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The Abortion Wars: The Real People Behind the Restrictions

Written by Carole Joffe for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post. The last ten days or so we have seen Republicans, and their religious allies, wage a war against contraception—and bungle it badly. With poll after poll showing that a majority of Americans support contraceptive coverage in health reform, and with the 98 percent figure (of American women who have ever used contraception in the context of heterosexual sex) endlessly repeated in the media, the Republicans nonetheless push ahead with this attack, providing a welcome gift to the Obama reelection campaign and much material to political artists and comics. I have lost count of the number of parodies that have been inspired by that now gone viral picture of five male clerics testifying at the Congressional hearing called by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). A picture that of course immediately brings to mind another image of a similar tone deaf moment on the part of social conservatives,  the nine men surrounding President George W. Bush as he became the first president to sign a ban on a particular technique of performing abortion, in the case of so-called “partial birth abortion.”  It’s no wonder that the term “patriarchy” has made a comeback in the blogs! The well-publicized refusal of Issa to permit the testimony of a female witness put forward by the Democrats, Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student planning to speak to the health consequences of denied contraception at Catholic universities, only added to the disastrous p.r. of that event. And the “aspirin between her knees” remark of Rick Santorum’s major funder later that day didn’t help either. But while the media is momentarily fixated on the second big story this month of a losing fight against family planning (remember the Susan G. Komen Fund fiasco?), less attention has been paid to a related war that is not going well at all.  The assault on abortion that has resulted from the 2010 elections--the Republican takeover of Congress and many statehouses and governorships--has arguably produced the most serious threat to abortion access since the Roe decision in 1973.  What we mainly have heard about this situation are the statistics, the unprecedented number of abortion restrictions introduced and eventually passed in state legislatures at a time when one might assume politicians’ focus would be on the economy. But there are real people behind the numbers and details of the restrictions. And the enormous toll that the abortion wars take on individual women seeking the procedure and the providers who try to help them are insufficiently appreciated by the general public. Continue reading....