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!
A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the United States’ abortion rate is at an all-time low, declining by a steep 26 percent between 2006 and 2015. Thankfully, the report attributed this drop largely to increased access to birth control, likely through the Affordable Care Act and a range of state-level efforts in recent years.
After all, research on the global and national levels has consistently shown that, while restrictions on abortion access create barriers and increase the risk of injury of women seeking abortion, they have little effect on the abortion rate, simply increasing the rate of unsafe abortions. That’s not to say that restrictions on abortion don’t lead to plenty of women being forced to give birth—according to Guttmacher Institute, about one in four low-income women is forced to do so due to economic restrictions on abortion.
But one of the most common consequences of abortion restrictions, as a new report from this week has revealed, is the costly, inconvenient out-of-state travel necessary to circumvent stringent state-level restrictions.
Iowans are traveling out-of-state for abortion care by the hundreds
All while the nation’s abortion rates are reaching historic lows due to increased contraception access, Iowa’s Republican-controlled government has spent the past few years slashing funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning resources, as well as effectively shutting down clinics, so you can probably imagine how this has affected rates of unintended pregnancies in the state.
According to public health records, 200 Iowan women traveled out-of-state to receive abortion care in 2017, pushed out by lack of abortion providers and anti-choice restrictions, which include a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Iowa’s state legislature has passed some of the most dangerous and restrictive reproductive rights policies in the nation, which included a fetal heartbeat ban that would ban abortions at about six weeks, signed into law earlier this year and subsequently delayed in court.
Traveling out-of-state to safely access abortion has unfortunately become common in the decades following Roe v. Wade, and considering 59 percent of people who have abortions are already parents, out-of-state travel for abortion comes with a range of additional costs, like childcare, lodging, and of course, travel expenses.
Threats to Roe v. Wade and reproductive rights on the federal and state level have always, purposefully, been racist and classist: In a post-Roe world, wealthy, predominantly white women will still be able to access abortion care so long as they can afford the costs to travel where it is safe and legal.
To support Iowans seeking abortion care, visit Iowa’s Abortion Access Fund online here.
New Oklahoma bill would ban abortion under all circumstances
Last week, Oklahoma state Sen. Joseph Silk introduced S.B. 13 to ban abortion under all circumstances by explicitly classifying abortion as murder. If the bill sounds familiar, that’s because there’s another just like it floating in Ohio’s state legislature as of last month.
Since introducing SB 13, Silk has gone on tour advocating for his bill with choice statements from your typical, run-of-the-mill comparisons of abortion to slavery (classic), to very logically equating fertilized eggs and fetuses to “a one-year-old child.” Specifically, when asked what he would tell a woman sentenced to life in prison for having an abortion, he said, “the exact same thing I would say to a mother who just killed a 1-month-old or a 1-year-old child.”
It’s been said plenty of times, but seems worth saying again, that as extreme, outlandish, and cruelly dystopian as SB 13 and Silk’s words may sound, they are merely a manifestation of the “pro-life” movement’s real goals. Silk is simply saying the quiet part loud. Anti-choice politicians are bent on punishing and controlling women by humanizing fetuses at the expense of women’s privacy and bodily autonomy, and relying on crude, unscientific, and often racist comparisons.
SB 13 is transparently unconstitutional as long as Roe remains the law of the land, but its potential is still chilling at a time of mounting conservative power in the courts, and its rhetoric is unequivocally dangerous at a time of mounting violence toward abortion providers and women seeking abortions.
New study: When women are denied abortions, their children suffer
In the latest case study demonstrating that the “pro-life” movement isn’t as concerned with children’s lives as it pretends to be, new research has shown that the children of women who seek but aren’t able to receive abortion care suffer long-term consequences, compared with the children of women who seek and are able to receive abortion care.
According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, the children of mothers who are denied abortions have “a greater chance of living below the poverty level (72 percent compared to 55 percent) or living in a household without enough money to cover food, housing, and transportation (87 percent compared to 70 percent).”
It’s worth noting that women who have abortions and already have children actually comprise a majority (59 percent) of those who have abortions in the U.S., countering crude conservative stereotypes of people who have abortions as irresponsible, promiscuous teens. As of 2017, the last seven years account for 34 percent of all restrictions on abortion passed since 1973 (the year Roe v. Wade was decided), which likely means that in recent years, more and more women have struggled to or were not able to receive abortion care altogether.
Certainly, as research into the mental health of women denied abortion care has demonstrated—and as anyone could logically conclude about women who are forced to give birth—women who aren’t able to receive abortions suffer tremendously, and many face physical health detriments, but it’s not even just women who suffer when denied care. It’s also the children that anti-choice politicians claim to care about, striking at the heart of the movement’s hypocrisy.
Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!
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