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Attacks on Abortion Are Attacks on Health Care, and They Affect Everyone

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Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!

Reproductive rights issues may be better known for affecting women and girls—which is one obvious reason they’ve been relegated to the supposedly unimportant status of “women’s issue.” Maybe that’s, at least in part, why far too few people seem appropriately alarmed by the threat of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and his implications for the state of reproductive health care in this country.

But we should all be alarmed, if not out of empathy for the women patients who could lose access to abortion and birth control, then because everyone—not just women—has a stake in the fight for reproductive justice, and that includes men. As Planned Parenthood Action Fund spokesperson Alencia Johnson told The Hill this week, one of Planned Parenthood’s “largest growing patient demographics is actually men.”

“They’re 12 percent of the population that we serve,” Johnson said.

Of course, laws restricting reproductive health care services like abortion are undeniably about misogyny, control, and the systemic subjugation of women by depriving them of bodily autonomy, but in addition to the objective fact that men—and all people—seek reproductive health care, everyone in society is worse off when we’re governed by a state that undermines the most basic, fundamental right to privacy, and imposes barriers like abortion bans on women’s ability to compete and contribute equally in the economy.

No one can really claim they’re living their best life in a country with a frankly ridiculous maternal mortality rate, which would certainly only rise if abortion access were further restricted. In other words, absolutely everyone has a stake in the fight to protect reproductive rights. Everyone should care, and on top of that, everyone should act.

Senate easily defeats bill to defund Planned Parenthood

On Thursday, in some much-needed not terrible news regarding reproductive rights, Senate Democrats, aided by Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, defeated a bill that would have added an amendment to the federal budget that would defund Planned Parenthood.

While attempts to strip the women’s health organization, which millions of Americans rely on for life-saving health care and education, are hardly new, the past few years in politics have been particularly bumpy for the organization, faced by seemingly endless defunding attempts on the federal and state levels. And yet, in response, the organization has shattered fundraising records, as pro-choice supporters and allies have rallied to protect care for all. Additionally, activists continue to demand that Planned Parenthood not only continue to receive federal funding, but also be allowed to use federal funding for abortion services, which is currently restricted by the Hyde amendment.

It’s a shame that it has to be repeated so often, but it can’t be emphasized enough that the services Planned Parenthood provides are safe, legal, and absolutely necessary health care. Politicians’ personal views should have nothing to do with any of it.

Federal court blocks Alabama’s second trimester abortion ban, but the real fight is just beginning

On Wednesday, a federal court upheld a lower court’s ruling that an Alabama law banning the safest form of second trimester abortion was unconstitutional, despite containing frustratingly ignorant, anti-choice language about the procedure. Of course, the dilation and evacuation procedure is not only extremely safe, but is also extremely rare and often reserved for medical emergencies or highly personal circumstances. In either case, Roe v. Wade protects abortion until the point of fetal viability, rendering this latest decision a critical reminder of just how much we still need this precedent.

But across the country, in states like Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and Kentucky, similar cases are in the courts, and could easily make their way to the Supreme Court, where an anti-choice majority will likely await them. The upcoming Senate battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination could be one of the most consequential fights for reproductive rights in our lives.

Susan Collins met Brett Kavanaugh, and we should all be concerned by her account of the meeting

Early Tuesday, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who is expected to be a crucial swing vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court due to her rare pro-choice stance as a Republican, met with Kavanaugh for more than two hours. Following the meeting, Collins announced that she had discussed abortion rights with Kavanaugh at length, and that he had told her he respected Roe as “settled law,” and would vote in line with Chief Justice John Roberts—who, to be clear, has consistently voted in favor of devastating restrictions on abortion throughout his record on the high court.

In other words, while Collins hasn’t formally announced how she will vote, her comments seem to be laying the foundation for her to vote to confirm Kavanaugh and still claim to be “pro-choice.”

And while it obviously should be, abortion is far from “settled law” in practice; states across the country have spent the past years since Roe enacting all kinds of laws that have effectively shuttered abortion rights in most states. In seven states, there is only one abortion clinic to serve millions. The suggestion that abortion is a “settled issue” isn’t just insulting—it’s dangerous, as it sides with upholding the current status quo of oppression and reproductive inequity.

Susan Collins should know this, and she should also know that people lie. At the end of the day, we may never know if she truly believes Kavanaugh and is being played, or if she knows what’s up and is playing women. Either way, her inner thoughts and certainly her “pro-choice” values will mean next to nothing if she votes to confirm Kavanaugh.

Anti-abortion activists announce horrifying new plan to “document abortion abuses”

As if the president, our lawmakers, and the judicial system weren’t doing enough to attack reproductive rights, anti-abortion activists announced a frankly terrifying new initiative to “document” purported medical emergencies at abortion clinics. Of course, the simple reality is that surgical—and medication, for that matter—abortion is a highly safe medical service. It’s certainly safer than colonoscopies, tonsil removal, wisdom tooth removal, and a range of other everyday health services that aren’t policed or monitored by extremists. The notion that abortions result in “medical emergencies” is about stigma and ignorance, full stop.

But obviously, blatant misinformation is pretty much the least of our worries regarding this initiative. Operation Rescue, an anti-choice group recognized by some as a domestic terrorist group for its often dangerous behaviors, is calling on supporters to take photos and videos of patients entering clinics and submit their findings to Abortion911.com.

As anyone who’s volunteered at any women’s health clinic ever can attest, this is hardly a new practice, and certainly, OR activists have been engaging in this sort of behavior for years. But a mass, coordinated call to spy on and endanger patients—some of whom may be domestic violence victims who could be punished by abusive partners for seeking reproductive health care—marks a serious threat to the safety of patients, volunteers, and clinic staff across the country.

The emboldenment of anti-choice activists, following the election of a man who has previously called for women who have abortions to be punished, was to be expected, but that doesn’t make it any less frightening and dystopian as we watch it unfold. If ever there were a time that reproductive health clinics needed volunteers and clinic escorts to support patients and ensure that they feel safe entering clinics, now is that time.

This week, in anti-choice hypocrisy …

Considering that the politicians who claim to support “babies,” families, and “all lives” are also often the ones critical of movements protesting police violence, supportive of lax gun laws that contribute to mass violence, and often sure-fire votes for legislation to take health care from poor children and families, and separate immigrant families, anti-choice politics have rightfully earned a reputation for hypocrisy. That’s why, when vocally anti-choice politicians every now and then are outed for paying for or facilitating abortion access in their personal lives, the revelations usually aren’t particularly shocking.

But this week, a report that Scott Lloyd, the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement—who has been the mastermind of numerous attempts to block detained immigrants from accessing abortion—once drove a former girlfriend to have an abortion could have rattled even those who have seen it all. Lloyd has made a name for himself quite literally for cracking down on immigrant women and girls and abortion access.

His law school essay detailing the incident shows exactly how transparently anti-choice politics are about controlling and subjugating others, all while the perpetrators of these laws are often wealthy politicians, who will never have to worry about how abortion laws that disproportionately entrap low-income people. Privilege is often central to opposition to legal abortion, and it’s certainly something to be mindful of ahead of November’s elections.

Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!

(image: Daniel X O’Neil on Flickr)

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