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Women’s Health Care Providers Are Fighting Back Against Harmful Abortion Laws

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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!

In a week that’s seen audio released of migrant toddlers crying after being separated from their parents, reports of literal baby jails, and reports of all kinds of abuses taking place at detainment centers, it’s entirely understandable to be paying attention to little else. All families have the right to be together and be treated with dignity, and despite the president’s executive order, there remains no plan to reunite separated families, while asylum-seeking families can still be locked up indefinitely. So keep paying attention, keep calling your representatives (doing so can really make a difference), and show up to the rallies taking place across the country.

In some unrelated positive news, across the country, this week saw women’s health care providers standing up and fighting back against repressive laws in their states, among other important reproductive rights news. Here’s what you may have missed:

Virginia, Indiana women’s health providers file lawsuits

This week, fresh off a sweeping lawsuit in Texas last week that challenged several laws restricting abortion access, women’s health providers in Virginia and Indiana seemed to follow their lead.

In Virginia, the League of Virginia Planned Parenthood and Whole Women’s Health of Charlottesville, among other groups, filed a suit challenging the state’s 24-hour mandated waiting period, a requirement for abortion clinics to follow hospital-style building standards, and the requirement that abortions after the first trimester are only offered in hospitals.

In Indiana, where Whole Women’s Health and other women’s health providers are also suing the state, they’re challenging quite literally dozens of anti-abortion laws, which include mandated waiting periods and other laws similar to those in Virginia, in addition to restrictions on telemedicated abortion and mandated, inaccurate state counseling for those seeking abortion. Mandated state counseling is famously rooted in shaming and deceiving pregnant women seeking care.

Many of the aforementioned laws are consistently marketed by anti-choice lawmakers as precautions to safeguard women’s health, but study after study, including one as recent as last week, reveals the objective safety of abortion, likewise revealing that these laws are about nothing more than denying women options and full autonomy over their reproductive decisions.

These lawsuits mark a critical step forward for women’s health care providers in their ongoing battle to protect reproductive rights. If the name “Whole Women’s Health” sounds familiar, that’s because of their major 2016 victory in the Supreme Court (Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt), which ruled against TRAP laws that require clinics to essentially function as hospitals for placing an undue burden on women. This week’s lawsuits show that women have continued to face unnecessary challenges to access abortion—and that reproductive health providers will never back down.

Iowa anti-choice group files motion against rape exception

This week, an anti-choice group in Iowa filed a motion to intervene in a current lawsuit by Planned Parenthood against the state’s fetal heartbeat abortion ban. The ban, which is considered the most restrictive abortion law in the country, was signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Kim Reynolds, and has since been suspended while it is being challenged in court. Save the 1 filed a motion to remove exceptions for women impregnated by rape or incest from the law, in a display of blatant extremism that almost matches that of the law itself.

The best-case scenario in this lawsuit is that the law in question is struck down, but in any case, now seems as good a time as any to point out that, while an abortion law with exceptions for factors like rape and the pregnant woman’s health might be better than one without, the rape exception often functions more as PR to make terrible laws seem slightly less terrible, rather than actually help survivors. As we see in the many states that restrict coverage of abortion unless the pregnancy was from rape, the policy places the burden on rape survivors to either prove their traumatic experience or be denied care, and gives them essentially no say in whether or not they want to come forward.

In other words, these laws are just awful, period.

Ohio’s battle against Planned Parenthood drags on

On Thursday, a full federal appeals court said it will rule on a law that prohibits Planned Parenthood from receiving public funding, which it uses to offer non-abortion health services. This is, of course, just the latest chapter in an ongoing legal battle between the state and the women’s health organization.

In 2016, shortly after the law was passed, a federal judge declared that it was unconstitutional. In April, a three-judge panel from the 6th Circuit agreed with this decision. But as of this Thursday, in light of this new decision, the law essentially remains in limbo as the Trump administration continues to consider stripping Planned Parenthood of Title X funding altogether, solely because the organization offers abortion services.

You’d think the one thing we could all agree on is that sexual health education and accessible birth control is an essential to preventing unplanned pregnancy—and with it, abortion and unsafe abortion in particular—but as this lawsuit shows, we’ve been explaining this for years. Anti-choice politicians’ continued attacks on Planned Parenthood funding show that maybe, just maybe, it’s all really been about controlling women’s bodies all along.

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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