American Opinion: Obamacare opponents who demanded medical autonomy seek to deny it for women
From the editorial: The Wyoming Legislature attempted to enact a similarly strict ban after the Supreme Court’s action, but a judge suspended it, ruling that it violated the state’s own constitutional provision — based on the earlier amendment won by conservatives — protecting the right of citizens to make their own health care decisions.
A judge has blocked a Wyoming abortion ban based on an ironic instance of unintended consequences: A decade ago, conservative voters in that state, eager to limit the reach of the newly enacted Affordable Care Act, approved a constitutional amendment to ensure that “each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions.” That line, a judge has concluded, precludes the state from taking that right away from competent adults who happen to be pregnant.
Similar challenges are playing out in other red states, where conservatives who were quite concerned about preventing government involvement in health care issues generally under Obamacare have no problem today with the government forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. This isn’t just irony, it’s hypocrisy. The various Obamacare-era laws protecting health care decisions in states around America are each a little different, but it’s safe to say not one of them specifically exempted women from those protections. Yet that’s exactly what these new anti-choice laws attempt to do.
After the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down Roe v. Wade, states controlled by Republicans rushed to pass abortion bans of varying (but generally draconian) severity. Missouri was the first, enacting a previously passed law literally minutes after the ruling that’s as severe as any in the country. It bans the procedure from the moment of conception, even in cases of rape or incest, with medical emergencies being the sole exception.
The Wyoming Legislature attempted to enact a similarly strict ban after the Supreme Court’s action, but a judge suspended it, ruling that it violated the state’s own constitutional provision — based on the earlier amendment won by conservatives — protecting the right of citizens to make their own health care decisions.
Lawmakers responded by rewriting the new law to specify that abortion isn’t health care. The problem with that argument is that it’s an ideological one rather than a medical one. Anti-choice activists can chant that abortion isn’t health care all they want, but in its legalized form, it has already been treated as such. As District Judge Melissa Owens noted in suspending the latest version of the law, even jurisdictions where abortion is legal require the involvement of doctors. “An abortion can only be performed by a licensed medical professional, so what authority does the legislature have to declare that abortion is not health care when our laws only allow a licensed medical professional to administer one?” she asked.
The response of a state lawyer defending the law — “I would concede that if you focus just on the pregnant woman, it becomes a little bit easier to say, well, this has to be health care” — serves to emphasize the fact that fully realized women are an afterthought, if that, to those who prioritize zygotes with these laws.
This American Opinion editorial is the view of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board. Send feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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