Texas has a new heroine, Wendy Davis, a Democratic senator from Fort Worth. It was she who, shod in hot pink trainers, stood for eleven hours in the State Capitol to filibuster House Bill 217. A bill proposing to ban abortion after 20 weeks and requiring unnecessary upgrades to facilities offering abortions: an edict that would essentially close the majority of clinics offering terminations for pregnancies that threaten “severe birth defects or harm to the mother’s health”.
Texas governor, Rick Perry, after 13 years in office is not a man who likes to be crossed and when things don’t go his way (24 anti-abortion bills have failed to reach the floor of either chamber) he merely extends the legislative session in order to add legislation restricting reproductive choice.
This latest controversy follows on from last year’s heated arguments about closing Planned Parenthood facilities, regardless of the fact that many do not offer abortions but do offer women’s health care and options for birth control in areas where other medical facilities are limited. An area that in Britain was greatly influenced by Marie Stopes, who advocated that birth control, and sex education, lessened the need for abortion.
The Guttmacher Institute, which advances “sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education” reports that “at the current rate about one in three American women will have had an abortion by the time she reaches age 45”, and that termination of a pregnancy is an option chosen by a broad cross section of society with no racial or ethnic group making up a majority, although 69% are economically disadvantaged, with 85% unmarried and 61% having one or more children.
Governor Perry is an ardent advocate of less government intrusion in our lives, and also of the sanctity of life. How much more government intrusion can there possibly be than interfering in a woman’s reproductive choice, and indeed reproductive health? On the other hand he last week signed the executive order for the 500th execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. It is baffling he cannot see the paradox of his stand.
What is troubling is the consistent lack of awareness among Governor Perry’s fellow Republicans, and not just in Texas, with regard the workings of a woman’s body. In 2012 we had Missouri State Representative Todd Akin declare a woman’s body had a way to prevent pregnancy in the case of ‘legitimate rape’; then adding to the inanities was the Indiana State Treasurer and US Senate nominee Richard Mourdock pronouncing that pregnancy through rape was “something that God intended.” In North Dakota currently, Fargo Clinic, the only facility offering terminations in the state, has gone to court challenging a law banning abortions as early as six weeks. It appears to be an insidious movement to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade and the right to choose.
Sadly these same people are often proponents of less sex education in the classroom, believing abstinence is the only answer. A less is more kind of take, except in this case it can end up with more unwanted babies. Do they not see less education can lead to poorer decision-making capabilities, which can lead to unwanted pregnancies?
Texas is on the brink of losing 37 abortion providers, leaving the state (population in 2012, 26.06 million) with only 5 providers, with 33% of women of child-bearing age living in counties with no facilities. Are we doomed to return to the dark days of backstreet abortions?
Senator Wendy Davis, herself once a teenage mother, stresses her hard come by accomplishments are in large part due to having had “the privilege of making a choice.”
That, Governor Perry, is what women and Texan women in particular, are asking for – the right to make their own choices with regard their own bodies without governmental interference.