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!
So, let’s see—the past month has seen the president of the United States repeal a policy that ensured millions of women’s access to free or affordable birth control, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement actively deny an undocumented minor access to abortion, and of course, thousands of people take to the internet to share heartbreaking tales of sexual abuse.
In a word, it’s been a horrifying time to be a woman. But events of this week in reproductive justice tell a sort of different story—one of women, activists, and courts fighting back, and research and academia fighting to make their voices on the abortion debate heard.
Here’s what you may have missed:
Federal courts in conflict over whether undocumented minor has human rights
Last week, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement’s hand in barring a pregnant, undocumented minor from leaving a detainment center in Texas to have an abortion was shocking, even for an administration that claims its goal is to protect “life beginning from conception.” On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered the Department of Justice to allow the minor to have the procedure.
However briefly, the order offered some hope that the 15-weeks pregnant teenager who says government agencies “forced [her] to obtain counseling from a religiously affiliated crisis pregnancy center where I was forced to look at the sonogram,” would have access to the procedure, but the very next day, an appeals court put a hold on the order.
The gist of the Health and Human Service Department and Texas officials’ staunch refusal to recognize the minor’s right to an abortion is that she isn’t a citizen, and therefore, lack of paperwork somehow equates to her having no human rights whatsoever. But ultimately, what’s going on here remains pretty transparently connected to the Trump administration’s obsession with controlling women and dictating their bodily decisions and dehumanizing immigrants—imagine being both.
In an America plagued with a range of restrictions on abortion big and small, some women are more affected than others: minors can be blocked by judges and parents from having the procedure, and detained, undocumented women clearly have no rights whatsoever.
The case will return to court Friday morning, according to NPR.
Democratic lawmakers introduce bill to fight Trump contraceptive rollback
A couple of weeks after the Trump administration announced that it would allow employers and insurers everywhere to stop providing birth control coverage to people for quite literally any reason, 19 Democratic senators got behind and this week introduced a bill to fight back.
The Obama-era contraceptive mandate saved women about $1.4 billion annually, improved women’s health across the board, and served as perhaps one of the most effective mechanisms to protect equal opportunity in the country, only to become conditional based on whether or not employers respect women. (And, as new revelations of predatory men in positions of power reveal, many do not.)
According to The Hill, four Democrats in the House plan to unveil similar legislation, but the chances of either bills making it to the floor are dubious. Many of Trump’s actions are controversial even within his own party, but believe it or not, many predominantly white, male, Christian Republicans in Congress either don’t know or care about uses of birth control unrelated to pregnancy, and staunchly oppose women of reproductive age engaging in casual sex—shocking, I know. To most self-identified freedom lovers, freedom of religion means one thing and that is the freedom to punish women and gay people—that’s how it is, and that’s how it’s always been, really.
Anyway, where opposition to Trump’s actions will likely face failure in Republican-dominated Congress, lawsuits that will in all likelihood be met with success have already been launched, and individual states are already fighting back.
Wisconsin bill aims to bar UW residents from receiving abortion training
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin senate oversaw a contentious health committee hearing over a bill that would make it illegal for University of Wisconsin residents to receive training to perform abortions. The bill was first proposed in July, justified by the fact that state law prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion.
But there’s a thousand reasons why this bill and the logic behind it simply don’t make any sense. However much conservative lawmakers may wish this weren’t so, abortion is legal and there’s no reason why medical professionals and OB-GYNS shouldn’t be allowed to learn how to provide it. Further, the Council for Graduate Medical Education states that OB-GYN training must “provide training or access to training the provision of abortions, and this must be part of the planned curriculum.”
Of course, the conservative war on reproductive health specifically in education—i.e. the rise of abstinence-only sex ed in rural states, aka that region with the highest rates of teen pregnancy—is nothing new. But this case is particularly dangerous, as it seems to ignore that abortions can be necessary to save women’s lives. A new generation of doctors without these skills will inevitably equate to a new generation of endangered women, an alarming path forward for a country that already presently boasts the highest maternal mortality rates in the industrialized world, according to the most recent data.
In the state of Wisconsin, there are only two abortion clinics remaining as of 2016, and we all know how quickly these numbers can change for the worst.
But according to the Wisconsin State Journal, health experts aren’t taking this hit lying down: The Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and 12 other similar groups have already registered against the bill.
New data shows the abortion rate has steadily declined—but this could all change
Fresh research published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday reveals that between 2008 and 2014, the nation’s abortion rate fell 25 percent.
You might think that, considering 2008 and 2014 saw sporadic funding cuts to women’s health organizations and the rise of TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion clinics), perhaps this was because women simply didn’t have access to abortion. But according to the study’s researchers, the primary factor behind this decline was simple: more contraceptive use.
Prior research has shown that restrictions on abortion don’t affect the abortion rate, because women who need the procedure will find other—usually less safe—ways to have it, shouldering immense burden and even potentially endangering themselves in the process. Bottomline: Restrictions don’t work, but birth control does. What does work? Contraceptive access and sex ed. So, in summation, in dedicating their careers to barring both contraception and abortion access, conservatives aren’t even achieving their goals—they’re just ruining women’s lives.
Unsurprisingly, according to some experts, this decline in abortion rates could halt and reverse—a trend neither the right nor the left wants to see—and we’ll have “freedom of religion” to thank for that.
Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!
(image: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com)
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