Poor Women, Abortion Access, And Fighting Anti-Choice Legislation

11 Mar

In this week’s edition of Totally Not Surprising News: restricting access to abortion services makes women upset, doesn’t change their mind about having an abortion.

Abortion activists have known for a while now that bills that require waiting periods and mandatory sonograms, including trans vaginal ultrasounds, don’t change the minds of women seeking an abortion. A recently released study from the University of Texas Austin, University of Alabama Birmingham, and Ibis Reproductive Health reveals that 1/3 women felt upset after mandatory waiting periods and increased regulations. A gross majority of women reported that forced waiting periods and ultrasounds did not change their mind.

But that’s okay, these committed conservative lawmakers keep passing laws that restrict access to abortion because Jesus and God and Guns and Fetus and Sanctity of Life, but not the sanctity of women that are living and poor children and women of color because that would be SOCIALISM.

The study suggests that waiting periods have nothing to do with women’s health, as preliminary results of the study indicate an increased negative impact upon women. The impact is particularly felt by poor women and women of color. Minority women in Texas suffer more from the restrictions, a fact that highlights how race, class, and access to abortion intersect to reinforce a monstrously oppressive system.

This news came days after Arkansas legislators instituted a 12 week abortion ban. Any woman seeking to exercise her constitutional right to have an abortion in Arkansas now is shit out of luck if she’s more than 3 months along. In a state with some of the highest rates of poverty in the nation, including a 23% poverty rate amongst children and a disturbing 40% poverty rate amongst African Americans, restricting health care access to the most vulnerable is downright evil. Would it kill them to pass some laws to take care of their record number of poor and starving children?

Considering that women often do not even realize they are pregnant until the tenth or twelfth week, the new ban is in essence, a full abortion ban. Thinking about this is mind-numbingly terrifying. I don’t want to drop into a ball of terror but this stuff is getting disturbingly close to A Handmaid’s Tale and I’m becoming less able to deal with my rage. Our rights are systematically going out the window like yesterday’s trash.

State by state, women’s rights are being rolled back in the name of deliberately misleading notions of women’s health. For instance, as if they did not want to be outdone by Arkansas, news is breaking that another restrictive abortion ban bill is making its way through the Kansas legislature.

Even our activism is being hijacked. The word “choice” has been used against abortion access and reproductive justice to sell an idea that women need an ultrasound and waiting period to “make the best choice.” Sean Hannity of Fox News recently argued that women should have the “choice to protect themselves from a rapist with their guns.”

I can’t emphasize enough that these bills are mainly impacting poor women. The Lilith Fund, an abortion fund that provides money to women that cannot afford an abortion on their own, reported on twitter that in “2012, 74% of the women we helped on our hotline were already mothers and 85% were women of color.” In Texas , Republican Gov. Rick Perry and the conservative legislature blocked thousands of poor women from access basic health care in their quest to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Family planning clinics have been forced to close because Perry directly cut their funds. Cutting funding leads directly to cutting services for women, particularly poor women, and women of color. No money, no care.

In case I have not been clear , restricting access to abortion results in hurting the poorest women. This issue of abortion acces is not to be framed as a “liberated white woman’s issue,” as is often portrayed in big media (and that’s a topic for another blog post). Just imagine needing an abortion but not being able to scrape together the requisite $400 to $1200 for the procedure. Imagine having to travel up to 100 miles one way to your appointment at the nearest clinic. Gas is pushing $4.00 a gallon in some places adding another significant cost to obtaining a legal medical procedure. Imagine having to take off work, losing pay and potentially jeopardizing your job. Imagine being terrified at the prospect of being pregnant, and having to wait against your will to even schedule an appointment. Imagine living amongst family and friends that are vocally opposed to abortion? I could go on, but I think you get the point. These laws being passed are solidifying real but rarely talked about social and economic barriers to health care.

Restricting access is restricting the right to have an abortion. Period. And anti-choice law makers and activists know this. Any suggestion that waiting periods and ultrasound requirements are for a woman’s health or “informed choice” and help are complete malarkey. These restrictions hurt women and dis-proportionally impact poor women.

March is Women’s History Month in the United States, but there seems to be so much about this country and its laws that are decidedly anti-women. In honor of women of color, poor women, trans* women, single moms, working mothers, LGBT women, all women, we as activists and feminists, as pro-choice people, must ramp up the fight against these ever restrictive laws until they are defeated.

There are many ways to fight, and i”ve been thinking a lot lately about the best way to really combat anti choice laws and law makers. FIrst, I believe It’s time to put away an ingrained and insidious bias against Southern states.  Jessica Luther (the famous @scatx) talks a lot about this idea that the South is a lost cause.  We have to recognize our respective privileges–including the privilege in living in New York, or Canada (!), or the West Coast (Portland!) Even though all of us are good-hearted pro-choice activists, we must know that our privilege impacts our work. To be sure, each of us have our own set of privileges and it’s up to each of us to define and try our best to eradicate our own privilege from our activism. But it is an important step to take so let’s start right here, right now.

Second, and I can’t emphasize this enough, vote. Vote during midterms and primaries, vote when they tell you it doesn’t matter. Advocate for widening the ability to vote. Work to spread the word about voting. Because anti-choice lawmakers are making national news, while these state by state laws are passed through super majority conservative state houses and senates. They’re sneaking them in while we stay home griping about Obama and drones. SO VOTE.

Third, if you can, pick a group to donate money to as they bowl for abortion access! This is one of the best ways to get money directly to peson who needs it.

I think there’s a prevalent idea right now that things are too messed up to fix. Things are messed up, but it’s not too late and the fight can not be too micro focused, however futile our attempts may seem. Now is the time, let’s get to work.

2 Responses to “Poor Women, Abortion Access, And Fighting Anti-Choice Legislation”

  1. Amber March 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    “Abortion activists have known for a while now that bills that require waiting periods and mandatory sonograms, including trans vaginal ultrasounds, don’t change the minds of women seeking an abortion.”

    sadly, it doesn’t matter if it changes our minds if the laws make it impossible to access!


  1. Daily Press Clips – March 11 | Trust Women - March 11, 2013

    […] “Poor Women, Abortion Access, and Fighting Anti-choice Legislation” from the Abortion Gang […]

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