Thursday, February 21, 2013

Teresa Tolbert: First they came for women’s reproductive rights

  How do you decimate the rights of women in Alabama? You do it one bill at a time.

  Tuesday women all over this state were busy, as we are most days going about our everyday lives. Home, kids, work… for most of us it’s a continuous balancing act just to make it through the week. Who has time to worry about what some legislators in Montgomery are doing when we all lead such busy lives? But while we were all distracted Tuesday with the important tasks we do every day, our legislators were busy too — busy stripping away our rights one bill at a time.

  HB57, the bill to put excessive restrictions on women’s health clinics that no other health-related clinic has to follow, has passed the Alabama House and is on its way to the Senate for debate. This bill will have the effect of shutting down all five women’s clinics in Alabama. These are clinics that serve the less fortunate women of our state by providing safe access counseling, birth control, cancer prevention, treatment for STD’s and family planning services. Abortions constitute less than 5% of what they do.

  If this bill were about protecting women, as the sponsor Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R-Indian Springs) has stated, then all medical clinics in the state would be required to meet the same standards. There are numerous outpatient surgeries performed in clinics; invasive skin cancers and tumors removed by surgery, vasectomies, colon exams, oral surgery (performed with far more risk), stent insertion, and many more. No other clinics, offices, surgical centers, or even hospitals that perform equally invasive procedures or far more invasive procedures are subject to these regulations.

  HB108 (Religious Liberty Act) passed as well which will give employers the right to deny women in Alabama contraception coverage if a company’ shareholders object to birth control on religious grounds. This means that if your employer files for a religious exemption, you could be in the position of having to make a case to your boss to cover birth control that is prescribed for medical reasons. They will not have to cover birth control for contraceptive purposes.

  In addition to the bills referenced above, Alabama politicians are trying to push a “Personhood” bill (SB205). The law of unintended consequences should temper our resolve when tinkering with laws impacting people’s lives. When you define a person at the moment of conception, then contraceptives like the pill and IUDs (which prevent the egg from implanting in the uterus) are tantamount to murder weapons. Only condoms would likely be allowed since they intervene before the fertilization process. Personhood legislation would also have many other unintended consequences such as making in vitro fertilization illegal, preventing many women from being able to become pregnant.

  Alabama women deserve better than to have politicians “play doctor” and take away our ability to make personal, private medical decisions for ourselves. Women should have the power and the legal right to make their own reproductive decisions.

  These bills will be coming up for debate and a potential vote in the Senate very soon. I encourage each of you to call your Senator – full listing with numbers at this link - and ask him or her to please vote no. Ask your Senator to trust women.  Do it for your mother, your sister, your daughter, your aunt. Do it for any woman you love.

  About the author: Activist Teresa Tolbert writes from Brooks, Alabama:

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