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Trump White House’s Misogyny No Coincidence as Attacks on Abortion Rights Intensify

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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!

On Wednesday, allegations were revealed that White House staff secretary Rob Porter had a history of assaulting his ex-wives. Since then, the White House has sent out a barrage of mixed messages implying Chief of Staff John Kelly and others had knowledge of this record of abuse but ignored it, and even prepared statements to defend Porter’s honor.

These revelations were certainly disturbing, but unfortunately, they were roughly in line with a lot of what this presidential administration has stood for time and again. President Trump himself has more than a dozen allegations of sexual abuse toward women, himself; the best defense Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders could provide were that all of the women were lying, and assaults should only be investigated if the man first admits responsibility. Additionally, Trump’s former nominee for labor secretary, Andy Puzder, had to step down when allegations of domestic abuse toward his former wife surfaced. Former White House chief of staff Steve Bannon allegedly assaulted one of his former wives, and, of course, let’s not forget the White House’s full-fledged support of alleged child molester and former Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore.

Ignoring allegations of sexual violence toward women has become run of the mill for this administration, which is pretty much in line with its actual policies and those of its political party, too. Ultimately, violence against women comes in more forms than assault and domestic abuse; it also includes reproductive coercion, and the White House and Republicans across the country have been not only complicit but aggressive in attacks on basic freedoms for women.

And the aggressive, anti-choice stances of this presidential administration further embolden anti-choice lawmakers across the country.

West Virginia Senate rejects life-saving Democratic amendment on abortion

After West Virginia state senators successfully advanced a resolution to add an amendment to the state’s constitution that would state that abortion is not a protected right, Democratic state Sen. Corey Palumbo offered an amendment that recognized abortion as a protected right in cases of rape, incest, or medical necessity. However, on Thursday, the state Senate voted against his amendment 22-7, moving the anti-abortion resolution forward for a third reading on Friday, and up for a vote as-is. Resolutions to amend the state Constitution require a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the state Legislature, and then are put on the ballot for the general public to vote in the upcoming elections.

Where some states have written abortion rights into their constitutions, since President Trump last year suggested he would nominate Supreme Court justices who would reverse on Roe v. Wade, West Virginia appears to be moving in the opposite direction. And while a reversal on Roe may not be particularly likely, it’s certainly not impossible. Controversial abortion restrictions pop up just about every day in state legislatures across the country, and if these restrictions are challenged in the courts, there’s always a chance they could make it to the Supreme Court. A Supreme Court fully loaded with staunch conservatives in the near future could foreseeably dismantle Roe altogether.

And in lieu of Roe, the right to an abortion would go to the states and rely on state constitutions expressly affirming abortion rights. West Virginia’s constitution may be preparing the state for something that will never happen, or of course, it could be taking West Virginian women one step closer to living in a society without safe, legal abortion—one bound to see sharp rises in maternal mortality deaths, unsafe terminations, and related injuries. The importance of Roe v. Wade was that it established abortion as a human right not contingent on which state you live in; without it, and with resolutions like that which West Virginia is considering, women could be returned to a society where the government forces them to give birth.

Arizona bill would require doctors to ask women why they’re seeking abortions

Arizona state lawmakers this week proposed a bill that would require doctors to ask women seeking abortions why they are doing so. The bill lists 11 reasons, ranging from socioeconomics to the nature of her relationship with the father, to if she just doesn’t want kids. Doctors must submit a form to the state Department of Health Services prior to performing the procedure; if a woman refuses to answer, they are still required by the bill to submit the form but should indicate the woman did not answer.

The bill’s supporters claim that since it’s anonymous, it doesn’t harm women and benefits them by providing more information about abortion. But by merely posing the question and requiring doctors do so by law, many women will feel violated regardless of whether their name is sent to the Department of Health Services. And as abortion is a legal medical procedure, stigma and misogyny are the only reasons anyone would force a woman to justify her bodily decision in the first place.

The Senate originally scheduled a hearing for the bill for Wednesday, but pushed it to a later date. And while the bill is obviously questionable, Arizona has proven time and again to be a hostile place for abortion rights, with myriad restrictions such as mandated counseling, 24-hour waiting periods, and severely limited insurance coverage of abortion, among others.

Iowa legislature advances bill that would ban most abortions

The Iowa Senate on Thursday moved out of committee a bill that would ban abortions after fetal heartbeat. The bill would require that any woman seeking an abortion must undergo testing, and if a heartbeat in the fetus is detected, then any doctor who provides an abortion would face up to five years in prison as a consequence. Since heartbeat occurs as early as six weeks gestation, at which point some women don’t even realize they are pregnant, the bill could effectively ban women from having abortions at all, in some cases.

The concept of fetal heartbeat as the equivalent of personhood is not only objectively false, but also, to ban abortion at this stage would be a violation of Roe v. Wade’s mandate that abortion be accessible until the point of fetal viability. Recognizing a six-week-old fetus but not a born, adult woman as a person with rights would, of course, go beyond being morally questionable, and cross into simply endangering women’s lives and health.

The bill now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and while the message its success sends—that politicians should now feel free to make attempts to ban abortion, and not seem crazy—is certainly concerning, there’s really no way it could be signed into law without a strong legal challenge.

Notre Dame pushes out ambiguous birth control plan

In a Wednesday memo from the Catholic university’s president, Notre Dame announced an upcoming new plan for birth control coverage. According to the memo, the university will no longer allow third-party providers from including coverage of “abortion-inducing” contraceptives, and will limit providers to “simple contraceptives” in the university’s self-funded health plan. The memo’s language was noticeably ambiguous, and even misleading by equating contraception to abortion in what seemed to be a reference to Plan B, which is, FYI, very different from abortion.

The memo follows Notre Dame’s decision to repeal its contraceptive coverage after the Trump administration’s reversal on the Obama-era contraceptive mandate last year. This decision by the university was almost immediately reversed in the wake of predictable pushback, considering an estimated 17,000 people rely on Notre Dame’s health plan for contraception coverage, and that while it is a Catholic institution, its student body and faculty are diverse.

According to the memo, more details about changes in the health care plan will be rolled out in March. Whatever these changes wind up being, they could drastically impact the livelihoods and opportunities of thousands of students and faculty.

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

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