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Restrictions on Reproductive Rights Continue in States

Restrictions on Reproductive Rights Continue in States

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New laws around the country are restricting access to abortion and a woman’s autonomy to make decisions regarding her life and health. In particular, Ohio, Florida and Texas have recently passed laws that affect a woman’s access to abortion services.

Last month, Governor John Kasich of Ohio signed a ban on abortions after the 20-week mark. Only about 1% of abortions happen at the 20-week mark, an arbitrary point in gestation. In signing the 20-week ban into law, Gov. Kasich simultaneously vetoed legislation referred to as “the heartbeat bill,” which would have banned abortions after six weeks, before most women even know they are pregnant. While the 20-week limit is less restrictive, comparing the two does not make it the new ban any less of a challenge to reproductive rights. There are no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, only for women whose pregnancies are considered life-threatening.

A new rule from the Texas Department of Health dictates a woman’s actions after having an abortion. The rule requires all fetal tissue to be buried or cremated, instead of the typical medical process. This does not only apply to abortions, but also to miscarriages that occur in hospitals. Burial and cremation are expensive, and the cost would be passed on to the woman who accessed this medical procedure, increasing the financial burden of an already-costly procedure and drawing out the process. The rule is now blocked by a Texas judge, and the preliminary injunction hearing is planned for January 2017.

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging a Florida law that creates barriers to accessing abortion services. The law requires those who give counsel to women seeking abortion to recite a state-mandated speech regarding abortion, to report minors to their parents and to register as abortion-referral or counseling agencies with the state health care administration agency. This would apply not only to healthcare providers, but all people who might be in a position to give counsel, including clergy, who are typically trusted with such information and provide guidance. The law could deter individuals from seeking counsel, and speaking to the people whose guidance, spiritual or otherwise, they seek. This is particularly applicable to minors, whose parents would have to be informed of the conversation even if the minor was the victim of rape or incest, or if the counselor knew that the child would be at risk of harm if the parents were notified of the conversation.   

These laws imply that a woman is not able to make decisions for herself, that she does not deserve to be treated as her own moral-decision-maker. They also disproportionately impact low-income women, young women and minors. The Reform Movement has long believed in a woman’s autonomy and right to choose, and recognizes that women must be able to make their own choices, in conversation with whomever she chooses to include.

Take action by contacting your Members of Congress and urge them to protect access to women’s health care. Visit the RAC’s issue pages to learn more about reproductive rights.

Maya H. Weinstein is a law student at the University of North Carolina, where she is pursuing a career in education law. She was a 2016-2017 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she also served as the Legislative Assistant for Women of Reform Judaism. Maya is from Fort Myers, FL, and earned her B.A. from the George Washington University. 

Maya H. Weinstein