Texas did it. Then Ohio. Then North Carolina, and now Wisconsin. All over the country, in states where Republicans hold legislative majorities and the governor’s mansion, states are sneaking abortion restrictions into law, knowing that there’s very little to stop them.
In Texas, they called a special session. In Ohio, they added amendments to the must-pass state budget. In North Carolina, they tacked restrictions onto unrelated, barely-debated bills. This is a nationwide GOP strategy, an inventive new way to pass unpopular bills that will not play well in the press. And it’s not the only new trick these old dogs have learned. In North Carolina, Kansas, and Texas, to name just a few, the law may soon require teachers to lie to their students and doctors to lie to their patients, making information access the newest front in the ongoing fight to keep citizens from exercising their constitutional right to abortion.
In North Carolina, public school health teachers will, in all likelihood, soon be required to lie to their students, telling them that having an abortion will endanger future pregnancies. North Carolina’s SB 132 would require schools to teach seventh graders that abortion is a “preventable cause of preterm birth” (in addition to smoking, drinking, drug use, and inadequate prenatal care). There is no medical evidence to support this claim. The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatricians, and the American Public Health Association “have all uniformly concluded that abortion does not cause prematurity,” according to one doctor’s testimony. North Carolina’s Republicans, however, do not seem to care about scientific facts.
In Ohio, access to information will now be restricted for rape survivors who are pregnant and facing the prospect of carrying a rapist’s child. The abortion restrictions–passed through amendments to the new state budget–make clear that no rape crisis center that receives state funding can counsel rape survivors about abortion. As I wrote here earlier, this is a gag rule reminiscent of the one the Bush administration imposed on health centers it funded in the developing world. This means that such centers are forced to choose: remain open, offering only some of the necessary information to survivors of rape, or shut and provide those people with no information or services at all. And it means that rape survivors who are pregnant as a result of rape will not be told about steps they can take to avoid carrying their rapists’ babies.
Kansas, thanks to laws passed earlier this year which have just gone into effect, will now restrict access to information for students and for patients. Doctors who perform abortions are no longer permitted to participate in sex education in public schools. They are also legally required to lie to their patients, telling those who seek abortions that after 20 weeks of gestation, fetuses can feel pain, a claim without scientific backing. Additionally, they must tell patients that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” Doctors are also legally required to inform their patients of a link between abortion and breast cancer–a link that the National Cancer Institute insists is non-existent.
Teachers lying to students. Doctors lying to patients. Rape counselors concealing information from rape survivors. Welcome to the newest front in the abortion wars, where it’s not enough to restrict access to abortion, and to contraception. Now, the GOP is restricting access to information. Aside from violating the trust that students, patients, and survivors place in teachers, doctors, and counselors, these laws demonstrate, yet again, that Republican attacks have nothing to do with science, or with appropriate regulation of healthcare, and everything to do with ideology. In Ohio, the state budget funnels money into Crisis Pregnancy Centers, pseudo-clinics that offer free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds and then misinform “patients” about what abortion is and what it does.
Without accurate information, without all the information, citizens are unable to make the best decisions for themselves. In some cases, the best decision will be to terminate a pregnancy. And yet Republicans, the only decision is built on a lie–to schoolchildren, to patients, to rape survivors.