The Republican war on women continues unabated. The same week that conservatives argued in the Supreme Court that employers should be able to stop their employees from getting contraception coverage outside of the company health plan, Indiana joined the ranks of states like Texas and Florida in passing a draconian law that purports to protect women while in fact endangering their health by making safe abortion much harder to get. Gov. Mike Pence signed it Thursday night.
The bill is one of those omnibus anti-choice bills Republicans are fond of these days, a giant bill stuffed with as many asinine restrictions on abortion with an eye towards making abortion as miserable and humiliating an experience as possible, and ideally something women can’t get legally at all. The sadism of the whole thing is truly breathtaking. Despite the legalistic language, it is as clearly woman-hating in its intent as anything Donald Trump tweets.
The bill requires doctors to offer “parents” the “remains” (which in most cases looks mostly like a really heavy period) after the abortion, a clear attempt to make women feel like they are child-killers just because they had a brainless embryo removed from their uterus. In the same vein, doctors are required to do an ultrasound where they try to obtain a heartbeat, just one more bit of anti-choice theater designed to make women feel bad. There’s also a misleadingly named “informed consent” requirement which actually is about feeding women lies to scare them into thinking abortion is dangerous when it is not.
On top of the humiliation rituals Indiana requires women to endure, the bill also has an admitting privileges requirement. On its surface, requiring abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals seems like a good thing, which is why anti-choice forces like this regulation. In reality, however, most hospitals only give privileges to clinics who actually admit a certain number of patients a year. Since abortion is incredibly safe and hospitalization is almost never required, most clinics can’t come up with the minimum number of admissions to get the admitting privileges. States who do this are requiring clinics to meet an impossible standard as a pretext to shut them down.
But the provision that is getting the most attention, no doubt because of the sheer sadism of it, is the ban on abortion for race, gender or disability. You can feel the self-satisfied gotcha-style pleasure of conservatives who came up with this one. How can you liberals be against this? It’s a ban on discrimination, and you guys love that stuff!
In reality, however, this provision is both deeply racist and misogynist. There’s no real evidence that aborting based on a fetus’s race or gender is a thing that happens. Conservatives believe it, however, based on some ugly urban legends, starting with the unsavory assumption that women of all races would abort rather than give birth to a child of color.
The gender provision is also based on a racial stereotype, because it’s based on claims that Asian-American women abort rather than give birth to girls. In reality, there is no evidence that such a thing is going on.
“By assuming that because of our culture Asian American and Pacific Islander women will choose to terminate pregnancies based on sex, this law turns AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) women into suspects in their doctor’s offices,” the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum explained in a press release. “This encourages invasive scrutiny of our motives that other women will not be subjected to.”
The part of this provision that gets the most attention is the ban on aborting pregnancies after a doctor determines that the fetus has an anomaly leading to disability. Unlike like race- or gender-based abortions, this is something that happens — a common example is aborting pregnancies after a Down’s syndrome diagnosis — and once again, anti-choicers are hiding behind a supposedly noble cause (protecting the disabled) for no other purpose than to force childbirth on the unwilling.
After all, Pence and Indiana Republicans have not expanded services for families with disabled children to go along with this bill forcing childbirth on women. That’s because they are exploiting disabled children as a cover for their true misogynist purpose. If they really cared about the wellbeing of disabled children, they would want them to be provided for. Forcing them on women who don’t have the capacity to raise a disabled child and then refusing to help with the child’s care is not what compassion actually looks like.
“I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families,” Pence said in a statement, after signing a bill designed to wreak havoc on the lives of mothers, their children, and their families.
Asked to comment on his approval of a piece of legislation that basically promotes hatred towards women once stripped of all the legal terms, Pence argued in an interview with The Huffington Post that “abortion as such was a mistake since the day it was first invented… So, let’s get that straight right away – I oppose abortion for any reason whatsoever because I believe that killing someone, or something, if you will, that hasn’t developed a consciousness just yet is the ultimate act of crime. And if we’re murderers of innocent beings who can’t defend themselves, how are we to expect people with a fully developed consciousness to stop murdering each other?” the Indiana governor said.
A quote circulating on a number of sites further argues that Pence said “if that wasn’t enough, we’ve got this situation now throughout different states where some lawmakers allow abortion under some circumstances like rape or when the fetus is diagnosed with an illness, and others just flat out prohibit it. And that’s bad for a number of reasons. First and foremost – we can’t have this kind of freedom of choice. This is bad, let’s be clear. And that’s part of the reason why I signed this bill, because I believe abortion, or I’m going to flat out call it murder, this murdering of children has to stop and it has to be prohibited in every state. So Indiana is just a step in the right direction… Because this is such a sensitive topic, let me just say that I sympathize with rape victims not just in America, but around the world. I can only imagine what it must be like to experience such trauma. However, that does not justify murder, not even that justifies murdering a baby, not in my book.”
Some versions of the quote have the addition of “Because what would happen? We’d then have an epidemic of women claiming to have been raped just so they could have an abortion. And that has to be stopped at all cost.”
This section of the quote has not been verified but the implications of his preceding words clearly point in that direction and imply them.
Donald Trump’s new running mate also said, “Basically, if I’d have said no on the bill, that would be just like giving out get-pregnant-without-fear cards, because at the end of the day, women could have unprotected sex without worrying about what they’d do in the event of pregnancy. And you know, it’s not supposed to be like that. That would be equal to me picking up a butcher’s knife and slicing people open in the middle of the street. That would be murder. And I’m not a murderer.”
“And it gets worse – when you get an abortion, you get several days off of work and whatnot to recover. And there are a lot of crazy people out there. What if women would go out and get raped on purpose just so they could get off work? I mean, Indiana’s economy is struggling as it is, and having thousands of women absent from their jobs would be horrific for the state, I’m telling you. I made the right call and that will be confirmed in the long run,” Pence concluded.
Texas’s law, which is currently under consideration by the Supreme Court, is a perfect example of how destructive these laws are to the lives of women and their families. A recent study showed that after the law closed about half the clinics in the state, nearly 4 in 10 Texas women lost access to their local clinic. That meant they had to drive an average 4 times as far to get an abortion, with a quart of those women driving over 139 miles to get an abortion.
The result is that women pushed abortions later into their pregnancies and the cost of getting one skyrocketed. Women had to pay for gas, child care and often hotel just get a 15-minute outpatient procedure. To drive home how serious a burden this is: Forty-two percent of women who get abortions live below the poverty line and 61 percent have children.
God is going to need to bless these women and their families a lot, because Pence is clearly out to destroy them.