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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's deja vu all over again!

So in the last few years we've seen a lot of slimy tactics meant to impair a woman's legal right to choose. There was, for example, the attempted South Dakota abortion ban that had an exemption so absurd and, frankly, offensive that I have difficulty expressing my loathing in words. There was the refusal to dispense birth control by pharmacists, thereby infringing even more dramatically on a woman's freedom. There was that time when a woman was arrested following a rape and denied the morning after pill because her jailer had moral objections to it. And how could we ever forget the nurse practitioner who removed a woman's IUD without permission and then refused to replace it because it was against her (the nurse practitioner's) moral code? Indeed, a detestable little rogues gallery there.

Well, unfortunately, we can now add Nebraska to the list with its new effort to ban abortions:

Nebraska could reshape national abortion policy if lawmakers embrace a proposal to ban almost all abortions after a fetus reaches 20 weeks.


“I think National Right to Life wants to see something go to the Supreme Court that would provide more protection to the unborn child,” said Mary Spaulding Balch, a lobbyist for the organization.

A new Nebraska legislative proposal could provide that opportunity.

Legislative Bill 1103 would ban abortions after 20 weeks unless the procedure would save a woman's life or “avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”

So, this is a big deal because at this point abortions are legal until somewhere between 24 and 27 weeks. So, restricting it to before 20 weeks is reducing the available span by a full month. Not a trivial change at all. But, you know, it gets even better:

She contends, and some experts agree, that a fetus can experience pain at 20 weeks.

“What I would like to bring to the attention of the court is, there is another line,” Balch said. “This new knowledge is something the court has not looked at before and should look at.”

Considerable disagreement remains, however, about when a fetus can sense pain.

In a review of fetal pain literature in 2005, University of California-San Francisco physicians reported that “fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” or about 27 weeks into the pregnancy.


Even if the court changed course and accepted the 20-week standard, the bill could be doomed by a second major matter, said Laurel Marsh, executive director of ACLU Nebraska.

“Our contention is that it still is unconstitutional because it has no mental health exception,” she said.

LB 1103 would set the most narrow health exception in the country by allowing abortions only for threats of “physical” impairment to a woman.

The definition seeks to close what many abortion opponents consider a major loophole in existing law. The court made it clear in 1973 and again in 1992 that the health of a woman includes psychological factors.

Right, so, the new law is based on shaky research arguing about when a fetus can feel pain. And in our interest to shield fetuses from possible pain, Nebraska is closing the "loophole" that allows an abortion in cases where carrying the child to term might fuck the mother up for life- you know, like in cases of rape or incest. Lovely. Even our old pal Bill Napoli of South Dakota did better than that! Sort of. I guess Nebraska is just taking a page from North Dakota in legislating biological reality.

I really don't know what to say about all this except to ask a simple question: maybe the fetus feels pain, maybe it doesn't, but we know for damned sure that the mother will probably feel a whole lot of mental and emotional pain if forced to carry the child to term. Where, I wonder, does her pain factor into this?

The silence is deafening.

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Blogger Plain(s)feminist said...

Arg. The later the abortion, the more likely it is that the reason for the abortion has to do with either the mother's health or the fetus's health (e.g., conditions that are incompatible with life). So really, the people who are in the most dire situations are the ones who will be made to suffer, and all because the forced birthers keep telling their flocks that there are no restrictions on abortion and that anyone can walk right on up to a Planned Parenthood and get an abortion at any point in her pregnancy.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 11:45:00 PM  

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