These states have all rushed to approve new and dangerous abortion restrictions in the past month.
Attacks on women’s reproductive rights have spread rapidly across the country, as state legislatures have enacted a record-breaking number of restrictions on abortion over the past several years. Last summer, all eyes were on Texas while activists protested against a harsh anti-choice measure that’s now forcing clinics to close. This year, there are some new battlegrounds to keep an eye on.
The following states have each approved new abortion restrictions within the past month that represent serious threats to women’s right to choose:
On Wednesday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) approved a measure requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges from a local hospital — the same exact measure that was recently enacted in Texas. Although admitting privilege requirements are cloaked in the language of women’s health and safety, doctors agree that they’re entirely medically unnecessary, a thinly veiled tactic for eliminating access to legal abortion.
It’s not hard to see the potentially catastrophic impact of the new law, thanks to the precedent that’s been set by the Lone Star State. Since Texas’ admitting privileges law took effect, multiple clinics have been forced out of business, and some doctors have lost their licenses because they can’t comply with the medically unnecessary policy. That’s left a huge swath of the state without access to a single reproductive health facility.
“If this law is allowed to stand, it will further expand the massive areas of the United States where women’s constitutional right to safely and legally end a pregnancy is under siege by politicians attempting to make abortion nearly inaccessible by driving more and more good health care providers out of practice,” Nancy Northrup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, warned in a statement.
Just like nearby Oklahoma, lawmakers in Louisiana recently approved an admitting privileges bill that’s directly modeled on the one in Texas. It’s still awaiting Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature, but the Republican leader has already confirmed he plans to sign it. The measure is expected to close at least three of the state’s five abortion clinics.
And that’s not all. The Louisiana legislature has been busy attacking reproductive rights from all angles during this current session, and lawmakers have advanced several other anti-choice measures. In addition to the clinic restrictions, the state also approved a bill this week that will bar abortion providers from distributing any health information in public schools. The measure is intended to directly target Planned Parenthood, even though the women’s health organization is the largest sex ed provider in the country.
Reproductive rights activists in the state are pressuring Jindal to veto the two pieces of legislation. “Over and over we’ve witnessed numerous attacks on women, men, adolescents and families’ health. By now, it is clear that legislators are playing politics instead of increasing much needed access to health care and health education,” a petition from Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast reads.
Halfway through May, lawmakers in Missouri approved a measure that will triple the state’s current waiting period for an abortion, requiring women to wait a full three days before being allowed to have the procedure. Only two other states, Utah and South Dakota, currently have waiting periods that long.
Similarly to Louisiana, the abortion opponents in Missouri haven’t been content with just one bill attacking abortion rights. This session, the legislature has considered over 30 separate abortion restrictions. Since the state already has just one abortion clinic left, lawmakers are essentially focusing all of their attention on regulating a single building.
Women’s health activists have also been frustrated with lawmakers’ attitudes this session, accusing male politicians of making condescending assumptions about women’s inability to make health care decisions for themselves. One GOP representative compared choosing an abortion to buying a car, suggesting that women simply need more time to think to prevent them from making a hasty decision. His female colleagues called the comparison “extremely offensive” and “demeaning to women,” and activists protested by dressing up as cars in a legislative hearing.
It’s important to put newly approved abortion restrictions in the context of the anti-choice laws that are already on the books in surrounding states. For instance, if Louisiana and Oklahoma both enact admitting privileges requirements, they’ll join several other Southern states — Mississippi, Alabama and Texas — that have already approved them. Although Mississippi and Alabama are in the midst of legal challenges that have temporarily blocked their laws from taking effect, the country isn’t too far off from a future in which harsh restrictions on abortion providers are in place throughout the South. Slowly but surely, Southern women’s access to abortion clinics is disappearing.
“You’re looking at huge swaths of the country where women’s options are becoming severely limited,” Amanda Allen, the state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, recently pointed out.
Source: Tara-Culp Ressler for ThinkProgress
Oklahoma’s minimum wage ban came straight out of ALEC’s brain trust.[…]
On Monday, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill that prohibits local governments from boosting their minimum wages or enacting laws mandating benefits like paid vacation or sick leave for working people.
Shadee Ashtari reports for The Huffington Post that “opponents of the measure view the move by Oklahoma Republicans as retaliation against an initiative underway in Oklahoma City, where organizers have been gathering signatures to raise the city’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.” That may well be a factor, but the legislation has the fingerprints of the National Restaurant Association — “the other NRA” — and the American Legislative Affairs Council (ALEC) all over it.
At a time when many states and cities are working passing minimum wage increases, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has gone in the opposite direction and signed a law banning cities from passing higher wages. The bill also bans them from enacting paid sick days or vacation requirements.
The law will stymie the efforts of activists in Oklahoma City, where a labor federation has led the push on a petition to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The state’s current minimum has been set at the federal level of $7.25. In 2012, 64,000 workers in the state earned $7.25 an hour or less, making up 7.2 percent of all hourly workers, a larger share than the 4.7 percent figure for the country as a whole.
Fallin said she signed the bill out of the worry that higher local minimum wages “would drive businesses to other communities and states, and would raise prices for consumers.” She also argued that “most minimum wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry level jobs” and that “many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families.” She warned that increasing the minimum wage “would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers” and harm job creation.
But that’s not what the typical American minimum wage worker looks like. Nearly 90 percent of workers who would be impacted by an increase in the wage are older than 20, while the average age is 35. More than a quarter have children to support. More than half work full time, and 44 percent have at least some college education, while half a million minimum wage workers are college graduates.
Meanwhile, experts have analyzed state minimum wage increases over two decades and found that even at times of high unemployment, there is no clear evidence that the hikes affected job creation. Five other studies have come to the same conclusion. The same has held true for the city of San Francisco, where employment grew by more than 5 percent after it passed a higher minimum wage while nearby counties experienced declines.
Oklahoma is not the only state to pass a blanket ban on raising the wage. Wisconsin lawmakers recently considered doing the same, and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) signed a law that prevents local governments from requiring contractors to pay higher wages last year. According to Paul Sonn, general counsel and program director at the National Employment Law Project, a handful of mostly Republican-leaning states passed these kinds of bans about a decade ago, including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Oregon, and Texas. But the states that are the most likely to see campaigns to raise minimum wages are not the ones that are likely to pass similar bans, he told ThinkProgress.
The ban on paid sick days is also not new. While seven American cities and one state have passed paid sick leave requirements, ten states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin — have banned local efforts, with seven of those passing over the last year, and many other states have considered similar bills. Yet there is no evidence to support the idea that these requirements hurt businesses or job growth.
Mary Fallin ruining Oklahoma once again.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) announced earlier this month that state-owned National Guard facilities will no longer allow any married couples to apply for spousal benefits, regardless of whether they are same-sex or different-sex. The Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act means that servicemembers with same-sex spouses are now eligible for federal benefits. Fallin’s unusual tactic is designed to avoid having to recognize those couples, which she asserts would violate Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman:
FALLIN: Oklahoma law is clear. The state of Oklahoma does not recognize same-sex marriages, nor does it confer marriage benefits to same-sex couples.The decision reached today allows the National Guard to obey Oklahoma law without violating federal rules or policies. It protects the integrity of our state constitution and sends a message to the federal government that they cannot simply ignore our laws or the will of the people.
This decision directly contradicts an order from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordering states to provide same-sex couples with the federal benefits they deserve under the law. All married couples will now have to travel to one of the five federal facilities in Oklahoma to apply for benefits. Incidentally, the state’s facilities were built almost entirely with federal funds and 90 percent of the Oklahoma Military Department — which includes the National Guard — is funded by the federal government.
Fallin’s tactic mirrors other attempts to punish an entire group to avoid serving the gay community. When marriage equality came to the District of Columbia, Catholic Charities decided to stop offering partner benefits to all employees to avoid having to provide them to any employee’s same-sex spouse. In various states, Catholic Charities has also abandoned all adoption services to avoid having to provide them to same-sex couples.
Schools have also employed this strategy to try to block gay-straight alliances from forming. In 2011, for example, Flour Bluff Independent School District in Corpus Christi, Texas considered banning all extracurricular clubs to avoid allowing a GSA to form.
Oklahoma is not alone in defying Hagel’s orders. The Texas Military Force acknowledged this week that it will not allow same-sex couples to apply for a housing allowance at state-run National Guard facilities, having already turned away at least one couple.Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia have also refused to comply, but some states that previously had balked have begun complying,like West Virginia. A total of 29 states have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, but most are complying with the federal recognition for purposes of the National Guard.
Some states are also struggling in other ways with how to handle the federal government’s recognition of same-sex couples in the wake of DOMA. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) announced last week that same-sex couples could file their state taxes jointly, even though they won’t be eligible for state tax benefits. This has prompted one Missouri state lawmaker, Rep. Nick Marshall (R), to pursue impeachment proceedings for Nixon. Meanwhile, Virginia is among the states that have ordered same-sex couples to file their taxes separately.
h/t: Think Progress LGBT
Late last week more than a dozen Republican governors declared that they will not build the insurance market exchanges called for by the Affordable Care Act, including prominent names like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Perry of Texas.
On Monday, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma joined them, declaring in a statementthat it “does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the control of the federal government.”
The original deadline for states to notify the Department of Health and Human Services on whether they intend to build their own exchange was last Friday, but the administration extended it to Dec. 14. About a dozen Republican governors are weighing their options, including Chris Christie of New Jersey, Rick Scott of Florida and Terry Branstad of Iowa.
The decisions carry important implications for the long-term arc of Obamacare, which supporters and opponents alike agree is here to stay now that President Obama has been re-elected. The Obama administration wants states to build the exchanges so they have an incentive to make the law work. If the federal government takes over, state-level Republicans have a scapegoat in case things go wrong.
The more states stonewall the exchanges, the more it complicates the task of the federal government. One challenge is that the law lacks an automatic funding mechanism for HHS to set up state exchanges. Enrollment is slated to begin next October, and the exchanges are scheduled to start functioning by January 2014.
Twenty-three states, mostly Democratic, and Washington, D.C. have said they’ll move forwardwith the exchanges, either on their own or in partnership with the feds.
Propelling the GOP governors’ stance is a desire to protect themselves politically from accusations of abetting a law that conservatives fervently oppose. Some governors argue that the regulations are too stifling and provide little flexibility for them to construct the marketplaces in accordance with their states’ needs.
h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM
My recap of the RNC: Day 1
Here is my recap of the RNC for the 1st night.
REMINDER: Scott Walker promised his right-wing policies would create 250K jobs. He’s way way way off schedule thkpr.gs/RkMPSt— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) August 29, 2012
FUN FACT: Ted Cruz opposes the Voting Rights Act thkpr.gs/RkMPSt— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) August 29, 2012
Ann Romney knows a lot of struggling people. Her husband shipped their jobs overseas.— Paul Conrad (@Paul_Conrad) August 29, 2012
.@maddow calls Chris Christie’s speech “One of the most remarkable acts of political selfishness that I have ever seen”— msnbc (@msnbc) August 29, 2012
Worst Persons: B: Ann Romney. S: Chris Christie. G: Nikki Haley