Women shouldn’t be second-class citizens

By Crista Worthy

I felt like a second-class citizen when the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion last summer.

After a handful of religious men (and one woman, Amy Coney Barrett) stripped women of the 49-year-old right to decide what to do with their own bodies, it was clear: If you were a woman, your body was no longer your own.

Ironically, in Idaho where I live, the abortion controversy is making it harder for women to have the babies they want. This year the Idaho Legislature defunded research into preventing maternal deaths, and the state also chose not to extend its postpartum Medicaid coverage.

Then in March, the only hospital in the northern Idaho city of Sandpoint announced it would no longer provide obstetrical services. Patients must now drive 46 miles for labor and delivery care. Why? Physicians were leaving the state, the hospital board explained, and recruiting replacements would be “extraordinarily difficult.” 

The board also cited the Idaho Legislature, which had passed bills to criminalize physicians for doing nothing more than providing nationally recognized “standards of care.”

In Idaho, once evidence of a heartbeat is detected in a fetus, abortion is illegal — except in documented instances of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life. A doctor I interviewed told me about a patient in her late second trimester of pregnancy. The fetus was severely malformed and would not survive, she said, and “standard of care” called for aborting this fetus. But Idaho law meant it had to die inside the mother.

Idaho legislators also say that bringing a minor across state lines for an abortion is “trafficking.” The hysteria continues with a new law that allows family members and the father of an aborted fetus to file civil lawsuits against doctors.

There’s also the legal push in courtrooms to bar mifepristone pills that induce safe early abortions. This spring, U.S. Solicitor Gen. Elizabeth Prelogar sent an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the justices to block lower court rulings that had banned the drug.

She noted that the abortion pills have a safety record of more than 20 years, and no federal judge had ever overruled the FDA’s judgment about the safety of a drug. In April, the high court ruled that access to mifepristone may continue while litigants seek to overturn FDA approval.

Another drug used along with mifepristone, misoprostol, has many uses in reproductive health. It’s on the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines. Yet this year, Wyoming banned the use of any medication, including misoprostol, that could be used for abortions.

Days before the law was to take effect, Teton County Judge Melissa Owens blocked it, pending the outcome of a lawsuit. The litigants are also suing to stop Wyoming’s near-total abortion ban, enacted in March. Judge Owens suspended that ban as well and combined the two lawsuits.

Federal law, which requires doctors to treat patients in emergency situations, trumps state law. But a federal investigation reported by the Associated Press, found that two hospitals — Freeman Health System in Joplin, Missouri, and University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City — violated federal law when they refused to provide an emergency abortion to a pregnant woman who was experiencing premature labor.

Doctors said the fetus would not survive and her health was at serious risk, yet they would not abort the fetus because a heartbeat was detected.

But when you look at the ballot box, abortion has fared well, especially in California, Vermont and Michigan, where voters added the right to abortion to their constitutions. A pro-choice judicial candidate won in a landslide in Wisconsin, and the states of Kansas, Kentucky and, most recently, Ohio, saw voters reject measures that could have led to bans.

Then this July 13, the FDA approved Opill, the first daily oral contraceptive available for use in the United States without a prescription. If that option had been available to me as a teen in the 1970s, I would not have had to sneak off for an abortion at age 16.

One thing’s for sure: if men got pregnant, none of this would be happening.

Crista Worthy is a contributor to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation in the West. She writes in Idaho.

Idaho State Capitol, Wikimedia commons

This column was published in the following newspapers:

08/28/2023 Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Grand Junction CO
08/29/2023 Rock Springs Rocket Miner Rock Springs WY
08/29/2023 Tucson Star Tucson AZ
08/29/2023 Vail Daily Vail CO
08/30/2023 Aspen Daily News Aspen CO
08/30/2023 Glenwood Post Independent Glenwood Springs CO
09/01/2023 Carlsbad Current-Argus Carsbad NM
09/01/2023 Yahoo sunnyvale ca
09/01/2023 Wyoming Tribune Eagle Cheyenne WY
09/03/2023 KVNF Radio Paonia CO
09/01/2023 Park Record Park City UT
09/05/2023 Aspen Times Aspen CO
09/01/2023 Tucson Star Tucson AZ
08/31/2023 Montrose Daily Press Montrose CO
08/30/2023 Moab Times Independent Moab UT
08/30/2023 Camus-Washougal Post Record Camus WA
09/01/2023 Alamogordo Daily News Alamogordo NM
08/29/2023 Bandon Western World Bandon OR
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Not a Subject I have the courage to broach, but… – “Summer is the season of inferior sledding” – Inuit proverb
10 months ago

[…] Women shouldn’t be second-class citizens […]

Christine Mallaband-Brown
10 months ago

Watching from the UK I think the decision to overturn abortion rights is stupid and shortsighted.

7 months ago

Perhaps you should be watching the crumbling of your once great nation as peurile liberal/progressive policies and government control are imposed.

Becca Lawton
10 months ago

Excellent summation, Crista, and your last sentence is spot on.

L Skeptic
10 months ago

The reason we have an anti-abortion movement has nothing to do with a debate over “when life begins”. The reason we have the anti-abortion movement is the Holocaust. Following the Holocaust, Christian preachers could no longer rail against “Jesus Killers” from the pulpit to rile up the congregation and boost collections. They needed a new demon and abortion became that demon. 

Our cemeteries are not full of miscarriage remains. The fact is no major religion has ever considered a failed pregnancy a “death”. The majority of all conceptions, up to 70% according to some studies fail — most before the woman ever knew she was pregnant. Abortion is an invented issue to increase the coffers of religions and it has worked wondrously in this regard. There is nothing logical about why some Christians have become so focused on abortion until you follow the money. This issue is a replacement for Jews, for Witches and the pantheon of demons found in the history of Christianity.

Until people understand where this craziness came from and why has persisted we are going to have a hard time getting past it.

Apple Plouton
8 months ago
Reply to  L Skeptic

Actually, if folks were less childish, less emotional and would instead look at the science and pragmatically consider “when life begins” and agree on something, it might pave the way for a sensible standard.

P Janes
4 months ago

Sorry to be such a late entry into this one. I was a little surprised when I read this line:

“when the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion last summer.”

There has never been a Constitutional right to abortion. What Roe vs Wade did was not legalize abortion, it protected our right to doctor/patient confidentiality. The Dallas prosecutor was going to prosecute a woman whose real name I will not mention but was represented by the Roe in this decision, and her argument was that all court records are a matter of public record and that if she were prosecuted, it would violate that doctor/patient confidentiality. Back then, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed and Roe was not prosecuted. What it protected was the right of a patient to obtain medical treatment deemed necessary by a physician for the health of the person seeking that treatment – they could not be prosecuted for seeking and getting that treatment. BUT, there was never a reverse protection for doctors performing the procedures. There has always been the option for state legislators to write laws that would make prosecution of the doctor performing the procedure legal. They just never did it until recently. If you notice, the woman seeking and getting the procedure is still not being prosecuted in any of the laws being enacted out there so, basically, nothing has really changed other than the removal of Roe vs Wade emboldening state legislators to enact these laws. There is a simple solution to that problem. Any legislator who votes for such a law can easily be removed from that office in the next election. If you think these laws are bad for our country, help vote that buttheads out of office.

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