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250 Anti-Abortion Rights Bills Have Already Been Proposed in 2019. It’s April.

Handmaids of Handmaid's Tale

With less than a month to go before the Trump administration’s policy change to cut Title X funding for groups that offer abortion care takes effect, and with 250 anti-abortion rights bills already proposed this year, Vox published a bizarre anti-abortion op-ed this week that suggested abortion would be obsolete within 50 years.

To the writer’s point, maybe safe, legal abortion access will be “obsolete” within 50 years, considering the rate of abortion bans being proposed in state legislatures, and the plainly dangerous Supreme Court makeup, but abortion has existed and will continue to exist as long as pregnancy. In the absence of federal funding for contraceptive and preventive reproductive health care, as proposed by the “pro-life” Trump administration, if anything, abortions are more likely to increase.

Abortion is not something that will disappear with legality, or even with universal access to contraception. The majority of abortions involve the use of some form of contraception—unwanted pregnancy is an inevitable part of nature, and as long as it exists, abortion will, too. It’s up to our lawmakers whether those abortions are safe and accessible.

Georgia moves forward with abortion ban

Even in the aftermath of mass pushback from leading actors, producers, and corporations, this week, the Georgia state House passed its proposed fetal heartbeat abortion ban, which now goes to the desk of staunchly anti-abortion Gov. Brian Kemp.

The proposed bill would essentially serve as a ban on all abortions, prohibiting abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected at about six weeks, when most women don’t even realize they’re pregnant yet. While the proposed bill in Georgia has gained significant media attention due to threats of boycotting from actresses like Alyssa Milano and Amy Schumer, the Writers Guild, and even Amazon and Coca-Cola, it’s worth noting that Georgia is hardly the only state where fetal heartbeat bans have been proposed—and succeeded. Just last year, Iowa briefly enacted its fetal heartbeat ban, while states like Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and more have also either passed or enacted their own iterations of the ban.

Despite the blatant unconstitutionality of the fetal heartbeat ban, it’s become an increasingly popular move in anti-abortion lawmakers’ playbook, with a conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court all but waiting to receive bills like this, and use them to dismantle or strike down Roe v. Wade altogether. As alarmingly popular as proposed fetal heartbeat bans have become in the last year, we can’t allow ourselves to become desensitized, or accept this as a new normal. At a time when maternal death rates are steadily increasing in the US—and indisputably in connection with increasing restrictions on abortion access—we can never allow ourselves to forget the human toll of these laws.

Alabama lawmakers want to make abortion a felony

Seeming to follow Georgia’s lead, lawmakers in Alabama’s state legislature this week introduced legislation that would make performing nearly all abortions a felony. Their proposed bill, which includes language comparing abortion to the Holocaust, is notably even more extreme than the varying iterations of the fetal heartbeat ban currently floating in states like Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Per the Associated Press:

“The Alabama bill, HB314, goes even further: It would ban all abortions, even those using prescription drugs, as soon as a woman is ‘known to be pregnant.; It does allow for ending a pregnancy when the fetus has a ‘lethal anomaly’ or to avoid a ‘serious health risk’ to the mother, but there are no exceptions for rape and incest. Any attempt to end a healthy pregnancy would be a felony.”

By explicitly criminalizing a safe, legal health care service like abortion, Alabama lawmakers are actively highlighting the hypocrisy that underlies the “pro-life” movement. As Planned Parenthood Southeast President Staci Fox put it, the punishment of doctors and abortion providers who quite literally save either women’s lives or livelihoods through their health care services is quite literally a “death sentence for women across [Alabama].”

250 anti-abortion bills have already been proposed in 2019

Sure, 2019 is flying by so quickly that it’s hard to believe it’s April, but anti-choice lawmakers in 41 states have wasted no time, and as of the end of March, they’ve already introduced more than 250 anti-abortion bills.

For some necessary context, since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, just under 1,200 anti-abortion restrictions have been enacted on the state and federal levels. The influx of proposed abortion bans introduced so far in 2019 is alarming, but it’s really just the continuation of a relatively recent trend; more than a third of all 1,200 anti-abortion laws have been passed in the last seven years alone, in tandem with growing Republican power in state legislatures.

In light of the United States’ uniquely rising maternal death rates and the disproportionate reproductive violence targeting women of color, the potential for horrific, lived consequences produced by each of these hundreds of bills can’t be forgotten. Yet, as important as it is to note maternal death rates and their connection with anti-abortion bills, it shouldn’t take women and pregnant people dying en masse to recognize that bodily autonomy is a human right; it shouldn’t necessitate a matter of life-or-death to prevent women from being forced to carry to term and give birth.

(image: Daniel X O’Neil on Flickr)

Kylie Cheung writes about feminism and politics, with a focus on reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kylietcheung, or learn more about her writing at www.kyliecheung.tumblr.com.

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Dan is a video game modding hobbyist and secret ninja who lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa Brown, and his dog, Liz Lemon, both of whom are the best.