Tuesday, November 8

Worse than I thought

Tonight PBS's "Frontline" will air an episode called "The Last Abortion Clinic." It's about Mississippi's only remaining abortion clinic in Jackson, the state capitol, and how anti-abortion groups have successfully tweaked Mississippi's laws and created their own "preganancy crisis" centers to the extent that, one by one, clinics throughout the state have closed down, leaving the Jackson clinic to stand alone.

According to Salon's Heather Havrilesky, "Working strategically within the boundaries of the law, antiabortion activists have managed, in many states, to restrict abortions and abortion clinics so aggressively that abortion-rights activists say that conditions are as bad as they were before Roe v. Wade passed in 1973."

I don't know that this is necessarily true (it sounds alarmist) but I can't say that it's not true either. And if Mississippi is any indication of how the rest of the nation will behave (and I shudder at the thought), then there is a lot to fear here.

In Mississippi, the antiabortion movement has managed to close down all but one abortion clinic. And by requiring women to go to the clinic twice, once for information and counseling, and a second time for the procedure, which must take place at least 24 hours later, women who drive from other locations in the state have to make two trips or spend the night in town. For women who can't afford the money or time off from work, these obstacles are likely to seal their fates.

"We don't feel bad that people in the delta can't have an abortion," says Terri Herring, president of Pro-Life Mississippi. "To say that we want to be sure that poor women can get their abortions, like we're doing them a favor by helping them kill their baby, is just not OK with me."

Yes, the compassion of the "pro-lifers" is amazing.

I have to admit that I didn't know the situation had become so dire in Mississippi, since I've pretty much focused on Roe and its federal powers as the be-all, end-all measure of abortion legality in this country, with a few parental- and spousal-notification and late-term abortion kinks thrown in to keep us on our toes. But seriously, one clinic for the entire state of Mississippi? Consider "Clarksdale, where 75 percent of babies are born to single mothers, many of whom are teenagers, and more than one-third of the population lives in poverty."

When the Frontline producers ask a young mother about access to abortion, she has a look on her face as if he just asked, "Have you ever thought of summering in the South of France instead?"

If Alito is confirmed, all five of the conservative justices will be Catholic. And, in case you haven't heard, the establishment Catholics have a real bug up their asses about this abortion thing, so I don't buy that they won't overturn Roe just because the Republicans need it as a political tool by which to rally their troops.

The erosion of the rights we have, until this point, happily taken for granted, will continue if the Democrats don't get their shit together and win some elections next year and begin systematically strengthening state and federal protection of privacy and a woman's right to make her own medical decisions. That's the most tangible, immediate remedy to this problem. And the scary part is -- the regression might continue anyway, thanks to the anti-abortion Dems who would rather climb into bed with the foulest Republicans than stand behind the notion that a woman's body is her own domain. That's how badly the cards are stacked against us in the current political landscape. What do we do?


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