Get Up, Stand Up for Reproductive Rights
While the rest of the world moves closer to recognizing women's rights, the US is facing a fierce battle that we thought was settled back in 1973. In its landmark Roe v Wade decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a fundamental "right to privacy" that protects a pregnant woman's liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion, while also ruling that this right is not absolute and must be balanced against the government's interests in protecting women's health and protecting prenatal life.
The Court ruled that during the first trimester, governments could not prohibit abortions at all. During the third trimester, abortions could be prohibited entirely so long as the laws contained exceptions for cases when abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother. In 1992, the court modified its original principles in favor of a standard based on fetal viability, i.e., its ability to live outside the mother's womb.
Since then, while pro-choice groups and its opposition debated the viability issue, the extremists in the latter faction have been emboldened by Trump to seek to ban reproductive rights entirely. Legislation to restrict abortion rights has been introduced this year in 16 states, four of whose governors have signed bills banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected.
A bill just passed by the Alabama legislature would essentially outlaw abortion. States across the country are passing some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in decades, a movement that began with Trump's appointment of Brett "I love beer!" Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Trump’s changes on the court have fueled anti-abortion activists with the hope that their dream of overturning Roe entirely might finally be achievable.
What is really behind the passion to restrict abortion rights? The sacredness of human life appears to be a hollow premise, since it's only the rights of the unborn that matter to right-to-life activists. Those already born can just go fuck themselves. The extreme pro-life agenda does not extend to ensuring that pregnancy and birth are safe, or that parents and children can access the health care they need. In Alabama, maternal and infant mortality rates are high. An abortion ban that gives the government control over pregnant people's bodies - even in cases of rape or incest - shows no mercy to the already born.
Part of the current mania to restrict rights is the propagation of lies about "infanticide." Republican messaging about "birth-day abortions" have begun to take hold even beyond Trump's base. Trump himself has equated abortion with execution, labeling Democrats as the "party of death." His lies are being amplified and repeated by Republican candidates in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin.
It's hard to combat this lurid messaging, but Democrats are realizing that reproductive rights are a critical issue. Female candidates for President are denouncing the Alabama bill, but Republicans have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this year on Facebook campaigns, demonizing the "party of death."
We are now seeing that ideas we once thought were too crazy to gain traction are a serious risk to our democracy and civil rights. While late pregnancy terminations (i.e., after 24 weeks) comprise less than 1 percent of all abortions, Trump's message about executing "beautiful little babies" is a megaphone we will have to oppose with our own megaphone.
The government's control and politicization of our bodies is unacceptable. The text of the Alabama law explicitly likens abortion to a crime against humanity, a radical distortion we are now accustomed to in the reign of Trump. But we can't go back. Woman and the men who love them must answer this call to arms, for our daughters if not for ourselves. It's a slippery goddamn slope with Republicans allowing a tyrant to pander to the worst in us.
Get up, stand up, don't give up your rights! You can donate to or volunteer with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. The National Abortion Fund has a list of local funds at https://abortionfunds.org/waystogive. You can volunteer to be a clinic escort in most states where protestors gather to shame patients. Keep speaking out and encourage others to do the same.
One more thing. All of us who have terminated pregnancies regret the experience. But given the same set of circumstances, most of us would do it again. It’s a choice that every woman and girl should get to make for herself.