State Republicans have introduced nearly 1,000 laws restricting women’s reproductive health access. Here are 10 of the worst states to be a woman between puberty and menopause.
May 9, 2011 | In a time of war and record unemployment, the GOP is sending a message: fertile women are the country’s number one enemy, and their freedoms must be quashed at all costs. State Republican (and some Democratic) legislators have introduced nearly 1,000 laws restricting women’s reproductive health access on the state level, and this is on top of decades of reproductive health policies that have made women second-class citizens in many states.
Here are 10 of the worst states to be a woman between puberty and menopause:
1. Mississippi. Mississippi has been such a bad state for women for so long it rarely even gets noticed in the news anymore. Legal and cultural harassment has reduced the number of abortion providers in the state to two, making the abortion rate in the state four times lower than the rest of the country. This doesn’t mean that women in Mississippi don’t need abortions; just that they go out of the state to get the services, making the actual abortion rate much closer to the national average. The demand is surely higher and not being met, as Mississippi is far from the place to go for decent sex education and birth control. Mississippi has the third highest teen birth rate in the country, the fifth highest maternal mortality rate, and fifth highest rate in STD transmissions. Because women can’t say no to childbearing easily, one in three Mississippi children live in poverty.
2. Texas. Thirty-five percent of women in their childbearing years are uninsured in Texas, making the need for subsidized family planning services especially strong in the state. Republican lawmakers responded to this need by slashing family planning funding, while leaving untouched the money the state spends on crisis pregnancy centers, even though these centers offer no real services women need. But even this isn’t enough for the Texas GOP. Republicans are currently concocting a scheme that would dismantle the entire state program dedicated to reproductive health care for low-income women. Just in case there was any doubt left in women’s minds that Texas Republicans hate them, Rick Perry will be signing an ultrasound requirement to get an abortion.
3. South Dakota. Anti-choicers in South Dakota tried to ban abortion in 2006, but the non-misogynist population turned up at the polls and beat the ban back. But searing hatred for ovulating women will not be thwarted so easily! The state then passed a law requiring women to wait 72 hours and subject themselves to a hectoring lecture at a crisis pregnancy center before they can get an abortion. Surprise! It turns out that no crisis pregnancy centers have applied to be official counseling centers. It makes sense, since by agreeing to do so, they’re allowing women to fulfill their paperwork requirements to get an abortion. Letting crisis pregnancy centers become an impassable obstacle to abortion has given misogynist legislators a way to deprive women of any ability to get an abortion while leaving abortion technically legal.
4. Indiana. Not to be outdone by South Dakota, Indiana has gone a step further and moved toward attacking both contraception and abortion access. Gov. Mitch Daniels recently signed a law banning abortions after 20 weeks, and cutting off all federal funding for family planning. Lawmakers claimed they only wanted to attack clinics that also provide abortions, but because of federal non-discrimination policy, the law basically means an end to all federal funding of contraception, as well as STD testing and treatment. Now women in Indiana who rely on Medicaid and Title X subsidies to afford contraception will have to come up with hundreds of dollars they don’t have for contraception, or go without and run the high risk of unwanted pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that without these clinics, teen pregnancy would be 21 percent higher and there would be about 3,500 more abortions in the state a year.
5. Oklahoma. Oklahoma legislators looked at how Indiana Republicans are using the specter of abortion to cut off contraception and thinking of ways they can expand on that for brand-new ways to punish women for having working uteruses. Why stop at attacking women not giving birth, when you have women who have babies to punish, as well? With this in mind, the Oklahoma House passed a bill that would eliminate independent contractors from administering Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a federal program that distributes nutrition vouchers to low-income women with children. As usual, Planned Parenthood was cited as the reason, with the GOP claiming the organization is so evil that it’s better to starve babies than allow Planned Parenthood to receive government funding. In practice, the result is one more punishment inflicted on women, this time for having the nerve to have babies who need to eat.
6. Kansas. Kansas went from being a pretty bad place to be a woman to a hellhole rapidly, between the murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009 and the recent election of devout misogynist Sam Brownback as governor. The murder emboldened the radical anti-choice movement, as it resulted in the closure of Tiller’s clinic and proved to them that terrorism does work. Because of this, anti-choicers in the area moved to terrorizing Dr. Mila Means, a Kansas family doctor who was discovered receiving training to provide abortion. So far, Dr. Means has been unable to find relief from the harassment campaign at her office and her home, and a federal judge refused to issue a restraining order against Angel Dilliard, an anti-choice fanatic who has been threatening Dr. Means’ life.
Despite the atmosphere of fear and violence, Gov. Brownback is giving the terrorists what they want by signing more abortion restrictions into law, and pushing to strip family planning funding from women who depend on it.
7. Minnesota. So much for “Minnesota nice.” The much-ballyooed unwillingness to be confrontational was shoved aside by Minnesota legislators who are all too willing to simply ignore court rulings that restrain misogynist legislation. Legislators sent a big F-you last week both to the supreme courts of the nation and their own state by passing two laws that have already been deemed illegal by the courts. One, a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, violates the Supreme Court’s ruling that abortions can only be banned after viability. The other, a law banning public funding of abortion, violates the Minnesota supreme court ruling that found that such a ban violates women’s right to equal treatment under the law. Minnesota Republicans may not confront you on most things, but they’re willing to take it to the mat to deprive women of basic equality.
8. Georgia. Last year, reproductive justice advocates beat back a bill that would require doctors to “screen” women of color having abortions for some kind of pressure to abort because of race. By inventing a non-existent problem (women of color aborting because of racism) legislators would have put doctors in a position where providing abortion to any woman of color could result in jail time, which could make the service only available to white women. The bill didn’t pass, but it did end up kicking off a nationwide frenzy of anti-choicers attacking the reproductive rights of women of color specifically while pretending to be concerned about racism.
In reality, Georgia is a terrible place for women of childbearing age, especially women of color. The state has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country, and maternal mortality disproportionately affects women of color. Real concern for the well-being of women of color would start with doing something about the maternal mortality rate, not feigning concern about their reasons for abortion.
9. Arizona. Race-based abortion restrictions may have failed in Georgia, but unfortunately, such a law recently passed in Arizona, a state that can’t even pretend that it’s not run by a bunch of wild-eyed racists. The “concern” for women of color aborting because of racism is laughable in a state where the legislature basically accused President Obama of not being a real citizen on no real evidence besides his appearance and in which it’s now the law for the police to harass Hispanic citizens for their papers. Of course, Arizona ignores the real problems facing women of its state — 23 percent of women of child-bearing age are going without insurance coverage; the state has the third highest teenage pregnancy rate in the country; and 23 percent of Arizona children live in poverty. In light of all this, the safe assumption is race-based abortion laws are about making it that much harder for women of color to get abortions, which makes these laws not anti-racist, but just plain racist.
10. Louisiana. Louisiana has a ban on abortion on the books in case Roe v. Wade is overturned, as well as a host of other restrictions on abortion that have reduced the number of providers to seven in the state. Despite this, a Louisiana legislator has introduced a bill to ban abortion, apparently on the theory that if you pass the same illegal law over and over, it might just take. In addition, Gov. Jindal has indicated support for laws that would put additional restrictions in place for women of color seeking abortion, modeled on the abortion law in Arizona. As in Georgia, the concern for women of color is a centimeter deep; the state ranks 46th in maternal mortality and there’s no evidence that Republican legislators are lifting a finger to save the lives of women who do have their babies.