You’ve probably heard about the recent “Heartbeat Bills,” which refer to laws passed in Georgia and Alabama that ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. These are not the only states passing harsh anti-abortion policies and more are following in their example.
Every person deserves complete authority over their body. When laws are created to police the decisions people can make about their bodies, it is worth questioning their motives. While lawmakers and anti-abortion proponents claim that their priority is to protect the sanctity of life, numerous studies show that increasing access to comprehensive sex education and reproductive care are more effective than prohibition in lowering abortion statistics. The fact that these laws are being passed alongside efforts to limit access to birth control and rollback universal health care has many questioning their true intention. Most of the legislation being passed bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected except in cases of medical emergency, making no exceptions for rape or incest. This oversight effectively erases victims of sexual abuse, many of whom are underage.
Some of the most severe anti-abortion legislation is being passed in states with the largest Black populations. Many of these states already have the highest rates of preventable pregnancy-related deaths amongst Black women, with statistics that are unheard of in other developed nations. Creating additional barriers to care will only cause these figures to rise.
It’s more important than ever that we stay informed. Here’s everything you need to know about recent anti-abortion legislation, who’s fighting it, and how you can help:
Anti-Abortion Legislation Across America
Alabama is the latest state to pass legislation that criminalizes abortion. Set to go into effect in November of this year, the new law bans abortions at every stage of pregnancy and threatens doctors with felonies and up to 99 years in prison for performing one. It makes an exception for cases when the mother’s life is as risk, but not for rape or incest.
Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio have passed similar legislation banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
This uptick in anti-abortion legislation began last fall after President Trump nominated Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, who most predict would contribute the necessary fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, which provided a fundamental right to privacy that allows pregnant people the option to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Since Kavanaugh’s appointment over 30 restrictive abortion laws have been passed around the country. Anti-abortion lawmakers are doing this with the hope that one of these laws will advance to the Supreme Court and successfully challenge Roe v. Wade. This is important to note because if Roe v. Wade is overturned then abortion will no longer be protected on a federal level and individual states will have the freedom to decide whether to allow legal abortions.
The anti-abortion movement is showing no signs of slowing down. Similar “Heartbeat Bills” are being advanced in both Louisiana and Missouri.
Where in the US is abortion still protected and legal?
It is important to note that contrary to rumors, recent anti-abortion laws have not gone into effect yet. Abortion is legal in Georgia until January 1 and legal in Alabama until November 1. It’s also unlikely that these laws will go into effect on these dates as they’re already being challenged in court. However, just because the procedure remains legal doesn’t mean that it’s accessible. There are currently only three abortion clinics operating in Alabama.
New York passed a bill that protects the “fundamental right” to abortions and expanded protections for late-term abortions.
Virginia recently expanded the range of medical professionals who can perform abortion procedures.
A Kansas Court ruled in late April that the state constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.
Similar laws to expand abortion protection are currently moving forward in Vermont and Rhode Island.
Click here for a state-by-state overview of current abortion laws and protections.
What is being done to fight recent anti-abortion legislation?
The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other groups have filed lawsuits against Ohio’s anti-abortion law and are preparing for legal battles in other states.
How can I help?
Understand that abortion rights is not solely a women’s issue. People of all gender identities need access to abortions and reproductive care. Trans and non-binary people already face systemic discrimination within the health care industry, with many unable to receive proper care or treatment because of how they identify. The recent passage of anti-abortion legislation paves the way for more laws that seek to deny people ownership of their bodies, like bathroom bills that force non-cis-gendered people to use restrooms that do not reflect their gender identity.
Be mindful of the information you share online. It’s a scary time to be informed, but it’s also necessary as we move forward. With this in mind, we should all take additional measures to ensure that the information we’re sharing online is accurate. Clickbait is real and people often don’t read the articles that they are sharing or responding to, which creates more fear and misinformation. Before sharing an article make sure that you check the date that it was published, read through it to see whether the headline is an honest reflection of the article content, and double check the article’s sources and citations. It’s also a good idea to browse the websites that you’re sharing information from to check the general tone of their articles and who their content is geared towards. Designate a few trustworthy websites as your primary news sources and search those sites when big news breaks to get their take on things.
Talk to the men in your life and encourage them to start talking. We need men to support abortion rights, not just in silent agreement, but by using their voices and their privilege to drive the conversation forward. Ask the men in your life where they stand on this issue and what their abortion rights activism looks like.
Become a clinic escort. Due to misinformation and outright hostility from the anti-abortion movement, many people who need abortions do not feel safe getting the procedure. Some people might even be discouraged from getting necessary reproductive care (such as STD testing or pap smears) from health clinics that also provide abortion services. Volunteering as a clinic escort means providing necessary support to those seeking abortions and related reproductive care.
Campaign for pro-choice candidates and vote. 25 white men voted to ban abortion in Alabama, but a white woman wrote the bill and the state’s white female governor signed it into law. White men are at the front of this fight and white women who seek to share their power are fighting alongside of them. Voting them out of office is one way we can halt their agenda.
2020 is an election year and it will be here before we know it. Begin your research now and know where your preferred candidates stands on Roe v. Wade and access to abortion. Don’t assume that a person’s identity makes them an ally and take the time to thoroughly investigate politicians and their policies before you endorse them.
Donate to these organizations or pass these resources along to those in need:
Access Reproductive Care – Southeast: a volunteer organization that helps families across 12 southeastern states access reproductive care
National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF): eliminates economic barriers for low-income individuals seeking abortions
The Yellowhammer Fund: Alabama-based section of NNAF that provides abortion funding and assists in removing barriers to reproductive care
Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund: Volunteer-run fund that provides support and resources to help patients access abortion
Women Have Options: Ohio-based organization that provides financial assistance and support to low-income patients seeking reproductive care
Gateway Women’s Access Fund: Missouri-based fund that provides educational and financial support to increase access to abortion
Feminist Women’s Health Center: a health clinic in Atlanta that provides services such as abortion care, emergency contraception, and STI testing, in addition to community education
SPARK: an Atlanta-based organization that fights for reproductive justice
Women Engaged: a Georgia-based social justice nonprofit that works to advance the rights of women of color
SisterSong: a Southern-based collective that fights for reproductive justice
Iowa Abortion Access Fund: a volunteer-run organization in Iowa that finds abortion providers for those who lack resources.
Preterm: an independent, nonprofit abortion clinic in Ohio
Women Have Options: an Ohio-based organization that provides financial assistance to low-income patients seeking abortions and similar reproductive care
ACLU: a nonprofit organization that is defending abortion rights across the country
Planned Parenthood: nonprofit organization that provides affordable reproductive care and abortion services
Most of us get our information via social media, but it’s important to be mindful about how we are engaging with these tools. Stay informed, but not at the expense of your sanity. You might find it helpful to create boundaries with social media, perhaps only engaging with content that you’ve deemed safe or setting a time limit whenever you open your apps so that you don’t get lost in your timeline.
The way social media is designed means that we often come across triggering content without warning. It is helpful to become familiar with the practices that help you feel grounded and safe in your body so that you can draw upon them easily. Mantras are a great tool for redirecting your mind when you are triggered. Write a few in your phone notes that you can easily bring up when you’re caught in an unproductive mental loop.
Know that your brain and body have their own methods for digesting traumatic information and be patient with your process. You might find your energy lower than usual or have trouble focusing. Social activities might carry additional anxieties. Whatever your response is, hold space for it. Don’t try to push your body past what it’s feeling, but trust in its wisdom. Your body and your brain are always trying to protect you, even if their methods are not always ideal. If you find yourself reverting to old or unwanted habits, try not to judge yourself, but endeavor to understand where these reactions are stemming from and see if you can find a healthy remedy for soothing whatever ails you. There may be times where engaging in an unhealthy behavior is the best you can do — that’s okay too.
Reach out for help if you need it. However this issue is affecting you, know that you are not alone. Here’s a list of resources for after-abortion and emotional support: https://exhaleprovoice.org/resources/