New Louisiana Abortion Waiting Period Law Has The Most Infuriating Name Ever
When it comes to Infuriatingly Deceitful Labels Anti-Choice Lawmakers Use To Disguise Their Stonewalling Access To Healthcare As Being Beneficial To Women™, we know the usual go-tos: There’s the obvious “pro-life” label, which, as we all know by now, actually stands for “pro-force women to give birth whether they like it or not” while the movement’s supporters gleefully vote against funding for living children born into dire poverty. And now, in Louisiana, there’s mandated 72-hour waiting periods for abortion patients, gently dubbed the “Women’s Enhanced Reflection Act.” How fucking quaint.
Last Friday, Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law a bill that will triple the current 24-hour period women seeking legal abortions have to wait. The law, mirrored by states like North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah, is slated to be enacted on August 1.
In the state of Louisiana, there are only four clinics that perform abortions at this time, and according to 2009 analysis by Guttmacher Institute of 12 different published studies on required waiting periods and counseling sessions, enacting waiting periods already effectively drives women seeking abortions to travel out of state:
“Following enforcement of the [mandatory counseling and waiting period law], abortion rates fell, the number of women going out of state for an abortion rose and the proportion of second-trimester abortions increased.”
In summation, as The Guardian’s Jessica Valenti put it in November, “Waiting periods don’t stop women from getting abortions; they just make it harder and more dangerous for them.”
Worse yet, according to Janet Crepps, senior counsel in the Center for Reproductive Rights’ U.S. Legal Program, states that enact waiting periods for abortion patients tend to see spikes in self-induced abortions and use of unsafe abortion pills bought across the border at Mexican flea markets.
To Bryan Howard, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, the sole purpose of waiting periods is “to create the impression that women who are choosing to have an abortion aren’t thinking through their decision,” he told Rolling Stone in 2014, after waiting periods and counseling sessions were signed into law in Arizona. “We find that most patients are incredibly well-informed,” Howard added.
Let’s also stop infantilizing women by passing paternalistic bullshit laws like this that assume women can’t make their own decisions, or are incapable of taking the time to think their actions through unless the government forces them to.
At the end of the day, Howard couldn’t be more right. It’s time for us to trust that women know what they want to do with their bodies. And if their financial resources are limited or they’re simply not in the right place in their lives to have children, they know what they need to do with their bodies, and I doubt forced reflection is really going to change this. Frankly, it’s pastime for us to do away with the myth that having an abortion is an extremely difficult decision for all women.
For victims of rape, for women in poverty, for a mother who already has four children, for couples at risk of having children with genetic disorders, and last but not least, for women who have all the means to but simply don’t want to be mothers, having an abortion is a pretty goddamn firm and unwavering decision for them, so let’s stop shaming them by portraying abortion as a dark, difficult choice. Let’s stop shaming women who are decisive and know what they want and need from life.
And more relevant to the so-called “Women’s Enhanced Reflection Act,” let’s also stop infantilizing women by passing paternalistic bullshit laws like this that assume women can’t make their own decisions, or are incapable of taking the time to think their actions through unless the government forces them to.
As Planned Parenthood Action Fund points out, women in Louisiana seeking abortions already had it pretty rough prior to this law, faced with required “counseling” and “information” sessions and a minimum of two required doctor’s visits prior to the procedure. Let’s not even go into how unbelievably limiting that might be to a lot of women for whom it’s a struggle to take time off work and/or get childcare to attend even one appointment; Let’s not even go into the fact that some of the conditions that make it hard for them to attend the mandatory appointments might be motivating their need or desire to have an abortion.
Not only are counseling sessions incredibly biased, condescending, and altogether inaccurate and incomplete, but they’re also pretty much entirely ineffective. From the previously mentioned 2009 analysis by Guttmacher Institute:
“Neither the waiting period requirement nor the mandatory counseling has a measurable impact on reproductive outcomes, other than to postpone the timing of some abortions.”
They’re ineffective from an anti-choice perspective, yet are ultimately still a slap in the face to pro-choice supporters and, frankly, anyone who likes facts and the truth and basic science. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, most mandated counseling sessions mislead women with both what they choose not to tell them, for example, by omitting “that a legal, first-trimester abortion has a lower complication rate than any other surgery” and “the mortality risk of full-term pregnancy and childbirth is more than 20 times greater than that of a first-trimester abortion,” but also with what they do tell women:
“[W]omen are typically read a list of possible but very rare complications from the abortion procedure. Some state laws require that women be told that abortions pose risks of post-traumatic stress disorder, severe depression, and other psychological injury. …
Some biased counseling proposals would require physicians to tell their patients that abortion increases a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. This is a scientifically unsupported statement mandated not out of concern for women’s health, but in order to scare women away from choosing abortion.”
The sad reality is that the anti-choice chaos doesn’t stop at the 72-hour waiting period. The Louisiana senate and Gov. Edwards are set to hear even more anti-choice legislation, including: Bill (HB 606), which calls for blocking Medicaid access to contraception at health centers like Planned Parenthood; Bill (HB 1019, which bans abortion in nearly all cases of genetic fetal anomalies; and Bill (HB 1081), which bans abortion after the first trimester.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has specifically condemned the ban HB 1081 entails, writing that “doctors will be forced, by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients. This is unacceptable.”
And, indeed, as “unacceptable” as the mandated waiting period and all of these potential laws are, the sad reality is that what’s happening in Louisiana is frankly just another day in politicians’ war on choice.