Republican controlled states across the US are whittling away the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade which enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion. On Friday the Florida State Senate approved a bill which would require doctors to perform a medical exam to determine a fetus’ viability before allowing an abortion thereby outlawing abortions possibly earlier than the 20th week of pregnancy.
Twenty week mid-pregnancy abortion bans have been instituted in a number of states including Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana. In Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill last week banning abortions at 20 weeks of gestational age with no exceptions for rape or incest. And Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry has gone a step further by not only banning abortions after 20 weeks but also requiring that any doctor performing an abortion have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, a requirement which is near impossible in a State where most of the hospitals are religiously affiliated. Texas, the second largest state in the country now has only 5 abortion clinics.
And, laws which grant fetuses full constitutional rights are also on the rise. In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam is expected to sign a bill allowing the state to file criminal charges against pregnant women if they’ve taken illegal drugs which have resulted in a miscarriage, stillbirth or a newborn with symptoms of drug withdrawal. Mothers could potentially face jail times of up to 15 years if the bill grants personhood to a fetus.
GUEST: Loretta Ross, former Coordinator of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective