Abortion restrictions amount to legislated religion

Today, the Virginia Senate passed HB 462, which mandates that any woman having an abortion must first undergo an ultrasound, even against medical opinion. The bill passed 21-19 as two Democratic senators (Charles Colgan, Prince William, and Phil Puckett, Russell) opposed to abortion access voted for the mandate. (It is worth noting that Senator John Watkins, R-Powhatan, bucked the line and voted against the measure.) Following the vote, Delegate David Englin, D-Alexandria, told The Rachel Maddow Blog he believes the amended bill will pass the House and be signed by Governor Bob McDonnell.

With the high likelihood that the bill will become law, Virginia’s elected officials join their colleagues across the country in a repressive, single-minded effort to force all women to carry each pregnancy to term. No matter what.

As Laura Bassett notes in the Huffington Post, the debate includes a dispute on the role of government and government overreach. (Bassett deftly juxtaposes the mandatory ultrasound decision with the attempt to repeal Virginia’s HPV vaccine mandate.)

Virginia’s latest obstacle to abortion access does indeed raise the issue of government mandates and government overreach. Anti-abortion measures (like mandatory ultrasound, forced waiting periods, bans on financial assistance, etc.) amount to nothing less than government sanctioned religion.

In the United States, one of the greatest influences on our view of morality is our tendency to be religious. Many legislators see abortion as a moral issue. (Sadly, too many see it as the moral issue above all others.) As moral and religious individuals, our elected officials wrongly proselytize through policy, legislating their (primarily) Christian view of right and wrong.

When we accept bills that stand in the way of women obtaining safe, legal and affordable abortion, we tacitly accept that the Christian perspective has supreme value and power in our lives—even for individuals (and there are many to be sure) who are either not Christian or have no religious leanings.

Everyone in our country has the absolute right to believe anything (and everything should they choose). However, no one should have the right to legislate a religious view of life through policymaking. (In fact, because of the flawed views of religiously guided and mean-spirited legislators, if you live in Virginia and are a piece of metal designed to kill and injure people you have more rights than a woman.)

In the matters of medicine, the personal beliefs of presumptuous, sanctimonious lawmakers have no place. (Quick reminder: Despite all beliefs to the contrary, abortion is and will remain a medical procedure just as any other surgery is a medical procedure.) We should have a simple test for abortion-related measures: Is the proposed regulation medically necessary or does it represent the limited, wrongheaded belief of a few individuals who proclaim themselves spokespeople of a deity they invented? I’d prefer to have my medical decisions made based on medicine, not delusion.

-Joseph Patrick Richards @mentalmacguyver

House of Misrepresentatives

17 February 2012: DC Exile Day 24

Not that this news comes as any surprise, but this past week has been especially terrible for women in the US. In case you missed it, below is a brief rundown of what happened in DC and Virginia this week. (I write about Virginia for two main reasons. First, I worked there recently in reproductive rights and am plugged in to what is going on in that state. Second, I believe some of the bills under consideration in Virginia may serve as dangerous models for the rest of the country should they pass.)

In addition to the Virginia House of Delegates approving a measure to grant “personhood” rights to zygotes, legislators in the Commonwealth moved forward with other measures to destroy the rights of women. (An article from Chelyen Davis at Fredericksburg.com and David Sherfinski at The Washington Times provide valuable updates on how “personhood” may affect in vitro fertilization.)

  • Chelyen Davis also reports on a bill from Delegate Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, that would block the ability of low-income women to access assistance for necessary abortion care.
  • The House of Delegates voted to approve a bill that would force women to undergo vaginal probe ultrasounds against their will and against the advice of their doctors. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia describe the invasiveness of the bill.

And of course, there was the unbelievable absence of female witnesses during a hearing on birth control in the U.S. House of Representatives. The chair of the committee, Rep, Darrell Issa, R-Calif, even claimed a female law student was not “qualified” to testify to the committee.

Wait. So women, who take birth control, are not qualified to testify about birth control?

This week points out the dreadful truth that Republican legislators, especially those in the House of Representatives (you know, that body that is supposed to represent us?), believe that only wealthy, heterosexual, Christian White men are experts. Our legislators believe that women are not capable of living their own lives and making their own decisions. Our legislators are cowards.