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Utah Poised to Be the Latest State to Try to Ban Abortion

Pro-Abortion protest sign reading 'mind your own uterus'

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!

Don’t let a relatively quiet week in the news cycle around reproductive rights fool you—individual states, as of this week, are still trying to ban abortion. In partnership with a group called Abortion-Free Utah, state Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton this week pledged to introduce future legislation that would ban all elective abortions in the state. McCay’s pledge notably comes after abortion bans have swept state legislatures in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Missouri since last month, fueling intense reactions from both anti-abortion states and pro-choice states.

McCay’s promised bill may not be on the table just yet, but the threat of it is not only dangerous in a state with an overwhelmingly Republican majority in its legislature, but in a country where we’ve seen the very serious threats of anti-abortion state lawmakers laughed off or ignored for the last decade—a decade that’s seen hundreds of anti-abortion laws pass in states across the country, abortion clinics shut down by the dozens, a conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court poised to strike at the heart of reproductive rights at any time.

The time for selective attention and ignoring threats that may seem extreme—too extreme to be real—has passed. We’re frighteningly close to becoming a country of forced pregnancies and births, outlawed healthcare, and already high maternal death rates skyrocketing. And, of course, these realities already exist for thousands of American women. Anti-abortion politicians have made it 100 percent clear what they’re coming for: our bodily autonomy and our most fundamental human rights.

When people show you who they are, believe them.

House spending bill includes a major win for reproductive rights, in conflict with a Ninth Circuit ruling

In case you needed one more reminder of how monumental and important it is that pro-choice lawmakers won back the U.S. House of Representatives last November, this week, the House passed a $1 trillion spending bill that includes several provisions supportive of global and domestic reproductive rights. The bill is notably in conflict with a Thursday ruling from the Ninth Circuit which will allow the Trump administration’s dangerous, repressive domestic gag rule to take effect and potentially deny millions of women and girls access to healthcare—and even information about healthcare.

The House bill, in contrast, permanently repeals the domestic and global gag rules, which block federal funding for organizations that offer abortion care or information about abortion care in the U.S. and abroad. The domestic gag rule in question is a Trump administration policy that permits healthcare providers to deny patients information about or referrals for abortion care or abortion care, citing First Amendment rights. This, of course, makes no sense considering abortion is healthcare, and the very job of healthcare providers is to talk about healthcare, otherwise betraying the trust that is core to doctor-patient relationships. Similarly, no one is forcing them to be healthcare providers, if they don’t wish to fulfill this important part of that job.

On top of the domestic gag rule, there’s also the global gag rule, which has been intermittently instated and repealed via executive order since the Reagan era and blocks international healthcare organizations from receiving federal funding if they offer abortion services or information about abortion. It’s unclear as of yet how many girls and women have died, the rate at which STDs have spread, or how many girls have been forced into child marriages as a direct extension of inadequate access to healthcare and education due to the global gag rule. But considering all the research into how global gag rules have historically affected global health and conditions for girls and women, it’s hard to be optimistic.

The House spending bill would not only reverse the global gag rule, but also guarantee $750 million in funding for international family planning programs. Unfortunately, under the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party, it’s safe to expect a bill this moral and progressive to be dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate, although the final spending bill isn’t officially due until the new fiscal year begins in October, but we should still be hopeful for the ambitious, pro-choice agenda-setting of this House of Representatives.

Rhode Island will enshrine abortion rights in state constitution

On yet another positive note, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo this week signed a bill that would explicitly codify abortion as a fundamental human right in the Rhode Island Constitution. The bill comes in the wake of abortion bans sweeping the country, and ongoing concerns about the future of Roe v. Wade in the era of Donald Trump.

“Fundamentally, this bill is about healthcare. It’s about protecting and providing access to healthcare for all the women of Rhode Island,” Gov. Raimondo said of her decision to sign the bill. She added, “In light of all the uncertainty in Washington, and frankly, around the country in many other states, there is a great deal of anxiety that … a woman’s right to access reproductive healthcare is in danger.”

Rhode Island now joins several states, from Illinois to Massachusetts, which have moved to establish abortion as a fundamental right in their state constitutions to ensure that safe, legal abortion within their borders doesn’t depend exclusively on Roe. And it comes after just last week, when New York City took a bold step forward and established a $250,000 fund to support women who travel from out-of-state to New York City for abortion care.

The fund, like other laws and programs to support out-of-state abortion access, addresses the reality that abortion bans don’t prevent abortion from happening, but simply make it more inconvenient, costly, and often dangerous to access. What’s far more likely is women shouldering burdensome costs to access healthcare in a nearby state, which makes Rhode Island’s choice to become a haven for reproductive rights all the more important.

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

(image: SETH HERALD/AFP/Getty Images)

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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