It has been three years since the Supreme Court’s conservative majority abruptly departed from precedent to uphold a federal ban on a particular method of abortion. Emboldened, foes of reproductive freedom are pressing new attacks on women’s rights and health.
In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, has signed a bill that would criminalize certain behavior by women that results in miscarriage. It was prompted by a sad and strange case last year in which a teenager who was seven months pregnant sought to induce a miscarriage by hiring a man to beat her. The measure exempts lawful abortions, and particularly worrisome language about “reckless” acts has been removed. But the law still raises concern about zealous prosecutors using a woman’s difficult choices to open an investigation.
In Oklahoma, the Center for Reproductive Rights succeeded last week in blocking a burdensome measure designed to discourage abortions by requiring preprocedure sonograms and exempting physicians from liability for failing to disclose fetal abnormalities. But the ruling turned on a technical flaw in the law, and its supporters are expected to try again.
An even more ominous assault on reproductive freedom is looming in Nebraska. A blatantly unconstitutional measure moving through the State Legislature would ban abortions at 20 weeks’ gestation — before viability and earlier than constitutionally allowed. Its narrow health exception excludes mental health. Indeed, the bill prohibits doctors from performing an abortion to avoid a serious risk that the woman may commit suicide.
The obvious goal here is to present the Supreme Court with a new vehicle for further watering down Roe v. Wade. That is troubling enough, but lately another tactic is being deployed to demonize abortion and abortion providers and further polarize the nation.
Citing the disproportionately high number of African-American women who undergo abortions, for example, abortion foes are hurling baseless charges of genocide and racial discrimination. Since last year, a staff member of Georgia Right to Life has been traveling to black churches and colleges, spreading the lie that abortion is the key to conspiracy to kill off blacks. Recently, the group posted dozens of billboards around Atlanta that proclaim, “Black children are an endangered species.”
In fact, of course, there is no conspiracy. The real reason so many black women have abortions can be explained in four words: too many unwanted pregnancies.
Even in this charged debate, phony accusations of genocide should be out of bounds, but political forces that oppose abortion are pursuing a focused, often successful campaign. Americans who support women’s reproductive rights need to make their voices heard.
Editorial-NYT (March 10, 2010)