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Lawmakers Continue to Play Politics With Women’s Bodies

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!

Looking ahead to the new year, most of us reasonably have mixed feelings. A self-admitted sexual predator and eager women’s rights opponent remains our president, but in direct response to President Trump’s reign of terror, women are running for office in inspiring numbers—and winning. It’s important that we all acknowledge what an unmitigated disaster the Trump administration has been for women, people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and any marginalized community you could name, that it’s only going to continue leading the charge against justice and social progress. But as the sweeping progressive victories of Nov. 7, #MeToo movement, and of course, the POC-driven Alabama special election earlier this month all demonstrate, none of us is powerless to impact positive change.

When it comes to the struggle for reproductive justice, there’s always been a push and pull—important victories and difficult defeats—that will likely continue well into 2018. That push and pull is a recurring aspect of every week in this country. Here’s what you may or may not have missed this week:

Third largest metropolitan area in Iowa will lose its sole abortion clinic

As of Friday, the Quad Cities area of Iowa will be without a single abortion provider as the Planned Parenthood clinic is forced to close its doors following the state legislature’s decision to cut roughly $2 million in Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland earlier this year. Iowa’s Bettendorf-based clinic formerly served the third largest metropolitan area in the state, providing abortion services and, with state funding, family planning services, prior to the funding shift that will also shut down three other clinics in the state.

Following the closure of the Bettendorf clinic, the closest abortion provider “will be 60 miles west in Iowa City,” according to the Des Moines register.

The closure of the clinics, which will likely require women seeking abortions to take time off work and pay for travel costs to have the procedure, are part of an overarching attack strategy by anti-choice lawmakers. While abortion remains legal in name, by starving women’s health organizations of funding they rely on to offer crucial, life-saving reproductive health care, abortion will become virtually inaccessible nonetheless, and women’s health suffers as a result of this—states with the most restrictions on abortion access boast notably lower living standards for women, according to a report from earlier this year that showed the devastating, lived consequences of playing politics with women’s bodies.

At any rate, as if the closure of multiple crucial abortion clinics in Iowa weren’t bad enough already, the funding changes that caused the shutdowns promise things aren’t about to get any better. According to the Register, the state will use $3.3 million that could have prevented these clinics from shutting down to “recreate its own family planning network so that it can prohibit the funding of clinics that provide abortions.”

It’s not uncommon for lawmakers on a state and federal level to cite abortion services as a reason to withhold taxpayer funding from family planning organizations that simultaneously provide access to the very resources that prevent abortion by preventing the need for it. However provably counterproductive it may be for anti-choice lawmakers to defund providers of contraception and sex ed—women will likely still have the procedure, either at higher costs or at the risk of their health and safety—the equal parts cruel and moronic line of attack remains at large, and this time, Iowan women will suffer the consequences of it.

Illinois judge rejects lawsuit against expanding abortion coverage

On Thursday, Illinois’ Sangamon County Circuit Court ruled against a lawsuit meant to counter a law that will expand state-funded coverage of abortions for low-income Medicaid recipients. The lawsuit was led by state anti-choice lawmakers and activists, and their lawyers are already seeking an immediate appeal, arguing the state lacks the budget to implement the law. Nonetheless, the law is widely supported in the state and is expected to help protect and equalize access to bodily autonomy for all women across income brackets.

“No woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman would based purely on her income,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said. “I have not and never will change my views. I personally believe that a woman must have the right to decide what goes on in her own body.”

Roughly 15 other states allow Medicaid funding for abortion, according to Reuters. But on a federal level, the Hyde amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion with few exceptions, remains in place to protect the very delicate consciences of abortion opponents who simultaneously support taxpayer funding for wars resulting in the deaths of born, living humans.

Maryland law will make birth control more accessible and affordable

As of Jan. 1 in the new year, insurers will be required to provide most forms of birth control without out-of-pocket costs for patients—this includes covering the costs of OTC birth control as well as emergency contraception. This protected access is particularly important in the wake of the Trump administration’s repeal of the Obama-era contraceptive mandate, which will allow insurers and employers to bar female employees’ access to birth control due to any personal opposition. The last part of the law is also a game-changer in addressing how making birth control over the counter won’t help promote access for those who can’t afford it.

Under the same law, women will be able to get birth control pills in six-month doses rather than refill a prescription on a monthly basis—a change that will likely substantially reduce odds of unplanned pregnancy, considering how dispensing a year’s supply of the pill can reduce the odds by 30 percent. This part of the law is a particular game-changer considering the simple fact that life is messy and not having to go out of your way to pick up a new pack of pills once a month can only help.

Male birth control set to begin clinical trial

Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development announced this week that a “topical gel to suppress sperm production”—or, male birth control—will begin a four-year clinical trial beginning next year in April.

There’s no denying male birth control could be an important step in combating the disproportionate burden we place on women to prevent unwanted pregnancy. And yet this latest development reminds me of roughly this same time last year, when a male birth control study was tossed aside after male participants reported the same exact side effects that women on the pill experience every day. As many pointed out at the time, the ultimate takeaway was that when it comes to sex and reproductive health women are expected to accept the burden and any discomfort without complaint. So, it’s cool we’re trying this, but let’s maintain some realistic expectations about the outcome.

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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