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Majority of Americans Don’t Realize Abortion Rights Are in Danger, Which Makes Things Worse

Handmaids of Handmaid's Tale

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!

Coming off several weeks of pronounced Democratic party unity around abortion rights, culminating in two important bills expanding abortion protections in Illinois and Nevada, we were reminded, this week, how much work remains to be done, even on the “pro-choice” side of the aisle. Democratic presidential candidate and current frontrunner Joe Biden briefly announced this week that he still supports the Hyde amendment, a dangerous, discriminatory law that effectively bans abortion for, disproportionately, low-income women of color, before swiftly walking back on this when faced with heavy criticism.

The Hyde amendment prohibits federal funding for elective abortion care, shifting abortion from a right to a socioeconomic privilege and ultimately forcing an estimated one in four abortion seekers on Medicaid to give birth. Hyde, passed shortly after Roe v. Wade in 1976, is insulting to the 73 percent of Americans who support abortion care because it prioritizes the personal beliefs and disingenuously selective religious convictions of a minority of Americans (often the same ones who are unbothered by paying for wars and/or locking migrant children in cages) over the health, safety, and humanity of pregnant women.

In 2016, the Democratic party pledged to repeal Hyde in its official platform, and all leading Democratic presidential candidates—with the exception of Biden—have pledged to not only repeal it but significantly expand abortion rights if elected.

His original stance shouldn’t be surprising in the context of the rest of his highly disappointing record on abortion rights, which includes supporting a law to allow some states to overturn Roe and voting for a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Yet, it’s surprising when juxtaposed with the stances of other presidential candidates and Democratic party stars. That a prominent Democratic leader supports what is effectively a federal abortion ban should be surprising to a nation that is optimistic about the future of abortion rights.

On Tuesday, Pew released a study that showed a majority (about 75 percent) of Americans believe abortion will still be legal in 30 years, albeit with a few small restrictions. Of course, this is despite literally all of the evidence that would suggest otherwise, from the hundreds of abortion restrictions enacted in the last few years alone, to the conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority, to the 90 percent of U.S. counties without abortion providers and seven states with only one, to the fact that abortion is already vastly inaccessible to millions of women across the country even now.

It’s never a bad thing to be optimistic and hopeful and put in the work to fight for an ideal future—you know, one where the government can’t force women and pregnant people to give birth—as long as you’re not willfully ignoring the truth. The truth is that, at the rate we’ve been seeing abortion bans, anti-abortion judicial appointments, and anti-abortion politicians consolidating power, the legality and accessibility of abortion in the next 30 years are questionable, at best.

The Pew survey’s findings seem to suggest most Americans aren’t aware of the full extent to which abortion rights are under attack, and that’s terrifying. Ignorance to the challenges reproductive rights face is what prevents the meaningful actions we need to protect them and opens the door to their removal.

Busy Phillips and more abortion rights activists testify before Congress

Following the passage of abortion bans in Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, and Louisiana in recent weeks, Congress held a hearing on threats to reproductive rights on Tuesday, which saw testimonies from several brave abortion rights activists, including actor and author Busy Philipps. In response to the aforementioned abortion bans, Philipps previously came forward about her own experience with having an abortion at 15, and launched the #YouKnowMe hashtag to encourage others to share their own stories.

In her passionate testimony before Congress, Philipps spoke to the commonness of abortion, and the importance of understanding that we all know someone who’s had an abortion, whether we know it or not.

Philipps started by recounting her story and compared her experience years ago with the substantially more arduous process of seeking abortion care in Arizona, today. For example, Arizona, like many other states, requires parental consent for minors to have abortions, and also requires patients to give a reason justifying their decision.

In response to the latter state law, Philipps said, “Well, here is [my reason]: My body belongs to me, not the state. Women and their doctors are in the best position to make informed decisions about what is best for them. No one else.” She added, “Abortion is healthcare, and should not be treated as different from any other healthcare.”

Philipps and all of the many everyday women who have recently come forward with their stories are fundamentally shifting the dialogue around abortion access by shining a light on the humanity of the one in four women who has an abortion. Granted, no one should need to hear real women’s stories, and demand that they publicly tell their stories, to respect abortion as necessary healthcare and understand the urgency of the current state of reproductive rights. But this is the reality we face—one in which abortion access hangs by a thread, and abortion stigma, which lies at the heart of this, remains at large. And abortion storytelling is the most powerful tool we have to dismantle this stigma.

Wisconsin legislature passes four anti-abortion bills to be vetoed

Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature sent several anti-abortion bills to be promptly vetoed by Democratic, pro-choice Gov. Tony Evers, who has pledged to reject all of them. Sure, the anti-abortion bills in question aren’t total abortion bans, as we’ve been seeing in a handful of states in recent weeks, but that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous and exceedingly harmful.

One of the bills would advance the late abortion stigma that’s been so dominant in conservative rhetoric since the beginning of this year, asserting that doctors must do everything they can to save the life of a baby born during a later abortion (something that happens approximately *checks notes* never) or face criminal charges. Another would prohibit race- and sex-selective abortions, which also simply don’t happen and are a figment of racist, anti-abortion politicians’ imaginations, meant to explicitly target the abortion rights of Asian-American women. And finally, another bill would prohibit Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, as if this would do anything other than increase rates of unwanted pregnancy, and as if reproductive healthcare is somehow any different from any other healthcare. (It’s not.)

Despite Gov. Evers’ pledge to veto the bills, their rhetorical harm and the emboldenment of anti-abortion lawmakers are concerning, nonetheless. Gov. Evers’ firm stand against these bills, in contrast with the anti-choice governors signing bill after bill, is a critical reminder of the importance of state 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)

Kylie Cheung writes about feminism and politics, with a focus on reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kylietcheung, or learn more about her writing at www.kyliecheung.tumblr.com.

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