WASHINGTON — On Capitol Hill, says Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, it’s difficult to discuss women’s health “below the waist.” It’s no easier in the Georgia General Assembly, where annual attempts to restrict reproductive rights lead to ugly sermonizing, outrageous distortions and vile legislation. This year has proved no different.
Georgia’s social conservatives have come up with a new twist on their old tendency to insult women and restrict their choices: They’ve added race to the controversy — the subject isn’t inflammatory enough? — seeking to draw black supporters with the charge that abortion is tantamount to genocide.
Dutifully taking up the new tack, the Georgia Senate has passed a bill which would outlaw any abortion “with the intent to prevent any unborn child from being born based upon the race, color or gender of the unborn child . .” Are you kidding me? Black women bear black children, so the bill reads like an indictment of any black woman who seeks to terminate a pregnancy.
The bill is patently unconstitutional. It’s also incredibly foolish.
It “sends a strong signal to women that it is okay to set up categories of discrimination against women who seek abortions,” said Loretta Ross, executive director of the Atlanta-based SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, a coalition of reproductive rights organizations.
Any review of the history of the Georgia General Assembly shows its harsh — even abusive — treatment of the less fortunate, including children. That tendency has come in to sharper relief with the rise of Republicans, who indulge businesses and the wealthy at the expense of the less affluent.
Their attempts to restrict abortions would force women to bear children, but they have no concern for those children once they leave the womb. Nor do they care about the health of their mothers. Indeed, Georgia’s elected officials can be downright mean to those children and their mothers.
The struggle over the health care reform is just one example. Gov. Sonny Perdue has rushed to get at the head of the line of partisans who want to repeal the law, which would offer universal access to health care for the first time in U.S. history.
Not only would it benefit working class families who cannot afford health insurance, even though they have jobs, but it would also prohibit the worst abuses of health insurance companies. As just one example, the law prevents insurers from banning children because of pre-existing conditions.
If the GOP-dominated Georgia Senate cared about children, it would surely approve of a law which prevents health insurers from restricting their access. It would also approve of health insurance for their mothers, who need access to good medical care to take care of their families.
The new conservative campaign to woo black support draws its inspiration from data showing black women account for about 37 percent of abortions nationally, while they make up less than seven percent of the population. But, as Ross and others point out, black women, especially those without health insurance, are less likely to have access to contraception and, therefore, more likely to have unintended pregnancies. (As for the notion that black children are “endangered,” there’s no reason to fear: Asian, black and Latino children make up nearly half the population under 5, according to federal statistics.)
If conservatives wanted to curb the abortion rate, they would join with reproductive rights activists to promote access to contraception. Indeed, the would support the new health care law, which will increase women’s access to birth control pills and devices.
But they haven’t done so. Says Ross, anti-abortion legislators’ motives are “about controlling the behavior of women. If women had more access to contraceptives, they’d have more control over their bodies sand more control over their lives.”