Testifying Fetuses and the Denial of Free Speech

BlogHer Original Post

I've written a lot about abortion and reproductive rights lately, but that's only because in their zeal to fix the economy, certain legislators have focused on curtailing abortion and reproductive rights since keeping women pregnant and in the home will open new jobs for men. I guess. Whatever the case is, the latest series of ludicrous bills seem to touch on the right to free speech. If you are a person who agrees that abortion should be illegal, you can say whatever you want, even if you are not a sentient being who can speak. However, those of us who feel that women should decide for themselves whether or not they will carry a pregnancy to term are increasingly being silenced.

Let's start in Oklahoma, a state recently selected by Americans United for Life as the most "pro-life" state in the US. In passing several bills to encourage women to not have abortions through misinformation and coercion, I think we can all be proud at their high standards. The latest law allows doctors to lie to women about the status of their pregnancy if they think the woman would have an abortion and patients cannot sue them for withholding information or knowingly presenting information that is not true. Sonograms are required whether the patient wants one or not, and she is forced to look at it and discuss the image based on a script.

In Texas, like its neighbor, medical staff are forced to show women sonograms and describe everything they see. Fortunately, there is a clause that allows women to "avert their eyes." How generous and compassionate!

In South Dakota, not only was a bill introduced to make killing an abortion provider "justifiable homicide" (i.e. - legal), but medical staff must read a special script to women about the dangers of abortions. The script contains no actual, scientific information, but doctors have no choice. After hearing this script, women must undergo "counseling" at an anti-choice clinic, where they will be told they should not have the abortion under any circumstances, and then wait 72 hours before they can have an abortion if they have not been bullied out of it or run out of money by then.

In Ohio, two fetuses were granted the right to testify for a bill prohibiting abortion once a heartbeat is detected. Despite their lack of sentience or ability to speak, they had the right to be heard. The 15-week-old fetus followed the script, but the "heartbeat in a fetus of nine weeks gestation was difficult to detect." Possibly because it is an embryo and resented bring forced to do someone else's bidding? I don't know. It should probably be prohibited from testifying in the future, since it did not "say" what the anti-choice faction wanted to hear. In any event, if a fetus has the right to free speech, then we should not deny it the right to vote or own property or test for a driver's license or whatever else we allow adults as long as it agrees with anti-choice advocates.

It must be nice to have freedom of speech while denying your opponents the opportunity to say anything to reflect their views. What is truly HILARIOUS is what's going on in New York City: the City Council passed a law saying that "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPC) cannot lie about their services. Clinics must state upfront if they have licensed medical staff (most don't, but dress the volunteers who staff the office in scrubs and give them medical charts and sonogram machines so it seems like they do) and whether they refer patients for birth control services or abortions (none do). As part of a consumer protection bill, even anti-choice councilmembers approved it. That's because the staff can say whatever they want otherwise. (For example, if they want to tell a woman that she will absolutely get breast cancer because on abortion, they can, even though there is no scientific evidence for this. They just can't pretend to be a doctor or nurse while presenting that information.)

So what do you think happened? The CPC folks are yelling that their right to completely deceive people is being taken away. Chris Slattery, who founded a CPC and believes that he has the right to pretend to be a qualified expert when he is not, is very upset.

“I am going to have to read a government script every time a girl approaches us,” Mr. Slattery told The New York Times. “It’s government-regulated speech, which is content- and viewpoint-targeted. It is unconstitutional because it does not apply to abortion facilities. It only applies to us because of our viewpoint on abortion.”

(Except of course that there is absolutely no script at all and other clinics are still subject to licensing standards, but whatever.)

HILARIOUS, right? He can say whatever he wants as long as he doesn't claim that he's a doctor or that he'll refer someone to other services when he has no intention of doing so, but his right to mislead people is infringed upon while all over the country, real doctors are being gagged from sharing their professional opinions and insights. If only this maniac knew what it really was like to be censored for your viewpoint on abortion. I have never encountered a group of people so intent on taking away other people's rights to free speech while loudly screaming in my face that they have the right to force me to listen to them and if I don't, I am violating their right to free speech. Here's what I have to say to that: STFU.

The consequences of this insanity, however, is downright scary. The loss of free speech and the ability to share accurate information with people in need costs lives - the lives of women and their families. These roadblocks make people spend money they don't have while they go from counselor to counselor, sit around waiting for days, or undergo unnecessary medical tests to "prove" that they are demented baby killers. Every dollar spent on this farce is a dollar that a woman doesn't have for utilities, shelter, food, child care, medicine, transportation or other basic needs. Every delay forces a woman to have a later termination, which costs more and is riskier.

This repeal of true freedom of speech is more dangerous than just abortion and reproductive rights. It's a slippery slope. Who knows what we will be banned from saying next?

Suzanne also blogs at CUSS and Other Rants and is the author of Off the Beaten (Subway) Track.

Credit Image: © Pete Marovich/ZUMAPRESS.com

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