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Desperate Women Take Desperate Measures

June 8, 2010

Last week, the New York State Assembly Health Committee considered three anti-choice bills.  Two of these bills would have mandated parental involvement in young women’s abortion decisions.

On the same day, the New York Time published Abortion Foes Advance Cause at State Level  the anti-choice legislation that has passed in 11 states, so far this year.  Yes, the Supreme Court matters and Congress matters.  But, as the Times points out, the real action is in the state legislatures.  The bills, designed to test the limits of abortion restrictions, are the same or similar in every state.  Around the nation anti-choicers are dishing up the usual fare of biased counseling and mandatory delays, restrictions on insurance coverage, ultrasound requirements, and bans on abortion procedures.  When these bills become law, they jeopardize women’s health and safety by prohibiting access to timely, medically accurate information and to abortion care.

It’s no surprise that a so-called Women’s Right to Know Act was introduced here in New York.  Like all bills that provide for biased counseling and mandatory delays, this bill is simply meant to throw up road blocks and create undue burdens for women seeking abortions.  And, like bills enacted in other states, the legislation is an unnecessary government intrusion into private decisions and the doctor-patient relationship.   Fully informed consent is, and has always been, legally required in New York State for all medical procedures, including abortion. The “counseling” provided for in the bill includes giving women medically inaccurate information. For example,  the disproven claim that abortion causes breast cancer and the unproven claims that women who have abortions suffer long-term psychological harm.  Do women seeking abortions have a right to know that the state is forcing junk science down their throats all for the sake of shaming them and discouraging them from having abortions?

Even though 43 states have some law mandating parental involvement in a young woman’s abortion decisions, minors’ confidential access to abortion (and other reproductive health care) is priority for anti-choice lawmakers.  In New York, both parental consent and parental notification measures were introduced (and defeated) this year.  These laws are actually harmful to teens’ health and well-being. In studies completed in states that mandate parental involvement, the only clear result is that teens leave the state to seek abortion care in less restrictive environments.  The other result, as we have learned from anecdotal evidence, is that they will take desperate measures.

Like the 13 year-old in Pennsylvania who, last week, induced an abortion using a lead pencil. This story is both sad and infuriating.  We have created a nation of young women who are largely without access to safe, legal abortion.  The American teen is just as desperate as her sister who lives in a country in South America or Africa or Asia where abortion is illegal. And, as we have just been reminded, American teens, like women (of all ages) in countries where abortion is illegal, will risk their lives.

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