Here are some quick highlights from reproductive rights in the news this week:
This post in the National Journal highlights the speakers at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, DC last weekend. As expected, many conservative politicians spoke out on social issues, attempting to garner support from the religious right. Politicians Michele Bachmann (check out her call to defund Planned Parenthood around the 1:23 mark), R-Minn., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, both emphasized the importance of their own views against abortion, and former Ambassador to China, John Huntsman, went so far as using the story his daughter’s adoption to rally the audience around his anti-choice views stating, “There is something more essential than politics and that is life, specifically a child’s life.” This emphasis on social issues has become typical of today’s Republican Party and the Faith and Freedom Conference proved to be the perfect venue for broadcasting anti-choice views.
An article from the Associated Press this week recognized the growing trend in reproductive rights politics to include fetuses under the legal definition of personhood in state constitutions. Under this new definition, states could pave the way for the eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade. Although such legislative movements go against federal law, anti-choice supporters believe the resulting lawsuits have the potential to spark change that could significantly obstruct women’s reproductive freedom. On Monday, a similar bill was rejected in Maine, although it specified that the definition would only change in the event of an assault perpetrated against a pregnant woman. Pro-choice advocates were opposed to this bill as Maine’s constitution already intensifies punishments for assaults against pregnant women and this type of bill would be a catalyst for a law that would consider a fetus to be under the definition of personhood in any situation.
Bills to grant such “personhood” rights failed in the 2011 Virginia General Assembly.
In a letter to the editor from the Richmond Times-Dispatch this week, Hopewell resident Mary K. Martin took on the subject (also addressed here) of how new, national healthcare legislation has the potential to hurt women and small businesses. Martin worries that businesses in Virginia will be hit especially hard by this bill, either having to pay a large fee for coverage that includes abortion (even in cases where the life of the mother is threatened) or waste time shopping around for a different plan that could be much more expensive. Martin calls this bill part of a “narrow social agenda that hurts women and penalizes small businesses.”
Another issue grabbing headlines this week has been the controversy occurring between the state of Indiana and federal Medicaid offices. This is due to the new state law eliminating some of Planned Parenthood’s public funding. The issue has been taken to court and U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt is expected to make a ruling by the end of the month. If the new law is upheld, seven of Indiana’s 28 Planned Parenthood health centers could close. The law specifically stops Medicaid from covering abortions and, while the state is arguing that this should not inhibit Planned Parenthood’s other services, it would be difficult to prevent incidental funding overlap for supplies and preparations that are used for abortions as well as other Planned Parenthood services. Representatives from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU believe that this law must be repealed in order to protect Planned Parenthood on both a national and statewide level.