Many of us fought for women’s reproductive rights back in the 60-70’s and we thought that battle was won. But with recent legislation in many southern states, along with Ohio and Missouri this issue has to be re litigated again. This week in particular the Alabama legislation enraged women and men around the country. Several states now seem hell-bent on taking away women’s choice to decide what to do with their own bodies and are passing unusually stringent laws. Their ultimate goal of course is to undo the Roe vs. Wade law that has been around for almost 50 years now and provide a path to the Supreme Court to have it overturned. The man in the ‘oval’ has unleashed many battles that should have been left alone in my estimation.
“Roe v. Wade was a landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s legal right to an abortion. The Court ruled, in a 7-2 decision, that a woman’s right to choose an abortion was protected by the privacy rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” Those born since then, grew up taking that law for granted and just made their private decisions. We who had to fight for it have grown complacent thinking that it would remain a law and women would be able to continue to make safe choices for themselves. Now, among other issues, it seems to be in question. It could be a major fight in the courts again. Thankfully the A.C.L.U. has fought many of these battles as they have surfaced, and have won many of them.
Our bodies (and bedrooms) should not be regulated by our government! It should be a private decision. We should be able to make our own choices when our health is involved, not them! Why should only women be punished, when it takes a man to impregnate her? There are no laws regulating men (maybe they should get castrated for rape, or be forced to have vasectomies, or not given blue pills which are paid for by insurance when women’s contraceptives often are not)?
LAW SAVED LIVES AND TRAUMA
Indeed, the Roe vs. Wade law has saved many women’s lives. Before the law, many women had to look at other alternatives, like aborting with coat-hangers, and many died. Children were born into bad circumstances, or with bad health outcomes, or died themselves in childbirth. Please note that I am not a pro-abortion person; I don’t think I could have one myself, but it would depend on the situation at the time especially if my life was in danger. But that is my decision to make, not theirs. And, I should not make that decision or someone else, nor should legislators do so. As one comic said, ‘if men had babies, abortion would be available at Jiffy Lube.’ Men never had a period, carried a child, or gave birth. Many fathers abandon their children and responsibilities after birth. Also, I recognize that it is a very painful decision for women to make.
TOUGH DECISIONS & WRENCHING STORIES
Thursday, I listened to many people call in to a talk show who shared their heart-wrenching stories, people who had to make tough decisions and others who were born to parents who didn’t want them. Some were women who had health conditions that would cause risk to the baby if it was carried to term or risk their own life. One man was unwanted and went through the system of foster care and lived in orphanages so bad that they are now closed and suffered greatly from his experience. Another woman was so unwanted that her parents beat her as a baby if she cried, and her 9-year old sister took over her care to protect her as her parents didn’t want to care for her. She obviously has long-term mental scars and depression. Another woman’s grandmother was pregnant in the depression and already had 7 children she couldn’t feed. When she was faced with another pregnancy, she decided she could not feed it since she already had two little twins she was breast-feeding and 5 others, so her sister performed an abortion and she died during that leaving all of those children behind.
EXAMPLE IN ROMANIA
In 1966, Romania banned abortion, but allowed some cases of incest, rape or mother’s life (unlike some of our recent legislation). Of course, wealthy women just flew somewhere else for their abortions. But during that time over 10,000 women who had botched abortions died. Their death rate was ten times higher than other European countries. And roughly 170,000 children were orphaned, and were ignored and even chained to cribs in orphanages. When the ruler was deposed in 1989, the ban was stopped.
PERIODS FOR PENCE
To what ends will these (mostly) men go? Are conservatives following in the steps of the Saudi Government’s practices now? Have you heard of The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice which supervises marketplaces and public morality and monitors many activities of their Islamic populace? VP Pence had his own crazy practices as Indiana governor in 2016 implementing limitations on abortions including requiring babies born or aborted to be cremated or buried. Must have had friends in the funeral business? In retaliation, women began the ‘periods for Pence’ online campaign where women told stories of their menstrual issues.
WHAT CARE IS OFFERED BEFORE/AFTER BIRTH?
Those who oppose abortion seem to care more about the unborn fetus than the child once it is born. What about all the children in cages at the border? If they cared, we would have better prenatal care for pregnant women and after birth for their children. Alabama was some of the worst health care and outcomes in the country and did not expand Medicaid. In fact, they have one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the country (as do many southern states who want to enact similar policies). https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/infant_mortality_rates/infant_mortality.htm
We would have family leave time to care for children and good child care for working mothers. Only 5 states and D.C. have paid family leave currently. Only 4 states have paid maternity leave as a requirement. Also, we would care more about climate change, and whether our water and air are safe for our children.
This draconian legislation begs many questions. If it goes into effect, who will monitor women’s cycles? Will women have to report in (new app) monthly when they have their period? Will doctors, in fear of their own imprisonment, refuse care for risky mothers? How will you prove you’ve miscarried naturally vs. having an abortion (and the numbers are high as 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriages)? Does it even matter how you lost the child to them? Are the three new prisons planned in Alabama being built to house the doctors and women who do not follow this law? (More money for the privatized prison system.) Will the fetus count as another person in the census? Who will help bring up the child, provide housing and food for it as well as a loving relationship? It just brings up so many unnecessary questions and consequences!
WAYS TO REDUCE ABORTIONS
There are many things that can be done so that there are not as many as un-wanted or unplanned pregnancies. The first is comprehensive sex education. My guess is that many of these men making these laws don’t even really understand the reproductive cycles or anatomy of women’s bodies. It was taught in school but doesn’t appear to be any more. I had health classes as early as 5th grade; my grandson is in high school and says he has had none. Our state legislature tried to pass such legislation this year and met with such great resistance that it was tabled until the next session. Seems like a no- brainer to me. I doubt many families have ‘the talk’ or even know enough to educate their children properly. There are many myths that kids hear from one another that can really get a teen in trouble. In Europe, 12 per 1000 pregnancies are aborted, in the US it is 19 in 1000. Therefore, providing good quality sex education including contraception options can reduce the need for abortions; I believe it can improve marriage as well.
The second way to reduce unwanted births, is having access to affordable birth control. Education is key and knowing your contraceptive options is also very helpful. Some conservatives even oppose contraception. Birth control should be covered by health care and readily available to save lives and to avoid unwanted pregnancies. And having Medicare for All for everyone in the U.S. would ensure that birth control, prenatal care and child’s medical care would all be covered. Did you realize that 90% of abortions are caused by unplanned pregnancies, and 50% of pregnancies are unplanned? Contraceptives decrease the need for abortions and that is a great thing!
Importantly, remember NO ONE is forced to have an abortion; if you don’t want one, you don’t have to have one. But let that be the choice of the person who is pregnant.
WHAT CAN WE DO NOW?
On Tuesday, groups like Move On and NARAL are planning #Stop the ban protests around the nation. Check for one in your area. Also, call your legislators. Remember, local government is just as important, or more so and make your wishes known by voting for those who hold your values. Call them often and testify in hearings on issues you feel strongly about! (Please read my earlier blog about the importance of local politics.)
Below is a list of just some of the many organizations on the ground right now who are fighting to preserve abortion access or are helping those who seek an abortion with the means and transportation to do so. If you can, please contribute to one or all of the following organizations:
Alabama: The Yellowhammer Fund provides funding for anyone seeking care at one of Alabama’s three abortion clinics and helps with other barriers to access including travel and lodging.
Georgia: Sister Song is a Southern based national woman of color reproductive justice collective that uplifts voices and builds capacity to win access to abortion and all other reproductive rights.
Ohio: Women Have Options is a statewide abortion fund dedicated to helping Ohioans afford their reproductive choices, providing both financial assistance and practical support.
Mississippi: Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund provides financial assistance and practical support to persons seeking abortion as well as emergency contraception and community based comprehensive sex education, and fights for reproductive justice in Mississippi.
Louisiana: New Orleans Abortion Fund works with local medical providers to provide compassionate and empowering assistance to patients seeking abortions who cannot fully fund their abortion.
Planned Parenthood, of course, as they provide information, health care, and counseling!