The Anti-Lady Laws of 2012

An ALEC affiliate crafts model legislation to deny women their reproductive rights.

Sady Doyle

Activists attend the Stand Up for Women's Health Rally at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 7, 2011. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

WHERE­AS, any giv­en per­son might, through no fault of her own, find her­self in pos­ses­sion of a uterus, and

AUL’s model legislation insists: “Minors who obtain ‘secret’ abortions often do so at the behest of the older men who impregnated them, and then return to abusive situations.”

WHERE­AS, this uterus, being locat­ed with­in one’s body, fits the com­mon­ly used def­i­n­i­tion of an inter­nal organ,” and also the def­i­n­i­tion of per­son­al prop­er­ty,” and 

WHERE­AS, no per­son has the right to take, use, lend or bor­row the inter­nal organs of anoth­er per­son with­out per­mis­sion or against her will, nor does any­one have the right to take, lend, bor­row or use the per­son­al prop­er­ty of anoth­er with­out per­mis­sion or against her will, 

IT SEEMS CLEAR that every ratio­nal adult in Amer­i­ca should regard anti-abor­tion advo­cates with the same lev­el of respect they have for peo­ple who think it’s not tech­ni­cal­ly steal­ing if they only bor­row your car, with­out per­mis­sion, for the next nine months, or peo­ple whose ethics man­date knock­ing you out in a hotel bath­tub and steal­ing one of your kidneys. 

HOW­EV­ER, this is not the case. Which is why this reporter has had the chance to peruse sev­er­al pieces of mod­el leg­is­la­tion” draft­ed by Amer­i­cans Unit­ed for Life (AUL), all of which are aimed at mak­ing abor­tion impos­si­ble or near-impos­si­ble at the state lev­el, and many of which are writ­ten in a for­mat that looks

LIKE THIS, which is annoy­ing, because although they attempt to look very offi­cial and rea­son­able by so doing, they are actu­al­ly writ­ten by peo­ple who would like to potentially 

USE THIS REPORTER’S UTERUS with­out her permission. 

The plan to ban abor­tion in 2012

All right. Let’s drop the con­ceit, shall we? The mod­el leg­is­la­tion in hand con­sists of six pieces: the Abor­tion Patients’ Enhanced Safe­ty Act,” the Abor­tion-Induc­ing Drugs Safe­ty Act,” the Planned Par­ent­hood Joint Res­o­lu­tion,” the Abor­tion Sub­sidy Pro­hi­bi­tion Act,” the Per­son­hood Pre­am­ble,” and, the most repug­nant of all in prac­tice, the Parental Involve­ment Enhance­ment Act.” In Decem­ber, AUL shared its leg­is­la­tion with law­mak­ers at the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Council’s three-day pol­i­cy retreat. When tak­en as a whole, they present a sur­pris­ing­ly com­pre­hen­sive plan for ban­ning abor­tion at the state lev­el in 2012

Draft­ing mod­el leg­is­la­tion is not an uncom­mon prac­tice for the AUL: The orga­ni­za­tion has had sub­stan­tial suc­cess in get­ting law­mak­ers to intro­duce its mod­el leg­is­la­tion. As Nick Bau­mann of Moth­er Jones report­ed last year, AUL’s Preg­nant Woman’s Pro­tec­tion Act,” which appar­ent­ly extend­ed the def­i­n­i­tions of jus­ti­fi­able homi­cide” so that a preg­nant woman could claim self-defense for killing any­one who pre­sent­ed a threat to her fetus, was respon­si­ble for Nebraska’s LB 232, which did the same. 

Most of its new mod­el leg­is­la­tion is not sur­pris­ing; the Planned Par­ent­hood Joint Res­o­lu­tion” aims to defund Planned Par­ent­hood, which six states did in 2011. Fetal per­son­hood” mea­sures, such as the one pro­posed in Mis­sis­sip­pi, have already drawn a great deal of cov­er­age this year for their remark­ably rad­i­cal impli­ca­tions – aside from effec­tive­ly ban­ning abor­tion in the state, they also stand to ban hor­mon­al con­tra­cep­tion and emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion, and could open mis­car­riages to crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion. Although they have been unsuc­cess­ful, oppo­nents of the right to choose have not sur­pris­ing­ly kept this option on the table. 

Sev­er­al of the oth­er bills are aimed at shut­ting down abor­tion providers by requir­ing them to take on unnec­es­sary costs or meet unrea­son­able stan­dards: The Abor­tion Patients’ Enhanced Safe­ty Act” would require any facil­i­ty that pro­vides five or more first-trimester abor­tions per month, or any sec­ond- or third-trimester abor­tions, to be licensed as ambu­la­to­ry sur­gi­cal clin­ics.” This would require them to invest in get­ting such a license annu­al­ly, and poten­tial­ly sink mon­ey into pro­vid­ing unnec­es­sary ser­vices and clin­ic fea­tures. This is not new, either, which is why we know about the unnec­es­sary fea­tures: In Kansas, where a sim­i­lar law was passed, the state reg­u­la­tions for ambu­la­to­ry sur­gi­cal cen­ters includ­ed invest­ing in rooms far larg­er than those required for the pro­ce­dures being offered, installing sep­a­rate dress­ing rooms, and putting in extra toi­lets, pre­sum­ably so that the abor­tion providers would be bet­ter able to flush mon­ey down them. Mean­while, the Abor­tion Induc­ing Drugs Safe­ty Act” express­es shock that all doc­tors are not man­dat­ing exten­sive phys­i­cal exams and mul­ti­ple super­vised appoint­ments for patients when pre­scrib­ing abortifacients. 

The most alarm­ing of these acts is the Abor­tion Sub­sidy Pro­hi­bi­tion Act,” which would (among oth­er things) ban pub­lic enti­ties from leas­ing a build­ing to an abor­tion provider, ban pub­lic schools from pro­vid­ing abor­tion infor­ma­tion or emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion, and ensure that monies paid by stu­dents as a form of tuition or fees to a state uni­ver­si­ty or a com­mu­ni­ty col­lege shall [not] be used in any way for, to assist in, or to pro­vide facil­i­ties for an abor­tion, or for train­ing to per­form an abor­tion,” poten­tial­ly mean­ing that state med­ical schools would not be allowed to teach the pro­ce­dure, thus restrict­ing access to abor­tion by attempt­ing to ensure that there sim­ply are no qual­i­fied doc­tors to pro­vide it. 

If this all seems a bit total­i­tar­i­an, bad news: No agency that receives state fund­ing to pro­vide legal ser­vices may pro­vide those ser­vices with respect to any pro­ceed­ing or lit­i­ga­tion which seeks to pro­cure any abor­tion, or to pro­cure pub­lic fund­ing for any abor­tion.” Nor may they advo­cate for a right’ to abor­tion.” Yes, you read that right: The word right” is put in scare quotes. 

… the death of her unborn child.’

How­ev­er, noth­ing match­es the sheer gall of the Parental Involve­ment Enhance­ment Act,” which starts off feign­ing con­cern for sex­u­al­ly abused chil­dren, insist­ing with­out any appar­ent evi­dence that minors who obtain secret’ abor­tions often do so at the behest of the old­er men who impreg­nat­ed them, and then return to abu­sive sit­u­a­tions.” It not only requires that the minor in ques­tion noti­fy her par­ents and get con­sent for the abor­tion – which is not at all uncom­mon cur­rent­ly – it also requires that both the par­ent and the minor sign a form indi­cat­ing that they under­stand” that the pro­ce­dure will, and I quote, result in the death of her unborn child.” And then they must pay to have the form nota­rized. It applies these same restric­tions to dis­abled peo­ple with legal guardians. 

Those seek­ing a judi­cial bypass must either prove in court that they have been phys­i­cal­ly or sex­u­al­ly abused by their par­ent or guardian, or under­go an eval­u­a­tion in which the court may con­sid­er what steps the preg­nant woman took to assess her options and the extent to which she con­sid­ered and weighed the poten­tial con­se­quences of each option,” and the preg­nant woman’s con­duct since learn­ing of her preg­nan­cy.” Put sim­ply: The court can deny you a judi­cial bypass because it doesn’t like you. 

How­ev­er, there are some judg­ments it’s not allowed to make: a court may not con­sid­er the poten­tial finan­cial impact on the preg­nant woman or the preg­nant woman’s fam­i­ly if the preg­nant woman does not have an abor­tion.” The court may also put the per­son seek­ing a judi­cial bypass through a manda­to­ry men­tal health eval­u­a­tion. (Because if you want to decide whether to have an abor­tion for your­self, you might be crazy.) 

Again: Much of this is not new. But tak­en togeth­er, these mea­sures pro­vide a com­pre­hen­sive game plan: First, penal­ize doc­tors and facil­i­ties for pro­vid­ing abor­tion and oth­er repro­duc­tive health ser­vices, in the hopes of shut­ting them down. Next, restrict the edu­ca­tion of future doc­tors so that the med­ical pro­ce­dure itself will not be avail­able. When­ev­er pos­si­ble, strip per­son­al auton­o­my from preg­nant peo­ple and assault their abil­i­ty to choose. To elim­i­nate any resis­tance to this assault, defund advo­cates for repro­duc­tive health or jus­tice, and penal­ize the act of advo­cat­ing for a right’ to abor­tion.” And, at the end of the road, ban abor­tion and con­tra­cep­tion at the state level. 

There­fore it is resolved

WHERE­AS, any giv­en per­son might, through no fault of her own, find her­self in pos­ses­sion of a uterus, and

THIS PRO­POSED LEG­IS­LA­TION aims to penal­ize the act of hav­ing a uterus, and to deprive nec­es­sary health­care and per­son­hood to those who pos­sess them,

THIS PLAN can­not, under any cir­cum­stances, be tolerated.

Sady Doyle is an In These Times con­tribut­ing writer. She is the author of Train­wreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why (Melville House, 2016) and was the founder of the blog Tiger Beat­down. You can fol­low her on Twit­ter at @sadydoyle.
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