Abortion rights are under threat across the United States, with 28 states currently considering legislation to ban or restrict abortion in various ways. Among the slew of strategies are trigger bans, to make abortion completely illegal in a state should Roe v. Wade be overturned, and six-week abortion bans. Earlier this month, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law a six-week abortion ban, which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected—something that typically happens before many women realize they’re pregnant. The bill does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest. A similar law is set to take effect in Mississippi in July, while judges have blocked similar bills from going into effect in Kentucky and Iowa. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is expected to sign his state’s abortion ban in the coming weeks. While over two-thirds of Americans are pro-choice, anti-choice activists have the edge in state governments, with Republicans controlling roughly two-thirds of statehouses and 27 of the country’s 50 governorships. We speak with the president of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Leana Wen.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go beyond Trump’s gag rule, just the latest in a series of attacks on reproductive rights here in the United States, as 28 states, more than half the states, consider legislation to ban or restrict abortion in various ways. Among the slew of strategies are trigger bans, to make abortion completely illegal in a state should Roe v. Wade be overturned, and six-week abortion bans. Earlier this month, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law a six-week abortion ban, what some call the fetal heartbeat bill. It bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, something that typically happens just six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even realize they’re pregnant. The bill does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest. A similar law is set to take effect in Mississippi in July, while judges have for now blocked these six-week bills from going into effect in Kentucky and Iowa. Can you talk more about this? And I know that you at Planned Parenthood don’t like to refer to these six-week abortion bans as “fetal heartbeat” bills, and if you can explain why?
DR. LEANA WEN: Well, I’m a doctor and a scientist, and I have to call it as it is. And what it is, what these bills are, are essentially a ban on all abortions, because, at six weeks, most women don’t even know that they’re pregnant. And we’ve seen, this year, 16 states introduce bans on abortions as early as six weeks.
And we need to call out how extreme these bans are. The bill that passed in Georgia, is expected to be signed by the governor any day now, allows the state to investigate women for miscarriages. In Alabama, there is a bill that would impose a Class A felony on doctors, sentencing doctors who perform abortions to up to 99 years in prison. There was a bill in Texas—that failed—but that bill would have the—would impose a death penalty, capital punishment, the death penalty, for women who seek abortion care. And more than 300 people came to testify in favor of this bill that would impose the death penalty on women.
If there’s any doubt about what’s happening around the country, we just have to look at the legislation that’s been introduced this year, and what politicians, these anti-women’s health politicians, are saying about it. They are saying, blatantly, boldly, that what they are trying to do is to overturn Roe v. Wade. They want for these extreme bills to make their way up to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. And that’s what’s at stake here. What’s at stake is the right to safe, legal abortions. And we know what happens when that right is taken away, because we have the examples around the world and we know what happened in the U.S. pre-Roe, which is that thousands of women died. And we cannot go back to that time.
And that’s why Planned Parenthood is fighting back with everything that we have. We are opposing these rules. We’ve fought back many of these bad bills. And we’re also working with our champions across the country to protect and expand the right to reproductive healthcare, because we know that reproductive healthcare and women’s healthcare must be treated as what they are, which is healthcare, and that the vast majority of the American people support women making their own healthcare decisions, not politicians telling women and families what we should be doing with our health and our bodies.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Leana Wen, we want to thank you so much for being with us, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, first physician to lead the organization in nearly 50 years, also the first Asian American and first immigrant ever to hold that office.
When we come back, we’ll spend the remainder of the hour with the award-winning Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, founder of the independent news site Rappler, a vocal critic of the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has just imprisoned her twice. Like Dr. Leana Wen, Maria Ressa was just honored by Time magazine as one of the most—as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. This is Democracy Now! Back with Maria Ressa in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: “Makinarya (Machinery)” by the Filipino rap duo Sandata. They’ll be playing at The People’s Forum in New York on May 4th.