Trust Women? Not in Missouri

Pamela Merritt

A bill passed in Missouri shows how ill-informed lawmakers are about state law, how little respect they have for women, and how little they actually know about real women’s lives.

On March 30 I listened through live audio stream as the Missouri House of Representatives voted to pass the 2010 Abortion Restriction Bill (HB1327/2000). This bill would create new, unnecessary restrictions on access to abortion services in Missouri to join the existing unnecessary restrictions already in place. The legislation also violates a woman’s constitutional right to make an informed decision about abortion.

The debate and vote took place on the same day that organizations opposed to abortion gathered in the state capitol for their official lobby day, so conditions pointed to a perfect anti-choice storm. The leadership, and many within the state legislative body are opposed to abortion, and those who support them in that opposition were on hand to cheer them on in their efforts to restrict access to abortion services in Missouri. There’s nothing like listening to elected officials debate whether women are capable of understanding a medical procedure and making a decision whether to have that procedure to clarify just how ill-informed those elected officials are about state law, how little respect they have for women, and how little they actually know about real women’s lives.

Here are some gems from the Missouri House debate. Representative Cynthia Davis (R-O’Fallon) said, “Abortion is a kind of domestic violence as well,” and went on to say that “women don’t naturally want to kill their offspring. Women who are loved, cared for and supported don’t mind having their own child.” Representative Pratt (R-Blue Springs) and Representative Nieves (R-Union) decided that anyone who voted against the bill was actively “protecting rapists.”

Contrary to the bizarre theme presented during the House debate, abortion is the most highly regulated medical procedure in Missouri. The facts about restrictions to abortion services in Missouri are clear. Under the current statute that has been in state law since 1979, “No abortion shall be performed except with the prior, informed and written consent freely given of the pregnant woman.The current law requires that at least 24 hours passes between the first visit to a clinic or doctor’s office and the time of the procedure, the patient confers with a treating physician who gathers and reviews information about the woman and relays information about the abortion procedure and any possible complications or risks.

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Some of the requirements include the following.

Prior to the procedure, the woman:

• Has a provider describe the specific abortion procedure and any risks involved to her;

• Has an ultrasound, is informed of the gestational age of the fetus, and is offered the option of viewing the ultrasound;

• Has necessary lab-work done, blood pressure checked, and a bi-manual (pelvic) exam conducted;

• Completes a medical history which is reviewed by trained staff and physician for completeness and clarity; and

• Speaks with staff specially trained to review all options when faced with an unintended pregnancy.

Specially trained staff will:

• Provide information, support and referrals as appropriate;

• Assist the woman in understanding the impact of the pregnancy on her current life situation;

• Help her identify and explore all of the options available to her—childbirth, adoption, or abortion—so she can make the best decision for her;

• Provide support and information to help her cope effectively with the emotional, social, and medical aspects of her situation;

• Make appropriate referrals for prenatal care, OB/GYN care, adoption and situation-specific counseling;

• Educate her about her related reproductive healthcare such as, birth control methods, pre- natal care, HIV and STI prevention and other appropriate concerns;

• Provide information and support as needed to ‘significant others’ who may accompany her;

• On the day of the procedure, conduct a pre-procedural interview to assess whether she is certain of her decision;

• Answer questions regarding risks, complications, and aftercare;

• Provide emotional support during the health care visit including before, during and after the procedure.

The 2010 Abortion Restriction Bill is chock full of ridiculous additional hurdles that will do nothing to reduce the number of abortions in the state of Missouri. It would require a doctor to report teens under 18 to the prosecuting attorney for the county in which the abortion procedure is to be performed if they seek an abortion, regardless of whether they actually obtain it, regardless of the fact that they have written permission from the parent, and regardless of the fact that doctors and nurses are already mandated to report abuse if it is suspected. Abortion providers would also be required to use brochures and videos developed by state bureaucrats rather than information developed by trusted medical organizations like the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology or the American Medical Association. These brochures must prominently display the statement “the life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” The bill would also create the new crime of ‘coercion of an abortion’ whether or not the woman actually seeks and obtains an abortion. And the 2010 Abortion Restriction Bill tells women who are survivors of domestic violence that they will be denied access to medical care if they reveal their circumstances and seek help.

In an amazing hypocritical twist, the Missouri House has wasted countless hours of the people’s time on legislation to “protect” Missourians from the federal government’s healthcare reform bill because they think government shouldn’t be involved in healthcare yet they voted to pass an abortion restriction bill that seeks to insert Missouri state government between patient and doctor. The anti-choice majority in the Missouri House is the very definition of inconsistent, but I guess the message is that government involvement in healthcare is okay as long as it involves denying women our reproductive rights and treating us like children. All eyes now turn to the Missouri Senate, where reproductive justice advocates are working hard to make sure this legislative insult does not become law.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”