Just say it: enough excuses for restricting reproductive rights

The anti-choice movement trots out a lot of junk science and feigned concern (often manifested as condescending statements about protecting women) to move their contradictory agenda of blocking access to abortion and birth control. Which is why it’s refreshing, as Amanda Marcotte points out, that an Ohio legislator working to block coverage for one of the most effective forms of contraception was up front about his reasoning

Becker claims IUDs should be considered abortion because they prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. No big surprise, but he’s wrong, and not just because preventing implantation is not considered “abortion” by medical science. It’s also because IUDs work by preventing sperm from reaching the egg. Mirena also stifles ovulation. They may have a secondary effect of preventing implantation, but, as with the pill, the evidence shows that non-contraception users “kill” a lot more fertilized eggs by callously menstruating them out.

Becker addressed his lack of knowledge about science thusly: “This is just a personal view. I’m not a medical doctor.”

This is what he said regarding a bill he sponsored that will interfere with women’s medical decisions. At least he’s honest! Indeed, the attacks on legal abortion and insurance coverage for both abortion and contraception begin with the premise that a woman’s medical care should be determined not by what she and her doctor decide based on the evidence, but on the “personal view” of some conservative politician who is usually pushing a religious agenda. Becker’s candor is refreshing.

Proponents of the latest assault on abortion rights are not being nearly as straightforward about their made-up rationale for restricting reproductive freedom:

Admitting privileges, a recent favorite legislative strategy of anti-abortion activists that swept the country starting in 2012, rely on the idea that in order to enhance patient safety, doctors who perform abortions should be able to follow a patient to a particular hospital in the case of a complication. While this might sound good to the uninformed, there are a number of good reasons this is neither medically necessary nor practical: abortion isn’t a traditional “surgical” procedure (first trimester abortions involve no cutting or stitching up), it seldom involves a patient being fully unconscious, and, unlike traditional ambulatory surgical centers that these requirements are modeled after, patients are usually traveling as much as one or two hundred miles to get there and go back home soon after.

In the rare instance that there is a complication, she is far more likely to be at home than near the clinic for that doctor to assist her. Even if an incident did occur at a clinic, medical best practices dictate that a patient go to the nearest hospital, not a further away one just because of privileges, and no hospital would refuse care to a patient in physical danger.

Overall, admitting privileges for doctors doing abortions are so medically unnecessary – and even potentially harmful – that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists put out an official statement objecting to the requirement.

Of course these choices are strategic and the anti-choice movement isn’t going to stop using them. It’s a heavy lift to sell the idea that you want to go back to the pre-Roe days of dangerous illegal abortions, that you don’t like the idea of women exercising bodily autonomy, that there’s something wrong with the vast majority of American women who have premarital sex and the more than 99% of those sexually active women who have used some form of contraception. But it’s exhausting batting down every newly invented rationale for making access more difficult. Thankfully this has happened enough times that it’s becoming more and more transparent, and sometimes these politicians help us out a bit by saying what they really mean.


Author: Rebecca Griffin

I am a passionate advocate for progressive causes with over a decade of experience organizing for social change. That organizing experience informs the way I look at the world and the challenges we face in working toward social justice. I started Of Means and Ends to write about social issues I care about and share my thoughts on how we organize in a smart, strategic way. Please visit and join the conversation.

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