Anti-abor­tion­ists, buoyed by Trump, get new wind in US

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

WASH­ING­TON: Em­bold­ened by Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­nent ar­rival at the White House, abor­tion op­po­nents are mo­bi­liz­ing, tak­ing se­vere mea­sures that some say threaten con­sti­tu­tional free­doms.

Pro-choice ac­tivists, who sup­port a woman’s right to choose to use con­tra­cep­tion or have a le­gal abor­tion, suf­fered set­backs in sev­eral US states in re­cent days. In Ohio, Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor John Ka­sich signed Tues­day a law ban­ning abor­tion af­ter the 20th week of preg­nancy, mak­ing no ex­cep­tion for rape, in­cest or fe­tal anom­aly.

The bill makes only limited con­ces­sions in cases where the preg­nancy could harm the woman’s health. The move is a risky bet. The US Supreme Court has al­ready ruled that states can­not pre­vent a woman from hav­ing an abor­tion be­fore the fe­tus is vi­able-ex­perts say that thresh­old oc­curs around 24 weeks of preg­nancy. Just over one per­cent of abor­tions in the US are cur­rently car­ried out af­ter 20 weeks, ac­cord­ing to the pro-choice Guttmacher In­sti­tute. But avail­able data does not seem con­clu­sive on how many abor­tions af­ter 20 weeks take place for birth de­fects or other rea­sons.

‘Heart­beat bill’

As alarm­ing as the mea­sure may be for abor­tion back­ers, it could have been worse. A separate, so-called “heart­beat bill” would have banned abor­tions as early as six weeks into a preg­nancy-even though women are of­ten un­aware they are preg­nant at that time. But Ka­sich ve­toed the mea­sure.

In Ten­nessee, a woman who tried to abort her fe­tus at 24 weeks us­ing a metal clothes hanger was re­cently slapped with bol­stered crim­i­nal charges. For the pro-choice camp, the case il­lus­trates the grow­ing fear that women de­nied an abor­tion may re­sort to des­per­ate, clan­des­tine mea­sures that had not been preva­lent for decades.

On the other side of the de­bate, an­tiabor­tion ac­tivists feel wind in their wings with con­ser­va­tive Trump set to take power Jan­uary 20. The Amer­i­cans United for Life group pub­lished a re­port of more than 200 pages de­tail­ing the “hor­rific abor­tion clinic con­di­tions,” find­ing that 227 abor­tion providers in 32 states were cited for more than 1,400 health and safety “de­fi­cien­cies” be­tween 2008 and 2016, and had vi­o­lated hun­dreds of state laws. The study aims to pro­vide state law­mak­ers, ahead of 2017 leg­isla­tive ses­sions, with “an im­por­tant tool for ex­plain­ing the crit­i­cal need for en­hanced health and safety stan­dards,” said Denise Burke, an AUL vice pres­i­dent and the re­port’s au­thor. Sup­port­ers are en­cour­aged to help pass anti-abor­tion bills. Con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans and evan­geli- cal Chris­tians op­posed to abor­tion are hold­ing out hopes for the kind of change they want to see un­der a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Trump’s Vice pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence, and his pick to head the Jus­tice Depart­ment, Jeff Ses­sions, both op­pose abor­tion rights.

And in­com­ing Health Sec­re­tary Tom Price is ex­pected to lead a cru­sade against fam­ily plan­ning and health care plan re­im­burse­ments for con­tra­cep­tion.

Trump him­self has vowed to nom­i­nate Supreme Court jus­tices strongly op­posed to abor­tion, which he claims would “au­to­mat­i­cally” over­turn the high court’s land­mark Roe v. Wade de­ci­sion of 1973.

There is noth­ing au­to­matic about Supreme Court re­ver­sals, which are not com­mon. But Trump stands a solid chance of push­ing through a con­ser­va­tive agenda at the most pow­er­ful court in the land, with one seat on the nine­mem­ber panel cur­rently left va­cant and one or more oth­ers likely to come due to the ad­vanced age of some jus­tices.

Cre­mat­ing, bury­ing fe­tal re­mains

Ever since the Roe v. Wade de­ci­sion was handed down in 1973, con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists have re­peat­edly sought to raise bar­ri­ers for women seek­ing an abor­tion. Ok­la­homa state’s high court on Tues­day re­jected a new law that re­quired abor­tion clinic doc­tors to have ad­mis­sion rights for their pa­tients at a lo­cal hospi­tal within 30 miles (48 kilo­me­ters). Ear­lier this month in Texas, a judge sus­pended a law that re­quired abor­tion clin­ics to cre­mate or bury fe­tal re­mains af­ter abor­tions. But the US Supreme Court had strongly reaf­firmed in June women’s rights to an abor­tion, a hot-but­ton is­sue that has inces­santly torn at the US so­cial fab­ric. That rul­ing could be the last ma­jor vic­tory for the pro-choice camp for a long time. —AFP

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