Even though at America’s founding the Constitution’s framers pretended they believed in equal rights, they certainly did not include women in that group. It is curious that since the Founders were definitely not evangelical adherents by any stretch, they embraced the ideology that a woman was subservient to a man and it is a mindset that persists to this day; particularly among evangelicals, Republicans, and the Catholic Church. Subsequently, that triad of anti-women evil has been relatively successful in controlling women, and when possible hurting them, by prohibiting them from making their own healthcare choices; now there is research to prove it.
In the frantic race to see which Republican state can impose the harshest laws prohibiting a legal medical procedure, abortion, Texas evangelicals have enacted some of the harshest anti-women’s health measures in the nation. Now, a brand-spanking new report conducted and released by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, a noted research group out of the University of Texas, Austin, the state’s anti-abortion laws are hurting women and prohibiting from making their own reproductive health choices which is, after all, the goal of evangelical Republicans.
The researchers tracked Texas’ reproductive health policy over the past four years and discovered that the dastardly law, HB2, that imposes harsh restrictions on abortion clinics and providers anti-choice evangelicals claim improves patient safety cut the number of abortion providers from 48 to 18. Now, there only nine surgical centers remain to perform later abortions.
Forcing women’s health clinics to shut down not only restricts access to providers, but the few remaining are forced to turn women away or making them wait a month or more for a procedure. For the evangelical tyrants using their religious beliefs to control women’s choice, the Texas law is a raging success story; not so much for women hoping that in 21st Century American they just might have the right to decide when they give birth.
Evangelicals claim they hate later-term abortions, but as wait time to get an abortion increases, the proportion of abortions performed in the second trimester increases. To punctuate the intended harm on women these anti-choice religious laws create, later surgical abortions, although safe, are “associated with a higher risk of complications and are significantly more costly to women than an earlier medical abortion.” But that is one of the intended “consequences” of these religious laws, whether it is through greater expense or increased health risks, evangelicals will make women pay for not subjugating themselves to religious control and think twice before having “consequence-free sex;” something both evangelicals and the Catholic Church forbids.
The researchers have been collecting data since HB2, considered one of the harshest anti-abortion measures nationwide, and one of the lead researchers was irritated that the evangelical Republicans lied and produced junk science to make their junk law. Daniel Grossman is, besides the lead researcher on the study, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at U.C. San Francisco and he said, “It was so frustrating to hear legislators behind these bills saying things completely not based on fact. We saw, on the ground, how women were adversely affected by these laws, and knew it was important to document.”
Professor Grossman said it is not uncommon for state-level empirical data on abortion clinics to be released years after a bill is debated, and eventually implemented giving lawmakers nothing whatsoever to “lean on during the initial fight,” and he is hopeful the Texas Policy Evaluation Project can fill this gap. “We saw such a delay in needed data collection. Meanwhile, all these laws are being passed in quick succession without real data to challenge them.”
Women’s health advocates did file suit against the provisions of HB2, but Grossman knew the state would not provide them with empirical data to mount a proper legal defense against the religious laws. “So instead, we stepped in,” Grossman said. “We visited each abortion provider and collected the data needed to stand up for them.”
Instead of suing the state of Texas for legislating according to evangelicals’ religion, the women’s health advocates are challenging the ridiculous requirement that all abortion facilities make costly renovations to bring their building codes in line with surgery centers. The research team found that only 22 percent of all abortions in Texas were being provided by surgical centers and warned that if evangelicals prevail in court, those clinics will be responsible for conducting abortions for the entire state. Grossman said that “It was difficult seeing these women late into pregnancy who really didn’t want to be. They were so angry at the state for making the decision for them. I can only hope we won’t be seeing more bills taking away these rights.”
This assault on a legal medical procedure, and the ability of women to make their own reproductive healthcare choices is not unique to Texas or evangelicals who embraced “pro-life” as a cause célèbre on the advice of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This week the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the powerful Catholic hospital conglomerate, Trinity Health, for refusing to provide “appropriate emergency care to women suffering pregnancy complications, including miscarriages.” Refusing to save women’s lives is part and parcel of USCCB’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services that “prohibits its medical facilities from terminating pregnancies even if such care is urgently needed to protect a woman’s health or life.”
An attorney for the ACLU, Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said, “For many women experiencing pregnancy complications, even when the pregnancy isn’t viable, abortion is the standard of care necessary, or they can develop infections, become septic or experience hemorrhaging.” They can even die, but protecting the woman’s life is not part of the religious “pro-life” cabal’s mindset.
Catholics have been buying up hospitals, clinics, and merging with others and then enforcing the Vatican’s 1968 Humanae Vitae edicts without regard for the health of the woman or a healthcare providers’ mandate to give medical care. Women’s health advocates documented emergency rooms and physicians in Trinity Health system typically sending women in distress home instead of offering standard procedures such as tubal ligation, or removal of a dead or unviable fetus. A Washington state healthcare advocate said “Women are told, ‘There’s nothing we can do for your miscarriage, go home,’ and many women believe they are getting medical advice; but in fact they are getting religious advice.”
According to the ACLU lawsuit, by refusing to preform emergency services to protect the health of a woman the Catholic-owned hospitals are violating the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requiring healthcare providers “to provide such medical treatment of the condition as may be necessary to assure, with reasonable medical probability, that no deterioration of the condition is likely to occur during transfer of the patient from a facility.” In other words, medical providers are required, by law, to provide the care women need and not send them searching for life-saving care elsewhere when they are already in an emergency room and in a medical emergency.
The only encouraging thing in the ACLU lawsuit, and something missing from every other response to attacks on women’s reproductive rights, is the remark that women are getting “religious advice;” not medical advice. No-one in their right mind believes for a minute any of these vile Republican attacks on women’s healthcare, or Planned Parenthood for that matter, are anything other than imposing religious control over American women. It is a fundamental part of evangelical and Catholic dogmata that men have purview over every aspect of a woman’s life, and these hateful attacks are, if nothing else, all about controlling women and keeping them in subjection to, in this case, religious Republican men.
The religious right and the USCCB cannot countenance that they lack the authority to single-handedly criminalize and abolish abortion, Planned Parenthood, or contraceptive use. Their alternative is pledging undying electoral support to Republicans who will do their bidding by passing harsh restrictions on women’s healthcare providers unless they give out religious advice in lieu of medical advice. Subsequently, not only are women being denied their constitutional rights, they are being harmed because religious advice cannot save a woman in a medical emergency, but then again, saving women was never the goal, controlling them is like it is the 16th, not the 21st Century.