Many of you may have heard that my homestate has enacted some new laws regarding abortion. These laws were meant to be litmus tests for seeing how limited the state would allow abortion provision to go while still allowing the right to abortion to remain technically legal. For all intents and purposes, abortion in Arizona is now extraordinarily limited – and as of last Friday, it will be nearly impossible to get if you live outside of the largest metropolitan areas of the state.
I’m sure many are wondering why I should care at all about abortion being safe, legal and accessible. After all, I do not have my ladyparts so there is no need for me to worry about an unintended pregnancy. But I do continue to consider the societal ramifications of abortion rights. And I am worried.
In short, the new law now includes a requirement that women see a doctor -24 hours before- getting an abortion to hear about risks and alternatives (and just for a frame of reference: in contrast, there is no waiting period to purchase a gun in this state). Also the law allows healthcare workers to refuse to participate in abortions for moral or religious reasons. The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled the provisions constitutional and said they did not put an undue burden on women seeking to end pregnancies. And finally a new provision, the 2011 law prohibits nurse practitioners from performing medication abortions (that is: supplying the pill that terminates a pregnancy without invasive surgery).
They are really about seeing how far the proletariat will allow conservatives to push their agenda. In my state, that is pretty far. But this kind of policy making is not limited to just my part of the country, the goal is to start introducing these laws where you live too.
And here is why I care so much: According to the Guttmacher Institute, “[n]early half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. Forty percent of pregnancies among white women, 69% among blacks and 54% among Hispanics are unintended. In 2008, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million in 2000. However, between 2005 and 2008, the long-term decline in abortions stalled. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions occurred. Each year, two percent of women aged 15-44 have an abortion; half have had at least one previous abortion. At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, nearly one-third will have had an abortion.“
These laws hurt the women we know. They hurt the young women in our communities who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies at higher rates than the national average. They are harmful to women in rural communities who now must travel and then secure shelter for several days adding to the financial and emotional costs already incurred by an unintended pregnancy. And they are hurtful to the future babies, forced to be birthed into a family that was not financially ready or emotionally prepared to begin before a pregnancy occurred.
Being a mama who cares about my children AND yours, I find the idea of women being forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to fruition, without real financial means or counselling or any support whatsoever to be particularly brutal. And we are not in a financial position as a nation to address the needs of rising unwanted children in our communities – let alone Arizona which ranks dead last in education and well-children care. This makes for appallingly bad policy.
Here is how you can help:
Stand with me.