Michigan Republicans, War on Women, Women — June 26, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Reproductive rights take a beating by SCOTUS and Michigan’s GOP-led legislature


In a blatant display of bias, opponents of choice keep trying to stack the deck against women’s legal access to abortion.

I’m not sure which of these pieces of news makes me angrier, so I’ll start with the most recent. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down Massachusetts’ buffer zone law, siding with anti-abortion extremists who think they have a right to be closer than 35 feet away from women seeking an abortion.

The Massachusetts law was designed to protect women from intimidation, harassment and abuse, but the Supreme Court apparently thinks it’s not a problem for women to be forced to listen to hateful rhetoric or be subject to gruesome images of aborted fetuses as they walk into a clinic.

From the SCOTUS opinion, via Think Progress:

By its very terms, the Act restricts access to ‘public way[s]‘ and ‘sidewalk[s],’ places that have traditionally been open for speech ac­tivities and that the Court has accordingly labeled ‘traditional public fora.’ The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests.

Does SCOTUS not realize that they are creating an untenable situation for women, who are already facing a difficult decision and painful procedure? Do they not realize that they are emboldening the anti-choice zealots who will stop at nothing — including murdering abortion providers — to deny women their access to legal healthcare services?

Within minutes of my tweeting that idea, I received a reply containing a disturbing photo of aborted fetuses. I can block accounts of people who engage in that kind of harassment on Twitter, but women at abortion clinics don’t have that option.

Although this doesn’t infringe on a woman’s right to a legal abortion, it definitely doesn’t make it any easier. And it encourages anti-choice tyrants who will now think the Supreme Court has given them a free pass to hassle women at a vulnerable, difficult time in their lives.

I am all for free speech. I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask protesters to stay 35 feet from the people they’re protesting against. After all, SCOTUS has a buffer zone of its own — 100 feet from the Supreme Court building. That sounds a lot like selective free speech to me.

The one bright spot in the immediate wake of the SCOTUS decision was this tweet:

Let’s all get behind that idea and do whatever we can to help women feel safe when they are exercising their right to choose.

In other anti-choice news, the Michigan Legislature has included $800,000 in funding for an anti-abortion group in the state’s proposed budget. This no-bid contract is an increase of $100,000 over 2013 funding – 14.3% – for Real Alternatives, an organization that helps “faith-based anti-abortion-rights groups qualify for taxpayer funding without violating state and federal constitutional provisions that bar government promotion of religion,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

Real Alternatives provides counseling and essentials for newborn babies like diapers and furniture. That’s all well and good — except they will only do it for groups that oppose abortion and the use of birth control. So it’s not actually an alternative as much as a coercive tactic. And it’s a religious-based program being funded by our tax dollars. The separation between church and state just keeps getting muddier and muddier.

Not to mention the fact that this $800,000 is being handed to a faith-based organization with an anti-choice agenda even as Michigan can’t figure out a way to pay for essential services like road repairs. What’s more, the Legislature is cutting funding for women’s health services, as pointed out by Annie Brown, a candidate for Michigan State Representative.

In an excellent editorial, which I highly recommend you read in full, the Detroit Free Press calls on Gov. Snyder to veto this line item.

We see little reason it would be in the interests of Michigan taxpayers (and especially the female ones) for Snyder to endorse this legislative genuflection to anti-abortion-rights interest groups.

Every governor has the authority to veto budget expenditures that cannot be justified, and Snyder should exercise his prerogative to eliminate this one.

Of course, in an election year when Republicans are pandering special interest groups like Right to Life of Michigan — with some sponsors of the fetal heartbeat bills introduced in the Michigan House already endorsed by the extremist organization — it’s anyone’s guess whose vote Gov. Snyder will decide to court on this one.

[Photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]