Recent Trends in State Attacks on Women's Health
Since 2010, lawmakers have introduced more than 2,000 (that’s right, 2,000) reproductive health provisions in legislatures across the country, the vast majority of which seek to undermine women’s health by cutting basic services and restricting access to breast exams, cancer screenings, birth control, and abortion. And if you really want to be shocked, right now more than half of American women of reproductive age are living in a state hostile to women’s health. So if you see what’s happening now on a state-by-state basis you can only imagine what life would be like under a Romney presidency. And unfortunately, we’re not exaggerating.
There are a number of ways legislators are trying to restrict women’s health care, so we thought we’d break it down for you and highlight the top seven attacks on women’s health.
1) Mandatory Ultrasounds – Mandatory ultrasounds put politicians in the middle of the personal, private medical decisions that should be left to a woman, her family and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor. Creating laws that require doctors to perform procedures that may not be medically necessary increases the burden on poor and rural women by adding mandatory delays and additional costs. And sometimes it comes with a government-mandated script written by politicians. Women need the best care they can get, not politically motivated judgments from opponents of women’s health.
2) Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) –Health centers that specialize in reproductive care are already among the most rigorously regulated and scrutinized health care providers. But opponents of women’s health dialed up their efforts to eliminate abortion care in states through the introduction of TRAP bills that require regulations that may not be medically necessary. This type of legislation essentially serves as a “backdoor abortion ban” because without providers or affordable health care options, women may be unable to access safe, legal abortion care.
3) “Personhood Measures” – So-called “personhood” efforts could amend state constitutions, either through the legislative process or a ballot initiative, to ban a wide range of vital women’s health services, including lifesaving treatment of ectopic pregnancies, in vitro fertilization, common forms of birth control, and all abortions. Earlier this month, Alabama senators held a public hearing on a personhood bill that changes the definition of “person” throughout the entire legislative code.
4) Abortion Restrictions – There are a number of ways legislators are working to restrict women’s access to safe and legal abortions. One way is to enact a law that would ban abortion as early as 20 weeks, with few exceptions. Another is by prohibiting abortion coverage in all private insurance plans in the state, which makes it unaffordable for women who are not wealthy. And the same people are also pushing for burdensome mandatory delays before a woman can receive an abortion, and placing bans on medication abortion, a safe way to end an early pregnancy. These laws also target women who don’t have the means to pay for the procedure out of pocket.
5) Rollbacks on Comprehensive Sex Education – Three decades of national polling has shown that the vast majority of Americans, especially American parents, have long supported comprehensive, medically accurate sex education. Yet despite widespread public support, particularly from parents, one in four teenagers in the U.S. attends a school with an abstinence-only program that does not provide information about birth control. A new study on teen birthrates in the United States shows that the states with the highest teen birthrate are those that either do not have comprehensive sex education programs or stress abstinence only. Unfortunately that isn’t stopping state politicians in Wisconsin and Tennessee who recently passed abstinence-only legislation, with Tennessee adding a ban on “gateway sexual activity.”
6) Birth Control Restrictions – Birth control use is nearly universal in the U.S. — 99 percent of sexually active women use it at some point in their lives. Fifty-eight percent of women using birth control pills use it for health reasons beyond family planning. Yet women’s health opponents are advancing a “right” of refusal of birth control coverage in insurance plans. What does that mean? They want your employer to determine what should and shouldn’t be covered under your health insurance plans based on whatever they deem appropriate, including birth control.
7) Attacks on Planned Parenthood – In states around the country, legislators opposed to women’s health are trying to eliminate funding for family planning or block Planned Parenthood’s participation in public health programs. While state attacks on Planned Parenthood patients vary, the outcome would be the same: women’s ability to receive basic health care — including cancer screenings, well-woman exams, and birth control — from their trusted health care provider would be severely undermined.
While the tactics some politicians use to chip away at women’s health varies, there is one thing that’s clear: these attacks on women’s health would be supersized if Mitt Romney were elected. Romney is assembling a team of anti-women’s health politicians to advise him – and many of them are the people responsible for the attacks listed here.