Thursday, May 23, 2019

Abortion, Alabama and The Suppression of Women's Autonomy

Ultimately women's health decisions, including reproductive rights, are about women's autonomy.  The abortion "debate"  is about some men's efforts to limit women's control over their bodies and their futures.  Some men make decisions whose consequences fall only on women.  Whether or not to reproduce is a decision that should be private and without state interference.  But male supremacists cannot permit women to have a voice in choices that will impact them for the rest of their lives.   Reproductive rights are perhaps the last arena for men to control women.  The laws, at least in theory, have assured that women have equal access to employment and education.   While in practice women often struggle to achieve equity and respect, under the law equal treatment has been supported through state and federal statutes and supporting case law.

But legislation on reproductive rights is not an area where equality and autonomy are respected.  Legislation to limit women's autonomy on reproductive health is perhaps the last aspect of women's autonomy that can be effectively curbed by the (primarily) white, male legislators.  Force a woman to have children and you succeed in assuring that obtaining education and professional status for women is less likely.  Conflating religious beliefs with legislative goals is improper under the separation of church and state.  The pretext of religious and moral commitment easily reveals itself to be a sham.  "Pro-life" legislation such as that in Alabama actually extends to unborn fetuses only. Birthed children lose protection as soon as they leave the womb.

The exceptions in the Alabama legislation that permit abortion in the face of serious health threats to the mother are shams within a sham.  The only straightforward exception is where there is a medical emergency where continuation of the pregnancy would result in the death of the mother or impairment such that the mother would result in loss of a serious bodily function.  This is by far a minority of reasons why abortion is elected. The act carefully delineates that second exception, serious medical risk, but serious medical risk does not include mental or emotional distress. For an abortion to be approved under those conditions the treating physician's opinion is insufficient.  In addition, a psychiatrist must examine the patient and find that the woman's condition would result in her death or the death of the child, if born.  And should the woman meet these prerequisites, despite a shortage of psychiatrists in rural Alabama, the abortion must be performed by a physician licensed by Alabama and in an Alabama Hospital in which the physician has privileges.  Guess how many Alabama Hospitals permit abortions to performed on premises?  Denying privileges to doctors who perform abortions is an impossibly slow process by design. Then there are consequences for the mother who has a termination under these conditions.  Will the state be prepared to take any child the woman might give birth to later?  Will the state determine that danger to the child will not be problematic because they will take the child at its birth?  

Oh- and that exception for the health of the mother?  Well - post-abortion and within 180 days of the procedure, a second physician must certify in writing that the abortion was medically necessary.  That physician shall not be subject to liability for the certification.  If the performing physician is unable to find a certifying physician, prosecution will result.  If one is found, the certification will be "prima facie evidence for a permitted abortion",  The language of prosecution.

But returning to the premise that Alabama is not pro-life:

Alabama provides limited education for children K-12.  The state ranks 49th in children who graduate high school and are prepared for college.  Alabama refuses to expand Medicaid, which would vastly enhance the ability of mothers and children to receive proper medical care.  Child abuse rates reduce when women have access to abortion.  Abortion rates reduce when women have access to contraceptives.  The United States leads the developed countries in maternal death rates.  Hardly  pro-life or pro-children!  Childcare largely remains the burden of mothers, with little in the way of government subsidies.  Alabama executes the convicted at high rates, even when there are solid legal doubts as to whether the individual received a fair trial. 

 Alabama legislators and those of other states that have enacted severe anti-abortion laws are not pro-life.  They are anti-women.

Margaret Drew, Reproductive Rights | Permalink


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