergo “counseling” before having an abortion. As far as conservative states go, you would think it doesn’t get much better for women than in Utah. At least it’s not Texas, Ohio, or Kansas, right? Except that Utah has attempted to pass an all-out ban of abortion in the past and is just waiting for the day when it can do so again.
Nebraska was the very first state to pass a 20 week ban on abortion. Since then, nearly a dozen states have made an effort to follow suit. That was in 2010. Like a few other states, Nebraska has also been very quiet on the anti-abortion front. That’s probably a good thing since the last thing women need is another state to worry about. But in 2012, Nebraska did try to pass a freedom of conscience bill targeting women’s health.
Alabama is one of many states attempting to pass TRAP laws to force abortion clinics to shut down, and has attempted to pass forced ultrasounds. What is it with Republicans and trying to force women to do something against their will?
Governor Bob ‘Ultrasound’ McDonnell is infamous for signing a bill forcing women across the state of Virginia to get an ultrasound before having an abortion. Of course, the original bill would have required transvaginal ultrasounds, which is why women came out in force to protest the bill. The Virginia GOP also pushed a personhood bill and a measure that would allow lawsuits against doctors who perform abortions.
McDonnell’s war on women in his state ultimately earned him his dubious nickname and cost him any chance of being a candidate for high national office for the GOP. If only other Governors faced such repercussions.
Of course we couldn’t leave Florida out. After all, conservatives are “pro-life” there too, right? Even if they do allow people to shoot and kill innocent black teens and get away with it. And since Republicans have been largely focused on gun rights and other issues, they haven’t done much on abortion rights… except this one serious time when they proposed criminalizing abortion and punishing women who have them by sentencing them to life in prison. Don’t you just love the hypocrisy? An innocent black teen gets killed by a gun and Republicans rush to defend the killer, all while calling for women who exercise their constitutional right to choose to abort a pregnancy to be forever locked up. That’s what logic is to Flori-duh Republicans.
• North Carolina
Finally, we get to North Carolina, which has gone all-out with conservative extremism. The GOP there has made two efforts to sneak anti-abortion measures in two completely unrelated bills: a motorcycle safety bill and an anti-sharia law bill. Earlier this year, Republicans attempted to pass TRAP laws to force abortion clinics to close. Many women immediately showed up at the capitol to protest. Think all of this is bad? One North Carolina Republican echoed South Dakota in 2012 by calling for publicly hanging abortion providers. With its new very red regime, North Carolina is hell bent on competing with the likes of North Dakota, Texas, Ohio, and Arkansas for which state is most extreme. And North Carolina Republicans show no signs of stopping any time soon.
That’s just a small picture of the many anti-abortion and anti-contraception laws being introduced or passed by red states as Addicting Info has covered it these last few years. There are literally hundreds of other bills that we haven’t covered. Of course if we did, we’d have little time to cover other important stories.
As part of our coverage of women’s issues, we’ve also shined a light on the many ridiculous Republican quotes on rape, which you can conveniently read all about right here.
So, is there an end to the Republican war on women? Are these bills and laws unconstitutional? Are there serious flaws to expose? The answer is ‘yes’ on both counts and here’s why.
- Anti-contraception bills do nothing to stop abortion because they take away a woman’s ability to prevent an unwanted pregnancy in the first place. Combined with anti-sex ed bills that take away vital information on contraceptives and women are being subjected to a double whammy. Not only will they not know about birth control or understand how it works, they won’t be able to access it either. If Republicans really want to stop abortions and lower the rate of teen pregnancy, comprehensive sex ed and easy access to birth control are the ways to go. A recent report out of California shows that comprehensive sex ed has lowered teen pregnancy rates and a new study has shown that inexpensive or free access to contraception dramatically lowers the abortion rate. These reports blow the GOP war on sex ed and birth control out of the water.
- Forced ultrasounds are not only unnecessary since they don’t do anything to change women’s minds about having an abortion, they are also a violation of women’s privacy and personal liberty, especially the transvaginal ultrasounds. Such ultrasounds is basically the government saying ‘yes, it’s government so small it can literally fit inside your uterus.’ What these provisions boil down to is state sanctioned rape.
- These anti-abortion bills are also plainly contradictory to accepted medical science. The 20 week abortion ban is being pushed on the premise that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, which is false. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The Journal of the American Medical Association both reject this premise, as does the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in England. Republicans have also been trying to define when pregnancy begins and when life begins. Despite GOP bills that define pregnancy as beginning before actual conception, sometimes even weeks before, science proves that pregnancy begins once the fertilized egg implants in the uterine lining. As far as when life begins, science is largely on the fence on that question, but as a colleague of mine explains here, conception does not necessarily mean life as the GOP claims. Republicans clearly don’t understand science. It’s either that or they’re just making things up to justify their bills.
- And then there’s the constitutional question. Are any of these bills constitutional? Roe v. Wade rooted abortion rights in the 14th Amendment. The conservative-leaning Court made their decision based on the Due Process Clause which reads “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;…” Personal liberty is part of this clause, and since privacy is tied to this, privacy is most definitely included within the Due Process Clause. People cannot have true liberty without privacy. Anti-abortion fanatics will point out that the clause also says, “life” as well. However, the 14th Amendment also refers to “all persons born,” which means all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution only belong to those who have already been born. The threshold for legal rights has traditionally been birth. This tradition goes back centuries, and is even present in the Bible. So the seven Justices who made the majority decision were not only acting on the words of the Constitution, they were acting on centuries of precedent as well. In short, fetuses aren’t people until they take their first breath outside of the womb. This makes any effort to ban abortion beyond the limits set by the 1973 ruling wholly unconstitutional, and courts have consistently ruled against abortion bans ever since. Any Justice who really gives a damn about constitutional law would find it tough to rule any other way unless they are making their decisions based on Biblical text that has no standing in our legal system. Thus, the only way Republicans can ban abortion is to either repeal the 14th Amendment, as they have proposed doing before, or pass a completely new amendment, which they have also tried to do. The fact that Republicans have proposed or promised to do both says that they know full well that abortion is a protected legal right under the Constitution. It’s really hard to pass a constitutional amendment, however. Three-fourths of the states must ratify an amendment before it becomes law, and that’s if it even makes it through Congress, which requires two-thirds in both chambers.
Science, the Constitution, and a multitude of studies demolish Republican efforts to ban or restrict abortion and contraception. Nevertheless, conservatives are not giving up on imposing their religious beliefs on the American people. They truly believe the Bible supersedes the Constitution as the primary law of America. The only real way to stop them is to flock to the voting booth on Election Day, even if we have to stand in long lines for hours or miss work to do it. In 2010, Republicans benefited from a general disinterest in voting and took over many states because of it, and have waged total war against women’s rights ever since. This sad chapter in American history can end in one election. Women are rising up against the Republican Party. And the GOP is only continuing to advance their agenda to their own political peril. But the battleground must be focused on the state level as much as it is on the national level. That is why every election is so critical. It’s time to harness our anger and disgust and take back the states so that women’s health and reproductive rights will always be protected.