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Despite Court Orders, Trump Administration Pushes Ineffective Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

Just another Trump administration policy that flies in the face of reality.

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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!

The challenges to reproductive rights in the United States run deep—deeper, even, than the myriad state-by-state laws obstructing access to abortion and birth control. According to a letter by Senate Democrats, the Trump administration has been defying court orders in order to direct federal funds toward abstinence-only programs through a third-party government contractor.

Earlier this year, federal courts ruled to block the Trump administration from its attempts to defund the Obama-era Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which many medical professionals have credited with bringing the US teen pregnancy rate to an all-time low, NBC News reports.

Despite the Trump Health and Human Services’ Department’s claims that abstinence-only programs are “medically accurate and age appropriate programs that reduce teen pregnancy,” data from many states that prohibit inclusive, comprehensive, and medically accurate sexual health education has consistently shown that abstinence-only education programs yield higher rates of unintended teen pregnancy, which is especially harmful in states with restrictive abortion laws.

As states continually work to defund or slash funding for Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health organizations that offer accurate, comprehensive education and resources about sexual health, the Trump administration’s persistent financial and rhetorical support of abstinence programs has become a health hazard for young people.

Thirty percent of young women who drop out of school name unintended pregnancy as the reason, and this demographic is rendered substantially more likely to struggle with poverty. It’s impossible to overstate the cruelty of putting ideology before the livelihoods and futures of young people—which is exactly what this administration is doing.

Cost-Free Abortion Care in Ireland Sets An Example for the Rest of the World

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, you’ll recall Ireland recently voted to make abortion legal within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and as of January 1, 2019, abortion care will not only be safe and legal, but also free in that country. That’s because, earlier this month, the Irish Parliament voted to formally pass legislation implementing the outcome of the referendum, and ensuring abortion is accessible free of charge.

According to Rewire, while Ireland lacks a universal health care system, starting January 1, the cost of abortion care will be covered under the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, which currently provides free maternity health care.

The path to safe, legal abortion in Ireland was contentious, and for many women, paved with tragedy and struggle, but the country’s forthcoming national policy of covering the cost of abortion care now provides a model for other countries—especially the U.S., which has maintained the archaic Hyde amendment, a ban on federal funding for elective abortion, since 1973.

For decades, the Hyde amendment has transformed abortion rights in the U.S. from human right to privilege, accessible only to those who can afford it, and while restrictions on abortion often merely inconvenience or endanger women seeking care, research has shown Hyde has been effective in forcing nearly one in four low-income American women to give birth.

Ireland’s progressive work to protect and strengthen women’s fundamental human rights, and make abortion care available to women across all socioeconomic statuses, is a reminder of how much work to improve reproductive rights remains to be done in the United States and around the world.

New South Dakota Senate abortion bill doubles down on shaming women

This week, the South Dakota state Senate announced the bills it will consider in 2019. Unfortunately, they include a newly introduced bill that takes aggressive ideological shaming of women seeking abortion care to the next level. Per the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:

“The 2019 bill would require the doctor to show a sonogram of the fetus to the woman and make the heartbeat audible, if the heartbeat is present, and the doctor would be required to describe the fetus’ size, organs and heartbeat to the woman.

“The bill would also slightly change language in the statute to refer to the facility as an ‘abortion facility’ and changing the wording to say that the woman was making a ‘choice’ rather than an ‘informed decision’ if she refused to view the sonogram.”

Unfortunately, South Dakota isn’t alone as it prepares to consider this bill. Many states have ultrasound and sonogram requirements, which often include forcing women to listen to the fetal heartbeat as a means of humanizing the unborn fetus and shaming women. In many cases, there is simply no legitimate medical reason for such requirements, which are solely rooted in stigmatizing abortion, and intimidating and harassing pregnant women seeking care.

Additionally, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America, required ultrasound and sonogram policies are also often connected to women being forced to make multiple trips to see their doctor, or shouldering the costs of the ultrasound out-of-pocket, which can make abortion care even less accessible for low-income women.

South Dakota already maintains a range of restrictions on abortion access, including an inconvenient, costly, mandatory three-day waiting period, and as of November, has elected a Governor who has stated her intent to approve anti-abortion laws.

This latest bill seems emblematic of the greater anti-choice movement and its strategy of imposing manipulative representations of fetuses as born, live children to shame and hurt women.

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

(image: Avivi Aharon / Shutterstock.com)

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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