Attacks on reproductive rights spread to 14 states

On June 13 in Columbus, Ohio, pro-choice advocates made their case to Ohio lawmakers who are considering a ban on all abortions in that state. Addressing the absence of exceptions allowing for victims of rape to terminate their pregnancies, Corinna Lohse of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center reported that in the U.S about 32,000 women a year become pregnant as a result of sexual assault.

Emboldened by an anti-choice president and newly appointed Supreme Court justices, right-wing groups are making dramatic inroads designed to prevent women from having access to abortions. Ohio is one of 14 states that currently have abortion ban legislation pending or have passed so-called trigger laws that would ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

In February, South Dakota’s Legislature was successful in getting the governor’s signature on a bill that will outlaw abortion even in cases of incest and rape. That ban is scheduled to take affect July 1. The other states that have quickly followed South Dakota’s lead, in addition to Ohio, are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Controversial “Choose Life” license plates programs have gone into effect in 13 states. Most of these state-administered projects are intended to generate funds for anti-choice programs. The ACLU is challenging one such program in Tennessee and has asked a federal court to stop the production of the plates while awaiting an appeal to the 6th Circuit Court.

Recent public opinion polls indicate that while most Americans generally support reproductive rights for women, current media exposure for extreme right-wing groups may be making headway. In promoting messages suggesting that the public and lawmakers have the right to determine if a woman’s reason for choosing abortion is sound or if the term of pregnancy is early enough, they may be tilling the soil for more restricted access.

While outlawing choice for women is on the front burner for national “right to life” groups, pro-women organizations are mobilizing. In South Dakota, the nonprofit group South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families collected more than 38,000 signatures in nine weeks demanding that the public be given the right to vote on the ban.

In a recent message to members, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards summed up the situation: “Extremists hate it when you point out that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to increase access to birth control. Their solution to unintended pregnancies, whether you’re single or married, is sickeningly simplistic: ignore sex and maybe it will just go away. We can’t let dangerous attitudes like that become the law of the land.”