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In late September there was an article in the New York Times  detailing efforts to chip away at women’s reproductive freedom:

Thirty-eight years after Roe v. Wade recognized a woman’s right to make her own childbearing decisions and legalized abortion nationwide, a newly intensified drive by anti-abortion forces who refuse to accept the law of the land has seriously imperiled women’s ability to exercise that right. Opponents of abortion rights know they cannot achieve their ultimate goal of an outright ban, at least in the near future. So they are concentrating on enacting laws and regulations narrowing the legal right and making abortion more difficult to obtain.

The article included a map that shows how many of five particularly onerous restrictions have been imposed on women in each state. Missouri is among the fifteen states that have enacted all five of these restrictions. In fact, Missouri is probably the poster child (poster state?) for those who want to know how to go about undoing women’s reproductive freedom step by onerous step.

According to the Missouri NARAL Webpage, the state has meddled in what should be private medical decisions made by a woman and her doctor by banning specific, medically sound procedures; forcing medically unnecessary delays in delivering abortion services; restricting the use of public funds to provide information about abortion options, including genetic counseling about possible birth defects; forbidding the use of public facilities to provide abortions and banning public employees from providing or assisting in abortions; permitting private individuals, physicians, nurses, midwives, or hospitals to refuse to provide abortion services literally at will, and allowing private employers to refuse to provide insurance coverage for such services; refusing to pay for abortion services for poor women who are eligible for state health assistance, thus restricting their ability to secure an abortion; prohibiting women under 18 from getting abortions without parental consent; hobbling abortion providers with requirements that are not imposed on any other health care providers; and mandating that women seeking an abortion receive propaganda presenting the belief that “abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being” as a fact.

An almost exhausting list, each item of which has the potential to limit the right of Missouri women to secure a legal, safe medical procedure. But there’s more. The state code contains this loaded provision:

The general assembly of this state finds that: (1) The life of each human being begins at conception; (2) Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being; . . . [and,] The laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development, all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state . . . .

Interesting how a bunch penny ante pols feel qualified to step in and adjudicate a question about which both religious and secular ethicists have failed to reach consensus. I hope you’re as confounded as I am at the arrogance that permits these folks to decide that a human life in the process of formation is as or more important than that of the fully-developed human life that sustains it, and, further, that their opinion that this is so trumps the unique physical, mental or social conditions that may lead women to terminate a pregnancy.

I also hope you realize that this is just the tip of the iceberg in what amounts to a war on female sexual autonomy that is being fought on multiple fronts, and which is making frightening – and often lethal – inroads on the equal status of women in this country. Consider:

— Attempts to limit funding to organizations like Planned Parenthood, most recently in Indiana, would not only penalize abortion, but would limit access to contraception, contraception counseling, cancer, HIV and other STI screening for low-income women, reflecting the “do the deed, we’ll make damm sure you pay the price”  mentality of so many on the religious right.

— House Republicans in Washington have introduced a bill that would allow hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion even when it is essential to save the woman’s life. This would affect the ability of women to receive vital care at, at a minimum, 600 Catholic hospitals countrywide.

— Who can forget the GOP anti-abortion pander late last year when they tried to redefine rape for purposes of securing an abortion? Remember – no bruises, no broken bones, no rape?

Finally, just to make it crystal clear that women are very, very low on the pro-life, right-wing totem pole, Topeka, the capital city of Kansas, which under Governor Brownbeck is a bastion of the anti-woman, pro-fetal life contingent, has decided that it is just too expensive to enforce statutes that protect women against domestic violence and have decided to decriminalize such acts. Already 18 abusers – men who have physically assaulted a member of their family – have been released from jail because the city refused to press charges.

Need one say more?