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November 14, 2013 3:54 PM An Abortion “Supply-Side” Counterattack

By Ed Kilgore

At TNR Nora Caplan-Bricker has an illuminating report on a piece of bicameral Democratic legislation aimed at preempting state abortion restrictions that effectively erode the right to choose:

The Women’s Health Protection Act would outlaw all regulations on abortion that “are more burdensome than those restrictions imposed on medically comparable procedures, … do not significantly advance women’s health or the safety of abortion services, and … make abortion services more difficult to access.” In layman’s terms, it would make all of the nearly 200 laws impeding abortion rights that have been enacted at the state level since 2011 illegal. “Enough is enough,” said Representative Judy Chu at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “We’ve been playing defense far too long. It’s time to stop playing Whac-A-Mole in each state. We need to provide a national response in fighting this.”

That ain’t happening, of course, so long as Republicans control the House and can block Senate legislation with 41 votes. But the sponsors of the legislation clearly hope its language and talking points get picked up by pro-choice lawmakers in the states.

Passing this new bill at the state level would stave off other dangers—from the baseless specifications for how abortion clinics are built that have no purpose other than to force them to close; to the laws that give Republican legislatures control over the dosages for abortion medication, even when their demands are out of sync with doctors’ judgment; to the accusatory sonograms and waiting periods that make abortion a longer, costlier, process and amount to a psychological assault on women.

There’s another valuable purpose for this legislation, though, even in states where it’s not enacted: helping clarify that restrictions often advertised as necessary to stop late-term abortions or to protect “women’s health” are actually part of a broad-based effort to empty the right to choose of any practical meaning (the “supply-side strategy,” as anti- choicer Michael New labeled it recently at National Review; TAP’s Amelia Thomson-Deveaux has also used the term from the other side of the barricades) for many women, particularly low-income women. It’s helpful to identify tactics flowing out of this strategy for what they are, before the fact, and before it’s too late.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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