The forced birth lobby is particularly strong in Missouri, and today their efforts at reproductive slavery are bearing fruit in a nasty new law designed to make abortions take as long as possible.
Missouri had already required a 72-hour “waiting period” between first consult and procedure, among the longest in the nation. Now SB5 has gone into effect, mandating that the same physician do the counseling and procedure.
While research shows that such enforced waiting times do not deter women from abortions, they do make abortion care far more expensive and time-consuming, even pushing women beyond the gestational limit for legal access in their state.
“As most women in this cohort were not conflicted about their decision when they sought care, the 72-hour waiting requirement seems to have been unnecessary,” a study of Utah’s 72-hour waiting period concluded last year.
But necessity is not the objective of these laws, which are intended to act in concert as barriers to access.
This new Missouri law, for example, compounds the difficulties created by previous legislation. “What happens if the provider is sick on the day of her appointment or is otherwise unavailable?” Elizabeth Nash, Senior State Issues Manager at the Guttmacher Institute, asks ThinkProgress. Referring to a similar law in Texas, which has a 24-hour waiting period, she notes that if the physician becomes unavailable, “The woman can either have the abortion later with that provider, or start the process over with another ultrasound with another provider” — further delaying her care without benefiting anyone.
Anyone, that is, except the forced birth fanatics, who do not care about the human rights of any person who has already been born. What they gain is a sense of moral rectitude and accomplishment from successful lobbying at the state house.
But because abortion remains legal in the United States, reproductive slavery advocates are already taking the next logical steps beyond these piddling laws.
Taking ownership of women in the name of ‘life’
As seen in the case of Jane Doe, an undocumented immigrant being held at a Brownsville, Texas-area shelter under the supervision of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), forced birth activists are using their new positions under the Trump administration to treat pregnant women as property.
ORR director Scott Lloyd, an appointee with zero experience in refugee resettlement but a long career of anti-abortion politics, has taken it upon himself to treat the department as a forced birth fiefdom. “According to documents obtained by the ACLU, Lloyd has personally visited pregnant teens in ORR shelters to counsel them against having an abortion,” the Texas Observer reports. While he has not visited with Doe, his policies are directly responsible for the hell she has endured.
Once IES found out Doe was pregnant, staff limited her activity with other kids and refused to let her go on group excursions outside, Hays told the Observer. When she said she wanted an abortion, the shelter assigned a staff member to follow Doe around and stay with her at all times, Hays said. Some have allegedly asked Doe what she plans to name the baby.
[…] Doe was originally scheduled for an abortion on September 29, for which she had funds and transportation arranged separately from the government and the shelter. Instead, Doe was forced to go to a crisis pregnancy center — a religiously affiliated facility that counsels against abortion. So far, she’s been forced to undergo four sonograms, Hays said. Because of Texas’ strict anti-abortion laws, she will have to get a fifth sonogram before she ultimately gets an abortion.
Undocumented women giving birth while in police custody have often been shackled during labor. This brutality is far more common than most Americans realize; it has been a favorite tactic of Donald Trump’s friend Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for instance, and it is allowed by most states.
The past is prologue to the Handmaid’s Tale
This is all quite familiar to historians of American slavery. So-called “breeding women” were the key to a massive expansion of the slave population between 1808 and 1860, a period when importation of Africans was illegal. Forced to give birth over and over again, usually by way of rape, they often suffered terrible complications.
To the forced birth fanatic, this era is a golden age. Not coincidentally, former confederate states lead the nation in forced birth legislation and cruelty to pregnant women.
In Missouri, in Texas, and in the minds of people like Scott Lloyd, it’s all about bringing back the good times when women belonged to men and were not free to choose whether, or when, or how often they became mothers.
“Reproductive slavery” is not an exaggeration. Even though they always deny it angrily, shackles and forcible birth are the logical outcome that anti-abortion activists work towards every single day.
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