Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Escalating Laws on Abortion in State capitols: the invisible hand of the Republican Strategy on Women Health

Keywords or Terms: Republican Party; State Capitols; Planned Parenthood; Anti-Abortion Groups; Pro-Choice Groups; Religious Undertone; Sexual Bigotry or Sexism

The current effort by the Republican Party to fight any fund going into Planned Parenthood is obviously related to their avowed attempt to chip away on the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The nature of the bills passed so far in States Assemblies of Oklahoma, Arizona, Indiana, Texas and Kansas, among others, point finger at a cautious effort to disrupt reproductive services rendered by Planned Parenthood to low income women.

Last month, Oklahoma Republican Governor Mary Falling signed a pair of laws, intended to restrict abortion. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act bans abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy. The second bill prohibits health insurance plans in Oklahoma, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, from offering elective abortions. In March, Arizona Republican Governor, Jan Brewer, signed into law a bill requiring that women publicly offer the reason for terminating a pregnancy, a provision that threads on women’s right to privacy in decisions made between them, their physician, partner and family. This week, Republican Governor Mitch Daniels of the State of Indiana, signed into law a bill denying state funding to Planned Parenthood; and, enshrined the same 20 week threshold on fetus limitation for abortion, like in the State Of Oklahoma.

For women, these new aggressions from state houses with over 70% male representatives are indications of attempts to violate women's right of access to reproductive services. Women have historically taken up the challenge of fighting oppressive sentiments from the opposite sex; especially where it concerns their body. However, the current Republican shenanigan is a difficult one to comprehend. Notwithstanding though, women groups are standing together to fight against the ugly face of male domination and oppression in the area of reproductive health. As a starter, the Planned Parenthood in the state of Indiana has gone to court to get an injunction preventing the newly signed law from taking effect until the court case is settled. Even as women prove themselves capable of making decisions regarding their bodies, Conservative Republicans are choosing to strengthen their resolve to stop abortion, by denying state funds or contract to Planned Parenthood. According to anti-abortion groups, the Republican sponsored legislation against institutions providing reproductive services in states, especially on abortion, are long overdue. A comment that is met by progressive women groups in support of women’s right to reproductive choices with: Not so fast, Jose!

Wake-Up Call

The recent surge in anti-abortion bills in State capitols, a little over one hundred and eighteen all over the nation, is playing on the expectation that supporters of women's rights to reproductive choices, including Planned Parenthood and other social services organizations, would have to bring litigation to the current Supreme Court; and hopefully, the court will default on their side. The composition of Justices in the current Supreme Court may just do that; however, no one truly knows until a case of this nature is brought before the Justices of the Supreme Court. If we go by the number and rapidity of the mushrooming laws all over the states’ capitols, one may be tempted to believe that it is a Republican Party grand design to undermine reproductive health services to women. Many supporters of women reproductive services understand that they are being taunted by the Republican Party and are not necessarily interested in getting into a legal fight over the issue of denying funding to Planned Parenthood; however, if pull comes to shove, they may have to stand up for their rights. Already there are litigation going on with respect to the instituted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and settlement in those cases may help define the protection of women rights to reproductive services.

Abortion is a controversial subject and the issue of premeditated abortion has taken a beating by most conservative groups. The progressives have not been far behind, except in cases of incest, rape and or, where the life of the woman is in jeopardy due to the pregnancy. The debate over the subject of abortion, often takes on ideological and religious undertone; an exercise that spirals into shouting matches or wars between two opposing groups, who neither are listening to each other. The current interjection of politics into the debate and the creepy legislation(s) denying funding to Planned Parenthood is about to take a new life of its own. As more Republican-led state capitols are proposing bills designed to escalate the pandemonium, many Republican governor are so ready to sign these bills into State Laws and many more state legislatures are daring challenges to the law; as they gravitate towards a battle with Democrats, who empathize with women's right to reproductive health services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Incidentally, the United States Supreme Court has agreed that the issue of abortion may have a state prerogative but not at the expense of federal laws. As legal guidelines stand, states may choose to make laws in line with their state residents' preferences. Turning over the right to make laws on regulation of abortion to states, is probably going to ante up the debate or make matters worse. The past Supreme Court rulings may have made sense in individual cases, or where politics have not exacerbated pressures to undermine a law or fight a cause, but with the current escalation of bills and state laws specifically banning state's funds to a particular organization, the issue of discrimination may be litigated. The Supreme Court must stop shifting responsibility or allowing states to get into preferential law making regarding situations, where the balance of power on an issue is lopsided against a section of our society. This time around, the mushrooming laws are set heavily against women's right to reproductive choices.

While protecting the unborn infant seems to be a laudable choice, a caveat for the new Republican onslaught, the discrimination against a particular organization for rendering a particular service is rather questionable. If the attack on that particular organization is taking the form of pre-conceive agreements among states led by republican governors to undermine the rights of women residents, then it is probably appropriate to delve into the reasons for the new developments. If the escalation seen in Republican led state houses is leading to the disenfranchisement of Planned Parenthood, and by default women, there may be reasons to believe that vigilante justice is going on in those state capitols; and, it may be necessary for US Office of Civil Rights to step in and provide us with some answers.

The Fear

While States may be free to make their laws and bills that are binding on state's residents, those laws and bills once again, may not take precedence over federal laws on any issue, except for those exempted under the United States Constitution. It behooves state lawmakers to consider the question of equity and equality as they ram bills into laws within their various legislatures in order to achieve an ulterior objective. The general trend in state capitols with republican majority, regarding cutting funds to Planned Parenthood, has the potential of increasing the vulnerability of low income women and teenagers, who depend on reproductive services rendered by Planned Parenthood and similar social welfare organizations.

The potential consequence of the new trend are two folds. The first is that residents of states where Planned Parenthood is handicapped due to denial of grants and funds from state coffers, will suffer hardy, as needed reproductive services and advice may be cut back by the organization. The convergence of funds' denials in Republican led state capitols amplifies the possibility of denials of reproductive services from Planned Parenthood in multiple states, putting millions of women in those states at a disadvantage. The second, is the possibility of heightened illegal abortions or substandard reproductive services in states that have banned money going to Planned Parenthood. In addition, the malicious nature of the current pandemonium in Republican led capitols, has the potential of impacting quality of complementary health services to reproductive services for the worse around the nation, as Planned Parenthood begins cut back on its services.

The Republican Strategy on Women Health

The Republican strategy to prevent any state funds from going to Planned Parenthood is class-based and women may choose to argue that under title VII, if they feel discriminated against through the action regarding an issue that is expected to be private for many women, their partners, family and physicians. Using a mix of constitutional provisions and amendments to usher in a hostile charade against women, hardly speaks well for the Republican Party and may boomerang against it come 2012 election cycle.

The underlying dynamics of the current strategy of the Republican led state capitol is well grounded in the party’s anti-abortion strategy or stance. Republicans are geared toward scoring points on the objective of chipping away on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and have chosen the war against Planned Parenthood as one of their strategy. The Republican Party probably estimates that cutting off state funds from Planned Parenthood is a low risk option and that the stakes are not especially so high to cause an avalanche of vote loss from women in the coming cycle of election; however, they may be surprised. The fact is, launching against programs that serve women, especially the most vulnerable among them, may lead to a huge trouble that the whole Republican Party may not be able to curtail. Considering that the strategy is to chip away from the gains of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new experience may make women more supportive of the law than ever. Incidentally, this new strategy in State capitols is not about delivering governance; but, devious politics with a grander plan to undermine overall women health.

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