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Calling for Murder of Women Who Have Abortions Isn’t Just a “Viewpoint”


Handmaids of Handmaid's Tale

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, the news cycle was dominated by contentious debate about abortion and the balance of competing ideologies. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards wrote about turning down Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s offer of increased funding for the women’s health organization in exchange for ensuring the organization offered fewer abortions. Pro-choice advocates won a contentious fight to have The Atlantic terminate a columnist who believed women who have abortions should be killed.

Abortion isn’t just a political issue—it’s also a health issue, a human rights issue, and to many, a moral issue. And while disagreement is rampant, parameters must be drawn to protect women’s health, safety, and equal access to a key medical service. Not selling out to bribes to limit abortion access is one obvious starting point, and not hiring advocates of gruesome violence against women might be another.

Medical community responds to abortion reversal laws

Last week, Idaho became the latest of several states to pass a law requiring doctors to inform women about “abortion reversal.” This method involves consuming large amounts of progesterone after taking the first of the two abortion pills involved in medication abortion. The 48 percent rate of continuing pregnancy after a supposed “abortion reversal” is roughly equal to the rate of continuing pregnancy after taking the first pill, and taking nothing afterward. In other words, abortion reversal isn’t about science or health—it’s about ideology and shaming women who have abortions or are seeking access to abortion.

The medical community has since responded to escalated dialogue around abortion reversal and the question of whether it works.

“Women need to make informed decisions about their health care based on scientifically sound and rigorously evaluated information, and ‘abortion reversal’ procedures do not meet these standards,” said Hal Lawrence, a doctor and the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists’ executive vice president and CEO, in a statement this week. “It is dangerous for outside parties like politicians to force physicians to steer their patients toward experimental treatments whose safety and efficacy is unproven.”

An important reminder about mental health and abortion

The week after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb approved a law requiring abortion providers to report any complications associated with abortions to the state’s health department, the Huffington Post published an op-ed about mental health and abortion that should frankly be required reading.

In addition to further stigmatizing abortion and placing substantial burden on providers, the law also pushes the myth that abortion causes depression and other mental health ailments and, as the writer of the op-ed points out, all but uses people with disabilities or mental health ailments as props.

“In linking abortion with mental illness in the public imagination, anti-abortion activists are using people with disabilities as a scapegoat to further restrict abortion. Rather than ensure the people of Indiana have the health care they need for both, this law ostracizes people with disabilities and people who’ve had abortions. People who live at the intersection of these two groups … are doubly attacked.”

She continues by drawing on her own experiences with depression and bipolar disorder, and how, especially in the wake of losing her father, the decision to have an abortion was “simple,” as she was in a state that she “could barely take care of [herself].”

People with any disabilities should never be reduced to props for the anti-choice movement’s agenda. In her op-ed, Aimee Arrambide reminds us that the conversation around abortion and policymaking should be led by those who are directly affected. Read the full op-ed here.

Scott Walker signs bill limiting abortion coverage

On Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill prohibiting coverage of abortion in health insurance plans for Wisconsin state employees. The bill only offers exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the mother, and raises questions about how low-income state workers will be able to afford a key medical procedure, and the inequality of access this bill will yield. It marks the latest piece in a long history of abortion, despite being a perfectly legal and safe medical service, treated differently from other medical services.

“Although it is a contentious issue, abortion is a legal medical procedure,” Wisconsin Medical Society lobbyist Mark Grapentine told the Capital Times. “Legislative action to bar the GIB from offering a health insurance coverage agreement that includes access to a legal procedure may not be in the best interests of plan participants who may need access to those legal procedures.”

Abortion opponents rev up violent rhetoric against women who have had abortions

On Thursday, The Atlantic announced its decision to sever ties with Kevin Williamson, a newly hired columnist who had gone on the record proudly advocating for women who had abortions—roughly a quarter of all women—to be hanged. Williamson boasts a long track record of offensive commentary about trans people, people of color, and women, but his call for the legal murder of thousands of women is obviously more than a mere “viewpoint” or contrarian contribution to the “marketplace of ideas.”

After substantial pushback from groups like NARAL and feminist writers like Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti, The Atlantic released a statement announcing it would sever ties with Williamson, and acknowledged the importance of respectful dialogue free of incitements of violence.

Editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in a statement: “Late yesterday afternoon, information came to our attention that has caused us to reconsider this relationship. Specifically, the subject of one of Kevin’s most controversial tweets was also a centerpiece of a podcast discussion in which Kevin explained his views on the subject of the death penalty and abortion. … The tweet was not merely an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment post, as Kevin had explained it. Furthermore, the language used in the podcast was callous and violent. This runs contrary to The Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace.”

The Atlantic’s decision came just days after a three-term state senator from Idaho said on a Christian radio show, “There should be no abortion and anyone who has an abortion should pay,” and reportedly nodded in support of the death penalty as punishment for having abortions. He later had to clarify his stance via Twitter:

Prior to being elected president, Donald Trump said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions in 2016.

Violent rhetoric, and sometimes even violent acts, from abortion opponents are not new. And that’s simply because despite the “pro-life” label they attach to themselves, opposition to abortion rights has always been rooted in reproductive violence and coercion, or calls for the state to force women to carry pregnancy and give birth. Violence and incitements of violence against women who have abortions has been an issue for as long as abortion has existed.

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

(image: Daniel X O’Neil on Flickr)

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