During the past few weeks, birth control and abortions have morphed from religious issues into political ones. Washington, D.C., has become impregnated with suggestions about what is or isn’t best for women when it comes to their reproductive rights. The loudest argument has seemed to be that women, for the most part, either shouldn’t have those rights or feel really guilty that they do.
President Barack Obama’s recent decision to have church-affiliated universities, hospitals and nonprofits include birth control in their insurance plans has garnered a heated response: whether it be Republican Party presidential candidate Newt Gingrich calling the decision a “war on religious freedom,” or Rick Santorum-sponsoring millionaire Foster Friess telling NBC that, back in his day, girls would put aspirin “between their knees” for contraception, as if he still thought that was a better idea.
But now that Obama has compromised on the mandate so churches themselves aren’t paying for the birth control, but rather their insurance companies, political attention has turned to the more controversial side of female reproductive rights: abortions.
As recently as last week, several states have passed severe anti-abortion laws. These laws aren’t illegalizing abortions, Roe v. Wade has made sure that can’t happen, but are instead making abortions even more terrifying and traumatic experiences than they already are, in order to scare women into not having them.
Many states have attempted to or succeeded in adopting the “look that fetus in the eye” method of anti-abortion law. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 20 states regulate provision of ultrasounds by abortion providers; seven of those states require each woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound and then be asked if she wants to see the image.
One state doesn’t even ask whether or not you want to see the fetus: Texas law requires abortion providers to show you the ultrasound image, describe it in detail and then ask if you want to hear the fetal heartbeat.
Virginia recently tried to pass a bill that would have mandated transvaginal ultrasounds, or state-required insertion of a cold eight to 10-inch metal rod into you-know-where, for any Virginia woman seeking an abortion — even in cases of rape or incest. The ultrasound would then be kept in her medical file for seven years as proof of her baby-hating shame. The bill’s watered-down version, passed on Tuesday by the State Senate, removed the transvaginal but still kept the ultrasound.
What these laws and lawmakers fail to understand is the mental and psychological trauma they are inflicting on American citizens. As any woman knows, the connection between body and mind is incredibly strong. For the most part, women don’t see an abortion as being just like “getting your tonsils out,” as Illinois state representative and anti-abortion bill sponsor Joseph Lyons clumsily decried: It’s a traumatic, life-altering experience. So to add required ultrasounds, fetal heartbeats and other procedures to the experience is only adding more salt to an already well-coated wound.
It’s not helpful or inspiring, and it certainly isn’t going to make her have a divinely inspired change of heart. It’s just cruel.
In addition, these women are only half responsible for creating the life growing inside them. It takes two to tango horizontally; yet the laws mention nothing about fathers having to listen to a fetal heartbeat or look at an ultrasound picture. The shame of the pregnancy termination is solely placed on the shoulders of the woman, even if she has the father’s support.
I am not saying you have to support abortions. In fact, I support those who are against them. Because it’s part of the right to choose; not just for women, but for all Americans.
Still, I don’t support today’s anti-abortion laws. It’s not because of what they’re trying to accomplish, but rather what they’re doing to try to accomplish it. By using shame, humiliation and psychological torture to scare women into keeping children they may not have the financial or emotional security to care for, politicians are shaming themselves and their constituents. Everyone has a right to choose, but these laws are removing that choice and replacing it with force.
Obama’s mandate requires insurance companies to provide birth control pills, but it doesn’t make women take them. Likewise, abortion providers should be required to conduct ultrasounds, but shouldn’t make women have them. To force women into undergoing these procedures is a violation of civil liberties, as well as basic human decency.
These laws show disrespect for more than half the United States’ voting population and turn a personal life decision into a public tar-and-feathering.