If anyone ever doubted that the point of the attack on the right to abortion was to cruelly strip women of the right to control1That “Cruelty is the point” of the attack on abortion and abortion bans in particular is driven home by Jessica Valenti in her blog, “Abortion Every Day.” their own bodies and lives, the stories told by 12 women who bravely sued Texas over its draconian so-called “exception” in its abortion ban and won, should convince you.
Naturally the state immediately appealed the ruling, putting the judge’s order on hold so that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott can continue torturing women and others who can become pregnant, including putting their lives at risk.
THOUSANDS OF WOMEN CAN TELL SIMILAR STORIES
Samantha Casiano testified about being forced to give birth to a fetus with no skull, discovered when she was 22 weeks pregnant, who died four hours after birth. Amanda Zurawski was refused an abortion when her water broke at 18 weeks even though a “miscarriage was inevitable.” She was made to wait until she developed septic shock, “spending three days in intensive care, struggling to survive.” The ordeal left her with a permanently closed fallopian tube and scar tissue. Ashley Brandt was pregnant with twins, one of which developed a fatal condition. The only safe alternative for both Ashley and the healthy fetus was to abort the one with the fatal condition. That was not allowed in Texas. Taylor Edwards and Lauren Hall also had fetuses with fatal conditions that would die either before or after birth.
The women were not suing to end the ban, but merely “seeking clarification on which situations fall under the ‘medical emergency’ exception.” The “exception” was purposefully written so vaguely that doctors are fearful they’ll run afoul of the law and suffer the consequences: up to $100,000 in fines and life in prison!
The law criminalizes an abortion from the moment of fertilization. The only “exception” is if the woman experiences “a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy” or if it would cause “substantial impairment of a major bodily function.” There is no exception for rape or incest. The women who sued spoke for the thousands of other mostly women who had similar experiences.
What exactly is “life-threatening” or “substantial” harm? What counts as a “major bodily function”? How close to death must a woman become? And who decides? The doctor? Clearly not. Greg Abbott? A lawyer from an anti-abortion organization? Evidently. Until those questions are answered—which is what the Texas women’s lawsuit was demanding—anti-abortion fanatics have made maternity even more dangerous and deadly than it already is.
TO FANATICS A FETUS TRUMPS A WOMAN’S LIFE
The catch is that the zealots behind these laws are telling oh-so-willing Republican politicians what they must do to get their votes: prioritize the fetus over the woman’s life, even when the fetus is certain to die; even when the woman is certain to die—that’s why there are abortion bans elsewhere with no exceptions, including for the life of the pregnant person.
The state’s lawyers claimed that health exceptions were clear and doctors were at fault. But if you look at the bill, the exceptions are not only incomprehensible, but both doctors and women who have abortions are required to leave a paper trail so that anti-abortion lawyers may litigate. Doctors have to document every step they take in the abortion process—something not required for any other medical procedure.
For example, the doctor has to “record in the pregnant woman’s medical record” the “age” of the embryo, the method used to estimate its “age,” and the “test used for detecting a [purposely misnamed] fetal heartbeat.”
ABORTION BANS TURN DOCTORS INTO TORTURERS
What the law requires the doctor to tell pregnant women reveals the point of this legislation: the cruelty it mandates. Although a woman is granted an abortion only if she may die or be maimed or her fetus may die either in the womb or after birth, nevertheless, under penalty of life imprisonment, the doctor must make statements to her including “the possibility of increased risk of breast cancer”—a lie, as there is no increased risk of breast cancer from an abortion; show her sonogram images, and play the “heart auscultation” which they purposefully misname as a heartbeat.
These are only a few examples of how the state has transformed the doctor into a torturer, mandated by the state to trample their oath to “do no harm.”
Then there is what the woman must “Complete and certify with her signature” in an eight-point document.
All of what she has been forced to endure is now documented and in possession—not of her doctor, but of the state. This includes her address, signature, birth date, race, marital status, the type of abortion performed, when was “the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child,” “the date, if known, of the patient’s last menstrual cycle,” “the number of previous live births…[and] the number of previous induced abortions,” and it goes on and on. No other medical procedure requires the patient to expose so much of their personal life to the state.
This cruelty and coercion show that abortion bans are about controlling women’s lives. It reveals such a deep contempt for women that the misogyny is obvious. If Republicans can get away with forced pregnancy—an invasion of our very bodies—then there is little to stop them from going after birth control, from savaging LGBTQ+ people and any and all who don’t fit their white man image. And they already are!
ABORTION BANS = RAMPANT RACISM
Most importantly, racism is a huge part of the anti-abortion movement, as it affects Black women, women of color and the poor most profoundly. That is seen so tragically in the recent article in Time about the 12-year-old African-American rape victim in Clarksdale, Miss., forced to carry a pregnancy to term and have a baby at 13. Her family could not afford to send her out of state for an abortion. Just as the “exception” for the life of the mother is a lie in Texas, so is the “exception” for a rape victim in Mississippi. When Time repeatedly requested the state Attorney General’s office, the Miss. Board of Medical Licensure and the Miss. State Medical Association to “clarify the process for granting” the rape “exception,” none of them responded.
Freedom is the enemy of the anti-abortion fanatics and they don’t care how many victims it takes to destroy it.
For News and Letters Committees