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Why the Stories of Mothers Who Had Abortions Matter

pro choice protest sign

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 week, state attorneys general and governors got into it with the Health and Human Services Department over the Trump administration’s proposed domestic “gag rule,” which would withhold federal funds from groups that offer women information about abortion services. It’s a reminder that safe, legal abortion isn’t the only aspect of reproductive health at stake with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a radically anti-choice judge, to the Supreme Court. Access to birth control and family planning, which would be devastated if groups like Planned Parenthood lost Title X funding, are also at stake with Kavanaugh’s nomination, in light of his record of allowing “religious freedom” excuses to be used to deny women health care like birth control.

As Republican senators hunker down to force the least popular Supreme Court nominee in modern history down the American people’s throats, everything is on the table for our reproductive rights, including ostensibly less partisan resources like birth control. His nomination marks an all-encompassing war on our most fundamental freedoms and human rights, from contraception to abortion to basic privacy, and the right to access health care without discrimination.

Republicans ramp up efforts to push through anti-choice Brett Kavanaugh

A critical component of Kavanaugh’s nomination and the ability of senators to make a fully informed decision in voting for him is access to documents, such as emails and correspondence during his time working with the Bush White House. (Although, really, do we need any more information beyond that he would gleefully vote to take away women’s human rights? Seriously?)

This is typically required of all nominees, and should by no means be a partisan issue, but as Republicans, in as much a rush as ever to derail reproductive rights, attempt to push Kavanaugh through at all costs, CNN reported that, this week, they’ve drawn “a firm line against requests for records” from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House.

Considering their tireless efforts to obtain all documents from Elena Kagan in 2010, and Democrats’ compliance, the hypocrisy coming from the GOP is jarring, even for, well, the GOP. The lack of transparency around Kavanaugh’s record makes two things clear: first and foremost, that Kavanaugh—who is already on the record saying sitting presidents can’t be indicted—is hiding something, and second, that Republicans know how unpopular Kavanaugh is and are trying to push him through as quickly as possible as a result.

Either way, it’s critical that we don’t allow the circus show around the Supreme Court to distract us from everything that’s at stake: women’s lives.

Planned Parenthood, for now, will continue to receive Title X funding despite threats from the Trump administration

On Thursday, the Health and Human Services Department announced the 96 organizations in the U.S. that will receive Title X family planning, and the list included 13 Planned Parenthood affiliates. All organizations must receive the grants by no later than Sept. 1.

The announcement, of course, comes after a contentious week for the conflict between Planned Parenthood, individual states, the Department of Health and Human Services, as President Trump proposed a policy, earlier this year, that would withhold Title X funding from organizations that offer or inform women about their options to have abortions. Additionally, the Trump administration has steadily moved to prioritize pro-abstinence and “natural” family planning groups, which could have the potential to vastly increase unintended pregnancies (and thereby, the demand for abortion care), as well as STI rates.

Attorneys general from 13 states sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar this week, telling him that the new policy would result in Title X recipients—a decisive plurality of whom seek care from Planned Parenthood—losing access to all kinds of life-saving, necessary health care. While the HHS has yet to specify how much in grants it will be giving to each organization—meaning Planned Parenthood and other groups offering abortion care could very well see cuts—at least for the time being, it looks like the resistance has scored a much-needed point to protect women’s health.

Mothers share their abortion stories

This week, The Atlantic shared the personal essay of a mother of three who previously had two abortions, one of which she had after conceiving despite having an IUD. Deborah Copaken’s poignant, intimate reflections on her unwanted pregnancies and raising her three children bring her to an ultimate conclusion about what banning abortion is really about:

“Only two of my five pregnancies were planned. Three were not. If those were the odds in blackjack, no one would ever play. In other words, what’s at stake in this ridiculous debate over bodily autonomy is choice. It’s always been about choice. To be alive and human is to be in favor of life, but to bring an unwanted child into this world—or to force any woman to do so against her will, her health, her future, her finances, or her well-being, because that is your moral stance, not hers or her doctor’s—is not pro-life. It is control wearing the mask of virtue. It is government regulation at its most invasive. It is being willfully blind to the inevitable bloodshed from illegal abortions and high-risk pregnancies. It is choosing an embryo over the life of a woman. It is, to put it succinctly, anti-woman.”

Another mother who shared the story of her abortion this week published an op-ed in one of the biggest newspapers serving Maine, the state that swing-Senator Susan Collins represents. In her op-ed, the mother recounts the difficult decision to have an abortion due to complications with her pregnancy, the joy of eventually having two daughters with her husband, and how having two daughters has only solidified her support for abortion rights:

“We can never know for certain what choices we’ll face in the future. Someday, a woman you know may need an abortion — to save her own life, spare her children pain or determine her own future. Maine’s women and families need leaders who understand it isn’t their place to play judge and jury for women. Ensuring every woman has access to family planning services requires every U.S. senator, and especially Susan Collins, to stand up and vote no on Kavanaugh’s nomination. We cannot have another Supreme Court justice who doesn’t respect women and our right to be in control of our lives.

“I hope Rose and Pearl never face what their father and I had to. I wish for them to have healthy, planned pregnancies. But if they don’t, what I want most for them is choice. I want a world for them where they can create families on their own terms and have full agency over their lives.

With the very real threat of a Justice Kavanaugh my hope for their future is in jeopardy. Senators now hold the keys to women’s — to my daughters’ — fundamental freedoms in their hands.”

Any parent, regardless of whether their pregnancy was or wasn’t planned, could attest to the tremendous labor of raising a child, and just how much the child, above all, suffers when that labor isn’t or can’t be invested. The perspective of mothers on abortion—particularly mothers who have had abortions—is critical during this fight, especially to dismantle the narrative that forcing women to give birth is a “pro-life” stance, as opposed to one that would disproportionately hurt children.

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

(image: Shutterstock)

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