States across America have introduced more than 2,300 anti-abortion bills between 2010 and 2014 in an astounding legislative marathon that has targeted everything from the abortion pill to minors seeking the procedure following a sexual assault. In 2015, reproductive health activists have said we could expect more of not only the same, but also of the unusual. A slew of anti-abortion measures were introduced — and some were passed — this week, and the provisions seem more inventive with every draft. Some of these proposals and newly enacted laws place unprecedented restrictions on the most common abortion procedures in the United States, which many believe may harm the relationship between a pregnant patient and her doctor.
Arkansas kicked things off this week with Gov. Asa Hutchinson signing into law a 48-hour mandatory waiting period after a patient receives in-person counseling. The measure also includes a provision requiring doctors to tell their patients that a medication abortion could be "reversed," and was one of six anti-abortion laws passed by Arkansas over the last month. Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northrup called these measures "sham laws designed to shutter clinics and make it harder for women to get the full range of safe, legal reproductive health care they need" in a statement sent to Bustle this week.
Here's a look at the new ways state legislatures have been targeting abortion and abortion providers — all in a week's time...
Targeting Medical Schools
In North Carolina this week, a panel of state legislators approved a bill carrying a provision banning employees at two publicly funded universities from performing abortion procedures at any stage during a pregnancy. (The bill has not yet received a full vote in the state legislature.) The provision was cloaked in an omnibus anti-abortion bill mandating a 72-hour waiting period, The Citizen-Times reported.
If passed, medical students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which has a highly ranked OB/GYN program, and Eastern Carolina University would also be barred from performing or assisting in abortions, meaning they would receive little to no training of the procedure. “It raises a very serious issue: Who’s going to be training the OB-GYNs at UNC to do abortions, if faculty can’t do them?” Dr. David Grimes, a retired abortion doctor who did his own residency at UNC-CH, told ThinkProgress this week.
North Carolina legislators argued the provision was necessary because these two universities receive public funds, which they argued shouldn't be spent on training of abortion procedures — even if the medical students are completing an OB/GYN residency. North Carolina Rep. Pat McElraft reportedly told WRAL last week that medical students and doctors had "other options," but she didn't specifically elaborate on what those options are. "There are opportunities for doctors to learn this," McElraft said, via WRAL. "Abortion physicians learn from all kinds of training — spontaneous abortions or miscarriages."
But members of the medical community are rallying against the provision. Medical students at UNC-CH, local physicians, reproductive health advocates, and women who have had abortions gathered on the UNC campus on Thursday to express their disapproval of the bill and the negative impact it may have.
Kansas became the first state to outlaw dilation and evacuation (commonly known as "D&E"), a method of abortion typically performed after the 16th week of pregnancy. Anti-abortion activists are hoping to see this ban continue in other states, including Oklahoma, where a similar bill was approved by the state legislature this week and will also be making its way to the governor's desk.
The Kansas law, formally known as the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, was drafted with the help of the National Right to Life Committee, who claim it prevents inhumane practices used by abortion providers.
The NRLC has been lobbying hard for this law, even creating a legal memo arguing how and why the D&E ban should be upheld. The organization has also been making an emotional appeal, referring to the procedure as "dismemberment," even though D&E's actually consist of a combination of aspiration (or suction) abortion and dilation and curettage.
“Dismemberment abortion kills a baby by tearing her apart limb from limb," said Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., the organization's director of state legislation. She added in a statement earlier this year:
When abortion textbooks describe in cold, explicit detail exactly how to kill a human being by ripping off arms and legs piece by piece, civilized members of society have no choice but to stand up and demand a change. When you think it can’t be uglier, the abortion industry continues to shock with violent methods of abortion.
But abortion doctors have said that the D&E procedure is the most common and safest way to perform an abortion late in the second trimester. Dr. Vanessa Cullins, Vice President for External Medical Affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said this week in a statement sent to Bustle:
All of us who provide health care to women are deeply troubled by this legislation. These bills have no basis in medicine, and they are just part of an extreme agenda by politicians who want to ban abortion completely. This legislation would prevent doctors from providing health care based on what’s best for our patients, which is dangerous and deeply disturbing.
Can you reverse an abortion? Medical experts generally say no, of course not, but that hasn't stopped two states from passing laws requiring abortion doctors to inform their patients that their medical abortions could be "reversed" through a relatively untested process called the "abortion pill reversal." Arizona became the first state to pass this requirement, and Arkansas followed this week with a provision tacked onto the 48-hour waiting period bill.
The "abortion pill reversal" has been backed by several anti-abortion organizations, including Americans United for Life. "Already more than 80 babies have been born, following the chemical abortion reversal process,” AUL President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest said Tuesday in a statement. "No medical reason exists to deny mothers the opportunity to choose life by sharing with them all their options."
Yet medical and women's rights organizations have come out against the "abortion reversal" mandate, saying it forces doctors to provide their patients with false and potentially harmful information. "The law not only relies on junk science, but disrespects every woman who has made a considered, personal decision about her health, based on her own religious or moral views and circumstances," National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy K. Kaufman said in a statement. "What women need from their doctors is the truth, not another misrepresentation concocted by anti-abortion legislators."
Images: Getty Images (2), screenshot/AbortionPillReversal.com