Forty years ago, Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the U.S., justifying it as a “right to privacy” under the 14th Amendment. There is no express right to privacy in the Constitution, however, so women’s right to abort remains scarily vulnerable. In the last few years, poking strategic holes in women’s access to abortion seems to have become a national sport.
In 2011, states enacted 92 laws hobbling women’s access to abortion. In 2012, 43 restrictive laws were passed. Our current year promises to be a whopper: lawmakers have already introduced more than 300 anti-abortion measures.
One out of three women in the U.S. will have an abortion. That’s a stunning number. It suggests that at least some women out there are having their abortions in stealth and then resuming their smiley pro-life personae. Currently, 87% of counties in the US lack abortion providers. This wallops poorer women, since you need resources — time, money, and transportation — to be able to travel to a distant abortion clinic.
The mountain of anti-choice laws grows ever higher: mandatory waiting periods; mandatory ultrasounds, some of which must be done via vaginal probe; measures that restrict medical students from learning how to perform abortions; building codes that make freestanding abortion clinics adhere to the same strict standards as hospitals. Anti-choice activism has become enviably creative.
Given all this mishugas, it was hard to pick the 10 most outrageous recent anti-choice laws, but here goes. They’re in no particular order, and I’ve tacked on an especially insane dishonorable mention.
1. South Dakota has passed a 72-hour waiting period before you can get an abortion. This excludes weekends and holidays.
2. Politicians in North Carolina snuck abortion restrictions into a law focused on motorcycle safety regulations.
3. A Mississippi law specifies that abortion clinics be “located in an attractive setting.”
4. A South Carolina law states that clinics must ensure that their “outside areas” be “free of grass that might serve as a haven for insects.”
5. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a bill that regulates what physicians are allowed to say to women seeking abortions (a clear infringement of the relationship between patient and physician).
6. North Dakota has banned abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.
7. Lawmakers are attempting to classify the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics as a “state agency” — in order to prevent medical residents from getting trained to do abortions.
8. A wide-ranging Ohio bill seeks to remove public funding from rape crisis centers that inform raped women of their option to abort.
9. In Michigan, pro-choice Representative Lisa Brown was banned from speaking on the House floor after she uttered the word “vagina” in the legislature.
10. In Texas, a state lawmaker is attempting to require women to take a course about adoption before they can choose to abort.
Dishonorable mention goes to anti-choice activists in Wichita, Kansas, who are using their own picketing of abortion clinics to close an abortion clinic! The clinic in question, South Wind Women’s Center, is located at the site of slain physician George Tiller’s former clinic. By claiming that their own demonstrations are disruptive to the community — and citing instances of anti-choice harassment like graphic signs displayed where children can see them, and friction between clinic escorts and themselves — protestors are trying to get the clinic’s neighborhood zoned as “non-business” so that South Wind will have to close.
As it says in Ethics of the Pro-Choice Mothers 2:20: “The day is short, the task abundant, the price high, and the Mistress of the House says get to work.”
Sarah Erdreich is the author of the new book Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement.