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The War on Women Has Always Existed—But Trump is Taking it to New Heights

Donald Trump on Abortion

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!

To say the least, observing Independence Day while immigrant children and families remain separated or in cages, and reproductive freedom in this country quite literally hangs by a thread, was uncomfortable. Because if you’re not angry, you’re either not paying attention, or likelier at this point, incapable of empathy.

On Thursday, the president of the United States literally made a rape joke, seeming to equate DNA testing kits with rape kits and ripping the frailty of the “#MeToo generation,” at a rally in Montana—this was the same day he hired the former Fox News executive known for covering systemic sexual harassment at the company. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking the president’s words are somehow separable from his actions—this administration’s cruelty toward women and of course, all marginalized people, is the shared foundation of its rhetoric and policy agenda.

The president of the United States, accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct, considers rape a joke, and has placed women’s right to bodily autonomy on the chopping block. These are facts, and so is this: There is a War on Women—there always has been—and President Trump is using his words, deeds, and every ounce of his power to take it to new extremes.

President Trump meets with potential Supreme Court nominees—all of whom would gut Roe v. Wade

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, leaving an opening on the bench that President Trump will now use to fulfill his campaign promise of dismantling the precedent of Roe v. Wade. Trump and Vice President Pence have been clear about this goal since day one: stack courts across the country with anti-choice judges; appoint Supreme Court justices who are hand-picked by an organization with a stringent anti-abortion litmus test; and then, allow the radical, anti-choice legislation being churned out by the states to work its way through the courts.

This agenda has been enabled thus far by the Republican-controlled Senate, and without Kennedy’s swing vote which has protected Roe for the past 30 of its 45 years of existence, things are looking predictably bleak. This week, despite the president’s pivoting about whether his SCOTUS nominee will oppose and be the vote to criminalize abortion, we know what he said in 2016, and we know that any Federalist Society-approved nominee will rule against abortion every time it goes to the high court.

As of Thursday, Trump has narrowed his search to three candidates—Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Raymond Kethledge. Barrett is on the record calling Roe v. Wade an “erroneous decision,” and Kavanaugh has supported the Trump administration’s agenda of denying detained undocumented women abortion access, if that offers any perspective as to what any of these candidates will mean for reproductive rights.

President Trump will announce his decision this Monday. Your senators need to hear from you, and abortion funds and women’s health clinics need your support. The threat our human rights face is huge, and what’s at stake is huge—anyone who tells you different is either willfully ignorant or gaslighting you. It’s OK to be afraid. But don’t allow yourself to believe that you are helpless. There’s something each of us can do, and so that’s what we’re going to do.

Federal judge blocks enforcement of Arkansas law effectively banning medication abortion

On Monday, a district court judge issued an injunction blocking a 2015 law in Arkansas that effectively bans medication abortion from taking effect. The same judge previously issues an injunction in 2016, only for it to be overturned by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and passed on to the Supreme Court.

You’ve probably read about this law before; it requires that doctors offering medication abortion services have a contract with a second doctor who has admitting privileges at a hospital, and it’s been working its way through the courts for the past three years. In May, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, upholding the 8th Circuit Court, only for a lawsuit to be filed again; this week a district court judge has again blocked the law.

If this law were to take effect, Arkansas would be reduced to just one abortion provider to serve the whole state. This is already the reality for a handful of states, where women are forced to travel great distances or even out-of-state just to access their human right to an abortion. This law is justified by the objectively disproven notion that medication abortion is unsafe, when it has a far lower risk of complications than many everyday health services. Abortions in general are less likely to send you to the emergency room than colonoscopies or having your tonsils removed, which means the only justification for hospital admitting privilege requirements is—you guessed it—sexism.

Especially in light of the crisis at the Supreme Court, laws like this highlight how abortion rights will be at stake regardless of whether the precedent of Roe v. Wade itself is overturned. Justices appointed by Trump who oppose abortion rights would likely defend laws like this, despite how Roe protects the right to abortion without undue burden. In other words, the battle at the Supreme Court, at all courts, and in every single governing body in this country is about more than protecting the words “Roe v. Wade”—it’s about fighting to ensure those words still mean something, for all women, everywhere in this country.

Tennessee is on the verge of offering OTC birth control

Now more than two years after passing the Tennessee General Assembly, a bill to give women access to hormonal birth control including the pill and the patch, without visiting a doctor, will likely go into effect later this month in Tennessee. While a handful of other states have passed similar laws, implementing it has been an uphill battle because there’s virtually no precedent for this.

As noted by NPR’s Nashville arm, accessing hormonal contraception is still required by federal law to necessitate a prescription on record. In order to bypass this, states that pass laws to make birth control accessible over the counter lower these requirements to be “as simple as possible,” according to NPR. In Tennessee, this means filling out a health questionnaire and receiving information about birth control side effects in order to access it at one’s local pharmacy.

Hormonal birth control has been proven to be as safe or safer than most of the medication you can purchase without a prescription across the country. As with restrictions on abortion access, let’s not delude ourselves: The hoops women are forced to jump through to access safe health care that they need to make fundamental life decisions and take care of themselves isn’t about safety—it’s about control.

And all of this, again, goes back to the Supreme Court, and what’s at stake today. The right of unmarried women to access birth control was only established in 1972 with Eisenstadt v. Baird, and in light of this administration’s attacks on the contraceptive mandate, Title X funding, and its weaponization of “religious freedom” to strip women of health care, nothing is safe. The War on Women is not only occurring but also mounting, and everything is on the table.

Good on Tennessee, which isn’t always the friendliest state for reproductive rights, but barriers still exist and will likely only increase in the years to come. It’s on all of us to fight back.

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

(image: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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