“March for Life” Set to Ignore How Their Ideology Costs Lives Again This Year
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!
Last week, President Trump formally endorsed the 45th annual March for Life, pledging to give a live address from the Rose Garden on Friday, the day of the march. According to The Guardian, even though Trump is hardly the first anti-choice president we’ve ever had, such an emphatic endorsement is rare from the White House.
In either case, let’s take a moment to get one thing straight about the March for Life, which is slated to precede the Women’s March on Saturday: Despite how its organizers claim anti-abortion women are unfairly excluded from the Women’s March and feminism at large, while also claiming to value children and family, the March for Life conveniently forgets the millions of low-income children who will suffer without the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which our Republican-led Congress allowed to expire last year. It ignores undocumented children who could be separated from their families by the escalated anti-immigration policy agenda of Trump and the Republican Party, the refugee families conservatives spin as terrorists, and pregnant women and children in Flint, Michigan who will suffer the consequences of Republican inaction for generations. Despite its name, the march has yet to ever acknowledge how abortion bans and restrictions are costing women—and in particular, women of color—their lives, often without stopping abortions from happening.
The March for Life wraps up a dismal week for reproductive rights news across the country, but ultimately, it’s all just a reminder of why the Women’s March exists, and the oppression that women everywhere are bravely standing up to.
Trump’s Health and Human Services Department authorizes doctors to screw over women, trans people
In yet another bigotry-driven, deeply dangerous move, early Thursday morning, Trump’s HHS Department announced the creation of a new division dedicated to defending health care workers who discriminate against women seeking abortion services, or trans people seeking care.
Under President Trump, as we saw with the repeal of the contraceptive mandate, the department is embracing its own definition of the term “religious freedom,” one that says people—and particularly vulnerable demographics—can be lied to and denied basic health care on the basis of their identity, simply to not offend Christians, or really any sexist, homophobic or transphobic doctor. It’s a definition with not only economic implications, but also terrifying human rights and public health consequences.
“Medical standards, not religious belief, should guide medical care,” Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “Denying patients health care is not liberty. Choosing your patients based on their gender or gender expression is not freedom. Should the administration choose to move forward to implement a discriminatory policy, we will see them in court.”
Ohio Senate passes bill to require aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated
On Wednesday, Ohio’s Republican-dominated state Senate passed a bill that would force women who have abortions or their clinics to pay for the burial or cremation of their aborted fetuses. The passage of SB 38 follows that of another dangerous and deeply problematic bill, recently signed into law by Gov. Kasich, banning abortions after a fetal diagnosis of down syndrome.
Indiana, Texas and other states have passed similar laws about burial funds, only to face ultimately successful challenges in court overriding them. The laws were found to place undue burdens on women, with costs for burials or cremations reaching around $2,000—a steep, perhaps even impossible, price for women to pay in addition to the procedure and any costs incurred traveling to the abortion clinic. Economic barriers on legal abortion—especially those of this magnitude—can have the effect of forcing women to resort to dangerous means to terminate a pregnancy, which is precisely why states with more restrictions on the procedure often have poorer living standards for women, as measured by maternal death rates.
As for clinics paying for the cremation or burial of fetuses, the main method anti-abortion lawmakers attack abortion access is through shutting down clinics, often by slashing their sources of funding or placing expensive, medically unnecessary requirements for them to adopt.
But perhaps the worst component of laws like this is the message it sends that unborn fetuses are living humans. It’s this stigma that drives the anti-choice movement and offers a twisted legitimacy to laws restricting or banning abortion, all while belittling the humanity of pregnant women and those who have abortions.
Fortunately, SB 38’s passage through Ohio’s state senate doesn’t mean much. Gov. Kasich has certainly signed off on his fair share of radical anti-abortion laws, such as a 20-week ban and the aforementioned down syndrome ban, but he’s also vetoed some, too, such as a bill banning abortion at six weeks back in 2016. And even if he does sign off on it, the law would almost immediately be challenged in court.
California college abortion bill makes progress
In some much needed good news, a California Senate bill that would require public colleges in the state to offer medication abortion (the intake of a mifeprex and a mifepristone pill to terminate a pregnancy as late as 10 weeks) reportedly passed the Senate Appropriations committee on Thursday, after passing the Senate Education committee last Friday.
The bill is a crucial step toward addressing gender equality on college campuses, where female students presently face substantial geographic and economic barriers to access basic health care. These restrictions on their ability to access abortion, disproportionately affecting low-income students and those attending college in rural areas far removed removed from women’s health clinics, impact every aspect of their lives, including the quality of their education. But above even the bill’s health and economic implications as well as its positive effects on campus gender equality, the cultural message it sends is just as important—that abortion is a safe, legal and ultimately normal medical service with as much of a place on college campuses as any other medical service.
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)
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