Women's Health Rights Being Slowly Taken Away
The past week has been unfortunate for women's rights and reproductive health. On Friday night the super strict abortion law passed by the Virginia Legislature took effect. The new regulations mean that the 22 clinics that perform abortions now must comply with building codes that may require medical facilities to be rebuilt, renovated, or moved. It’s a thinly-veiled attempt by anti-choice activists to shut down clinics that don’t have the funds to meet these new regulations.
These new laws are a kind of financial asphyxiation of women's health care resources in the state of Virginia. Since anti-choice advocates can't overturn Roe and voters are focused on jobs and the economy, activists are working quietly behind the scenes to slowly bankrupt anyone providing women's health and push them out of business.
The same law that Virginia passed and is now enforcing was also passed in Kansas earlier this summer. It would have closed all but one abortion clinic, but a judge blocked Kansas from enforcing those regulations – a move that kept the state’s facilities open.
And this is just the latest in a series of anti-choice, anti-woman regulations in Kansas. The state legislature recently passed a bill prohibiting any private insurance company from providing coverage for elective or necessary abortion procedures. Women requiring these services would have to obtain an insurance rider under the new law – but it’s easier said than done. According to the lawsuit filed by the Kansas ACLU a woman asked her insurance company for the rider, and she was informed that an insurance rider doesn't exist. The law also doesn’t provide an exemption for the life and health of the mother, nor does it provide any coverage for women who are the victims of rape or incest.
The Kansas ACLU is suing the Insurance Commissioner on the grounds these practices are discriminatory to women.
An op-ed in the New York Times explains the ACLU's argument:
"The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Federal District Court in Kansas, argues persuasively that the law is unconstitutional because it essentially levies a tax on a constitutionally protected procedure. It also charges that the ban on abortion coverage amounts to sex discrimination because it prevents women from buying plans covering all of their health care needs while imposing no limitations on men’s medical needs.
Kari Ann Rinker, state coordinator for the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women, testified against the bill last year before the House Insurance Committee. Rinker said:
"Quite simply, this bill inserts the belief systems of some into bad health insurance policy for all. It reaches beyond the recent national debate surrounding health care, abortion and insurance. If people morally oppose insurance policies that cover abortion, let them select one that does not. Let them take their complaint to their agent. Let the private market sort out these issues, rather than enacting a state mandate to address it. This is a matter of private money and private business. Once this door of government infringement is opened, it may very well prove difficult to shut."
Kansas is no stranger to fighting back against attacks on women’s reproductive rights. In 2009 late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was gunned down by a right-wing terrorist affiliated with the anti-choice movement. And the outrage over his death hasn’t stopped anti-choice activists from continuing the War on Women.
What’s happening in Kansas and other states across the country shows just how important our work is. We know that the best way to stop these kinds of laws in their tracks is by putting more pro-choice, Democratic women in office. EMILY’s List’s Political Opportunity Program is training candidates and staff in 19 states this cycle – and with your help, we can do more to fight back against the War on Women.