The right to have an abortion is a human right. The United Nations has ruled that the right to abortion is a fundamental and unassailable right — even in countries where custom, culture, and religion dictate otherwise. The right to an abortion is the right to bodily autonomy; it is the right to say what, when, and whether a fetus grows inside your body. It is the right to prioritize your health and your life above both that of a clump of dividing cells lodged in your uterus and above that of a society that would view you as an incubator. Every person in the world, and not to mention in the United States specifically — a nation founded upon principles of personal freedom, autonomy, and self-governance -- has the right to decide what they should do with their body. To believe or legislate otherwise is a violation of the rights of every US citizen and a transgression upon the fundamental beliefs that those who would do away with abortion proclaim to hold so dear.
With that established, I wish to tell you: A Trump/Pence administration will limit your access to abortion, if not end it completely. The term for what the Trump/Pence administration would do for your reproductive rights is called a Forced Birth policy; people who are pregnant and do not wish to be (whether that is for medical or personal reasons - or simply out of a lack of desire to be pregnant) will be forced to carry a fetus to term. Trump has outlined many different policies on abortion — in three days he held five different positions on the topic, yet all of them have centered around his firm pro-life stance. Though any sort of continuity in his position is hard to pin down, one of his first -- and most terrifying — when pressed on the topic by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in April, was that “The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment” for those who get abortions.
The implications of this are drastic. A state in which abortion is not just unfunded and stigmatized, but rather is considered a crime on par with taking another human life — that is not a free and democratic state. The very idea that one could and should be punished for choosing to terminate a pregnancy is at once chilling and palpably familiar. The women of my mother’s generation, for example, grew up in a world in which abortion was considered a crime. Something that was vitally necessary (as it always has been and always will be) and yet was punishable under the law. That is what Trump is talking about bringing back.
Well, Trump may be pro-life, but that doesn’t mean he has the power to change the laws and regulations of states, I hear you cry, somehow, from inside my computer, there’s no way that just one man, no matter his power or title, could reverse seventy years of reproductive rights and feminist gains.
Well, I say to you, that’s where the other players in this election come into play.
First, there is the Vice President-elect, Mike Pence. Pence’s stances on reproductive rights and abortion are perhaps best summed up by the words of Slate’s Michelle Goldberg: “Indiana Governor Mike Pence is the most fanatical abortion opponent ever to appear on a presidential ticket.” His stance against abortion is both lengthy and well-documented; since taking office as Governor of Indiana in 2013 he drastically decreased access to safe and legal abortions. Pence signed into law multiple pieces of anti-abortion legislation, including ones that prevent insurance providers from covering the procedures.
He also drafted and signed into law a bill, dubbed ‘sadistic’ by Salon, that included enacting anti-abortion measures specifically designed to humiliate and intimidate those who would seek out the procedure. This includes requiring “doctors to offer 'parents' the 'remains'” (which in most cases looks mostly like a really heavy period) after the abortion — a clear attempt to make individuals who chose to terminate feel as though they have committed some heinous and violent act, rather than had a few non-sentient cells vacuumed out from the uterus.The bill also requires doctors to perform “an ultrasound where they try to obtain a heartbeat,” which is “just one more bit of anti-choice theater designed to make women feel bad.” The law also requires “informed consent,” in which doctors are required to tell their patients a host of ‘facts’ about the dangers of abortion (including, for example, that the procedure could lead to breast cancer). Perhaps the most chilling mark on Pence’s record is the bill he signed into law that would require funeral-like burials for any terminated pregnancy; this includes fetal matter from either an abortion or from a miscarriage.
Pence has been Planned Parenthood’s #1 opponent and has repeatedly introduced bills in the past that would defund and even shut down Planned Parenthood (the primary reproductive health care provider) completely. According to Politico, “The Indiana Republican is on a one-man crusade to deny all federal funding to the group — not just the money it gets for reproductive health and family planning services, but every penny it gets for anything.” Pence concentrates on cutting off the organization financially to prevent access to abortions, stating in 2011 that he is “interested in doing what [he] can, in the balance of this fiscal year, to end public funding of Planned Parenthood, specifically.” Planned Parenthood’s President, Cecile Richards, has said of Pence, “He’s the only one I know of who has been so completely obsessed with Planned Parenthood...This just seems to be an enormous focus of his.”
The other players are the now Republican controlled House and Senate who would draft and introduce such laws under a Trump administration (knowing that those laws are actively encouraged, and are not under a realistic threat of a veto). These are the lawmakers who will work with the Trump/Pence administration to severely limit abortion access, building upon the work that Pence and other congressional conservatives have done. They are the majority that will fast-track anti-abortion legislation.
They will be, it looks like, guided by Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, one of the leading anti-abortion organizations, and someone whom Trump has promised will be “a prominent force in his proposed pro-life coalition if he is elected.”
“But what about Roe v. Wade,” you wail, by now most likely feeling around desperately for some sort of escape hatch on the sinking reproductive rights ship, “there’s no way that one administration, even when combined with a congressional majority in both houses, could reverse a ruling made by the Supreme Court.”
Well, that’s why we need to talk about the vacant Supreme Court seats. Since Justice Scalia’s death in February, congressional Republicans have been stalling against all of Obama’s nominations. This, alongside with the likelihood that liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (83) and Stephen G. Breyer (78), as well as moderate conservative and frequent swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy (80), are likely to either pass away or step down in the next four years, the Trump/Pence administration may be nominating four Supreme Court Justices. These Justices will be likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, and be supported in the decision by the Republican Congress. Roe v. Wade’s reversal will, in Trump’s words, “happen automatically,” in his opinion.
This is a scary moment for reproductive rights in general, and abortion rights in particular. We are talking about an individual’s right to choose what happens to their body; their right to make that choice based upon their own beliefs, medical needs, and preferences for how they live their lives. The campaign that Trump just won with was one that was extremely anti-abortion, and this position will, in all likelihood, carry over into his administration and impact the lives of millions over the coming years (not to mention the long-term effects that the Justices will have, which are likely to last a lifetime). This is a moment to be afraid; it is a moment to be sad and angry.
But what I call upon you to do, dear reader, is not to sit with the anger. Not to let it form a tight ball in your stomach as laws and people’s lives change around you. Rather, let it motivate you to go out and protest. To write letters, to organize, to start ballot initiatives, to focus on activism both in local elections and on the national scale. To volunteer at Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health access providers. To keep talking and walking and writing and thinking. To make your voice be heard. Because it is your voice, joined in with a chorus of others, that has the potential to enact change; that has the capability to form a rallying cry that tells Trump, Pence, and all those in Congress and who might soon sit on the Supreme Court, that you will never relinquish your human and inalienable right to govern your own body.
image source: Flickr
video sources: YouTube
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