It seems that the fight against extreme restrictions on reproductive choice is never-ending. In several states throughout the country, women have been wearing handmaid costumes to protest anti-abortion bills, and now some states are advancing legislation that would make it legal to punish women for taking birth control.
Conservative lawmakers in Missouri, supported by Governor Eric Greitens, have written a bill that would not only place medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers and abortion clinics, but would make it legal for employers to fire, and allow property owners to evict lessees for taking birth control.
The legislation, Senate Bill 5, is all about abortion. Included in the legislation is a requirement that abortion clinics send fetal tissue samples to pathologists within five days, and overall “gives the attorney general the ability to enforce any abortion law at any time,” according to St. Louis public radio. But the passage of the bill would also overturn a St. Louis ordinance that currently protects residents from employer or landlord discrimination based on reproductive healthcare decisions, feminist website Feministing reports. The bill has the full support of Governor Greitans, and passed the Missouri Senate last Tuesday.
If the ordinance is overturned, employers and landlords will be able to fire or evict residents based on their birth control use.
Unfortunately, this type of legislation is not unprecedented in contemporary policy. Arizona was the first to advance legislation that could get women fired if they used birth control for “non-medical” reasons in 2012. In the eyes of the 2012 Arizona state legislature, preventing pregnancy was somehow considered a non-medical use of birth control, and the state made it legal to fire or evict people for using birth control to avoid pregnancy.
Missouri’s SB 5 states that the intent of the bill is to keep women safe and protect religious freedom, but reproductive rights activists see the legislation as an assault on women’s rights. After the state Senate released their version of BS 5 on June 20, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, Alison Dreith, released a statement calling the bill “a disgraceful blow to women and families,” adding that it “will do nothing to expand access to healthcare or improve the lives of Missouri residents.”
The backdrop behind all of these state-level restrictions on reproductive care is the national debate over repeal and replacement of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA). A critical number of Republicans in the House and Senate favor doing away with the Obama-era ACA, and replacing it with the regressive American Healthcare Act (AHCA) that would, among other things, give states permission to allow employers to not cover health care considered “essential” under the ACA, including maternal care and birth control.
President Trump campaigned heavily on his promise to repeal and replace the ACA, and has repeatedly stated his support for the AHCA, which has received strong opposition from Democrats, health care advocacy groups, and concerned citizens.
The dizzying array of reproductive rights restrictions emerging from both the state and national level has activists very concerned about the immediate future of women’s health care. In a statement published June 22, Planned Parenthood called the Senate’s AHCA bill “the worst bill for women in a generation.” The sweeping nature of these measures will surely mean additional, more burdensome challenges for women trying to access reproductive care.
What are your thoughts on the new anti-reproductive rights legislation showing up around the country? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo.
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