|If you've been tuning in to the national conversation on abortion, you'll notice that the abortion bills passed in other parts of the nation look a lot like Texas' law. That's because most of the conservative abortion bills are modeled after, if not directly plagiarized from, the "Defending Life" guide. "Defending Life" is created and updated by Americans United for Life, one of the most powerful legal organizations attempting to devastate women's health services nationwide.
As a political handbook for passing restrictions on abortion, "Defending Life" is littered with hilarious gems like "Cecile Richards, the chic Manhattan-based President of the world's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, is considerably more stylish than Mikhail Gorbachev, but they have in common a dependence on the power and money of the state to prop up a failed ideology."
But it is also packed with extremely harmful vitriol that conservative politicians eat up like candy. "Defending Life" rants about the dangers of equating reproductive rights with women's empowerment. This year especially, the guide plays up unsafe abortion clinics like Gosnell's as a consequence of Roe v. Wade rather than a consequence of unnecessary financial and legal strains on abortion-seekers.
"Defending Life" includes a couple dozen "model legislation" chapters, which read like Mad Libs for anti-choice politicians. Change a senators name here and the date there, and you're left with the template for most of the abortion restriction bills in state legislatures.
There is a bright side to this lunacy, though: State and federal courts are not responding kindly.
North Dakota, Arkansas, Idaho, and Arkansas legislatures each passed bills banning abortions before fetal viability at 20 weeks, and they have each been blocked either permanently or from taking effect on a specified date.
The admitting privileges legislation, which was included in Texas' bill, has also been stopped in several states. These laws require doctors to have permission to practice in a hospital 30 miles away from an abortion clinic. The laws are especially prohibitive for women in rural areas, where hospitals are often far away. Additionally, religious hospitals have the option to refuse admitting privileges for gynecologists who perform abortions.
For these reasons, judges in Mississippi, North Dakota, Alabama and Wisconsin have blocked admitting privileges legislation because they present an undue burden on a woman's constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion.
However, the Texas law's semblance to other states' restrictions is not a guarantee that it will be struck down as well. Different courts with different judges can act in wildly disparate ways.
Additionally, the normalization of fetal pain as a justification for rolling back reproductive rights is setting the stage for a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Anti-choice groups claim protecting fetal pain is a compelling state interest, even though researchers have concluded that fetuses do not develop the capacity to feel pain until the third trimester.
The court decisions on other pieces of legislation are encouraging, but they're not enough. Texas women deserve access to safe and legal health care without engaging in costly court battles. The best safeguard against unconstitutional legislation is electing legislators dedicated to reproductive justice.