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Missouri Democratic Party Finally Reverses Course to Stand Up for Abortion Rights

Abortion rights protest sign

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!

Ever since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court, every piece of news related to reproductive rights seems to fall under a microscope. And with the precedent of safe, legal abortion in this country as frankly precarious as it is, it’s no wonder why that’s the case.

From dramatic shifts in local and state politics, to political candidates’ records on abortion rights under extensive vetting, every week, developments big and small around our rights and reproductive health care matter to this greater, existential fight.

Pro-choice groups, activists, and politicians officially launch “Rise Up for Roe” tour

This week, all-star politicians and activists mobilized for the 10-city “Rise Up for Roe” tour, a free series of panels and speaking events featuring the likes of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, writers Jessica Valenti and Lauren Duca, and more. The tour launched in New York City last weekend, and will continue through the end of August, finishing up in Des Moines, Iowa, leading up to the August 26 national Unite for Justice rally organized by the same groups to protest Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.

A cross-country tour dedicated specifically to educating about and rallying around abortion rights may be a new concept, but it couldn’t come at a more urgent or critical period. When Justice Anthony Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court, the loss of his crucial (often) pro-choice swing vote and President Trump’s repeated promise to appoint “pro-life” justices made it clear as day what would come next: the nomination of a judge like Kavanaugh, with a record as starkly anti-choice as his, and the reversal or gutting of Roe v. Wade.

And yet, despite overwhelming public support for legal abortion, by a margin of 62 to 27 percent, most American voters don’t think abortion rights really face any threat at this time. This stat by Quinnipiac from July goes to show that, certainly, women’s voices and legitimate fears and concerns continue to be dismissed, and the result of this could be the silent seizure of our rights and dignity. But also, it proves how prevalent and rampant ignorance about abortion rights and politics remain—and the need for a cross-country educational tour. Visit the Rise Up for Roe website to find a tour destination near you.

Missouri Democratic Party removes amendment supporting anti-choice candidates

This week, after adding an amendment to welcome anti-choice Democrats to the party, the central committee of the Missouri Democratic Party voted to remove the amendment, and replace it with one committing to support abortion rights.

In June, the party adopted the following amendment, which was introduced by a former state lawmaker who claimed that embracing “diversity” would be key to winning elections this November: “We respect the conscience of each Missourian and recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, such as abortion. We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength, and welcome into our ranks all Missourians who may hold differing positions on this issue.”

The Kansas City Star reports that this amendment has since been replaced with the following: “A woman’s right to choose and the right of every person to their own bodily autonomy and to be free from government intrusion in medical decisions, including a decision to carry a pregnancy to term, and oppose any efforts to limit access to reproductive health care.”

Of course, compromising on abortion rights has never been about promoting “diversity,” but rather, suggesting women’s human rights are appropriate collateral damage in exchange for the imagined possibility of a few electoral wins. And the claim that compromise on abortion rights would somehow advance “diversity” is ironic, considering the disproportionately low-income, women of color and other marginalized people who tend to be hit hardest by barriers to abortion access.

The Missouri Democratic Party’s recent shift in stance couldn’t come at a more critical time than ahead of this year’s midterms, with everything on the table for women’s human rights as senators are poised to vote on Brett Kavanaugh without delay.

FDA approves “digital birth control” as contraception

In a controversial decision, the FDA last week approved an app allowing women to track their menstrual cycles and calculate ovulation periods, or in other words, facilitating use of “natural” birth control. While apps like this aren’t new, formal recognition of them as a form of “birth control” is, following several shifts by the Trump Health and Human Services Department to promote and legitimize natural family planning over long-term, hormonal, and objectively, far more effective and reliable birth control.

NPR has reported that natural family planning methods, even when used entirely as instructed, can still fail to prevent pregnancy 25 percent of the time. This administration’s shift to support the method is transparently about stigmatizing legitimate, safe birth control, and the groups like Planned Parenthood that promote real sexual health education and contraception. The FDA’s suggestion that an app that helps women track their periods is sufficient enough to be called contraception is frankly dangerous, and more than likely to mislead women and couples without access to comprehensive sexual health education.

Lauren Streicher, a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told Vox that an app like Natural Cycles is “problematic on so many levels,” adding: “We’ve already developed good, safe, reliable methods of contraception that are available to us. This app is completely taking women back in time.” And perhaps Streicher put it best when she observed, “This isn’t science. This is craziness.”

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

(image: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com)

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