New Legislation Impacts Women’s Most Important Right: Choice

In the last week, women’s rights and pro-choice movements suffered a grave setback. Both Indiana and Florida passed laws that severely restrict not only a woman’s access to abortion but also other preventative treatment.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a law that cut state funding to any clinics that perform abortions. This includes the same clinics that offer birth control, STD screening and the prevention of ovarian cancer. While many say this law is a direct attack at Planned Parenthood, others view it as an attack on women.

Republican Governor Mike Pence just signed a law that would punish doctors if they perform abortions due to the fetus’s race, sex or possible disability. Not only does this invade the doctor-patient relationship, it also leads to stillborn infants and others being born with severe birth defects. Supporters of this law say it affirms the value of all human life. Yes, the decision to give up a child is unimaginably difficult, but lawmakers now are forcing circumstances that often lead to parents only knowing their child for a few months or a year, ultimately causing more harm and suffering than the termination of a pregnancy.

While this law does have exceptions for those infants who would die within three months of being born, it still is capable of causing immense pain. What makes three months enough to justify the risks of carrying to term and delivering a baby, only to watch it die?

There are many diseases that do not have ultrasound findings or show up on any prenatal screenings, leaving the only way to test for them being if the parents already have a child born with it. Spinal muscular atrophy is one of these diseases, which leads to rapid neurologic degeneration and death within a year. Because of the poor prognosis, many parents would have already buried a child. Indiana’s law now forces parents to go through the same grief again if the disease was detected in another pregnancy.

Katherine McHugh, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Indianapolis, pointed out a key flaw to Indiana’s lawmaker’s philosophy. “For those mothers who will now be forced to deliver babies they might not otherwise have had — the babies “saved” by this law — Indiana sets aside no additional funding or services. These babies will require long and repeated hospitalizations, surgeries, office visits, physical and speech therapy, home nursing care and more.”

McHugh argues. “Rather than protecting life, the state has only prolonged suffering.”