Women’s Reproductive Freedom Is Under Attack

written by Gloria Tatum

State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) and his Republican allies under the Gold Dome passed HB 481, an oppressive abortion ban that gives fertilized eggs personhood status with legal rights and takes reproductive rights away from women.  

Click to access 187013.pdf

This gang of misogynous politicians wants to take women back to the good old days when abortions were illegal and women died getting illegal abortions. 

 It was a time when father was head of the house, and mother stayed at home with the kids, and extreme sexual stereotypes were considered the norm.  

 A time when women were forced to give birth against their will and now Rep. Setzler and his ilk plan to force women, once again, to have no choice about their reproductive rights. 

It will be very difficult to force women back into that world of no reproductive choices, especially young women between the ages of 18 to 29 who support pro-choice on abortion by 62 percent, according to a Gallop poll. 

Sixty percent of Americans think abortion should be legal the first three months of pregnancy, and 64 percent does not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v.Wade, and only 21 percent think abortions should be illegal, according to a 2018 Gallup survey.

Rep. Setzler believes and has said many times that a heartbeat can be heard between six to eight weeks gestation.  However, facts do matter and physicians who testified in Senate Committee Hearings said that is not true because at six weeks there is no heart to beat.  

Other physicians claim that even with a transvaginal ultrasound device you may not be able to hear a heartbeat at nine or ten weeks gestation.

Still, Setzler assured the Senate Committee that “HB 481 is anchored in solid science and law.”

But dozens of physicians testified against HB 481 and said the bill had scientific inaccuracies, was filled with falsehoods and misinformation, imposes moral and religious beliefs on women, seeks to redefine medical terminology and takes the decision making power away from women and doctors and puts it in the hands of the government.

In spite of overwhelming evidence that the bill was scientifically and legally unsound, the Republican majority in the General Assembly passed this oppressive and unconstitutional bill and Governor Brian Kemp signed it into law. 

The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and other groups have filed a federal lawsuit calling the law unconstitutional.

If the courts don’t strike it down, it will become law in Georgia on January 1, 2020.

Recently at a Town Hall Meeting in Marietta Rep. Setzler answered questions about his bill the”Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act” aka the “Heartbeat Bill.”

At that meeting, Setzler emphasized that he believes that life begins at conception and that is when he also believes legal protection should begin for a fertilized egg.  If he had his way, abortions would be illegal at the moment of conception. 

Not ever politician shares Setzler’s opinion of women that fertilized eggs should have more rights and protection than women. Kyle Rinaudo is running for Setzler seat in the State House in 2020 and he is pro-choice.

“HB 481 is about limiting women’s rights and moving our state backwards. As a millennial invested in the future of this state, I want the Georgia of the 21st Century to support women’s equality and create a more equitable, prosperous future for all of us. Limiting those rights with reproductive policy that belongs in the 1950s doesn’t do any good for anyone,” Kyle Rinaudo, tells Streets of Atlanta. 

A woman asks Setzler if it was unfair for men to make laws about women’s bodies and health.  

“This bill is about two people.  The basic right to life of a living distinct human being (in utero) is not just an issue of a women’s health this is an issue of human rights.  This is a human rights issue that deals with two people,” Setzler answered. 

Setzler has a right to his religious beliefs, as do all pro-life advocates, but they don’t have a right to force their beliefs on others and set up a legal system of crime and punishment that is controlled by personal religious beliefs. 

Today, there are over three hundred different religions and denominations in the United States but extreme far-right religious groups and politicians want the Supreme Court to give preferential treatment to their religious beliefs and overturn Roe v. Wade.

Our founding fathers knew that the best way to protect religious liberty (for all religions) was to keep the government out of the religion business.   So they created the First Amendment to guarantee the separation of church and state. 

The majority of religious institutions support legal abortions in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center.   They found Jewish support for abortion 83%, Buddhist 82%, Hindu 68%, Mainline Protestant 60%, Black Protestant 52%, Muslin 55%, Catholic 48%, and Evangelical Protestant 33%.

Setzler claims that his bill protects women from prosecution if they have an illegal abortion or a miscarriage.  

He explained that the Georgia criminal law related to abortion does not change. The LIFE Act simply moves the timeline from 22 weeks to 6 weeks gestation or when a doctor can hear a heartbeat. 

In Georgia, abortion on request is legal the first 12 weeks only.    Between 12 weeks to 22 weeks abortions are performed only on medical grounds under certain conditions established by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs.  

“The abortion provider is subject to criminal responsibility (one to ten years in prison). The women are not subject to criminal responsibility, and that has been further substantiated in the courts,” Setzler said.

The question of whether a woman will be prosecuted for receiving an abortion or having a miscarriage will have to be answered in a court of law by a judge since it is unclear and confusing in the bill.  Lawyers are reluctant to weigh in on this because of pending lawsuits.

If a woman naturally miscarries, she will not be liable under the Act.   But the bill criminalizes abortions and a woman who miscarries could be prosecuted and would have to prove that she had a naturally occurring miscarriage,” Deborah Dinner, Associate Professor, Emory Law School said on 11 Alive. 

The LIFE Act also provided that “health records shall be available to the district attorney of the judicial circuit in which the hospital or health facility is located and the act of abortion occurs or the women upon whom an abortion is performed resides.”   

This is another area of the Act that a judge will need to decide if it is legal to turn a person’s confidential health records over to a district attorney. 

The most asinine and nonsensical part of the LIFE Act states that any women who receive an abortion “may recover in a civil action from the person who engaged in such violation all damages available to her under Georgia law for any torts.”   It begs for clarification.

This sentence makes me feel like I have fallen down a rabbit hole where up is down and down is up.  

But back to the town hall questions.

“Programs like Planned Parenthood helps with oral contraceptives, free condoms, preventative maintenance for individuals from low-income households who can not afford insurance that covers certain services.    Why should we defund sex education, birth control education, and take away resource to prevent pregnancies,” a woman asks Setzler.    

Setzler answers this question by first talking about abstinence education to prevent pregnancy.  

Abstinence-only education programs don’t succeed in reducing rates of teen pregnancies or STDs, according to public health findings.

Then Setzler had nothing but disdain for Planned Parenthood (PP) who he claimed made all their money from abortions. 

“When we think about which providers we are going to fund PP, who makes their money from abortion, they don’t make their money from counseling or giving out birth control pills.  They make money by tearing out children from their mothers,” Setzler said.   

Ed Setzler continues to try to stigmatize the subject of abortion and shame anyone who provides or receives abortion. We won’t take the bait. We are proud to provide Georgians with the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion, and the majority of Georgians agree that it should remain a safe, legal procedure. Representative Setzler ignored those constituents when he sponsored the six-week abortion ban and we look forward to holding him accountable in the next election,” Barbara Ann Luttrell, Vice President External Affairs, Planned Parenthood Southeast, tells Streets of Atlanta.

Another man countered, “Planned Parenthood received $246 million from grants and donations.”  He asked Setzler, “Where did you get your information that all of Planned Parenthood’s money come from abortion?” 

The facts show that PP receives $528 million in government funding which is over 40% of their total $1.3 billion in revenue for the year.   About 75% of federal funding to PP comes from Medicaid, a health care program for low-income people and Title X a federal family planning program, according to NPR.

In a press release, Faith & Freedom Coalition (FFC) Executive Director Tim Head said that “The Trump administration has delivered another pro-life promise by forcing Planned Parenthood to forgo federal Title X grants.”    

Title X provides free and low-cost birth control to over four million low-income women which prevent over one million unintended pregnancy each year and therefore reduces the need for an abortion.   

The LIFE Act will hurt poor women the most because rich women will always be able to afford birth control pills, birth control devices, and get an illegal abortion in a private setting, or a legal abortion in another state or country.  

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the United States will not be a good place for many women to live, especially poor women, young women, or women of color.

 The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) would have banned discrimination based on sex and given women equal legal protections.  It passed Congress in 1972 but was not ratified by three-fourths of the states. Now women find themselves in a dangerous situation where fertilized eggs may have more legal protections than women.

“The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in 1992. 

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