The Disunited United States and Women’s Rights

Columnist Charles Blow recently had an Op-Ed in The New York Times in which he stated:

Our 50 states seem to be united in name only. In fact, we seem to be increasingly becoming two countries under one flag: Liberal Land — coastal, urban and multicultural — separated by Conservative Country — Southern and Western, rural and racially homogeneous. (Other parts of the country are a bit of a mixed bag.) This has led to incredible and disturbing concentrations of power.”

After the election this past November, more than two-thirds of the states came under single-party control, i.e, with one party has control of the governor’s office and has majorities in both legislative chambers. Republicans have single-party control in nearly twice as many states as Democrats.

What does this mean for women’s rights? It’s not a happy picture if you don’t believe women should be forced to undergo ultrasounds (sometimes anal) and/or give up the right to safe interruptions of unwanted pregnancies. Pregnancies that are the result of rape (yes! you can get pregnant even if you are “legitimately” raped!) or other unpleasant circumstances that could cause a child to be unwanted or neglected or to ruin the life of the mother (as opposed to the person impregnating her), must proceed. According to the Guttmacher Institute:

In the first six months of 2013, states enacted 106 provisions related to reproductive health and rights; issues related to abortion, family planning funding, and sex eduction. Only forty-three provisions aimed at restricting access to abortion. Notice that most of these provisions tried to eliminate contraception and sex education, not just abortion. They want to curtail women’s sexuality by eliminating contraception as well.”

AbortionRestrictionsEnacted

Unfortunately, statistics tallied through 2008 reveal that each year approximately 47,000 women die as a result of unsafe abortion, accounting for 13% of all maternal deaths worldwide. Almost all of these deaths occur in developing countries. Moreover, many more women will now have to travel substantial distances to access abortion services. This of course will represent a barrier for poor and low-income women, who in fact make up the majority of women seeking abortions, and for women in rural areas. Thus, some women will have more “choice” than other women, which one surely would think – in theory – would inspire a successful ruling finding a violation of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, viz:

AMENDMENT XIV

SECTION 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

What happened to our record of protecting “discrete and insular minorities” (i.e., poor women) particularly those who lack sufficient numbers or power to seek redress through the political process? [See Footnote Four, United States v. Carolene Products Co. (304 U.S. 144).]

And why are there some women who seek abortions after twenty weeks, a common prohibition point for the new legislation? According to a pediatric cardiologist specializing in high-risk pregnancies:

The answer is that comprehensive fetal testing, such as anatomical sonograms and ultrasounds of the heart, are typically performed just before 20 weeks of gestation. Such scans are critical for uncovering major birth defects, such as anencephaly (severe brain malformations), major heart defects, missing organs and limbs, and other severe birth defects. Fetal development is a complex process that often goes awry. Roughly 2 percent of all pregnancies are complicated by a major birth defect, and of those about 0.5 percent have a chromosomal defect, such as an extra or missing segment of normal DNA. Birth defects are a leading cause of infant mortality, and in many cases of severe birth defects, no medical treatment can salvage a fetus’s life or result in any measure of normal future health. [my emphasis]”

Nevertheless, here are the sad statistics for women’s “choice”:

27blow-ch-articleInline

You can access a more detailed chart about reproductive rights at the Guttmacher Institute site, here.

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