Shattered glass, surprising decisions, and “special riders” round out this week’s news roundup.
The US Supreme Court schooled the state of Texas eight months ago, ruling that its laws aimed at regulating abortion clinics out of existence were unconstitutional, but anti-choice Texas lawmakers are undaunted. This month, three male Texas legislators filed bills to impose new restrictions on abortion rights in the state–mandating funerals for fetal remains, banning clinics from donating fetal tissue for medical research, and banning the most common form of second-trimester abortion procedure, a low-risk method known as dilation and extraction, or D&E . When a 24-year-old intern for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas attempted to finish her testimony against the bills, Texas state senate Health and Human Services Committee chairman Charles Schwertner slammed his gavel furiously to silence her–shattering a glass tabletop in the process.
A few minutes later, Cosmopolitan reports, Schwertner “allowed the president of the anti-abortion Texas Alliance for Life lobby group to extend his testimony, including a quote attributed to Catholic saint and scholar Thomas More, for the same length of time as Hennessy’s, without an interruption.”
If you’re curious why NARAL and other groups are so adamantly opposed to D&E bans like the one proposed in Texas, the indispensable Guttmacher Institute filed a report this week explaining how such bans force women to undergo riskier, more expensive, more invasive procedures. (Currently, 95 percent of second-trimester abortions are D&E procedures). Guttmacher notes that bans on second-trimester procedures are happening in the context of other abortion restrictions that make it harder and harder for women, particularly low-income women, to access abortion care earlier in their pregnancies:
Research indicates that the vast majority of women obtaining an abortion during the second trimester would have preferred to have had it earlier. State abortion restrictions are one increasingly common reason women encounter delays receiving abortion care, and D&E bans must be considered in the context of such restrictions.
Restrictions that force women to delay abortion care have a disproportionate impact on low-income women, women of color and young women—which is one reason why these groups are overrepresented among women who obtain abortions during the second trimester.
Surprisingly, Republicans in South Dakota—a state known for its harsh anti-abortion laws—rejected legislation this week that would have banned D&E abortions. But as Rewire reports, the Rs weren’t swayed by evidence that the procedure is both safe and common instead, they seemed worried at the possibility of a costly lawsuit over the legality of banning the common procedure.
In other surprisingly positive news for low-income women, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have effectively banned state funding for Planned Parenthood. Republicans control both houses of the Virginia state legislature, making the Democratic governor the only bulwark against laws that would eliminate critical health-care services for tens of thousands of low-income Virginians. Medicaid is already barred from paying for abortions, so the ban would impact other services, including cancer screenings, STD tests, and primary health care.
Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, died at 69 last week. McCorvey, who never had an abortion, barely participated in her own case, and eventually became an anti-choice activist and religious crusader. Mother Jones has an excellent posthumous profile of this reluctant symbol of the pro-choice movement.
Meanwhile at the federal level—where Republicans control not just both houses of Congress but the executive branch—Paul Ryan and Co. are plotting to make sure that women insured through private plans won’t be able to purchase abortion coverage. Here, according to Slate, is how Ryan’s plan would work: First, the proposal would offer tax credits to everyone buying coverage on the individual market. At the same time, the plan would prohibit women from using those subsidies to purchase plans that cover abortion. Because most women would want to use their subsidies rather than letting them go to waste, insurance companies would almost certainly stop covering abortion. Voila: Women seeking abortion care will have to pay for it out of pocket.
“Some might suggest that women could purchase special riders to cover abortion, but those sorts of add-ons haven’t worked particularly well in health insurance, since they tend to be extremely expensive,” Slate concludes. Not to mention that the whole concept of insurance is that it provides coverage for things you can’t anticipate—like, say, an unplanned pregnancy.