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We Took Two Steps Forward and Too Many Steps Back on Abortion Rights This Week

(Any steps back are too many.)

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!

This past week has been a pretty hectic one in the sphere of American politics, but since Donald Trump was elected—nay, launched his presidential campaign in 2015—when hasn’t it been? The Department of Justice is busy investigating racism against white college applicants; Ivanka Trump is pissed people actually expect her to do things ever since that time she, you know, identified herself as a feminist activist; and Rosie O’Donnell is calling for women to form our own political party.

But while all that was happening, plenty was simultaneously going on in reproductive rights policymaking. Here’s the scoop you may have missed:

Federal judges block anti-abortion laws in Arkansas …

In a much-needed reminder of just how much America relies on its system of checks and balances, on Friday, a federal judge blocked Arkansas from enacting a number of extremist anti-abortion laws.

One of these laws issued a requirement to report women’s abortions to local police. Another required doctors to tell the family of the pregnant woman she was seeking an abortion, and gave the father of the fetus, regardless of what his relationship to the pregnant woman is, unilateral power to deny her the right to an abortion.

This law was introduced merely as an additional requirement on fetal tissue disposal after an abortion, but does this by adding fetuses to an existing Arkansas law that stipulates family members have to agree about how to handle remains. In practice, it could run into issues of notification and consent.

Another law banned the dilation and evacuation procedure, the safest method for second trimester abortions, making it all too possible that the dangerous self-terminations in the state would increase.

The first law served to misrepresent abortion as dangerous and criminal, and make a woman’s bodily decisions the business of the state. The other, which additionally made no exceptions if the father was abusive, had impregnated the woman through rape, or simply wasn’t in the mother’s life, sent the all-too-familiar message that women’s bodies aren’t their own.

What’s happening in Arkansas is hardly an abnormality, but at the very least we have federal courts to provide much-needed, life-saving balance.

… And in Alabama

Following the struggle of a 12-year-old victim of rape to obtain judicial bypass to have an abortion in Alabama, a federal judge ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union against an Alabama law from 2014 requiring minors seeking abortions to go on trial, and allowing judges to appoint “guardians” for the unborn fetuses, and question or bring in witnesses to testify against the minor on the fetus’s behalf.

I could hardly think of a better law to really, really drive home the anti-choice movement’s belief that fetuses are humans with rights and women are not.

Minors will still have to either obtain parental consent or judicial bypass through a private hearing with a judge to have abortions which is frankly burdensome and degrading enough for young people, but at the very least they won’t have to be publicly shamed anymore.

Democratic leadership continue their crusade to throw women under the bus

Following the delightful example set by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, DNC Chair Tom Perez, and Vermont senator and progressive icon Bernie Sanders, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Ben Ray Lujánd suggested that a Democrat opposing abortion should still be able to receive funding and support from the Democratic party.

The reality of the situation is that women are going bankrupt traveling out of state to have an abortion or injuring themselves attempting to perform the procedure at home because anti-choice lawmakers are legislating away access to it like there’s no tomorrow. These difficulties are put on women in states with limited abortion access by state lawmakers who, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, oppose abortion. We’ve never needed the Democratic party’s advocacy on this issue more, and we’ve never received less than we’re getting now.

This isn’t something we can compromise on. If Democrats are going to bargain away our most fundamental human rights in what will likely be a failed attempt to win voters, they can say goodbye to our votes. Hence Rosie O’Donnell’s aforementioned suggestion that we, women, start our own party.

The real way to win more votes? Maybe just try going outside and inspiring disillusioned people or color and left-leaning progressives to get out to vote.

More than half of women having abortions are using contraception

In the latest blow to misleading conservative narratives about abortion, a new study has found the majority of women who have abortions were using contraception. Nearly a quarter of women were using either hormonal contraception like birth control pills, or long-acting contraceptive methods like an IUD.

The study’s findings were a sharp blow to anti-abortion activists’ portrayal of women who have abortions as flighty, irresponsible teens who deserve to suffer the consequences of their carelessness, and those who go on to have abortions do so recklessly and later regret their choice. The reality is that the majority of women having abortions are adult mothers with families, 95 percent of women who have abortions don’t regret doing so, and as per this latest research, many were being careful.

No woman has absolute power over biological forces, which is why abortion always has to be an option.

Texas House passes bill requiring doctors to report abortions

In today’s episode of “If Only Texas Regulated Gun Ownership Like it Does Abortion,” the Texas House on Thursday passed a bill that would require doctors to send thorough reports about people who have abortions to the state government.

From the Texas Tribune:

“Doctors would have to document how the minor obtained authorization to get an abortion. If she got a judicial bypass, the report to the state would include whether the doctor or another advocate helped her through the process, and how. If she obtained parental consent, the doctor must report where that happened. And if a doctor performs an emergency abortion on a minor, the report must include whether there was time to obtain parental consent. The bill, which passed on a 92 to 48 vote, would also require doctors who perform third-trimester abortions because of fetal abnormalities to report the identified abnormality to the state.”

State Rep. Jim Murphy cited “public health” as the reason this is necessary, but until the Texas House passes a bill requiring dentists to report tooth extractions to the state government, I think we can all safely assume the bill is about further stigmatizing abortion and burdening abortion providers, who have their work cut out for them as it is.

(image: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com)

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