The GOP’s 10 Most Extreme Attacks on a Woman’s Right to Choose

GOP Attacks Womens RightsThe year 2011 marked a banner year in the Republican war on woman’s health. Close to 1,000 anti-abortion bills sped through state legislatures as the GOP-led House led a “comprehensive and radical assault” on a federal level. But in surveying their arsenal this year, 10 bills stood out as particularly perturbing and far-reaching efforts to stymie women’s access to abortion services, birth control, and vital health services like breast cancer screenings. Here are our nominations for the most extreme attacks on a woman’s right to choose:

  • Redefining Rape: Last May, every House Republican and 16 anti-choice Democrats passed H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act. Anti-choice activists Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) tried to narrow the definition of rape to “forcible rape,” which meant that women who say no but do not physically fight off the assault; women who are drugged or verbally threatened and raped; and minors impregnated by adults would not qualify for the rape and incest exception in the Hyde Amendment. Smith promised to remove the language but used “a sly legislative maneuver” that essentially informs the courts that statutory rape cases will not be covered by Medicaid should the law pass and be challenged in court.
  • Abortion Audits: The No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act also bans using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or insurance. Thus, a woman who used such a benefit would have to prove, if audited, that her abortion “fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.” This requirement turns the Internal Revenue Service into “abortion cops” who, agents noted, would have to force women to give “contemporaneous written documentation” that it was “incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger” which made an abortion necessary.
  • Let Women Die: This October, House Republicans also passed the “Protect Life Act”, known by women’s health advocates as the “Let Women Die” bill. The measure allows hospitals that receive federal funds to reject any woman in need of an abortion procedure, even if it is necessary to save her life. Though federal law already prohibits federal funding of abortions, the GOP insisted that the health care law “contains a loophole that allows those receiving federal subsidies to use the money to enroll in health care plans that allow abortion services.”
  • Personhood: Mississippi entertained the idea of passing a “personhood” amendment to its constitution this year, one that defines a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” The measure’s “profoundly ambiguous” language regarding the definition of fertilization not only would ban all abortions, it could potentially outlaw birth control, stem cell research, and in vitro fertilization for couples struggling to conceive. Mississippians rejected the amendment but personhood activists are making headway with versions for other states and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is championing a national personhood amendment.
  • Race/Sex Abortions: Taking their queue from Arizona, House Republicans introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) — a so-called “civil rights” bill that bans physicians from performing abortions based on the fetus’s race or sex. The problem of selective abortion is virtually non-existent, as not one state official or independent research offered any evidence of race-based abortions. Only 5 percent of abortions occur after the point when a fetus’s sex can be determined. Arizona’s measure, now law, sends doctors and clinicians to jail for three years if they knowingly provide such abortions. The federal bill PRENDA allows for civil suits against the physicians.
  • Forced Ultrasounds: Several states pushed bills that force doctors to show a woman seeking abortion services an ultrasound of the fetus, and in some cases, describe the image to her. The Kentucky bill, for instance, required doctors to describe the image if the woman chose to avert her eyes or face a $250,000 fine for disobeying the law. The bills are designed to dissuade women from undergoing the procedure, and in Michigan’s case, provide a “gift to the medical device industry” by forcing doctors to use “the most advanced ultrasound equipment available” to get the most “distinct” image of the fetus possible. North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue (D-NC) vetoed her state’s version of the bill, viewing it as “a dangerous intrusion into the confidential relationship that exists between women and their doctors.”
  • Fetal Pain: This year, multiple states pushed legislation limiting or banning abortions past 20 – 22 weeks “based on disputed research that fetuses an feel pain at that point of development.” The idea is widely panned by many in the medical field, with the Journal of the American Medical Association determining that “pain perception probably does not function before the third trimester.” Regardless of the science, Republican lawmakers and even presidential candidate Rick Perry endorsed the fetal pain concept in order to challenge the Roe v. Waderuling and push an earlier ban on abortions. So discredited is the concept of fetal pain that even a Kansas Republican slammed the “false research,” adding “I would be embarrassed to be a state that bases its laws on untruths.”
  • Heartbeat Bill: Ohio Republicans are leading other states on the path to pass the “heartbeat bill,” which, if enacted, will be “the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the nation.” The bill outlaws abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can occur as early as “six to seven weeks into pregnancy” or before a woman even knows she is pregnant. There is no exception in the bill for rape, incest, or mental health of a woman. What’s more, the bill forces doctors to wait until a woman is actually in danger of dying to ensure the abortion falls under the “threat to life” exception.
  • Government Shutdown: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is an international development agency that promotes universal access to reproductive health services. UNFPA does not, nor has it ever, funded abortions — as dictated by its steering document and by its members. But as Matt Yglesias reported, Republicans were determined to believe that UNFPA funds abortion and thus held up negotiations to fund the government with a policy rider eliminating funding for UNFPA. U.S. law also forbids foreign funding to any entity that supports abortion, but House Republicans were so committed to their unfounded belief that the U.S. might be doing so that they threatened to shut down the entire government over it.
  • Attack On Planned Parenthood: While simultaneously trying to ban abortions outright, GOP lawmakers on a state and federal level launched a full-scale effort to defund Planned ParenthoodOnly 3 percent of the women’s health organization’s services are related to abortion, but it’s association with abortion compelled Republicans to enact legislation cutting or completely defunding Planned Parenthood clinics. Without the funds, many clinics across the country were forced to close, leaving hundreds of thousands of women without vital services like breast cancer screenings, STD testing, and contraception. Texas, the largest state to defund the organizations, may also shut down the entire Women’s Health Program that served 125,000 Texas women in 2012 because some of the family planning clinics in the program are affiliated with Planned Parenthood. Arizona even passed a law banning charity contributions to any organization that is related to abortions or even donates to an organization that is related to abortions. Indeed, this year’s Republican war on Planned Parenthood left thousands of low-income women and children who benefit from tangential health programs as collateral damage.

tanya somanaderTanya Somanader
Think Progress

Tanya Somanader is a reporter/blogger for at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanya grew up in Pepper Pike, Ohio and holds a B.A. in international relations and history from Brown University. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Tanya was a staff member in the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown, working on issues ranging from foreign policy and defense to civil rights and social policy.


  1. Ratjaws says

    Let’s be clear, Americans face two opposing world views as they strive to understand and decide which way to go on the so-called women’s reproductive issues. The liberal progressive view, that which you hold to, insists that contraceptive and abortive services be included. The conservative traditional view I hold to insists while all other services are good and necessary, contraception and abortion must not be included in them.

    This is the bottom line and whatever is being said or written on either side to the contrary simply skews the issue. Thus your claim that Planned Parenthood Federation’s (PPHF) “association with abortion compelled Republicans to enact legislation cutting or completely defunding Planned Parenthood clinics” is misleading because the intent with any legislation is to stop contraception and abortion services… PERIOD!

    You also claim those you oppose are engaged in a “Republican war on woman’s health,” a comment which is not only misleading but designed to anger women who would otherwise never procure what they consider immoral services… that is contraception and abortion.

    Simply put no well informed advocate on the prolife side of this debate would deny an abortion to a woman undergoing an ectopic pregnancy. This is the only case I know of where a mother’s life is endangered, and endangered not by pregnancy, as your side wrongly frames it, but the unnatural act of the fetus implanting itself in some place other than the uterine wall.

    In this case a legitimate doctor works to save both knowing that the fetus’s incorrect implantation has endangered the life of the child AND it’s mother. Therefore removal of the baby must occur and is not an immoral act. In fact to leave the condition as is would be immoral. Thus the intent is never to directly kill a child but to save the life of both persons. There are no other situations where the nature is that of an ectopic pregnancy. All other abortions, including those of rape and incest, occur at the whim of the persons involved who have the power to either protect or destroy a human life. Therefore all other cases are immoral and are why the side you oppose resists compromise. There can be no compromise between good and evil or life and death.

    In the case of so-called birth control we oppose it for two reasons. The first is the more fundamental in that to use any method that works contrary to conception is to interfere with a natural process that is not disordered or broken. It is therefore immoral and the reason contraceptives are so widely accepted is the mistaken notion that children can be “unwanted.” To a prolife mind if one does not want a child then don’t engage in those acts which the outcome is a child. Simple but profound! And note here the main reason a man or women desires to engage in an act that generates children, in sexual intercourse that is, apart from having children, is for the pleasure the act brings. Thus human procreation is reduced to a from of recreation, it’s sole intent to illicit pleasure apart from any consequence or responsibility. Nevertheless the prolife side maintains on principle that it is immoral to prevent the natural act of copulation from achieving it’s end.

    Even if we overlook this moral principle there remains the specter of the abortifacient quality of contraceptive drugs such as in the pill and IUD. During the early research of estrogen-progesterone contraceptives it was noted that the high doses used to effectively prevent conception had serious side effects on a woman’s health. So the dosage was restricted introducing the abortifacient component that allows a new life to be conceived, and that when implanted on the uterine lining, cannot draw nutrients it needs and dies. Thus this quality of the drug coctail induces an early abortion prior to even a woman’s recognition she is pregnant. Simply put contraceptive chemicals in use today can and often do indiscriminately kill an already existing person. As such abortive contraceptive deviced are immoral as is every other directly willed act of abortion.

    So in reality if PPHF stopped passing out contraceptives (this includes sterilization in general) and providing abortions prolife advocates would support their services to women wholeheartedly! The problem exists between two world views that are contrary to each other. And as you should intuitively know yours, the anti-life view can never be reconciled with the prolife view. This is why Pope John Paul II called our current mindset the “Culture of Death” and exhorted us to take up a “Culture of Life.”

    When it comes to the politics of this very serious issue the atmosphere becomes even more cloudy. As you point out all the ways the Republican side, which tends to take the conservative traditionalist approach, attempts to pass legislation limiting abortion. Now as you correctly point out it’s ramifications we see in this two things. The first is that the life side is willing to move step by step toward a complete reversal of the cultural mindset and it’s consequent use of contraceptive-abortive services. The second is that, as you say the “definition of fertilization not only would ban all abortions, it could potentially outlaw birth control, stem cell research, and in vitro fertilization for couples struggling to conceive.” In other words we intend to make things right in our society… morally right!

    Now you bring up this overarching reach of the definition of personhood precisely because you can correctly see the ramafications of it. What you fail to see is that any immoral act not only affects the person(s) doing it but also others around them who may not be directly involved. Immorality has consequences which not one of us can change. We can only avoid such acts and this is precisely what all good law is for. If a person refuses to control their behavior then laws are made to protect the innocent as well as that person. The trouble with embryonic (which you fail to mention) stemcell research and in-vitro fertilization is that both in some way interfere with the natural order of things or attack human life. Both are just as evil as rape or incest, which you do see clearly, or use of contraceptives and abortion which you fail to see. As with the case of rape and incest the solution is not to punish the innocent persons involved. It’s wrong to kill a child whose only “crime” is to be brought into this world by an evil act (rape or incest). It’s wrong to abort any child who is innocent and helpless. It’s also wrong to experiment with human beings against their will as is done in embryo research. It is also an evil to play with the means a person comes into being which is why in-vitro, cloning as well as contraception are wrong. In fact this list can be extended to describe in principle why prostitution, pornography, masturbation and every-day sexual promiscous behavior are wrong because they all fall into this broad issue that concerns human life and it’s welfare.

    So in the end you are on the wrong side, the one that distorts what the other side believes, the one that goes against the very nature of what it means to be a living thinking freely willed human person. I suspect because you don’t understand the intricacies of the life side and the inviolable dignity of every human person you misrepresent us. You subscribe to a view that seeks to not only use others but harms them, and yourself as well. In the end you cannot win. You abide by an incoherent rhetoric that fails to satisfy an honest intellect open to truth (truth being conformity of the mind to reality). The prolife side will prevail the more Americans seek use of reason for intellectual arguments, set aside emotional barriers and realize pleasure is not the greatest goal of life. In the end you will have to change your view, as I did a long time ago and as many Americans must. The sooner the better for those who will be harmed, like babies in their mother’s womb and the mothers themselves, who by the misinformation and misunderstanding that goes for “fact” in our Culture of Death make the wrong judgment.

  2. annieR says

    I believe that the Republican war against women, along with Hillary Clinton’s position as vice presidential nominee on the 2012 Democratic ticket, will assure that the women’s vote overwhelmingly goes to Barack Obama. At least I fervently hope so. Otherwise women will be subjected to the Republicans’ version of sharia law.

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