Thursday, April 21, 2011

Women's Reproductive Rights: Pawns in the Eleven-Dimensional Political Chess Game

Ever wonder what effect all the new state-level forced-birth laws will have? The ones that conservative state governments are busily creating, what with states not having any more pressing problems to address? Laws like these:
Oklahoma is likely to be the next state to ban abortions after 20 weeks, on the basis that the fetus can then feel pain, with Gov. Mary Fallin expected to sign a law imminently. Idaho and Kansas passed similar “fetal pain” laws last week. Nebraska’s law has been on the books for a year, and legislators in 14 states have introduced similar measures, according to the Guttmacher Institute, with bills in Alabama, Iowa and Indiana moving forward at a rapid clip.

For abortion foes, these are great strides in a battle much more consequential than the congressional drama that just played out over Planned Parenthood. It could lay the groundwork for the next challenge to Roe v. Wade — a battle they believe they can win.

“This is all an explosion, which we think if presented to the court, they would recognize the rights of the fetus,” says Mary Spaulding Balch, the state legislation director of the National Right to Life Committee. “I was surprised it wasn’t challenged, and I would like to see that.”

But so far, abortion rights groups have not taken the bait.
Oklahoma did become the next state to ban abortion after twenty weeks, based on the belief that a fetus can feel pain at that point. This belief is not supported by medical evidence:
It’s unclear, however, whether scientific literature will support the 20-week abortion bans, given that a major review study last year, published by the UK’s Royal College Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, found no evidence for fetal pain prior to 24 weeks.
The forced-birthers love to chip-chip-chip away at Roe v. Wade. Somehow this reminds me of the seven dwarves singing merrily while going off to work in the mines while Snow-White stays demurely behind to do their laundry.

And the anti-abortion people do have lots to sing about. For instance, though many of these new state-level laws are unconstitutional they will not be challenged. Why? Because the Supreme Court is likely to vote with the forced-birthers:
Experts who study the Supreme Court and abortion politics concur that, at the high court, abortion rights supporters are not necessarily in a safe place. Like many other cases, it would come down to Kennedy’s swing vote, which has become unpredictable on abortion issues.

I have often written that the Republican Party doesn't want Roe v. Wade overturned. It's the meat they throw to their fundamentalist base, and they need the votes of that base even though they get their money from elsewhere. Ideally, they want to keep the forced-birth constituency in a pre-orgasmic state of tension: Almost there but not quite! Just one more push!

But the death of Roe v. Wade would be a total disaster for the Republicans. A total disaster, both because their party would lose many of its voters and because that would also be the point at which a strong pro-choice movement would be created. At least I think so.

In the meantime, real women will suffer from all this gamesmanship, including that demonstrated by Obama in the budget debacle. Women's reproductive rights are something to be traded for other goodies, like pawns in an eleven-dimensional chess game.

Do you know what I think? I think the game is too complicated and will slip into overturning Roe v. Wade.