“The highest court in the land has affirmed that each of us deserves compassion, respect, and dignity in making health decisions. Now it’s time to work toward a future in which all of us—wherever we may live and however much we earn—can get safe & affordable abortion care if & when we need it.” — All Above All statement on reproductive rights after the recent Supreme Court decision
As recently as last week, much ado about nothing was made over the issue of reproductive rights and Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, a practicing Catholic who like many of his faith are willing to tolerate some cognitive dissonance in order to support a women’s right to choose.
How important is the presidential election in terms of women’s reproductive rights?
A President Clinton would stay the course on Roe v. Wade, with a progressive Supreme Court nominee and a willingness to wield the power of the veto pen. No threats to women’s health rights in Washington with her at the helm.
However, a Trump occupancy of the oval office would be a crapshoot on abortion, as with everything else, including thermal nuclear war. The Republican nominee has vacillated from vowing to criminalize abortion seekers in one breath, to calling himself “prolife with exceptions” as he exhales. Under Trump, all matters of state will be subject to the shifting moods of a chimeric child, who just this week proved he doesn’t even like babies. A manbaby himself, he will control women’s rights –leveraged as a bargaining chip against a Congress he’ll suddenly discover is impervious to his temper tantrums. He’ll need to get their attention with an ultra-conservative high court nominee — and Roe v. Wade will become history. Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, is about as dangerous on reproductive issues as they come — including his wacky beliefs that condoms are just too modern and they don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
Yet, against the backdrop of the daily political gaffes and pyrotechnics in the national spotlight, it’s those elections at the state level that continue to plague the ongoing battle over uterine sovereignty.
Those who voted in Michigan’s primary election this week are among a minority of the electorate who understand what is truly at stake. Gerrymandering of districts has rendered a political lock on party bias of legislative seats — thus, lawmakers are chosen on the first Tuesday in August, not in November. Unfortunately, GOP incumbents ruled the day. And Michigan can expect more of the same.
When Gov. Snyder took office in 2011, one of the most conservative groups of Republican lawmakers moved into Lansing, controlling both houses, and poised to unleash a nonstop barrage of assaults on women’s reproductive health. They’ve attempted a number of TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) — laws designed to make it impossible for clinics to function due to unnecessary regulatory burdens. GOP lawmakers also tried multiple times to sneak through proposals for forced transvaginal probe requirements on patients prior to abortions, with one such bill still pending in the House Committee on Health Policy. One of their most reviled achievements is the rape insurance law — requiring women to seek additional insurance for abortion coverage, even in the case of rape.
Last year, in response to the bogus Planned Parenthood tapes which where doctored to appear to show the organization was marketing baby parts for profit, Michigan conservatives rolled-out a number of proposals, all disingenuously intended to solve a problem that was clearly fabricated just to drum-up support, and dollars, from the far right.
Michigan lawmakers were successful in enacting one TRAP law back in 2012 which requires certain clinics to be licensed as freestanding outpatient surgical facilities, thereby potentially limiting the number of available clinics. Michigan is one of 25 states to have a similar kind of TRAP law on the books. However, a comparable law in Texas was recently struck-down by the U.S. Supreme Court for creating an undue burden on women seeking abortion services. The decision was remarkable given the unequivocal concurring opinion of Justice Ginsburg, who wrote in no uncertain terms that TRAP laws like these will not “survive judicial inspection.”
The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group on sexual and reproductive health, provides a interactive tracking database on reproductive healthcare which indicates the women of Michigan are grossly underserved. One-third of women aged 15-44 are living in areas without an abortion provider, with an ongoing trend of decreasing service, leaving over 80 percent of the state’s 83 counties unserved.
Twice a year Guttmacher additionally publishes a state-level report on legislative initiatives potentially impacting reproductive rights. The July 2016 report finds that Michigan lawmakers are not alone in their continued offensive on sexual and reproductive health rights. In just the first half of this year, 32 legislatures have attempted to ban or curtail abortion:
However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for reproductive rights. Headway is slowly being made in an effort to repeal the Hyde Amendment — a provision attached to annual appropriation bills for the past four decades to prevent the use of federal funds for abortions, more specifically Medicaid dollars, with some exceptions in extreme cases.
Guttmacher published an analysis last month on the impact of the Hyde Amendment. They discovered, to no one’s surprise, that it disproportionately impacts low-income populations, and primarily women of color. Nationally, seven million women of reproductive age, half living below the poverty level, are unable to use their Medicaid coverage for abortion services. Slightly more than half of them are women of color.
So, where’s the good news?
Guttmacher reports is that grassroots organizers and activists are working hard to get the message out in both Congress and in state legislatures. Their efforts also include:
- All Above All, a network of reproductive rights and justice groups, has led the grassroots effort through activities such as social media, college campus visits and a petition to Congress.
- Digital campaigns, including the 1 in 3 Campaign and #ShoutYourAbortion, encourage women to share their stories about abortion in order to destigmatize the procedure and strengthen support for abortion access.
- In Congress, legislators are gathering support for the EACH Woman Act and the Women’s Health Protection Act, both of which directly aim to roll back federal and state restrictions on abortion coverage and care.
As long as there remain conservative lawmakers bent on returning us to the stone age, the fight for reproductive rights marches on.