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 past week has seen Alabama Republicans tasked with the impossible burden of determining what’s worse: a Senate candidate who supports women having the right to bodily autonomy, or one who allegedly assaulted children. An impossibly difficult choice, I know. Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast postulates that this issue could be make-or-break in Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore, and yet, now seems like as important a time as ever to recognize that reproductive rights can’t be compromised on—or at least, not without jeopardizing women’s health.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this issue doesn’t matter in the Senate race in Alabama. States have become the predominant battleground for abortion and family planning access, but Congress has recently taken on 20-week and six-week abortion bans, and this week, the GOP’s tax bill—including bizarre rights for fetuses—passed the House.
Here’s what else you may have missed:
GOP tax plan gives fetuses the right to college savings plans, ignores women struggling with college debt
On Thursday, the House passed the GOP’s tax reform bill, which would offer a tax break to families like Trump’s at the expense of pretty much everyone else. And yet, as if that weren’t awful enough, being a bill by Republican men, of course it had to in some way dictate what women can and can’t do with their bodies. It includes a measure that would allow an embryo or a fetus—predictably referred to as “an unborn child”—to be made a beneficiary of a 529 college savings account, or “a tax-advantaged way parents can invest money to save for education costs,” according to Huffington Post.
Under current law, 529 savings accounts can already be opened ahead of a child’s birth, and so the whole point of including this measure in the bill was to allow the House GOP to add personhood language to yet another law, in what appears to be a long-term effort to undermine Roe v. Wade. The irony, of course, is that while Republican lawmakers are literally using college savings plans to humanize fetuses and guilt women with unwanted pregnancies, thousands of born, living women across the country disproportionately shoulder massive amounts of college debt, a problem Republican lawmakers seem wholly disinterested in addressing.
Ohio Senate passes bill banning abortions for down syndrome
In yet another innocuously written piece of legislation by anti-choice lawmakers, a bill passed in Ohio’s senate Wednesday would make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion if the fetus might have down syndrome. Notably, numerous families with down syndrome as well as doctors testified against the bill at senate hearings, but it prevailed nonetheless.
The bill is similar to bills that claim to ban “sex-selective” or “race-selective” abortions, and in doing so, assert that it’s the government’s place to speculate the intent of a woman seeking abortion. What these bills are really banning is just choice and abortion, all the same. The Ohio bill would affect not only women, but could also disproportionately target the reproductive rights of women with down syndrome.
The bill will now go to the desk of Gov. John Kasich, who signed off on a 20-week ban last year.
U.S. Supreme Court will hear case about California crisis pregnancy centers
When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the issue of abortion rights was as simple as whether or not you believed women should have a choice. Decades have passed, and the dialogue around abortion rights has become increasingly obfuscated by debate about what “choice” is—notably, do you really have a choice when you lack the financial means to have the procedure, and insurance coverage of abortion is banned in your state? Then, most relevant to a case the Supreme Court announced this week that it will hear next year: do you really have a choice if you’re making it based on incomplete, inaccurate facts?
“Crisis pregnancy centers,” or anti-abortion organizations that deceitfully pose as reproductive health providers, often spread a range of terrifying, scientifically disproven lies about abortion, e.g., that it could cause cancer or depression, that it has high rates of fatality, or that fetuses feel pain. That’s why California recently passed a law requiring unlicensed facilities that don’t provide health care to post clear, visible signs that state: “This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.”
For women who are on the fence about the procedure, learning certain “facts” from a local crisis pregnancy center or website could make the decision for them. And in states where women are required to obtain ultrasounds before the procedure, CPCs often lure women in with the promise of a free ultrasound, as they can be expensive elsewhere; that’s why, in many cases, low-income women can be most vulnerable to misinformation about abortion.
This issue is so prevalent across the United States that a ruling in favor of California’s laws could mark a crucial victory for reproductive rights. Because, at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s about — not necessarily free speech, but reproductive rights and whether women in this country are able to make safe, informed decisions about their bodies.
Wisconsin assembly considers bill to allow women to fill 12-month birth control prescriptions
Wisconsin state Rep. Katrina Shankland and state Sen. LaTonya Johnson, both Democrats, introduced a bill that would allow women to access a 12-month supply of birth control at one time. Most insurance plans currently allow women to only receive 30 or 90-day supplies despite research that has found access to a year supply could reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy by up to 30 percent. Twelve-month supplies are also recommended by the Center for Disease Control.
“This is exactly the type of sensible solution that improves women’s lives and reduces medical costs in our state that members of both parties should support,” Sara Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health told WQOW Wednesday.
As common sense as this bill may be—birth control, after all, is about preventing unwanted pregnancy, so wouldn’t it make sense to dispense it in a manner most likely to do this?—its future in the Wisconsin legislature is questionable. Last we heard from the state’s capitol, a bill to ban state health insurance coverage of abortion was justified by one state representative claiming that abortion hurts the labor force, and it passed. So, take from that what you will about where Wisconsin lawmakers stand on women’s rights.
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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