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A little over a month into 2013, and one thing is absolutely certain: Anti-choice legislators aren’t going to let the damage that their war on women did to their fellow conservative politicians’ electoral prospects slow them down.

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A little over a month into 2013, and one thing is absolutely certain: Anti-choice legislators aren't going to let the damage that their war on women did to their fellow conservative politicians' electoral prospects slow them down from competing with each other to show who can concoct the most vile schemes to undermine women's rights. Now Iowa Republicans are flexing their muscles, trying to show that they hate the ladies even more than the forced-transvaginal-ultrasound folks in Michigan, Texas, and Virginia, or the women-can't-think-on-weekends-and-holidays nuts in South Dakota.

Nine state representatives in Iowa have introduced a bill that would define killing a fertilized egg as "murder".

707.1 Murder defined.

1. A person who kills another person with malice aforethought either express or implied commits murder.

2. "Person", when referring to the victim of a murder, means an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.

Murder includes killing another person through any means that terminates the life of the other person including but not limited to the use of abortion-inducing drugs. For the purposes of this section, "abortion-inducing drug" means a medicine, drug, or any other substance prescribed or dispensed with the intent of terminating the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman, with knowledge that the drug will with reasonable likelihood cause the termination of the pregnancy. "Abortion-inducing drug" includes the off-label use of drugs known to have abortion-inducing properties, which are prescribed specifically with the intent of causing an abortion, but does not include drugs that may be known to cause an abortion, but which are prescribed for other medical indications.

The point of this bill is, simply put, to throw women in jail for "murder" for deliberately ending pregnancies -- and quite possibly for trying to prevent them, as many anti-choicers continue to insist, despite the evidence against them, that the pill and emergency contraception work by "killing" fertilized eggs. (They work by suppressing ovulation and preventing fertilization.) The language of this is quite expansive. They're not only counting women who reach out to legal providers for abortion as "murderers," but also women who go online and buy drugs for this purpose. The broadness of this suggests that they may even try to snag women for "murder" for taking common rue, a herbal medication women use to kick start their period (and potentially end an unwanted pregnancy) if they're late.

This is a dramatic shift in the traditional anti-choice approach to discussing the issue of how to handle women who seek abortion. While I personally have no doubt that many to most anti-choicers fully intend and have always intended to get to a place where women are being jailed for abortion, the official stance of anti-choice legislators and activists is generally to deny believing that nearly a third of American women should go to jail for "murder." Maintaining the illusion of disinterest in punishing women for abortion with jail is so important that after Rep. Cathrynn Brown of New Mexico was caught proposing jail for rape victims who get abortion, she rewrote the bill specifically to avoid the accusation.

Claiming they don't believe that women who get abortions are murderers even while calling abortion "murder" has been a huge part of the anti-choice movement for years. (See discussions about it from 2006, 2007, and 2010, for instance. There's also this fun video that makes the rounds periodically that demonstrates how inane this little dance really is.) This giant failure of logic stems from a couple of things, but mainly because it's well-understood that anti-choicers don't actually think abortion is murder, and just want to punish women for sex. And jail time for sex is just going to strike most people as inhumane in the extreme. So they've split the difference and said they intend to jail doctors but not women -- a position, that while illogical in its rationale at least made them seem slightly less malevolent towards women.

So what's changed that some anti-choicers, in Iowa at least, are coming out and not only admitting they want a third of women to go to jail for abortion, but are aggressively pushing for it? A huge chunk of it is the result of the overall shift rightward amongst conservatives in the past few years, a shift that is increasing extremism on many fronts, such as more overt racism and, as we've seen in recent weeks, an absolutist stance against gun control that resists even the most common sense measures.

But it's probably also partially a reaction to the changing landscape of abortion. The growing popularity of medication abortion plus an abundance of illegal pharmacies selling all manner of drugs online and the increasing restrictions on legal abortion have created a situation where everyone believes -- even though hard evidence is elusive -- hat more women are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to abortion. As Ada Calhoun of the New Republic explained:

Online, however, these drugs are readily available, often via suspicious-sounding sites that make claims like: "The Affordable Abortion Pill Will Safely, Quickly Terminate Your Undeveloped Fetus In The Privacy Of Your Home, Save You Time And Hundreds Of Dollars. It Is 100% Clinically Safe, Very Effective And The Most Affordable Abortion Pill You Will Get Your Hands On For Now!!!"

Determining how many American women have had home abortions is exceedingly difficult: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not track illegal abortions. There is no blood test for drugs like Cytotec, and so such an abortion is indistinguishable from a natural miscarriage, even to a doctor. However, the proliferation of online dispensers suggests a rising demand. There are thousands of websites selling Cytotec for as little as $45 to $75 (compared with $300 to $800 for a legal medicated abortion in a clinic). Some claim to offer the harder-to-come-by Mifeprex, but may in fact be peddling Cytotec, or aspirin, or nothing at all. (Possible sources for the drugs include Mexico, where Cytotec is available over the counter, or even the United States, since it's also prescribed here as an ulcer medication.)

The traditional anti-choice stance of blaming the provider while pretending the patient is a mindless baby machine and not a choice-making person is harder to maintain in the face of women acting as their own providers. It's common for anti-choicers to paint an image of an abortion patient as a woman who simply hasn't thought about it -- this also helps justify waiting periods to "think" it over -- and who is a victim of greedy doctors and evil feminists who are somehow tricking women (who they clearly imagine are very, very stupid) into getting abortions. But even anti-choicers with the most active imaginations have to struggle with explaining how a woman can fire up a computer, search around for black market abortion-inducing drugs, and order them without being capable of making a decision and therefore being held accountable to the laws regarding that decision.

So this is where we're at: Iowan anti-choicers admitting they want to throw women in jail for abortion. It's an unpopular stance precisely because it lays bare the misogyny of the anti-choice movement. Instead of dithering around with more waiting periods and humiliating mandatory ultrasounds, I sort of hope more anti-choicers start demanding jail time for a third of American women. That sort of thing can offer clarity for people who had any doubt left that the anti-choice movement is, indeed, nothing but a war on women.

Originally posted to RH Reality Check on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 12:26 PM PST.

Also republished by Sluts and South Dakota Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  is there a line that we can say "this is crazy!" ? (5+ / 0-)

    I understand that it's considered bad politics to come right out and say "enough!", although I'd do it. But then I'd be a bad politician, I guess.

    anyway, as an experiment, let's say 40% of the country believes something dangerous and nuts. So politically it would be trouble to come out strongly against that group. We'd have to be skillful, use finesse to counter them.

    Let's say it's even worse, 49%. Ok, now how crazy would people have to be before our representatives actually call it "crazy"?

    I think, in this Iowa case, there aren't enough of the anti-choicers to pass this nutty bill. But if it were close would there be enough voices to stop it? Would we be able to condemn it or would we avoid calling it what it is?

    How crazy does something have to be before those in positions of power call it "crazy"?

    •  People who think women are human beings will call (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      irishwitch, LilithGardener, Noddy

      this crazy. The anti-choicers believe that women are irrational, impulsive, emotional lesser beings who must be subordinated and controlled.  

      Fiscal conservative: a Republican ready to spend $5 to save a dime--especially if that dime is helping a non-donor.

      by Mayfly on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 05:14:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Anyone who supports... (6+ / 0-)

    ...the Republican Party Platform should be asked about this.  The platform espouses equal rights under the 14th Amendment from the moment of conception.  I've never been able to figure out how one could believe in that, but at the same time not support prosecuting women who have abortions.  If the embryo has the same rights as a toddler, how can one rationalize making it legal to have one killed but not the other?

  •  Unless we have forced monthly check-ins (10+ / 0-)

    with govt doctors to prove we are or are not pregnant so we can be monitored, how does this get implemented?

    I know...rich women's doctors lie for them and poor women die from infections

  •  Women should be jailed, doctors too if its murder (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OldDragon, Mayfly, irishwitch

    right?

    I commend them for being honest and understanding that you can't oppose abortion on grounds that a life is taken and then NOT advocate for murder penalties.

    good for them
    people need to understand that if abortion is against the law it can ONLY be that a life is taken, no halfway penalties would be appropriate

  •  It is unfortunate. (5+ / 0-)

    I do believe that. I would love for women to never be in a position where they see terminating the pregnancy as the best option.

    And then there's reality. Wherein, it can be. And it's not my call. It's not the government's. I don't know where women who make these decisions are in there lives.

    What I do know is that wanted pregnancy surrounded by support and without complication is still a difficult thing.

    A society that doesn't have mandatory organ donation wherein the dead don't have to help the living has no business telling women what they have to do and how small a sacrifice it is.

    www.stacysmusings.wordpress.com

    by Magenta on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 02:37:15 PM PST

  •  Once again (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    irishwitch, LilithGardener, Noddy

    I have to ask, what about all the "fertilized ovum" that are non-viable, like the one I spontaneously aborted at 12 weeks?  Would I have been "protected" from jail?  [I should have pickled it for "show & tell" for uneducated R's!]  I feel bad for woman who want to conceive and can't. I have 3 beautiful children & 4 grandkids, & I know how fortunate I am.  But it is getting beyond rediculous, this punishing of women for the amusement of men!

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 03:00:05 PM PST

  •  Maybe in some places the Dark Ages (5+ / 0-)

    never ended.  

    Up next: the sun revolves around the earth and the incarceration of academics in Ames and Iowa City.  

    What a shame.  And here Iowa was always one of the most progressive places I ever lived...no more it seems.  

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism. -Carl Sagan

    by jo fish on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 03:01:32 PM PST

  •  I would indite the man too (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener, Noddy

    I think that, if a woman who has an 'abortion' is charged with a crime...then the biological father should be also charged with being an accessory to murder.

    If the child dies because the mother cant afford pre natal health care, and the 'abortion' could have been prevented if she were not denied, or it was not feasibly accessible to her, than ANYONE (for example if she walked into a doctors office, and was refused) who denied her access should be charged with accessory to murder.

    It is terrible to see a soceity so wealthy think of thier children as burdens rather than assets after they are born, but would take away women's choices for family planning.

    The true strength of of an oath is forged in adversity.

    by Nur Alia Chang on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 03:39:37 PM PST

    •  I so agree with your last sentence, Nur Alla Chang (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      irishwitch, LilithGardener

      As we so often hear, the Scandinavian countries have the most liberal laws regarding abortion and the fewest abortions. They have honest scientific sex education, easy access to birth control, universal health care, and public support for children.

      Fiscal conservative: a Republican ready to spend $5 to save a dime--especially if that dime is helping a non-donor.

      by Mayfly on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 05:38:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It has nothing to do with welath, Nur. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LadyMiseryAli

      It does have to do with a very different cultural attitude toward women.

      Want me to explain WHY it can be a burden?  I never had an abortion, but back in 1973, I was on the Pill, and I missed a period.  I thought I was pregnant. Yes, I had a job, but it was 1973, and single motherhood wasn't as acceptable as it is  today. I would very likely have lost my job.  There was no way I would have married the father. He was a nice guy, but we were both too young and not in love. My parents? Conservative Catholics, which  meant they'd have been extremely disapproving, and might well have thrown me out after I lost that job.

      Sp, YES, even though you don't understand it because my culture is different from yours, that child would have been a major burden for me. I'd have been jobless, homeless and hopeless.

      I was lucky. It turned out the Pill was too heavy a dose, and I wasn't pregnant.

      Other reasons a child might be a major burden: a young woman trying to get through high school.  A young woman attempting to get a college education so she can support herself and lift herself out of poverty. A woman in a an abusive relationship who knows being pregnant increases her risk of being murdered.  I relaize you'll likely view these as selfish reasons NOT to have a child--but women have as much right to choose their lives as fetuses have to be born--because, to most of us here, it isn't a baby, just a fetus, until it is viable outside MY body.

      I really don' expect you to respect my PoV on this, because I've read many of your posts here and you seem unable to empathize with people whose viewpoint is very different, and whose cultural values don't match yours.

      The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

      by irishwitch on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 09:22:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think on this you have me wrong... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Noddy, irishwitch

        Yes, I am from a different culture than you.  

        I think to alot of things I have not been exposed to, or they seem somewhat strange...but I am tring to understand, and I am sorry to offend you, but I think too that when different ideas come together, someone is offended.

        I want to say this anyway.

        I am against taking away choices. I think that, as a woman, you belive you can decide for yourself what is good and not good for you.  I have no say in what you do, and I dont want my beliefs codified to take your choices away.

        For me, my culture, my religion, my family up bringing, where I live, my experiences, and my hopes and dreams play the part in what and how I chose...and these are personal decisions, and to be honest with you...not always right.

        Since you have shared something personal with me, i will also share something personal with you.

        I was born in China.  My parents came to Malaysia when I was very young, and were migrant workers.  After I graduated secondary, I went back to China, and got married.  The policy there was...as it is now...one child per married couple.

        I had one child...and thought it was in my best interest to take money to be sterilized voluntarily.  I regret it now, but I have to live with it.  I gave in, I gave up my choice...and that is why I am so animated about women, and those who are disinfranchised by thier society to stand up for themselves...because I am a coward...and took money for it.

        I dont belive taking away the right of a woman to chose is good.  It has nothing to do with any of my decisions, or whether I think the choice is right or wrong.  

        Remember, those women in your country protesting the anti choice platform, at this time are not fighting for the right of the unborn, but fighting against the right of a woman to chose what is best for her, her interests, and so on.

        I ment to say, that a group of people who claim to be pro life seem to be so anti life after that child leaves the womb.  Those who are politically pro life (or anti choice) seem to see the poor children as burdens, rather than assets to the progress of your society.

        The true strength of of an oath is forged in adversity.

        by Nur Alia Chang on Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 06:33:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

          I am childless by childbearing would have been very difficult for me, and my first husband and I were happy without kids.  My second husband had a vasectomy with his ex-wife, and that was just fine with me.

          IN America, as everywhere else, childlessness by choice is still something people look askance at.

          I understand the one-child policy n China--and I think it's wrong. On the other hand, this world MUST curb population growth--voluntarily.  Women in developing nations often wish to limit family size but are prevented by cultural conditions, their spouses, or the simple unavailability of  birth control--and some of that has to be blamed on the anti-choice forces of the U.S. right-wing Christians.

          FYI, I do know something about Islam--I've read the Q'oran and quite a bit if Islamic history.  It's odd how a religion which was so far ahead in its treatment of women in the Middle Ages ( female doctors, judges, imams in Baghdad under Haroun-al-Rashid and in Andalusia; guaranteed inheritance for daughters who then controlled that inheritance 0--not their husbands-- when women in Europe who inherited  lost all right to control it to their husband ) has lsot that.  Of course, Christianity never recognized women as people--raised Catholic, left Christianity 40+ years ago. ne'er to return.

          What I was trryign to do was explain WHY a woman might choose abortion.

          The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

          by irishwitch on Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 12:34:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Two days ago, someone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener

    made an excellent observation about this bill and the forced-birthers who support it:

    A lot of the pro-lifers like this (the men) will never have to make the actual sacrifices needed to live by their own morals.  And that's what makes living by them easy; they'll never have to worry about being called upon to sacrifice their bodily integrity or mental health to make sure a fetus can be born.  Yeah, they can argue that men are hurt when a child they want is aborted without their say, and I don't doubt it's painful, but even then, they're still expecting someone else to provide the resources and time needed for something that only they want, and then become confused when the people who'll pay the actual price to make it happen say, "no, we won't be pawns for your whims and morals."  It's easy to declare embryos and fetuses people at conception when you know you'll never have to worry about making any direct sacrifice needed to live by that conviction.

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