Abortion restrictions are being introduced, debated and mostly passed across several states in the U.S. Texas has been the most notable, but many others — Ohio, North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi and North Dakota — are ramping up their anti-abortion legislation. But while the GOP claims to focus on “life,” many of the states dedicating enormous amounts of time, money and energy to limiting abortion also see incredibly poor health outcomes for mothers and children. I outline some of them over at Al Jazeera; here’s a bit:
In more than a dozen Texas counties, the maternal mortality rate is 100 deaths per 100,000 births – that’s on par with Morocco and Honduras.Pregnant women in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Mongolia, Syria and Kyrgistan have better health outcomes. And in two Texas counties, more than 900 women die for every 100,000 births – that’s right between the death rates for mothers in Somalia and Sierra Leone, which rank among the top three maternal mortality rates in the world.
That’s right: Pregnant women are dying at a rate of nearly 1 in 100 in some areas of Texas, and the state Republicans are concerned with making abortion, birth control and sexual health information more difficult to obtain.
They call that “pro-life.”
Republicans in Ohio also claim to value life, and use that to justify a new budget containing at least five different provisions that not only curtail reproductive rights, but basic information and freedom of speech. How is Ohio promoting “life”? By defunding Planned Parenthood clinics in that state and instead giving the funds to Christian anti-choice “Crisis Pregnancy centres”. Planned Parenthood offers a wide range of services, of which abortions are only a minuscule part and which state and federal tax dollars already don’t pay for. They’re the primary reproductive health care provider for low-income women around the United States, offering Pap smears, cancer screenings, STD tests, pregnancy tests, sexual health information, contraception, adoption referrals and many other services.
Crisis Pregnancy centres, by contrast, provide a series of misleading statements and outright lies intended to prevent women from getting abortions. Preventing abortion is their entire goal, after all, and they’ve proven themselves willing to say nearly anything, no matter how flatly untrue, to accomplish it. Actually helping pregnant women and their children, beyond handing them a few packs of diapers, is a secondary priority. The centres do offer pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, but typically don’t employ trained technicians who know how to adequately read an ultrasound. They can tell you you’re pregnant and point to the fetus, but that’s about it. Women, though, believe they’re getting actual health care, and may not follow up with ultrasounds or tests from real medical providers.
Ohio isn’t just defunding legitimate health clinics in favour of religiously-motivated ideology centres. The new budget signed by governor John Kasich also cuts funding to rape crisis centres if those centres give their clients any information about abortion. In Ohio, not even rape victims should have the right to choose – or get an honest answer if they ask a rape crisis counselor about their options.
Targeting rape victims and low-income women isn’t all Ohio pro-lifers have in store. They’re also restricting abortion generally, passing new regulations that on the one hand require abortion clinics to have agreements with local hospitals allowing the clinics to transfer patients there, but on the other bar public hospitals from entering into those agreements. They’re making it impossible for clinics to comply with the law, which has the effect of shutting them down. And they’re requiring doctors to read an anti-abortion script to pregnant patients.
While Ohio Republicans could find the time, energy and money to attack rape victims and women who want to plan their families, they were less interested in following up on the recommendations of a 2009 task force on infant mortality (PDF) in their state, convened after it came to light that Ohio had the 12th highest infant mortality rate in the nation. The death rate of African-American infants in Ohio is twice as high as that of white infants – black babies in that state are about as likely to die in their first year of life as babies in born places like Syria and Libya. The task force found that “A shortage of women’s health providers in many areas of the state results in long waits for prenatal care and long drives to primary care and delivery hospitals for many Ohio women” and “Many Ohio women have no reproductive health care coverage”. Their number one recommendation? “Provide comprehensive reproductive health services and service coordination for all women and children before, during and after pregnancy.”
So the Ohio GOP cut funding to one of the largest organisations that provides just that, and instead funnelled it into the coffers of anti-abortion groups which offer practically nothing resembling health care.
The entire piece is here. I know pro-life hypocrisy is nothing new, but the degree to which supposedly “pro-life” activists do not care about life after birth continues to be astounding.