When I got home around 2 AM on election night, I turned off every news notification on my phone. I deleted all of my google alerts and purged my twitter account of news sources. I checked out 23 novels from the library to fill the hours I usually spend skimming political news sites. For the last few weeks, I’ve been doing my best to live in a bubble.
I’ll admit that it’s been comforting to escape, to watch old episodes of Parks and Rec and imagine that a conservative House, Senate, and White House (and, soon, Supreme Court) won’t be able to take my rights away. But I started to think about what Leslie Knope would tell me—that inherent in democracy is the idea that your side can’t always win. And after plugging back into the news side of the internet, I came to an important realization; wallowing accomplishes nothing. Information does.
In that spirit, here’s a rundown of this week’s choice-related news in the United States.
In Missouri, conservative lawmakers and anti-choice activists are promising that the 2017 state legislative session will make it even harder for women in the state to access reproductive care. This is the goal in a state where rights have been rolled back so dramatically that only one remaining clinic performs abortion. As the executive director of NARAL’s Missouri branch said, “there’s not really more damage they could do.”
Also in Missouri, Planned Parenthood is filing a lawsuit to overturn some of the draconian laws already in place. Although Texas’s Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws were struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year, Missouri was the first ever state to enact these restrictions and still has them in place. The laws, which include medically unnecessary rules about the lengths of facility hallways and a requirement that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals, have made it increasingly impossible for clinics around the country to perform abortions. Planned Parenthood affiliates filed similar suits in Alaska and North Carolina.
A particularly abhorrent new law in Texas will require what amounts to funerary services for any pregnancy terminated or lost outside of the home. The law represents yet another way to coerce women into carrying unwanted pregnancies to term (and shames them if they decide to end pregnancies. Even worse, it could lead to additional suffering for women who go through miscarriages. As one Salon writer pointed out, “If a woman starts to miscarry at home, but knows she may be forced to pay for funeral services if she goes to a hospital for help, she might stay at home and hope that the failing pregnancy works itself out on its own.” This gives Texas women two options if they start to miscarry: to pay for a potentially painful funeral whether they want it or not, or to risk serious medical consequences by staying home.
Not wanting to feel left out while lawmakers in other states work to stifle reproductive rights, legislators in Utah are proposing another anti-choice law with little basis in medicine. It would require doctors to tell patients that medical abortions can be reversed, regardless of whether or not that’s the case. The AP explains: “A drug-induced abortion requires taking two pills. The first is mifepristone, which blocks progesterone and breaks down the lining of the uterus. The second pill is misoprostol, which causes the body to undergo changes similar to a miscarriage.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not support medical abortion reversal and opposed a similar law that passed in Arizona. That law was repealed after Planned Parenthood took the issue to court.” The new Utah legislation builds on a rich history of doctors being forced to lie to women in order to provide abortions. On top of that, it makes the patronizing assumption that women regret getting abortions when in reality a study last year found that over 95% of women felt they had made the right decision.
At the national level the outlook is, somehow, even dimmer. Tom Price, the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, has a disastrous record when it comes to both healthcare and serving the needs of women (who make up more than half of the humans in the US). Price is a devoted opponent of the Affordable Care Act, and he’s particularly opposed to the mandate that provides birth control without a copay. His vague reasoning centers on “religious liberty” and, most alarmingly, he doesn’t seem to fully understand what the mandate actually does. In fact, he has said that there is “not one” woman in the country who can’t afford birth control or has benefited from this provision of the ACA. Price is also “an outspoken opponent of abortion and has consistently received ratings of 100 percent from the National Right to Life Committee and scores of zero from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.” As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also a fierce advocate against equal marriage and has voted for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The great irony of Price’s positions on birth control and abortion is clear from his comments in June, when he said that he and other conservatives working against the ACA “believe that patients and doctors should be in control of health care.”
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constant (and constantly depressing) news about reproductive rights in the wake of this election. But you can’t protect your constitutional right to choice if you don’t know exactly what’s being done to take it away. The time to grieve is over, and the time to work has begun. So why wallow? You have a member of Congress to call.
Maddi Kaigh is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is a member of the H*yas for Choice leadership team.