As presented at the Kentucky Capitol earlier this week, House Bill 149 would defund organizations that provide abortions, information about abortions or counseling for people who have received abortions. This would not only target groups such as Planned Parenthood, but also counselors and some clergy members.
This bill is not the first piece of anti-abortion legislation of 2017, but merely another attack on the women in Kentucky.
Governor Matt Bevin signed two new abortion bills on Jan. 9. The first requires all women who seek an abortion to first get an ultrasound, however, it does allow for women to look away or lower the volume of the heartbeat. The second bill does not allow abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy; it permits abortions for women in medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on Jan. 9 that would block the first requirement of the bill. The ACLU said that the legal document violates privacy and basic principles of the first amendment. According to the lawsuit, the law “compels women to listen to this government-mandated speech while lying captive on the examination table.” The lawsuit is still in progress.
These laws have shocked women and abortion rights activists all over the state, as they should. They should be outraged that there are bills in progress to unjustly deprive them of their rights. Everyone should be upset about them because women’s rights are human rights. The government should not have the ability to make decisions for women or to restrict their health care.
Meghan Sharma (11, HSU) is a member of the Planned Parenthood Teen Council, and opposes the bills.
“My initial reaction was fear,” Sharma said, “I think the fact that we still stigmatize abortion in the twenty-first century is an attack on women’s rights.”
Sharma believes that education may reduce the stigma surrounding abortion in the future.
“Since I’m on the Planned Parenthood Teen Council, I try to emphasize education and I think that these bills are a reflection of the spread of misinformation and the effect that it can have on people making decisions at high levels of leadership,” Sharma said.
Planned Parenthood provides much more to women than just abortions. In fact, only about three percent of all Planned Parenthood services are abortions. They give access to birth control, STD testing and other reproductive healthcare, all at little to no cost for most people. House Bill 149 should not become legislation because it would ultimately defund Planned Parenthood and the many essential services it offers.
Even people who oppose abortion should not support these bills because they would affect women much more than legislators anticipate. One can believe abortion is morally wrong, but they should still respect a woman’s choice and support her access to safe health care, as Planned Parenthood offers.
Moreover, defunding people like counselors (including ones in public schools) and clergy, as outlined in SB 8 and HB 149, would deplete useful resources. Women should have the information available to them so they can make their own decisions. They should also be able to receive adequate counseling throughout the process. These groups also serve other important purposes and aid people through all kinds of issues.
When potential legislation threatens civil liberties, it is more than a moral debate over whether abortion is “right” or “wrong.”