Cooch Watch fights abortion clinic closures
US anti-choice campaigners have not outlawed abortion, but women still have difficulty accessing abortion.
While anti-abortion legislators have failed to outlaw abortion through extreme personhood amendments, in some states abortion could soon be almost impossible.
Such is the case in Virginia where Stephanie Arnold, a medical student and former abortion clinic worker, has launched the website Cooch Watch as a satirical challenge to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s relentless efforts to close down Virginia’s existing abortion clinics.
Cuccinelli, whom Cooch Watch has dubbed “The Cooch,” has a long record of trying to restrict access to abortion in Virginia.
Arnold founded Cooch Watch on 17 July 2012, the day Cuccinelli announced his refusal to certify Virginia’s Board of Health regulations aimed at exempting existing abortion clinics from closure under new legislation.
Legally requiring abortion clinics to provide the same facilities as hospitals is medically and practically unnecessary, given that the procedures carried out in abortion clinics are very different from those carried out in hospitals.
The real aim of the legislation is to close down abortion clinics, many of which cannot afford to meet the costs of remodelling. 17 out of Virginia’s 21 clinics are in this position.
Unfortunately, due to Cuccinelli’s tactics, Virginia’s Board of Health effectively shut down the state’s existing abortion clinics.
Last month the Board voted to reverse their decision to exempt existing abortion clinics from the stricter regulations.
It emerged that Cuccinelli had written to the members of the Board advising them to do so, threatening that they could be personally liable for legal fees if they were sued after ignoring his legal advice.
Since its launch, Cooch Watch has run a protest campaign that informs unaware citizens about Cuccinelli’s activities.
“Keeping an eye on the Cooch” has involved updating their website and twitter feed, organising protests in Virginia and creating pro-choice versions of popular songs, such as “Hands Off, Crazy” (adapted from the song we’ve all heard as “Call Me, Maybe”).
The value of campaigns like Cooch Watch is that they raise vital awareness of challenges to women’s reproductive rights in a way that is humorous and accessible but very direct.
Cooch Watch hopes that by tracking Cuccinelli’s actions they can help block his bid to become Virginia’s governor in 2013.
Cooch Watch is pertinent not only to Virginia.
The practise of mandating abortion clinics be subject to new regulations in an effort to close them down has become common practise from extreme anti-abortion politicians.
Women’s legal right to abortion in America may be relatively safe for now. Their access to a safe abortion clinic looks very much in doubt.