The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, published in 1985, was supposed to be a fictional account of a dystopian future in which a totalitarian state resembling a theonomy has overthrown the United States government:
Beginning with a staged attack that killed the president and most of Congress, a radical political group calling itself the “Sons of Jacob”, exploiting religious ideology closely resembling some traits of Christian fundamentalism (and especially of Christian Reconstructionism), launches a revolution. The United States Constitution is suspended, newspapers are censored, and what was formerly the United States of America changes drastically into a theonomic military dictatorship known as the Republic of Gilead. The new regime moves quickly to consolidate its power, overtaking all pre-existing religious groups, including traditional Christian denominations; and reorganises society along a new militarised, hierarchical model of Old Testament-inspired social and religious fanaticism among its newly created social classes. Above all, the biggest change is the severe limitation of people’s rights, especially those of women, making them unable to hold property, handle money, as well as forbidding them from reading or writing.
So-called Christian Right fundamentalists, Dominionists and Christian Reconstructionists, have instead taken the The Handmaid’s Tale as a “how-to guide” to actually realizing this dystopian vision for America. The “Republic of Gilead” can happen here. It is happening right now.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday signed into law HB 481, which outlaws almost all abortions after six weeks, when a “fetal heartbeat” can be detected. Mind you, this phrasing is intentionally misleading: While embryonic cardiac activity can be detected and technically is a “heartbeat,” 6-week-old embryos do not actually have hearts.
More importantly, six weeks is a time period at which many people don’t even know they’re pregnant. And if they do know, they may not yet have had time to decide if they want to keep their pregnancy or not.
Right now, Georgia’s law allows for abortions up to the 20th week of pregnancy. As of January 1, this new six-week law will supersede it. And if a person terminates their pregnancy on their own? According to this law, that’s murder. In fact, HB 481 also criminalizes even seeking out unlawful abortions.
If a pregnant person goes to a healthcare provider and requests an illegal abortion, they would be considered a “party to murder.” This means they could face life in prison. If a person miscarries, they may be subject to second-degree murder charges, which can result in punishment ranging between 10 and 30 years in prison. For example, this could apply if it’s suspected that a person’s drug use or drinking caused the miscarriage.
As Mark Joseph Stern pointed out at Slate, an additional aspect of this dystopian nightmare is that Georgians who seek abortions outside of Georgia may be charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Anyone who helps the pregnant person complete the journey, such as by driving them to a clinic, may also be charged with conspiracy. This law is absolutely nothing but an attempt to control and demean people who can become pregnant.
An Ohio Republican, Rep. John Becker, is getting backing for legislation that would ban most effective methods of birth control by deeming them abortion, and would also ban most private insurance coverage for abortion, which the state has already banned after six weeks. But that’s not all. Not by a long shot.
It would also force women to undergo a medical procedure that does not exist to avoid abortion when they’re having an ectopic or tubal pregnancy. The man who wrote the bill explains it as “removing that embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus so that is defined as not an abortion under this bill.”
Which is not even conceivably a medical treatment that exists, as Jaime Miracle, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, noted. “That doesn’t exist in the realm of treatment for ectopic pregnancy. You can’t just re-implant. It’s not a medical thing.” Dr. Daniel Grossman, a practicing OB-GYN and researcher on abortion and contraception, backs that up in a Twitter thread in which he offers Becker “some help understanding ectopic pregnancy.” For one thing, he writes, “ectopic pregnancies cannot continue to a live birth. If untreated, as a pregnancy grows, the Fallopian tube (where 96% of ectopics develop) gets stretched to the point of rupture & can cause massive bleeding.” Four percent of maternal deaths are a result of ectopic pregnancies. Furthermore, “an ectopic pregnancy cannot be ‘reimplanted’ into the uterus,” he writes. “We just don’t have the technology. So I would suggest removing this from your bill, since it’s pure science fiction.”
That might actually be what Becker and his Republican pals are after: generating so much backlash against this extreme and ridiculous part of the bill that it gets struck out, and the rest remains. The rest would ban the most effective means of birth control by calling them abortifacients, an old trick of the forced-birther crowd. “Birth control pills, IUD’s and other methods of birth control like that—the bill states that any birth control that could act to stop a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus is considered an abortion under this bill,” Miracle says.
Alabama’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a near-total abortion ban, a piece of legislation that the bill’s sponsor called a “direct attack” on Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that protects a woman’s right to an abortion. Politicians in the statehouse voted against adding an amendment that would have added an exception for victims of rape and incest.
If passed into law, the legislation would criminalize abortion, classifying it as a Class A felony in Alabama. That means that a doctor caught performing abortions in the state would face up to 99 years in prison under the proposed law.
Because federal law supersedes state law, Alabama would be in violation of the U.S. Constitution if lawmakers attempted to implement the legislation, noted several politicians. If passed, the legislation would likely join a host of other contested laws that anti-abortion activists hope will rise to the Supreme Court and potentially overturn Roe v. Wade. The proposed law flatly rejects the decision, saying that “judges and legal scholars have disagreed and dissented with its finding.”
After a shouting match broke out, the Alabama Senate on Thursday abruptly delayed a vote on a bill that would outlaw most abortions in the state and make performing the procedure a felony punishable by up to 99 years imprisonment.
The tumult and yelling on the Senate floor began when some Republicans attempted to remove amendments that would have allowed women to get abortions in cases of rape or incest.
The decision was made by a voice vote, angering Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton and other Democrats who were seeking a roll-call vote on all issues related to the abortion bill. A voice vote, Democrats argued, gave cover to Republicans unwilling to put their names on an amendment that would ban abortions even for women who were raped.
Singleton said he wanted a roll-call vote because of the importance of the issue.
“I want the people of the state of Alabama to know how we vote,” he said. “I think the people have a right.”
They accused Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, a Republican who presides over the Senate, of being too quick to move forward with the voice vote and steamroll over their concerns.
“I know this bill is going to pass. You’re going to get your way,” Democratic Sen. Vivian Davis Figures said after the shouting died down on the Senate floor. “At least treat us fairly and do it the right way. That’s all that I ask. That’s all that my Democratic colleagues ask. That’s all that women in this state ask, both Democratic and Republican women.”
As the commotion escalated, Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh (R) moved to delay the vote on the amendment to the abortion bill until next week.
Marsh said debate would reopen on Tuesday, asking senators to “set the reset button” on the bill by taking the weekend to think about it.
Republican Christian Right fundamentalists, or the “Sons of Jacob” if you prefer, are waging an all out assault on women’s reproductive rights because Justice Brett “I like beer” Kavanaugh has replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy was the swing-vote that defended women’s reproductive rights (for the most part).
But the “Sons of Jacob” believe that Justice Kavanaugh is the fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) (recognizing a right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment for a woman’s decision to have an abortion), and by logical extension the earlier privacy precedent, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), (recognizing a right of privacy to be found in the “penumbras” and “emanations” of other constitutional protections, establishing the basis for the “right to marital privacy” with respect to intimate practices, i.e., contraception). The “Sons of Jacob” are doing everything they can to push lawsuits up to the U.S. Supreme Court for what they believe will be their inevitable “victory.”
I am not convinced that Chief Justice John Roberts wants his court to be remembered for this in history.
Republican Christian Right fundamentalists, i.e. the “Sons of Jacob,” make up Donald Trump’s core base supporters. Criminalizing abortion and restricting the reproductive rights of women is the driving force of their fanatical support.
The Washington Post reports, Which states are blocking abortion — and which are enacting protections?
Many states have created new laws this year to limit abortion or even try to ban it altogether in the hope that the Supreme Court with President Trump’s two appointees will be more likely to approve them.
Most of the new restrictions are in the South and Midwest. In contrast, New York removed old restrictions and affirmed access to abortion. Vermont is weighing a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights.
The new laws fit the trend over the past two decades of tightening restrictions where abortions were already most limited. That trend is increasing the gap between abortion rights in different regions of the country.
The map below depicts where abortion is currently most protected and restricted as measured by the Guttmacher Institute, a group working for abortion rights.
Each state’s rating is based on six key abortion restrictions and six protections for access.
A state with all the restrictions and no protections would have the highest restriction value. Seven states have that maximum level.
A state with all of the protections and no restrictions would have the highest protection rating. Only California has all six.
The differences have become more extreme over time. No state had all six protections or restrictions in 2000 or 2010.
The six key restrictions include bans on many or most abortions, required counseling or waiting periods, restriction on Medicaid funding, prohibition of telemedicine for administering an abortion pill, required parental involvement for patients younger than 18 and specific restrictions on abortion clinics.
The protections include support in the state constitution, legal standards protecting access, Medicaid coverage, permission for physician assistant or other providers, required private insurance coverage and protection for clinics.
Many states have sought to overturn the national protection of abortion established by the Supreme Court more than 45 years ago in Roe v. Wade. Those states have enacted bans on many or most abortions. Supreme Court blessing of a ban would overturn the Roe standard. So far, all of those laws have been blocked by the courts on grounds that they are unconstitutional.
Source: Guttmacher Institute
Here in Arizona, Planned Parenthood of Arizona has sued the state for its collective restrictive statutes on women’s reproductive rights. Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona writes, Arizona makes it nearly impossible to get an abortion. That’s why we’re suing:
Politicians shouldn’t be making reproductive health decisions for women, but that’s exactly what’s happening. Arizona lawmakers have made it difficult – or even impossible – for women to access safe, legal abortion by enacting medically unnecessary, politically motivated .
As a direct result, there are large parts of the state where abortion services are unavailable. Eighty percent of Arizona counties have no health centers that provide abortion care, leaving many women outside of the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas without access to abortion.
One set of these medically unnecessary restrictions, the physician-only rules, prohibits trained medical professionals – such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants – from providing abortion care.
After passage of those rules, Planned Parenthood was immediately forced to stop providing abortion services in Yuma, Prescott Valley, Goodyear and Chandler – and those health centers were eventually closed.
Laws make it hard to provide abortions
In Maricopa County, Planned Parenthood only has two providers to offer services. In Pima County, as well as the southern and eastern areas of Arizona, we have only one abortion provider. In the entire northern half of the state, there is only one health center that provides abortion care.
The hostile political climate in our state makes it difficult to recruit, hire and retain doctors to cover the gaps created by the physician-only rules. Arizona prohibits state-funded medical schools from training doctors to provide abortions, which limits the pool of candidates. It is especially difficult to recruit doctors to work in rural areas.
Telemedicine to administer medication abortion could help make abortion more accessible. But it is not permitted, even though telemedicine has been widely embraced in Arizona as a high-quality health-care option.
The state Legislature has not banned telemedicine delivery of any procedure other than abortion. In fact, the Legislature has promoted the use of telemedicine to provide other health-care services – even treatment for strokes. There is no medical reason to make an exception for abortion.
Another set of these laws and regulations requires a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for patients seeking abortion care. Patients must make two in-person appointments over two days regardless of how far that forces them to travel.
Poor, minorities are hit especially hard
The burden of these medically unnecessary regulations weighs even heavier on low-income women. The eight poorest counties in the state do not have providers, forcing low-income women to struggle with the travel costs associated with two visits to a health center.
Low-wage jobs often have difficult scheduling requirements, making it hard for the women in those jobs to schedule appointments for two visits. Child-care costs and availability also are barriers to low-income women.
Women of color, who already face health disparities that are directly related to inequities in income, housing, education and job opportunities, are unequally impacted by these restrictions. These Arizona laws have essentially stripped abortion care from many Native American women living in Navajo, Hopi, Hualapai and Apache tribal jurisdictions, among others.
Politicians intended to make it harder or impossible to access abortion in Arizona, and they’ve done just that for too many women.
We are not going to let our state be a place where people can no longer access abortion. We have filed a federal lawsuit to challenge these medically unnecessary laws that attack women’s constitutionally protected right to access abortion services.
We won’t rest until every Arizonan has access to the full range of reproductive health care services – including abortion.