My favorite subject. Right up there with intestinal flu and things that come out of a litter box if you shake it too hard.
Okay, let's just do this thing.
If you've been hanging around here long enough, you probably know my position on the subject, which is complicated but I stand by it anyway. If not, the Reader's Digest version goes as follows: I hate it. I wish no one would ever have one. But it needs to be legal because women are going to have them regardless and sometimes it's the kindest choice. When? I don't know. That's not up to me. It's completely impossible to visualize every circumstance that would make someone want to have one and equally impossible to then say, "Well, that's a valid reason but this one isn't." Again, not up to me. I trust women. They'll make the hard choices without my help. Or anyone else's.
So let's just skip all that and talk about what Senate Bill 1 would do, anyway. Here's the text. Do go read it, because it took me ages to find it. Not that there's a conspiracy to hide the bill or anything. I can't imagine that would ever happen. But anyway. The media is getting this bill all kinds of wrong.
What we keep hearing over and over again is that this bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Which it would, right around the time that the most severe fetal deformities, like anencephaly (developing without a brain) can be seen on ultrasound for the first time. What it doesn't say is that of all the abortions in the United States, exactly one and a half percent of them take place at this time. One and a half percent still translates to about 18,000 in 2008, which is way too many, but that's one and a half percent of 1.2 million. (In case you're wondering, 88%, or 1,064,000, take place in the first 12 weeks. Odd how you never hear about those.) Here are the stats. Take a look.
What I'm saying is, an abortion after 20 weeks doesn't happen very often. Most women know they're pregnant and have decided what to do by twelve weeks. There aren't any statistics that tell us why abortions happen when they happen, but anecdotally, after 20 weeks severe fetal deformities or maternal complications are the main culprit. An anencephalic fetus, for example, will not survive birth, no matter what your senator said to the subcommittee. An anecephalic fetus is alive because it's attached to the mother and for no other reason. Asking a woman to carry a doomed fetus to term isn't just ridiculous, it's cruel. Some women develop severe diabetes, pre-eclampsia, hypertension, anemia or hyperemesis gravidarum to the point where continuing the pregnancy can literally kill them. Don't know what any of that means? Maybe you should shut up and let the people who do, make the decisions, then.
So while the whole 20 weeks thing is getting all the press, we're missing all of this:
- Raising abortion clinic building standards to "ambulatory surgical centers" will close all but five clinics in the state. Note, birth centers - places where live babies are born every day - do not have to meet these standards. If these clinics close, abortion will become impossible for most Texas women. Can you drive 10 hours for a medical procedure? Three times? Get off work? Arrange for child care? Because that's what the law will require.
- Require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Most doctors who perform abortions are not "local"; they travel to the different clinics because living in the area is too dangerous (abortion doctors are often stalked, and sometimes shot and killed, by anti-abortion activists). What's more, hospitals don't grant admission privileges to just anybody. They want doctors who are going to admit a minimum number of patients a year. Abortion doctors won't admit that many because, well, abortion's pretty darn safe. A lot safer than giving birth. Yeah. Sorry, it's true.
- Require women who take the "abortion pill" to do it in front of a doctor, who must meet all of the standards I just listed. (Hint: Order it off the Internet, ladies. And don't tell anybody. A woman in Idaho was arrested, though charges were dropped, for doing this.)
I could, and probably should, go on, but you get the idea. This bill is not about 20 weeks. This bill is about legislating abortion out of existence, at least in Texas. And here's the thing: It won't work. Other states have tried regulations like this, and the courts have blocked the laws, but Texas, which will not release funds to upgrade infrastructure, improve education or deal with the increasingly severe water problem (won't even restrict new housing permits, which would help A LOT) has set aside millions of dollars to defend this blatantly unconstitutional law in court. Sometimes I think I never left Utah, which took more bills to the Supreme Court than a Senator with a personal--wait, I promised not to tell that joke anymore. Sorry.
Besides all that, though, abortion being illegal or unavailable will do jackshit nothing to stop it from happening. Nada. Nyet. Ixnay. Countries where abortion is illegal have just as many abortions as countries where it is legal, and sometimes more. Things are a little safer than they were in the 60s, where we had maniacs with dirty knives and folding tables, but a lot of women are going to take matters into their own hands and a lot of them are going to die. We used to have whole hospital wards set aside for women who had botched abortions. The babies died, the women died, and the women who didn't die usually lost their ability to have children.
Ironically, Texas lawmakers keep saying that this law will "protect women."