Invasive law

Attempts to legislate ideological and religious doctrine on abortion infringe on privacy rights.

May 13, 2011 

Some Republicans in the General Assembly, perhaps not challenged enough by a crushing state budget deficit and the dire consequences for many working families, now have turned their attention to an effort to put government regulations in the middle of doctor-patient relationships and to use their power to curb individual rights of privacy. Abortion rights, an inflammatory issue that divides many in this state and in this country, is again in the forefront of a debate on Jones Street. It has no place there.

GOP members of the state House call for some astonishing, government-imposed rules on women seeking abortions and on their doctors. Not only would women seeking such a procedure have to observe a 24-hour waiting period. Those women also would be required to have ultrasounds and be given a description of the fetal images.

The insulting implication is that women who choose to have abortions don't understand what they're doing - as if terminating a pregnancy were a step taken lightly. It neither should be nor is.

The best way to limit abortions is by reducing unwanted pregnancies. Yet under the bill, Planned Parenthood would be given no state grants for teen pregnancy prevention programs or other women's health programs.

Legislation of this nature also has an outsized impact on the poor, who are dependent on government assistance. Affluent people typically will continue to have ready access to abortion services, counseled by their personal physicians. Poor women, however, will be at the mercy of government regulation, whatever it is.

Regardless of one's position on abortion, the idea that the state would enforce through law a moral, ideological and religious doctrine, of any kind, is alarming at best. House members who support such ideas are following a national movement on the part of anti-abortion rights activists who are seizing an opportunity to impose their will on everyone else thanks to Republican takeovers in the U.S. House and in several state capitals.

This is dangerous, in that it treads on constitutional separation of church and state. Those who believe the government should not interfere in a woman's decision to have an abortion certainly don't want to encourage use of the procedure, but individual rights must be honored in a society where one set of religious views is not supposed to have legal primacy over another.

The proposals as they stand would also be unenforceable. Unless, of course, government representatives are going to observe the doctor-patient conversation in every examining room. Perhaps that's next on the agenda.

And Planned Parenthood, an organization that focuses on the health of all women, would be crippled. Where do young women then go for help? To their ministers, would say the proponents of this legislation.

In other words, church will take over for state. And make no mistake: that is in part what these proposals are about, forcing a religious philosophy into the law. That is a disservice to freedom-loving people, who believe themselves capable of making their own moral choices without government interference.

Apparently, some North Carolina Republicans don't believe the people are entitled to that.

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