The latest issue of Rolling Stone has a great article by Janet Reitman about the anti-choice movement’s new embrace of incremental measures to “chip away at reproductive rights in a way that will render Roe‘s protections virtually irrelevant.” We also covered this strategy in depth last year in our report, “ Chipping Away at Choice.”
Reitman discusses how anti-choice groups, most prominently Americans United For Life, are pushing incremental state-level measures that are billed as “health and safety” protections for women, but are really meant to carve away at the legal foundations of Roe in the long term and close abortion clinics and reduce access in the short term. Just this week, AUL released its annual handbook for lawmakers, which is full of legislative proposals for “TRAP” — targeted regulation of abortion providers — laws that limit access to abortion without directly challenging Roe.
One flaw in this strategy is that it relies on the anti-choice movement to radically change its talking points on abortion. AUL, for instance, rarely talks about outright criminalizing abortion. Instead, they talk about “ protecting women” from the “abortion industry” by over-regulating abortion clinics and forcing women to jump through hoops before terminating a pregnancy.
But not everyone in the movement has such message discipline. Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, a radical anti-choice group, told Reitman that he had changed his tactics to embrace TRAP laws because “ I want to win.” Last year, Phil Burress, a main proponent of an Ohio bill that required abortion providers to have “admitting privileges” to a local hospital, admitted that the goal of the bill was to put abortion clinics “out of business.” Last month, a pastor who said he was behind a similar admitting privileges bill in South Carolina, said the purpose was to regulate clinics so much that it makes abortion unaffordable to the average woman.
Now we can count Phyllis Schlafly among the anti-choice activists who haven’t fully digested AUL’s new talking points. Last week Schlafly discussed the anniversary of Roe v. Wade with AUL’s Clark Forsythe, who deftly deployed his group’s messaging about “helping women to understand the short-term and long-term risks of abortion.” But Schlafly was having none of it. Instead, she announced that she recommends states pass “admitting privileges” bills because such laws had closed clinics in Missouri and Texas and are “one of the most effective means of reducing abortion.”
Forsythe: I think the way forward is, it has to be multi-faceted. We have to continue to press in politics and elect the right Senate, elect the right president. We have to continue to work through public policy in the states. We have to continue to educate about the impact on the unborn child from abortion, but as well the impact on women. And I think moving forward, getting the public to understand, helping women to understand the short-term and long-term risks of abortion based upon a growing body of international data, international medical data, is key toward turning around public opinion and influencing the Supreme Court.
Schlafly: And we do recommend the state law that says nobody can do an abortion unless he has hospital privileges within 30 miles – that’s about an hour’s drive. And that’s closed the biggest abortion clinic in Missouri and it’s closed about 30 in Texas, and it’s one of the most effective means of reducing abortion.