GOP anti-abortion fervor hits fever pitch

Republicans have made no secret of their opposition to the legality of abortion. In fact, between their resurgence last November and the end of March, they proposed 916 measures in 49 state legislatures relating to reproductive rights, health, and access, according to the Guttmacher Institute. So much for “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

In South Dakota, the GOP has tripled the pre-abortion waiting requirement, from 24 to 72 hours- the longest in the country. This would have a negative impact on women in the mostly rural state who already often have to take time off from work to travel to a clinic. In addition, it is now required that the woman meet with an abortion crisis counselor in the interim. These crisis centers are often run by pro-life groups to discourage women from seeking abortions.

That pales in comparison to a South Dakota bill that would expand the definition “of justifiable homicide” to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus – therefore legalizing the killing of abortion providers. While it passed out of the House Committee, it was shelved following a national outcry.

Texas, a Republican bastion, has made several inroads against reproductive rights as well. The Texas House approved a bill that would strip funding from state hospitals and clinics that provide abortions or “abortion related services.” Governor Rick Perry planned a special ceremony May 24 to sign a bill that would require women to view a sonogram of their fetus prior to receiving an abortion, as well as listen to the fetus’s heartbeat.

GOP Louisiana State rep. John LaBruzzo has introduced a bill that would ban Louisiana from using Medicaid funds on abortions, even in the case of rape or incest. Additionally, the bill would expand the crime of “feticide” to include voluntarily aborted fetuses. The bill, which passed of committee to the House floor, is an attempt to challenge the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe V. Wade, and risks cutting of Medicaid funds for the state, as well as incurring millions in legal fees.

In May, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law a bill that bans Medicaid payments and government grants to Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions. Kevin Falk, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, who joined Planned Parenthood in an unsuccessful attempt to block the law, told the Indiana Courier-Journal that the law will force Planned Parenthood to close 13 of its 28 centers in Indiana. The law also bans abortions after 20 weeks.

Back in March, during the debate, when Democratic state Rep. Gail Riecken introduced an amendment that would allow abortions after 20 weeks in the instance of rape, incest, or health of the mother, it was countered by bill sponsor Eric Turner (R). Turner claimed, “I don’t want to disparage in any way someone who has gone through the experience of a rape or incest – but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest.”

Perhaps the most honest assessment of Republican feelings towards the topic came from Kansas Republican state Rep. Peter DeGraaf. The Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill that would prohibit insurance companies from covering abortions to women, except when a woman’s life is at risk. When a pro-choice Republican representative, Barbara Bollier, expressed her concern that this was placing a financial burden on women, DeGraaf said, “We need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?” When Bollier responded that women often have no control over these issues, especially in cases of rape, DeGraaf responded, “I have a spare tire on my car. I also have life insurance. I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for.”

Speaking of GOP attitudes toward rape, recall the brutally tragic rape of an 11-year-old girl by 18 young men in a small Texas town. This event was used by a Florida GOP state lawmaker as a justification for a state dress code prohibiting sagging clothing, or clothing that exposes underwear or parts of the body. Referring to the rape, she said, “There was an article about an 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed up like a 21-year-old prostitute. And her parents let her attend school like that.” In other words, it was the 11-year-old girl’s fault that she was gang-raped.

It is hard to fathom the extent of all these anti-choice, anti-reproductive health laws pushed by the GOP recently. However, seeing some of their lack of compassion for rape victims, it is not surprising.

Corrected 5/27/11: The bill that would have expanded the definition “of justifiable homicide” to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus – therefore legalizing the killing of abortion providers – was in South Dakota, not North Dakota. An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the state.

Photo: Fibonacci Blue CC 2.0


Ryan C. Ebersole
Ryan C. Ebersole

Ryan Ebersole is a mental health counselor on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Having finished his Masters degree at the University of Southern Mississippi, his undergraduate degree at the University of Evansville in Indiana, high school in the Fort Worth area of Texas and pre-K in Puerto Rico, and having been born in Florida, he has experienced several areas of the county.

While in Indiana, he worked at a social work agency for HIV+ clients, as well as a low-income community drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility - both of which caused him to take a great interest in the stigmatized and the disadvantaged in our society. Now as a mental health professional, he hopes to serve these groups, as well as continue political activism, especially for LGBT and health care rights, on the side.