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!
Coverage of the Trump administration’s frankly dystopian treatment of immigrant families has loomed large in the news cycle in recent weeks, as we learn more about this their policy of separating families just to send a message to potential immigrants—and their inhumane methods of doing so. Ever week under Donald Trump, we witness the boundaries of human cruelty pushed further and further; that has certainly been the case this week, as new reports say the administration is working to construct a prison camp for immigrant children separated from their families, and will deny asylum to women fleeing domestic abuse.
Without a doubt, women’s bodily safety, the right to make decisions about your family, and certainly being with your family, are human rights issues. The vile and shameful treatment of immigrant women and families sends a clear message about how this administration regards their humanity.
It also sends a clear message that we, too, need to do better. We need to pay attention, get involved, and vote. No one who supports or is complicit in the separation of families deserves to occupy any position of power whatsoever, and it’s our shared responsibility to change this.
Judge upholds Missouri law restricting medication abortion
On Tuesday, a federal judge elected to uphold a Missouri state law restricting access to medication abortion. The law, which Planned Parenthood challenged in a lawsuit, requires that medication abortion providers find an OB-GYN “to be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to treat complications related to abortion drugs prescribed or administered,” ignoring all credible research proving that medication abortion is extremely safe, and essentially banning the abortion pill in all the clinics it was offered.
Until just last year, there was only one clinic providing abortion in the state. Due to this bill, women in Missouri could be forced to travel hundreds of miles to access basic health care. And yet, in her decision, the judge who sided with the law argued that Planned Parenthood had failed to prove how it created an “undue burden” for women seeking abortion services. If putting everything on hold to travel across the state or even out-of-state isn’t “undue burden,” then I don’t know what is.
New study shows how TRAP laws have devastated the Midwest
It’s no secret that abortion is more accessible in some parts of the country than others, and a new report from this week reveals how anti-choice legislation in the Midwest has had devastating effects on abortion access in this region.
The Midwest had the lowest number of clinics per woman in the nation, according to a University of California, San Francisco study, with just one for every 165,886 women, compared to one for every 145,645 women in the South.
Per the Chicago Tribune:
“Illinois — often referred to as an oasis for abortion care in the middle of the country — had an estimated 25 clinics, roughly one for every 120,135 women of reproductive age. In neighboring Wisconsin, by comparison, researchers found three facilities providing abortions, about one for every 423,590 women.”
Meanwhile, North and South Dakota each only have one operating abortion clinic statewide, while 27 cities in this region were classified as “abortion deserts,” or regions where those seeking abortion must travel more than 100 miles.
Anti-abortion legislation has been key to creating this situation, which is a nightmare requiring women to put everything on hold and travel miles upon miles for basic health care. This study is certainly a reminder that TRAP laws, which target abortion providers with expensive, burdensome, and medically unnecessary requirements, aren’t about women’s health and safety, as they purport to be. They’re about making key health care as inaccessible as possible, in fact, at the expense of women’s health and safety.
Abortion rights groups sue Texas over several abortion restrictions
Speaking of TRAP laws, this week, a coalition of abortion rights groups sued the state of Texas over a number of restrictions, such as the state’s required 24-hour waiting period between having a sonogram and an abortion, its parental consent laws, and restrictions on telemedicine for abortion. The plaintiffs include Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, the Afiya Center, Fund Texas Choice, Lilith Fund, Texas Equal Access Fund, West Fund, and Dr. Bhavik Kumar joined forces on the suit.
The suit comes two years after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Whole Women’s Health in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, finding that TRAP laws in the state resulted in undue burden for women seeking abortion. Advocates argue that the aforementioned laws pose an undue burden as well, especially for women working jobs without paid time off. Many women in the state are forced to travel substantial distance to access abortion, and the waiting period between the required sonogram and having the procedure could extend the time women seeking the procedure must take off from work, costing them income just to access basic care.
“The truth is the barriers are fundamentally unjust,” Nan Little Kirkpatrick, executive director of Texas Equal Access Fund, told Dallas News. “Abortion is health care. This lawsuit is about economic justice, the right to bodily autonomy for all people and reproductive freedom.”
The lawsuit is ambitious in the scope of the laws and injustices it aims to fight. It marks a crucial step toward addressing all the seemingly small, but actually huge ways abortion access is restricted, with barriers disproportionately affecting low-income women and women of color.
Argentina takes historic first step toward abortion legalization
On Thursday, Argentina’s lower house passed a bill to legalize abortion through the 14th week of pregnancy by a narrow, 129-123 margin. Argentina’s lower house opened up debate on Wednesday.
The measure now moves to the senate, where the majority of senators have stated their intention to reject the bill. That said, it’s a historic and crucial step forward, nonetheless; President Mauricio Macri, who opposes abortion, has even publicly said he would respect lawmakers’ decision if they chose to pass the measure.
Around the world, countries where abortion is more restricted have roughly the same abortion rate as countries where it is less restricted. The caveat is that, in regions where abortion is less accessible or illegal, the rate of unsafe abortions is substantially higher. Less than one month after Ireland’s historic referendum vote to make abortion legal through the 12th week of pregnancy, Argentina’s first steps toward legalizing abortion indicate that progress is being made around the world.
Illinois and Oregon face challenges to public funding for abortion
This week, an appellate court began hearing challenges to an Illinois law that allows tax dollars to pay for elective abortions. The challenge is led by the Thomas More Society, which is famous for taking up anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ causes in court. There is no timeline for the case so far, but both sides are expected to push the suit to the next phase, which would be the circuit court.
Illinois’s Republican Governor, Bruce Rauner, has previously defended his support for the law by pointing out that not covering abortion for low-income women all but takes away their option to have abortion: “No woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman would based purely on her income,” Rauner said in September.
Meanwhile, in Oregon, anti-abortion activists have so far collected 120,000 signatures on a petition to add an initiative to ban public funding of abortion in the state to the ballot this year. The petition comes one year after Gov. Kate Brown signed a new law requiring health care plans in the state to cover services including abortion without out-of-pocket costs for those with insurance; this would include people in Oregon insured under state and federally funded Medicaid programs. The petition needs approximately 117,578 by July 6 to make it onto ballots.
If we take away nothing else from these attempts to strip low-income, disproportionately women of color of their most fundamental human rights, it should be yet another reminder of the discrimination abortion continues to face as a medical service. Just as safe, if not safer, and legal as any other medical procedure, abortion is treated entirely differently because of the stigma it remains mired in.
Birth control costs could rise because of Trump’s tariffs
This week, Trump’s proposed tariffs on Chinese imports could cause some birth control pills to go up in price. Politico reported that they could affect a Chinese holding company called Novast, which supplies an estimated 20 percent of birth control pills on the U.S. market.
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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