Category Archives: Abortion Access
As states across the nation move to constrain women’s abortion rights, U.S. maternal mortality continues to rise. The trend stands in contrast to other nations, which has seen sharp drops in deaths during and after pregnancy.
Republican’s haven’t made a peep about the upswing in maternal mortality. They have, however, moved to increase it by working to slash social safety net programs, remove maternity coverage mandated in the Affordable Care Act, limit access to birth control, and force women to carry to term even pregnancies resulting from rape. Republicans’ stark opposition to any policy that could lower abortion rates or reduce maternal mortality suggests their anti-choice politics have nothing to do with protecting life.
A study that’s gotten little press attention quietly argues that increased access to abortion could save women’s lives. In the midst of a maternity care crisis, the research argues, fewer—not more—abortion regulations could mean the difference between life and death. Republicans continue to attempt to regulate the practice, in spite of data suggesting regulations harm women.
Saving Women’s Lives With Abortion
The study—a doctoral thesis that looked at maternal mortality across the globe—emphasizes that unsafe abortion kills tens of thousands each year. In 2015, more than 300,000 women worldwide died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
The dissertation’s recommendations include:
Increasing access to knowledge about abortion. When providers understand abortion and the reasons women seek it, they are more likely to offer quality care.
Allowing midwives, not just doctors, to perform abortions. Research suggests that increasing the number of abortion providers can improve outcomes and lower the number of unsafe abortions.
Increasing access to contraceptives.
Improving women’s access to chemical abortions, including the so-called abortion pill.
Educating medical students about abortion laws. Doing so reduces stigma and increases empathy toward women who seek abortions.
Republican Anti-Abortion Measures Can Kill Women
Pro-life sentiments seem only to extend to the fetus—not the woman who carries it, and certainly not the baby after he or she is born. Their anti-abortion maneuvers read like an exact mirror image of recommendations to save women’s lives.
State legislatures have enacted measures to:
Require doctors to provide women with medically inaccurate abortion information.
Limit which providers can perform abortions, and in which contexts.
Decrease access to the abortion pill.
Force women to carry pregnancies to term, even if those pregnancies threaten their lives.
Under a Trump administration, these laws are likely headed to the Supreme Court, where abortion rights face an uncertain future. As men fight over what women can do with their bodies, women’s lives hang in the balance.
President Trump is a direct threat to abortion rights, particularly if he gets more than one Supreme Court nominee. An end to Roe vs. Wade would send abortion back to the states. Women’s access to abortions would then depend on geography. So will abortion make it to the Supreme Court? And will the wrong case end abortion as a Constitutional right?
For that to happen, only two things must occur:
- A lawsuit about an abortion regulations under Roe must wind its way to the Supreme Court
- A majority of the Court must vote against abortion rights. This probably wouldn’t happen unless Trump nominated a second Supreme Court justice.
A number of state level abortion restrictions may soon give rise to lawsuits. In 2016 alone, 19 states enacted 60 new abortion restrictions. Here are some of the most disturbing.
A new law in Arkansas permits husbands to sue their wives to stop abortion. With no exception for rape, the law fundamentally undermines the right to privacy that underpins Roe vs. Wade.
Second Trimester Abortion Bans
Roe vs. Wade preserves the right to abortion up to the point of viability. Lawmakers in numerous states want to prohibit the procedure well before viability. Ohio recently enacted legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks. A number of states have recently banned dilation and evacuation (D&E), the safest and most popular second trimester abortion option. The Pennsylvania Senate just passed legislation banning the procedure. If the measure meets the approval of the House and governor, it could become law.
So-called personhood amendments define fetuses—and occasionally even fertilized eggs—as human beings. This enshrines for them the same rights that living, breathing women posses. And in the case of a woman seeking an abortion, a fertilized egg has the right to remain in the woman’s body, no matter how she feels about it, and no matter how it got there.
Personhood amendments almost never contain exceptions for rape or the life of the mother. In Wisconsin, anti-choice activists argued that the life of the mother is a “loophole” used to unfairly seek abortions.
A related group of laws, fetal heartbeat laws, prohibit abortion as soon as a fetus has a heartbeat—usually around six weeks’ gestation. One such law passed the Ohio legislature last year, but Governor John Kasich vetoed it.
Burying Fetal Remains
In their quest to penalize women, a number of states now require them to bury all fetal remains, including those from miscarriages. These laws are largely nonsensical, since abortion rarely produces a “body,” and miscarriages are often indistinguishable from menstrual periods.
Indiana’s fetal burial law sparked a national backlash in the form of “Periods for Pence.” Now Texas has a similar rule. Women’s groups already plan to sue—a decision that could launch the law on a journey toward the Supreme Court.
What Happens Now?
These laws present choice advocates with an impossible conundrum. They can let the law stand, thereby depriving women of abortion rights but preventing the case from going to the Supreme Court. Or they can fight back, risking nationwide abortion rights in the process.
In recent weeks, it’s been nearly impossible to escape media coverage of the news that medical errors are now the third-leading cause of death in the United States. It’s enough to leave anyone terrified–especially women seeking abortions, who are often subject to a litany of false claims about abortion safety. So is abortion safe? The answer is a resounding yes. In a cultural climate where medicine is increasingly harming people, abortion remains one of the safest medical procedures a woman can undergo. And in a country where maternal mortality is rising rather than shrinking, abortion may be the best option for avoiding the clear dangers associated with a problematic childbirth culture.
To learn more about the research, read ACOL’s Daily Kos piece on the topic here.
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