This past weekend at the CLPP conference, Amanda Allen, a Legal Fellow from the Center for Reproductive Rights, gave a quick-and-dirty breakdown of the legislative shenanigans no reproductive rights activist could possibly have failed to notice. Amanda tracks these bills at the state and federal level as part of her fellowship. In addition to the kind of anecdotal evidence we’ve all been tossing around – she mentioned that no one at the Center can remember a legislative season which so clearly had it in for the health and choice of female-bodied persons – she’s got cold hard numbers that speak volumes; this amazing woman is tracking hundreds of anti-choice bills right now.
The hundreds of anti-choice bills, however, aren’t the big problem. There have always been anti-choice bills, if the numbers have perhaps been less staggering. The real problem, as Amanda noted, is that the last election cycle brought changes in state legislatures and, even more importantly, governorships, which means that bucket-o-crazy bills like the Ohio “heartbeat” legislation can now pass the state House and Senate and be signed into law. It’s that last bit – the actually-a-snowball’s-chance-in-hell-of-being-signed-into-law bit – that is relatively new, unusual, and highly alarming.
Amanda pointed to 5 distinct trends in the ever-evolving whirligig of fun that is the avalanche of anti-choice legislation we are currently facing:
1) Later abortion bans and complete abortion bans. The Ohio “heartbeat” bill, which would prevent abortions as early as 18 days into pregnancy, falls under this category, as does the Nebraska ban on abortions after 20 weeks. It is very possible that a challenge to these will eventually end up in the Supreme Court, where a 5 to 4 conservative majority that recently declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals could very well do the same with fetuses. I don’t mean to be alarmist here; this possibility is very real and in fact, in my opinion, very likely.
2) Personhood laws. These laws give a fetus the legal protections of a person. One of these bills passed the North Dakota House but died in the state Senate; more have been put forth in the last two weeks in Alabama. For my part, I would like it noted here that my spellcheck does not recognize “personhood” as a word. My spellcheck is probably pro-choice.