Quick Hit: What the language in abortion laws really means

Buzzfeed has a pretty great breakdown of the language and nuance behind the restrictive policy and rules that govern your ability to seek a safe and legal abortion in the United States.

Natasha Vargas Cooper explains what things like “Mandatory Counseling” and “Cooling Off Period” sound like to a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy and illustrates the reality that unnecessary medical procedures–like transvaginal ultrasounds–are meant to shame patients. Vargas Cooper writes that in response to the question, “Why are you terminating this pregnancy?” she feared giving the wrong answer to the counselor at the mandatory counseling session. She notes:

I wanted to say, “Because I want to.” But I was afraid I would be denied the procedure. I lied and said I was broke and couldn’t raise a child. This seem to satisfy the Planned Parenthood worker.
Thirty-five states do not allow a woman to undergo an abortion unless she has been “counseled.” The substance of these “counseling sessions” runs the gamut from informing the woman about the purported link between abortion and breast cancer (5 states), the ability of a fetus to feel pain (12 states), long-term mental health consequences of abortion (8 states), or that personhood begins at conception (5 states). In several states, a counseling session must be done in person, at the facility, 24 hours before the procedure, meaning at least two trips the facility must be made.

A three-year study of over 300 women, conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, found the 24-hour waiting period had a negative emotional impact on 31 percent of woman of women surveyed. Nearly half of the women reported additional costs caused by the waiting period — $141 on average — for extra transportation, child care and other services not related to the abortion.

Language here is key. While anti-choicers may argue that these processes seem reasonable, by design they are manipulative–set to achieve an outcome that undermines every pregnant person’s ability to exercise their constitutional rights. The gross presumption by lawmakers that anyone would take this decision lightly and force them to go through a morass of manipulative hurdles to make a medical (and yes, economic decision) about our lives and bodies is insulting. A system like this can’t continue.

SYREETA MCFADDEN is a Brooklyn based writer, photographer and adjunct professor of English. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and Storyscape Journal. She is the managing editor of the online literary magazine, Union Station, and a co-curator of Poets in Unexpected Places. You can follow her on Twitter @reetamac.

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