Governors continue their attack on women’s rights

While the showdown in Texas between Governor Rick Perry (R) and Senator Wendy Davis (D) over the passage of a restrictive abortion bill has received extensive press coverage, governors in other states have quietly signed similar bills into law without garnering the same attention or criticism.

In Kansas, controversial legislation took effect yesterday despite ongoing lawsuits against it. In April Governor Sam Brownback (R) approved a strict anti-abortion bill, which denies tax breaks to providers, and requires abortion providers to give patients questionable information presented as fact, including a supposed link between abortion and breast cancer as well as disputed information regarding fetal pain. The bill also defines life as beginning at conception. Before signing the bill into law, Brownback added some editorial notes to the margins, including “JESUS + Mary,” “Building a culture of life,” and “all human life is sacred” (ThinkProgress).

In Ohio, meanwhile, Governor John Kasich (R) signed into law some of the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation passed since Roe v. Wade. He was able to do so because state lawmakers included the legislation within the massive state budget bill instead of proposing separate legislation to address the issue. The restrictive measures attached to the state budget bill include mandating invasive ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, placing Planned Parenthood last on the list of family planning funding–essentially cutting off $1.4 million in federal funding to the organization, making any mention of abortion illegal at rape crisis clinics, and criminalizing the transport of women who experience complications following abortion procedures to public hospitals. In addition, “any abortion providers that manage to remain open under these restrictions are compelled to tell women ‘of the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics’ of a fetus during various stages of its development. They must give women seeking abortions information on adoptions and alternative family planning options” (Huffington Post). Not only does this legislation strip women of their right to choose, it also jeopardizes their health and well being. As the governor signed this bill into law, he was surrounded by six white men, including the four Republican members of the Ohio budget conference committee, the state budget director, and the Senate president. Not one woman was involved in the passage of this legislation.

While Republican male legislators insist they know what is best for women in this country, the majority of Americans seem to disagree. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 63 percent of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, compared to 29 percent who believe it should be. These results remain consistent with polls taken in 2003 and 1992 (Pew Research Center).  The Pew poll also found that 53 percent of Americans do not believe that the issue of abortion is that important when compared to other issues facing this country, which marks the first time that percentage has risen above 50 (Pew Research Center). Yet instead of listening to those who put them in office, elected officials continue to push their own personal agendas–agendas that are endangering the lives of American women.

Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

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