No Smiley-Face For Southern Republicans

Even as we argue about whether the incessantly marketed “reinvention” of the national Republican Party is a great step forward or a total hoax, there isn’t a lot of pretense in many states where Republicans govern, particularly in the South. The latest step towards shutting down access to abortion services in Alabama, for example, is about as subtle as a transvaginal ultrasound probe, per this report from Think Progress‘s Adam Peck:

Republican lawmakers in Alabama took a crucial step on Wednesday towards their goal of shuttering the state’s last five abortion clinics, advancing a bill to the full house that would impose strict requirements on abortion providers.

The bill, the so-called “Women’s Health and Safety Act,” passed the Republican-controlled House Health Committee on Wednesday morning, and could come to vote in the full legislature as soon as Thursday. If passed, it would require clinics to meet certain architectural standards and have a physician present for all abortions — a provision Republicans claim is for the safety of patients, but is in fact a smokescreen designed to make compliance as difficult as possible.

It’s a standard weapon in the antichoice arsenal these days: measures to make abortion as expensive and inconvenient as possible for both providers and patients.

Among the staffing concerns [sic!] is a provision which states that only a licensed physician with admitting privileges to a hospital within the same metropolitan area as the clinic be allowed to administer abortion-inducing drugs.

In Tennessee, an abortion clinic that had been open for nearly four decades was forced to close after a similar bill was passed in that state last year. And in neighboring Mississippi, the state’s one and only abortion clinic may have to close its doors after a new law went into effect last year requiring a physician with admitting privileges to be present for all abortions.

I doubt you’ll hear Eric Cantor speak about how Alabama Republicans are working to help women in need solve their life-problems via a deep interest in reproductive health. But they’re all part of the same party that almost unanimously shares the same antichoice ideology. They just don’t bother to put a smiley-face on it in Montgomery.

UPDATE: It’s not just a southern problem, unfortunately. A group of Iowa Republican legislators is sponsoring a blatantly unconstitutional bill to define not only abortions but any interference with the development of a zygote as “murder.” Asked if this sort of measure might interfere with GOP “reinvention” efforts, the chief sponsors said:

Within our party, we’re going to differ on social issues. One of them is the right to life. There are some who say that we need to ease up on this because it’s not winning us anything. My thought is we can’t let this drop. Even if I’m in here screaming to empty walls, I will always be a voice for the unborn.

In other words, Yeah, I understand the need to keep my mouth shut, but I can’t and won’t.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.