Republicans are gearing up for the next round of abortion wars, with a new weapon in their arsenal: trapping pregnant people, and making it illegal for them to seek healthcare in a different state.
Republicans in Congress have tried for years to make it a federal crime to transport a minor across state lines to get an abortion. And this year, they upped the ante, seeking to require parental notification when minors seek abortions. Under the Child Interstate Abortion Act, mass medical surveillance of adolescent girls would become federal law.
Missouri legislators recently decided to trap not just children, but adult women, too. A (failed for now) legislative proposal would ban women from having abortions out of state that would be illegal in Missouri, and allow anyone to sue anyone who participates in such an abortion—the woman, her driver, a random person who was present during the procedure, or abortion doctors. The law would treat women as fugitives for leaving their home state to seek perfectly legal healthcare elsewhere.
And what about miscarriages, or medical procedures for ectopic and other failed pregnancies? It’s not clear what would happen to those women. But legislators have already attempted to use abortion clinic restrictions to criminalize pregnancy loss. Prosecutors in at least 45 states have attempted to punish women for losing pregnancies. Will it soon be a crime to have a miscarriage outside of your home state? Probably, if Republicans have their way.
It’s a weird choice for a party that once thought we’d believe them that their love of racism was about state’s rights.
States, the party line once went, should have the right to allow a wide range of discriminatory practices against every imaginable minority. And, of course, they should be able to enact their own abortion laws. But when states pass laws Republicans don’t like—allowing abortion, banning discrimination—state’s rights go out the window.
The hypocrisy is obvious, and it’s always been central to anti-choice legislation.
They’re pro-life except after birth.
They’re pro-life except for the mother.
They love babies except when they’re born.
They want to save lives by passing laws that increase maternal mortality.
They want to end abortion, but they oppose policies that would actually reduce the number of pregnancy terminations.
Anti-choice politics have always been about controlling women. And with each new layer of restrictions, this goal comes into starker relief. The new round of Republican legislation would turn women into refugees in their own country—unable to safely leave to seek medical care, unable to make personal decisions the state disagrees with.
There’s no room for anti-choice values in any democracy, nor in any world where women have a chance of full citizenship and equality. Until the left pushes back just as hard as the right has, until we take a lesson from their stridency and value choice politics as strongly as they value anti-choice ideals, we will continue to lose ground.