Journalist Alex Morris' longform piece "The War on Planned Parenthood," published by Rolling Stone yesterday, tells the deeply personal tale of her experience reporting on Ohio’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood—while going through her own miscarriage. In many cases, including Morris', the miscarriage is not completely natural, with a necessary dilation and curettage. In any other context, a D&C is known as an abortion.
Morris shares her experience as she reports on legislation that would essentially reverse Roe V. Wade and every measure fought for to ensure that women have the right to choose what is best for their own bodies. Throughout the piece, Morris checks her privilege as a white woman in a liberal state with a solid support system and access to the care she needs—she never forgets that countless of women who need the same care are not afforded the same luxuries. The juxtaposition of her personal story with the devastating state of women’s reproductive rights in America today is raw and honest and makes this a deeply powerful article.
Here are some deeply important things I learned from "The War on Planned Parenthood:"
1. In the past five years, in 31 states, over 280 laws have been passed to limit access to abortions by making the process longer, more expensive, and more shaming—women are subject to counseling (which often gives misinformation), brochures on adoption, waiting periods and forced ultrasounds. These are all attempts to make abortions completely inaccessible.
2. Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws were created to attack health care providers under the pretense of "protecting" women's health. States can’t completely criminalize abortion but they can regulate health care. These laws are sneaky (North Carolina actually slipped an abortion regulation into a Motorcycle Safety Bill) and often go unnoticed. In other instances, they may seem like a reasonable measure on paper, such as requiring facilities to meet the same requirements as surgical centers. But this completely disregards the fact that the majority of abortions require the woman to take a series of pills, and no actual cutting is ever involved, even in a surgical abortion. So forcing abortion clinics to comply with regulations that would be unnecessary even for open-heart surgery is ridiculous, to say the least. TRAP laws are responsible for the closure of 70 clinics across the US since 2010.
3. A patient is three times more likely to experience complications getting their wisdom teeth out than in an abortion, and doctors perform much more risky outpatient procedures like liposuction regularly.
4. HB 294 (the Ohio legislation in question) “will pull state-administered federal grants (including funding from the Violence Against Women Act and the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative) from any Ohio organization that 'promotes abortion' or even 'contracts or affiliates' with an organization that does so,' despite the fact that since 1976, federal funds have been barred from being used for abortions (except in the case of incest, rape, or danger to the life of the mother) due to the Hyde Amendment. This means the $1.3 million that will be taken from Planned Parenthood will be taken away from STD and STI testing and treating, prenatal care, and providing contraception.
5. The dosage of the abortion pill required in to be taken in the state of Ohio is from a 16-year-old regulation that makes it harder, more dangerous, and more painful for the woman. This clearly shows these laws aren't for women’s safety.
6. This Bill is being heard after the videos from “the center for medical progress” have been absolutely discredited as completely fake, and twelve states have concluded their investigations of PP because it is clear they aren’t profiting from the sale of fetal tissue.
7. There is a huge difference in the treatment of women getting an abortion for medical reasons and women who choose to have an abortion, not the least of which is the terminology used—"dilation and curettage" when the procedure is done for medical reasons, "abortion" for elective procedures. When getting an abortion for medical reasons, a woman isn’t warned of an increased risk of breast cancer, no adoption brochures are given, no 72 hour wait, and no mandatory counseling.
8. Of America's 6 million pregnancies, 45 percent are unplanned, and 42 percent of those will be terminated.
9. Planned Parenthood can be largely credited for the decline in the number of abortions that have been occurring even before TRAP laws began to pile up, due their work providing long-lasting types of birth control now covered by health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The only two states that have seen an increase in abortions are Louisiana and Michigan, and it can be guessed that this is due to the influx of women seeking care from neighboring Texas and Ohio—states where abortion clinics are closing like Blockbusters in 2014.
10. When access to abortions is limited, women will try to abort pregnancies themselves. In Texas, Google searches for "how to have a miscarriage" and "how to do a coat-hanger abortion" jumped 40 percent in 2011, when the TRAP-law crackdown began.
11. One in five women have been cared for by Planned Parenthood in their lifetime, and 67 percent of Americans support Roe v. Wade, with 80 percent believing that abortion should be legal in all or at least some cases.
12. There is no such thing as a casual abortion. They are painful—physically, and for many, emotionally—and very costly. One woman in Morris’s article estimated that having her baby (that she was told would be stillborn) aborted cost her $4,000 between medical bills and travel costs. Access to abortion is not universal. Only people privileged enough to be able to take time off work, find someone to care for other children at home, pay for the procedure and (in many states) travel long distances, are able to get them safely.
So thank you so much to Alex Morris for sharing! And to all the white dudes sticking their nose up our vaginas:
Images via BUST/Kellie Galentine and Kaya Payseno and Flickr
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Maggie is a slightly visually impaired bookworm and consuer of fine Ranch Dressings. Her hobbies include looking at pictures of puppies on instagram and squealing, rewatching episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and perfecting her scarily accurate impression of a chicken. See what she is musing about at @maggiesmusingz