The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 29th, 2012: The Republican War on Women, Part 3

This third and final column was published in the Pawling Press on March 23rd, 2012. (See Part 2 below.) As previously stated, there have been updates to this and other legislation assaulting and limiting women’s rights, but I’ll cover those at a later date.

“Good Luck, Ladies”

A few weeks ago, when I first wrote about several States having passed or trying to pass legislation to limit legal abortions, I didn’t realize that this was going to be a multi-part series. Unfortunately, more States continue to try to pass laws infringing on women’s rights and privacy, so here is the third installment.

Arizona, which already has a law in place that bans tax funding for abortions, is now about to defund Planned Parenthood entirely via HB2800, which Governor Jan Brewer is expected to sign into law. As has been stated again and again, abortion services comprise only 3% of the services that Planned Parenthood provides to women. For poorer women who have no health insurance, this will take away their access to free or low-cost mammograms, cancer screening tests and prevention services, STD testing and treatment, and other women’s health services, along with their access to contraception. Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, now running for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat, stated, “As a longtime health care professional, I can say without hesitation that restricting access to reproductive health care is detrimental to the health and safety of women. Period.”

Another Arizona bill, HB2625, amends the statute that gives “religious employers” exemption from providing insurance coverage for the birth control pill, unless it is medically necessary for reasons other than birth control. The bill completely removes the State’s statutory definition of “religious employers”, and instead allows “the employer, sponsor, issuer, health care services organization or other entity offering the plan” to deny “coverage of specific items or services… because providing or paying for coverage of the specific items or services is contrary to the[ir] religious beliefs…” In other words, not only the employer – any employer, not just a ‘religious entity’ – but also the health insurance company and, it seems, just about anyone in between, can deny coverage for any services, based on religious grounds. At least this particular bill would theoretically affect men as well as women, even though the majority of its limitations seem to be aimed at women. Maybe it would be a good thing if enough men realized that their healthcare coverage could be limited by someone else’s moral judgment.

On to New Hampshire: HB1659 requires doctors to give women seeking abortions “informational materials” – written by the State – which refer to a link between abortion and breast cancer in several sections. One section reads:

“It is scientifically undisputed that full-term pregnancy reduces a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer. It is also undisputed that the earlier a woman has a first full-term pregnancy, the lower her risk of breast cancer becomes, because following a full-term pregnancy the breast tissue exposed to estrogen through the menstrual cycle is more mature and cancer resistant. In fact, for each year that a woman’s first full-term pregnancy is delayed, her risk of breast cancer rises 3.5 percent. The theory that there is a direct link between abortion and breast cancer builds upon this undisputed foundation.”

Too bad that the American Cancer Society disagrees with this “theory that there is a direct link between abortion and breast cancer .” From the ACS website:

“Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer.”
“Women who have had no children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk. Having many pregnancies and becoming pregnant at a young age reduce breast cancer risk. Pregnancy reduces a woman’s total number of lifetime menstrual cycles, which may be the reason for this effect.”
“Several studies have provided very strong data that neither induced abortions nor spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) have an overall effect on the risk of breast cancer.”

So the State of New Hampshire wants to mandate that doctors lie to their female patients. This would violate doctor-patient confidentiality, and would also violate a doctor’s First Amendment rights. Considering that the American Cancer Society says that “having many pregnancies and becoming pregnant at a young age reduce breast cancer risk”, one might wonder why New Hampshire isn’t pushing for teenage girls to get pregnant as early as possible, and keep women reproducing for as long as possible, if the State is so concerned about their risk of breast cancer. (Okay, that last part was sarcasm, but warranted.)

As of this writing, two more States, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, are proposing more anti-abortion legislation. Pennsylvania has its own version of Virginia’s mandated-ultrasound bill, while Tennessee wants, among other things, to publish the names of doctors who perform abortions. Apparently this country hasn’t had enough bombings of clinics, shootings of clinic personnel, and murdering of doctors.

And what do all of these States have in common? All have Republican governors and majority-Republican legislatures. Yes, the “small government, “individual freedom” folks. So, to all of the women who are unlucky enough to live in all of these hostile States, I wish you the best of luck. You’re going to need it.

This is our daily open thread — What’s on your mind?