The Threat to Reproductive Health Care — Part 2

In the first part of this post, I wrote about some of the direct threats to Roe v. Wade  bubbling up in the states and in Congress, and how once again, anti-choice extremists are using the issue of reproductive health care as a wedge issue in the coming elections.

Many of the recent state laws, such as North Dakota’s outright ban on abortion at six weeks’ gestation, are aimed at giving today’s conservative Supreme Court the opportunity to overturn Roe altogether. That is, they want the court to rescind Roe’s declaration that women have a right of individual privacy and autonomy that includes the right to decide to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Today, I want to consider another aspect of women’s right to reproductive health care. I want to talk about the anti-Roe tactic of laws that discriminate against women’s health care providers, not only undermining our right to privacy and autonomy, but also wrongly denying us the equal protection of the law.

Recently, I appeared on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show to discuss access to abortion 41 years after Roe v. Wade. One of the other guests was Carol Tobias of the National Right to Life Committee, who repeated a falsehood that has become a favorite tactic in the effort to limit or even eliminate access to reproductive health care clinics.

The debate is over so-called TRAP laws. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights,

TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws single out the medical practices of doctors who provide abortions, and impose on them requirements that are different and more burdensome than those imposed on other medical practices. For example, such regulations may require that abortions be performed in far more sophisticated and expensive facilities than are necessary to ensure the provision of safe procedures. Compliance with these physical plant requirements may require extensive renovations or be physically impossible in existing facilities. TRAP laws may also allow unannounced state inspections, even when patients are present. These excessive and unnecessary government regulations – an ever-growing trend among state legislatures – increase the cost and scarcity of abortion services, harming women’s health and inhibiting their reproductive choices.
Here’s an excerpt from the conversation on the Diane Rehm show. (To listen to the full debate, or read a transcript, click here.)

TOBIAS: I think the people that are pushing this would encourage the doctors to have that admitting privilege because not all abortions are safe. There are complications. There can be some problems. So why not have the doctor who was performing this procedure be able to call an ambulance and take the woman to the hospital and take care of her, you know, at that time.

O’NEILL:Under the guise of regulating medicine, admitting privileges, so-called TRAP laws, these are targeted regulation of abortion providers. Those kinds of laws are actually selectively applied only to women’s health providers, never to men’s health providers. The admitting privileges should be based on the kind of medicine that is being practiced in a particular locality and on evidence — the actual degree of danger.

In fact, abortions are one of the safest procedures that a woman can experience during pregnancy. Those are just the evidence facts. So clearly doctors need to have admitting privileges when what they are doing makes that appropriate. But what we should not do is insert politics into the decision of when a doctor needs admitting privileges. It should be based on what kind of medicine the doctor is performing.

The big lie that anti-choice extremists tell in defense of TRAP laws is that the regulations are consistent with standards other procedures have to meet. But as a Texas physician wrote to state regulators after Texas passed one of the harshest TRAP laws,

I am not aware of any law or rule requiring common procedures such as vasectomy, cystoscopy, colposcopy, IUD placement, subcutaneous implant placement (such as the contraceptive rod), colonoscopy with or without polypectomy, sigmoidoscopy, hemorrhoid banding, skin biopsy, abscess incision and drainage, esophagogastroduodenoscopy, laryngoscopy, dental extraction, wisdom tooth extraction, lipoma removal, joint injection, arthrocentesis, eye surgery including LASIK, breast cyst aspiration, fine needle aspiration of lymph nodes or thyroid nodules, or ANY OTHER MEDICAL OR SURGICAL PROCEDURE, to be performed in an ambulatory surgical center, rather than a clinic. Forgive me if I am mistaken, but I do not see any such requirement in Title 25, Chapter 135. Thus, your statement that “Texas allows no other procedure to opt out of the accepted standard of care” is false.
So let’s be clear. Laws that restrict or deny access to reproductive health care procedures are openly discriminatory against women. How many lawmakers do you know who have dreamed up restriction after restriction after restriction to block men’s access to vasectomy?

According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 45 states and the District of Columbia have laws subjecting abortion providers to burdensome restrictions not imposed on other medical professionals. And now, the Republican Congress has opened a new line of attack on women’s personal decisions.

On January 28, the House of Representatives passed H.R.7, the deceptively titled “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” According to the Center for American Progress,

The bill includes restrictions that would block insurance coverage for abortion care in both federal programs and private insurance, thus making abortion unavailable for nearly all women in this country. This bill also makes permanent the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, a 1976 appropriations rider that prohibits federal funds from paying for abortion services. Introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), H.R. 7 also removes tax credits and deductions for families and small businesses seeking insurance plans with abortion coverage.
Studies show that when policymakers place severe restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion, it forces one in four poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, and that women who want to get abortions but are denied are three times more likely to fall into poverty than those who can get an abortion.

Anti-choice extremists such as Randall Terry and his Operation Rescue organization openly boast about forcing abortion clinics to close. A recent “special report” from Operation Rescue was titled
“Death Throes of the Death Industry: A Record 87 Surgical Abortion Clinics Close in 2013” and includes this quote from Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue:

We will continue to develop new tactics to close abortion clinics until there are none left. That is our goal.

The threats to reproductive health care come from many directions. We face lawmakers who want to take away our basic health care rights and discriminate against women’s health care providers, with the harshest impact on those who were already the most vulnerable We confront court challenges that seek to overturn Roe v. Wade and turn the clock back on decades of progress.

But we address these challenges from a position of strength. We tell the truth about the war on women and the discrimination it seeks to perpetuate. And when we tell the truth, people listen.

How about you? What are examples of powerful truths you believe should be told to defeat the threat to reproductive health care?

Originally Published on Terry O’Neill’s Huffington Post blog on 02/07/2014


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