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A Global Left
An interview with Hanan Ashrawi
Eleanor J. Bader
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Georgia Abortion Bill
T here is a lot of curiosity about HB 1,” says Beth Cope, Executive Director of the Georgia chapter, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (GARAL). “People want to know if it’s real or if it’s a hoax.”
Indeed, when Representative Robert Franklin, a conservative businessperson from Cobb County, Georgia, introduced H.B. 1 in late November, nearly everyone— mainstream Republicans to radical feminists—wondered whether to laugh or to shudder. They quickly figured it out: Franklin’s bill poses one of the gravest threats to freedom of choice in 30 years.
The proposed bill amends Georgia’s state code “to provide that any person seeking to have an abortion first file a petition in the Superior Court.” In the petition, the woman must request an order allowing the pregnancy to be terminated. That’s just the beginning. Under the statute, the Court is required to appoint a guardian ad litem for the fetus and schedule a jury trial. At trial the court is mandated to “balance the rights of the fetus against the rights of the person seeking to have an abortion performed.”
“H.B. 1 [would] make it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion without a warrant, equating the term abortion to an execution,” says a GARAL press release denouncing the bill. “If enacted, H.B. 1 would, for the first time under state law, recognize the fetus as a person, with rights separate from, and equal to, those of a woman.” What’s more, the notion of arguing one’s case before a jury would subject women to humiliation and embarrassment and would violate their right to privacy. Likewise, weighing the rights of women against those of an embryo amounts to a callous and mean-spirited attack. “Even before Roe, women were not subjected to a jury trial. HB 1 is a grotesque abuse of power...[it] attacks women and our right to make personal decisions regarding our bodies,” GARAL concludes.
According to Elizabeth Cavendish, legal director of NARAL, as horrifying as H.B. 1 is, it is an extreme version of a national trend. Approximately 300 bills to restrict abortion have been passed by states since 1995. “For years the anti- abortion movement has used an incremental strategy to increase the burden on women who want an abortion, to increase the burden on providers, and to endow the fetus with the status of a human being. The restrictions are meant to crank up the degree of difficulty for women and their caregivers,” says Cavendish. They have been successful:
- 31 states have passed—and 27 now enforce—“informed consent” laws, which require all women seeking abortions to receive a lecture on fetal development, adoption services, and programs available to help those who continue their pregnancies before they can schedule an abortion
- 22 states impose waiting periods—usually 24 hours—between hearing the lecture and having surgery
- 44 states have laws barring non-physicians from performing abortions
- 34 states provide no Medicaid funding for abortion; of the 16 that provide coverage, most make it available only in cases of fetal abnormality, rape, or when the pregnant woman’s life is endangered or health at risk because of the pregnancy
- 14 states require minors to notify at least one parent before having an abortion; 18 require parental consent
- 35 states have at least one Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider [TRAP] law on the books. These requirements—not imposed on health centers offering other types of ambulatory care—regulate everything from hallway corridor and door frame width to the temperature of operating rooms to the number of hours training staff must receive
“It’s ironic that 30 years after Doe v. Bolton, a Georgia case challenging the requirement that women go before a hospital abortion committee for permission to have the procedure, we’re back to square one with Franklin’s bill,” says NARAL’s Elizabeth Cavendish. “I see HB 1 as a signal of newfound confidence that conservatives will have the Supreme Court in right-wing hands before too long and will soon be able to recriminalize abortion. This seems like a throwback to the days when the antiabortion movement was more candid about their goal, which is not just to make incremental change, but to make the procedure illegal.”
While it is still too early to know what will happen when HB 1 comes up for a vote, the fact that Georgia Republicans won numerous seats in November’s election does not bode well for choice. Tom Murphy, Speaker of the State House for three decades—dubbed “a bulwark” against attempts to enact limits on the procedure by Atlanta’s progressive newspaper, Creative Loafing —was defeated. So was Senator Max Cleland, a man awarded a perfect rating by NARAL.
“We fight anti-abortion bills year after year,” says GARAL’s Beth Cope. “H.B. 1 has gotten one of the strongest reactions I’ve ever seen to a piece of legislation. There’s been an outpouring from people wanting to do something to help defeat it or donating money to us. We’re trying to galvanize our support and are now putting together our strategy for the session. We’re organizing a Pro-Choice Republican Women’s Task Force because many of the party elite and regular people loyal to the party are not pleased with Franklin. We’re also monitoring other anti-choice bills, alerting the media, writing letters to the editor, and organizing local lobbying to stop the bill.”
Eleanor J. Bader is the co-author of Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism and a frequent contributor to In These Times, Library Journal, the Progressive, and the New York Law Journal .
Z Magazine Archive
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BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
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