I can’t help but imagine that every night, Republican state lawmakers wrap themselves up in their Snuggies, grab a nice steaming mug of milk, and have a Skype powwow to determine what new tactic they are going to use to try and bring an end to that pesky abortion epidemic once and for all. After those softies in Pennsylvania and Virginia either tabled their transvaginal ultrasound bills, or, in Virginia’s case, generously made them “optional,” they decided they needed to try attacking from a different front. Their plan: if they can’t emotionally abuse a woman into not having an abortion, why not intimidate her and her doctor until they don’t even try, out of fear for their personal safety?
Meet Representative Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough). Hill is the sponsor of Tennessee House Bill 3808, also known as the more noble-sounding Life Defense Act. This bill would require the names of all doctors who perform abortions to be posted online. It would also require that demographic information about the women who receive them be posted publicly. Needless to say, this bill has the potential to lead to violence against abortion providers, as well as the women who undergo the procedure.
I really should not have to waste space explaining why posting the names of abortion providers is dangerous. The names David Gunn and George Tiller – doctors who were murdered because they performed abortions – are a testament to that. This bill would provide a convenient list for anyone seeking to harass, injure, or even kill abortion providers. And it doesn’t stop there – any doctor who performs an abortion due to an emergency, such as an obstetrician or E.R. doctor or surgeon, would qualify to have their names published as well. Doctors, adhering to the Hippocratic oath and making the decision to save the life of their patient, could potentially be on the receiving end of violence from anti-abortion zealots.
As egregious as that provision is, Hill takes it one step further, proposing that identifying demographic information about women who receive abortions also be made public. Their names would not be published, but race, age, education, and number of existing children would.
Hill justifies these measures by pointing out that the Department of Health already collects this data – indeed they do, using it to collect demographic information and examine the statistics by region – but the key difference is that the current DoH information is not available to the general public. Additionally, the data on women that the DoH collects is combined into regional demographics, but this bill requires that the information be published by county. In a state such as Tennessee, where there are lower-populated counties, this information could quite easily be used to identify women who have gotten abortions.
According to Hill, he thinks “it’s fair for folks on both sides to see how prevalent abortion is in our counties and our communities.”
There is nothing wrong with publishing numerical and demographic data on abortions. That information could be used for community outreach, increased sexual education funding, and other beneficial programs. Of course, we know that’s not what Hill and Tennessee Republicans want, because if that were true they could publish only the numbers. The fact that they go out of their way to require the names of doctors, and identifying demographic information of women, clearly demonstrates that their goal is to create an intimidating environment for anyone providing or seeking this service.
Because, as we’ve learned from the past, making abortions difficult to obtain means women will just stop having them, right? Right?