Groundhog Day

We recently passed the one-year anniversary of Drinks and Wings.  My first piece, Culture Wars Episode One: The Conservative Menace, concerned Republican efforts to suppress women’s coverage and access to healthcare (including abortion).  Here we go again… again.

Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled Arkansas legislature approved a new anti-abortion bill after both houses overrode a veto by the state’s Democratic Governor, Michael Beebe.


The Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act (Oh, Christ), prohibits any abortion of a fetus of 12 weeks or older that has a heartbeat.  If a woman does manage to see a doctor under the 12 week deadline and decides in favor of the abortion procedure, she must submit to an ultra sound.

In response to the legislation’s passage, Arkansas Democratic Senator Linda Chesterfield responded: “I don’t want to go back to when women used kerosene and clothes hangers because they didn’t have a choice.”  Sen. Chesterfield will not be visiting the “Peace Garden State” anytime soon.

Not to be outdone, last week the North Dakota Senate passed two anti-abortion bills (take that, Arkansas!).  One bill prevents women from undergoing the procedure if their fetus has a genetic defect, while the other measure prohibits an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected.  Well, I guess that’s one way to cover all the bases.

North Dakota Senate Chamber

Interesting fact: the earliest a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected is five to six weeks.  Usually the only way to discover a heartbeat that early is through a transvaginal probe (forced transvaginal probes are so 2012).  Way to go, North Dakota Republicans!  If your goal was to make an incredibly emotional, complex and horrific situation that much more so, pat yourself on the back!

The North Dakota Medical Association is against the bill and Fargo, ND pediatrician Dr. Ted Kleiman responded to the potential new laws: “This is abhorrent in the highest degree.”

The North Dakota measures also offer no exceptions for rape or incest.  However, that has not prevented Republican Senator Margaret Sitte from offering a sympathetic voice to the state’s women:  “Rape is a horrible crime.  It is absolutely devastating, but do we believe in capital punishment for those children?”  Nope, I was wrong.  That doesn’t sound sympathetic at all on a second read.

Senator Sitte

As I write this, the Kansas House approved a bill that would prohibit abortion providers from claiming tax breaks or participating with the public school system in sex education classes.

These states have REAL FUCKING PROBLEMS and abortion isn’t one of them (North Dakota only has one clinic that performs the procedure).

Arkansas ranked number 2 in the top ten states with the worst economic security last year.  They also achieved the much-coveted number 3 spot of America’s worst-educated states.

The North Dakota GOP’s time may be better spent finding a solution to the state’s burdened infrastructure due to the recent oil boom, rather than attack a right that women have had since 1973.

The oil boom has also increased the population of North Dakota, and with it, the crime rate.  Last July, the state’s Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem explained North Dakota’s crime rate had climbed by 9% in 2011.

In a piece published in January, Deputy State Attorney Ariston E. Johnson confirmed there has been an increase in North Dakota’s sexual assaults.  Seems like the perfect time to introduce an anti-abortion measure with no exceptions for rape.

The North Dakota and Arkansas bills both violate the Supreme Court’s decision reached in Roe v. Wade with their unrealistic shortened time frames that would allow for an abortion procedure.  Roe determined abortions were legal until a fetus could survive outside of the womb, which would be 22 to 24 weeks (a far cry from North Dakota’s 6 weeks).

North Dakota apparently is welcoming the challenge to the Supreme Court’s ruling, since their measures include a personhood amendment (which gives the same legal rights to a zygote as a human being).  Also, pro-life cheerleader Sen. Sitte has even said so: “We are intending that it be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, since Scalia said that the Supreme Court is waiting for states to raise a case.”

Justice Scalia

Sitte may find herself in for a rude awakening.  In a 2008 interview, Justice Scalia responded to pro-lifers like Senator Margaret Sitte: “They say that the equal protection clause requires that you treat a helpless human being that’s still in the womb the way you treat other human beings.  I think that’s wrong.  I think when the Constitution says that persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws, I think it clearly means walking-around persons.”

I have a hard time believing the state’s taxpayers are as excited for North Dakota to get into a likely costly series of litigations over a decision settled forty years ago that the majority of Americans support.

We have a nation of misguided gun advocates vocalizing support for a right that is in no danger of abolishment, while women in various states are watching one of theirs under attack before their very eyes… again.

Keep Abortion Legal Sign

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