Review: ‘Crow After Roe’ Anti-Abortion Laws Discriminate

In a massive lobbying campaign, pro-life groups sent thousands of heart-shaped balloons to the Ohio statehouse with a campaign of “Have a heart. Pass the Heartbeat Bill.” To support a ban on abortions when a fetal heartbeat could be detected, the advocates sent 2,000 roses to the senate, heart-shaped cookies and 50 children delivering gifts of stuffed bears with recorded heartbeats.

But when the excited rallying of anti-abortion campaigns fade, long after the balloons and slogans lose their hot air, women are left to manage lifelong consequences of unplanned pregnancies.

Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo’s book, “Crow After Roe” provides a comprehensive, factual account of how women have lost and continue to lose access to safe and legal abortions. Forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, abortions for poor and underprivileged women have become exceedingly difficult to obtain.

Pro-life groups will take pregnant women into “crisis pregnancy centers” and approve of public funding for childbirth. But how long will these advocates support these women? When an abortion is prevented, and an infant with lifelong medical needs is born, do these vocal right-to-lifers and politicians bear any responsibilities? The Republican party adopted a pro-life platform, which affects those in poverty. Yet it criticizes public support in healthcare, education, food and housing as “entitlements.” 

Conservative state politicians elected in 2010 boldly ramped up local anti-abortion laws. And at the Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood v. Casey shifted the balance from a woman’s right to control her body to the state’s interest in protecting a fetus. Under the Casey ruling, states could restrict abortions, as long as those laws did not impose an “undue burden” on the right to choose abortion. Following Casey, anti-choice politicians furthered laws, making abortions as inaccessible as possible. However, they play a semantic game, arguing the inconveniences do not pose an “undue burden” – when such burdens are the laws’ exact intent.


Cruel and Misleading Laws

The book covers the aggressive anti-abortion efforts in the battleground states of Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Kansas, Mississippi, Arizona and the District of Columbia. 

The legislation is at times inaccurate and misleading. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act bans abortions before 20 weeks. However the Journal of American Medical Association reviewed several studies and concluded fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.

Other laws are cruel. Texas Observer reporter, Carolyn Jones, learned her 20-week fetus was unlikely to survive past birth. She chose to end her pregnancy and was forced to submit to a mandatory ultrasound. Under Texas law, the doctor was forced to describe the fetus to her in detail prior to the abortion.

The state laws block abortions by intentionally imposing stressful hardships upon poor and struggling people. Patients must take off work and often travel far distances to get to the limited abortion clinics. Required waiting periods and return visits rack up lodging bills and missed days from work. The ineligibility of Medicaid funds or other public assistance often puts abortion expenses out of reach.  Additional laws create obstacles for abortion care providers. Requiring hospital admittance procedures or making laws so vague doctors fear losing their licenses has successfully driven out and created a shortage of abortion care providers.

 Experts emphasize these laws disproportionately affect poor, minority communities.  Willie Parker, an OB-GYN, based in D.C., provides services at Mississippi’s sole public abortion facility. As an African American originally from the South, he noted the state has the country’s highest poverty rates: 20 percent for the state in general and 48 percent for African Americans.

 “This is the context in which African American women are experiencing unplanned, unwanted pregnancies and it means that, if that clinic closes, a large proportion of women affected are black and poor,” said Parker.

 Supreme Court justices Brennan, Marshall and Blackmun dissented when the high court approved denial of federal funding of abortions under the Hyde Amendment. They said this discouraged poor women from exercising their rights under Roe v. Wade. In a separate dissent, Marshall described this as the equivalent of denying legal abortions.

The book emphasizes how blocked funding and access create a second class of healthcare. And this doesn’t stop abortion. It only prevents safe and legal abortions for women without means.


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