More abortion restrictions were enacted throughout the United States from 2011-2013 than in the entire last decade. According to the Guttmacher Institute’s report released in early January of this year, 205 new restrictions on abortion in that three year time period as opposed to 189 within the ten years prior.
These types of restrictions harm low income and minority women more than anyone else. Women from low income backgrounds cannot afford to travel out of state to get an abortion. They often get paid hourly and risk losing their jobs and their much-needed paychecks if they miss work to go to the doctor.
In contrast, California is the only state to recently expand access to abortion with our 2013 law allowing for nurse practitioners, midwives, and physicians assistants to perform abortions during the first trimester. So for those of us living in progressive states, we often wonder what we can do to help our sisters in states like North Dakota, Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina, which are leading the way in passing extreme restrictions to abortion access.
Reproductive justice is not just about the right to get an abortion. It’s about affordable healthcare, comprehensive sex education, economic capacity, language translation access, and ensuring that underserved communities have as much of an ability to choose whether or not to have a baby as a white, upper middle class woman in Manhattan does. It’s about women, men, the LGBTQ community, youth, seniors, veterans, civilians all coming together to say that health is a right, access is a right, and justice is inclusive and all-encompassing. Reproductive justice means that we all get the education, support, and care we need to be able to make the right decisions for ourselves, without anyone or any circumstance forcing us to do otherwise.
I know you’re all wondering what you can do to help. The National Council of Jewish Women has three letters you can easily email to your representatives and senators. Click on the titles below to sign and send the letters on the issues described. All information about the action items below are directly from NCJW.
1. Support the Women’s Health Protection Act: 1. The Women’s Health Protection Act, S 1696/HR 3471, was introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA). This bill aims to support women’s health, reproductive rights, and religious liberty by protecting against onerous, medically-unnecessary restrictions that state lawmakers have imposed on facilities and staff that provide abortion; such laws have made safe, legal abortion more difficult to access. This bill would create federal protections against state restrictions that fail to protect women’s health and which intrude upon personal decision-making. It would make unlawful any policy or regulation which singles out abortion services for limits that are more burdensome than those imposed on medically comparable procedures; those which do not significantly advance women’s health or the safety of abortion care; and which make abortion services more difficult to access.
2. Oppose Sweeping Anti-Choice Bill: HR 7, a sweeping anti-abortion measure proposed by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), is designed to alter the private and public health insurance market to make abortion coverage nearly impossible to access. Among its provisions, this bill would deny federal assistance to women and families accessing plans in the health insurance marketplace that include abortion coverage, forcing them to give up this coverage or risk their economic security and threatening this coverage in the private market. HR 7 would also make permanent the Hyde Amendment, withholding coverage of abortion care for women who are enrolled in most federal health plans, including low-income women, federal workers, and US servicewomen. Additionally, this bill would raise taxes on small businesses that offer abortion coverage in their employee health plan.
3. Lift Bans on Abortion Coverage in Federal Health Plans: Since the enactment of the Hyde Amendment in 1977, Congress has withheld coverage of abortion care for women who are enrolled in most federal health plans, including low-income women, federal workers, and US servicewomen. By denying this coverage based on income or source of insurance, Hyde restricts a woman’s ability to make her own reproductive health decisions except in cases of rape, incest, or when her life is at risk. Especially hard hit are low-income women enrolled in Medicaid, which includes nearly 1 in 7 women of reproductive age, of whom a disproportionate number are women of color. As states expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the number of women harmed by this ban will increase.
41 years after Roe v. Wade and we’re still dealing with this issue. At this point we know we’re in it for the long haul so let’s work together, send emails, make calls, and do what we can to stop the increase of restrictions and urge more states to follow California’s lead.