From The Root–It started with H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Introduced in late January by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the bill would prevent tax benefits for health care plans that cover abortion and also change language in the Hyde Amendment that allows government funding for abortion in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the pregnant woman’s life.

Under this new legislation, as originally presented, the rape exemption would be limited to so-called forcible rape. Yet after concerted pushback by pro-choice advocates — outraged that it would exclude coverage for women who say no without physically fighting off the assailant, women who are drugged or minors who are victims of statutory rape — the phrase “forcible rape” was later stripped from the bill.

Not that the controversy has deterred the new House Republican majority. In the weeks since H.R. 3’s debut, Congress has introduced a veritable roster of abortion legislation:

* There’s Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts’ newly reintroduced Protect Life Act, which both forbids federal abortion funding in the 2010 health care reform law and lets hospitals refuse to perform any abortions, including emergency procedures needed to save the lives of pregnant women.

* The Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, sponsored by Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, would ban federal dollars from going to any organization that provides abortion services.

* Rep. Rand Paul of Kentucky co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, a bill that he predicts would “reverseRoe v. Wade without the need for a constitutional amendment” by declaring fetuses to be legal persons protected under the 14th Amendment, and thus granted all the rights of a person.

House Democrats have pushed back, starting with a press conference last week to avow their rejection of H.R. 3. “The Republicans came to power in Congress saying they were going to focus on job creation and economic growth, but the introduction of this bill reveals their obsession with pushing an extreme social agenda that further restricts the right of women to access health services, including abortions, and have a say over their own bodies,” California Rep. Maxine Waters said at the presser before concluding, “If it’s a fight the Republicans want, then it’s a fight we’ll give them.”

Looking Beyond Life and Choice

Pro-lifers are hoping that African Americans will take up their side of the battle. According to a 2009 Pew Research Center survey (pdf), 40 percent of African Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. From former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum expressing amazement in January that a black man (President Barack Obama) could ever be pro-choice, to billboard campaigns that liken abortion to black genocide, African Americans are now positioned at the center of the rekindled debate.

“I am encouraged by the congressional effort to not only reduce the number of abortions in America but to end abortion in America,” La Verne Tolbert, a former Planned Parenthood board member who is now a pro-life advocate, told The Root.

Citing the disproportionate number of abortions among black women — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women have 36.4 percent of all abortions, even though blacks make up 13 percent of the population — as well as her own experience in Planned Parenthood observing family-planning units established in black communities, Tolbert says that African Americans are targeted for abortion. “Black people, ideologically, are very conservative,” she says. “But it’s not a conservative political agenda to want to protect innocent life. It’s a human agenda.”

La’Tasha Mayes, executive director of the activist group New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice, says that frequent descriptions of African Americans as conservative and pro-life are an overgeneralization. She argues that it’s time the country moved beyond the pro-life versus pro-choice binary of the abortion debate.

“It’s a limiting concept that says the choices that black women make are black and white. It’s not that simple,” Mayes told The Root, adding that the broader reproductive-justice movement — for access to health insurance, family-planning services and abortion — includes women with nuanced positions who identify as both pro-life and pro-choice.

“I’ve learned that it’s about people’s individual experiences,” she says. “Regardless of her politics and religion, if a woman does not want to have a child, she will not have a child. But the message from opponents of abortion is that we can’t be trusted to make these decisions for ourselves and our families. They want to shame black women for the choices we have to make, mostly out of survival.”

(continue reading @ The Root)

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  • misu

    why not just limit the amount of abortions a person can have.. i’m not for being in anyone’s business or judging them but i’m so tired of hearing about this.. both girls and boys and women and men need to use some type of contraceptive so they don’t have to worry about giving life and terminating one..

    • isolde

      Limiting the amount of abortions a woman can have is being in someone’s else’s business, and as for you being tired of hearing about this . . . oh well.

      La’Tasha Mayes sums this issue up very well when she says,

      “I’ve learned that it’s about people’s individual experiences. Regardless of her politics and religion, if a woman does not want to have a child, she will not have a child. But the message from opponents of abortion is that we can’t be trusted to make these decisions for ourselves and our families. They want to shame black women for the choices we have to make, mostly out of survival.”

    • dee.coll

      I agree with Isolde, Ms Mayes well articulated the struggles black women face when it comes to choosing to have an abortion.

      Speaking as a black woman, who has never had an abortion, i feel that I can say emphatically that no woman would readily and easily choose an to have an abortion. She does so with a very heavy heart. but its only because she believes it is whats right for her and her family. Some people want to frame the debate as “all these promicious blackies killing babies then having more sex different” thats is simply not the case.

      Abortion is a hard choice for any woman to make and many diffcult circumstances often preclude this choice, but it is one that should always remain hers. this new legislation sekks to limit choice and it will simply push women to make even more hazardous ones.

  • ash

    Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked

    • Emelyne

      That is the truth!

  • I understand the philosophical and theological dichotomy between those that are for abortion and those against it. However, when it comes to serving the people, specifically women, don’t our Congressmen have a moral responsibility to set aside their own personal beliefs for what they believe will be the best for their constituents and their country. Don’t our Congress-men have a responsibility to take care of the women that may face a similar fate as the fictional story above? Furthermore, don’t we all have a national responsibility to accept the natural progression of our country’s view and acceptance of issues once thought taboo. Should we not resolve that which some will never understand and just move forward instead of fighting old battles.

  • this is so frightening to me, and i honestly dont understand the thought process behind this type of legislation. i agree with all of the comments aboveespecially the one that says republicans seem to be playing both sides of the field, as they want the government to be able to force you to have the baby but dont want to help provide for the unwanted child. the legislation is equal to forcible rape, if you ask me: forcing women to do something with their bodies that they do NOT want to do