The urgent need for federal abortion protections
Though I was born before Roe v. Wade was the law of the land, I grew up only knowing abortion to be legal. But from its inception, abortion has been a right in name only for so many people — mostly individuals with low incomes, LGBTQ folks, and people of color. Because the reality is that access to abortion has been under attack since the Court’s 1973 decision.
Take the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, first passed in 1976, which denies abortion coverage through Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Added to annual appropriations bills every year, Hyde also extends to federal employees and dependents, military personnel and dependents, Peace Corps volunteers, Native Americans receiving care from federal or tribal programs, pregnant individuals in federal prisons and detention centers, pregnant individuals receiving care from community health centers, survivors of human trafficking, and low-income Washington, DC residents.
Look also at Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 case, in which the basic framework of Roe was altered to allow restrictions that did not place an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to exercise her right to obtain an abortion. From this decision (and to be sure even before), states made it their business to get in other people’s business to regulate what we can and cannot do with our bodies.
Despite the constitutional right to abortion — regardless of who you are, how much money you make, or where you live — efforts to chip away at access, like what just happened in Texas, have been the focus of conservative lawmakers across the county.
States employ a variety of tactics to limit abortion access, including outright bans tied to gestational age, mandatory biased counseling, waiting periods, parental consent, restrictions on public funding and private insurance coverage, physician and hospital requirements (TRAP laws), and refusals of care based on moral and religious objections. The right won’t stop until people who can get pregnant do not have the right to make their own decisions about their body, health, and futures.
It is no surprise that in states like Texas, where their leadership is hell-bent on restricting abortion access, they are also doing everything they can to suppress the vote. SB1, which would decrease vote by mail options, roll back expanded voting options making it easier to vote, and boost protections for partisan poll watchers and set new rules — and possible criminal penalties — for those who assist voters in casting their ballots, just passed in the lone star state. It surpasses Georgia’s more well-known sweeping voter suppression law in its extent, impact, and cruelty. These restrictions primarily target the same populations as abortions bans: women, people with low income, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and young people.
Without federal legislation to protect our rights, we are at the mercy of the courts, remade under the former president, packed with mostly white, young men who oppose voting rights, abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, and more. As we are all too aware, three of the Justices on the US Supreme Court were nominated by Trump. And what many may not know is that six Trump judges sit on the Fifth Circuit, where the Texas law, SB8, has been returned thanks to the Court’s inaction.
The systems of white supremacy and white supremacists in power only care about just that: keeping the power to white, Christian males. Reproductive oppression is one way of holding on to their power, despite widespread support of reproductive freedom in the US. In a recent survey, close to 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a result mostly unchanged over the last few years.
It is long past time to change this power dynamic. Though there are more Democratic leaning voters in this country, we are in the process of redistricting without the protections of the federal government for the first time in decades, all but assuring the dilution of minority and Democratic voters in Republican-led states. With a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in Congress, we can and must enshrine our rights in statute. Now is the time for strong federal legislation to protect and advance our rights, including the right to abortion. Tell your lawmakers to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) to guarantee federal abortion protections. WHPA would safeguard access to high-quality care and secure our constitutional rights by protecting patients and providers from the dangerous political interference we’re seeing in states like Texas no matter where you live. Everyone deserves the abortion care they need to thrive in their communities and live their lives with economic security and dignity.
Connect the dots. The urgency is real. We cannot miss the moment.