Here's the next sneaky tactic to reduce access to reproductive health care

Jan 18, 2017 at 11:24 a.m. ET
Image: VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm/Getty Images

Yesterday, we learned that the number of abortions in the United States has fallen to the lowest levels since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. While that can be attributed to expanding reproductive health care and the availability of contraception under Obamacare, the authors of the report also point to the fact that a reduction in abortions could be a product of decreasing accessibility to clinics in certain parts of the country.

More: U.S. abortion rates at lowest since Roe v. Wade

But Republicans aren’t stopping there. Now, Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow people to sue their doctors for emotional distress or physical injury following an abortion procedure.

True to form, Sen. Mark Chelgren — the Republican sponsor of the bill — claims that the aim of the legislation is to protect women.

Specifically, the bill would allow patients to file a civil lawsuit against the doctor who performed the abortion if she suffers from any emotional distress because of the doctor’s “negligence or failure to obtain informed consent prior to performance of the abortion.” Women could file the suit at any point in their lives, but the bill would not apply to situations where an abortion is performed in a medical emergency.

More: Last night's Senate Obamacare repeal vote was terrible for women

So here’s the problem: The goal of this bill is clearly not to protect women, but to try to utilize existing medical malpractice provisions to make it even harder for physicians to obtain medical liability insurance and scare them out of performing abortions — which could end up being a source of costly civil lawsuits even in cases in which there was no medical error. Et voilà — fewer doctors opting to perform abortions would then further limit access to abortions for people in Iowa.

Democratic Sen. Nate Boulton expressed several concerns with the bill, among them the fact that not having a statute of limitations in terms of medical liability would be a “major change to the landscape in Iowa.”

Chelgren, on the other hand, is on a mission to make sure that women who deliberately make the informed decision to seek abortions are not taken advantage of by doctors who are doing their job.

More: No, Republicans: Defunding Planned Parenthood definitely will not save money

“It’s a question of whether or not somebody who in good, healthy mind is sold a bill of goods that turns out to be something that it’s not,” Chelgren told the Iowa Globe Gazette, making legal, medical abortion procedures sound like snake oil peddled by a fake doctor in a 19th century traveling medicine show.

So, uterus-havers, we need to be on top of this. Repealing Obamacare and provisions for access to contraception are obvious examples of the erosion of or our access to health care, but it’s likely that Republicans will have other sneaky ways like this Iowa bill to try to limit our existing rights through less conventional means.

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