Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!
Even amid all the revelations surfacing about President Trump through Michael Wolff’s upcoming book documenting the first nine months of his presidency, there’s one news item that’s really stuck with me—even more than the equal parts hilarious and disturbing feud with Steve Bannon. More than his paranoia-fueled McDonald’s addiction. That is, earlier this week, Planned Parenthood had to explain the difference between birth control and abortion to the president of the United States in a video shared on Twitter on Tuesday. The video explainer was prompted by the president opting to respond to a letter he received, about the contraceptive mandate, with a letter thanking the woman for writing to him about abortion.
In other words, it seems the president, or whoever is writing his letters to constituents, is unaware of the difference between birth control and abortion, and given the policies coming out of Trump’s Health and Human Services Department, is anyone here really surprised? And yet, this news item stuck with me, because it pretty much sums up the unfortunate reality of reproductive rights legislation. The men behind policies affecting every aspect of the lives of just about every woman in this country are the same men who know absolutely nothing about women’s health. Feel free to leaf through pretty much every installment of this column ever, and you’ll see just how real this is.
But that being said, however deeply, harmfully ignorant our president may be, not all news about reproductive rights is terrible. Slowly but steadily, we’re making some progress—take this week for example.
Hawaii begins tele-abortion pilot program
This week, there’s some good news for a state plagued by limited abortion access. Hawaii will begin a tele-abortion pilot program that will run until the fall of this year and evaluate the safety of medication abortion when facilitated by video calls with a doctor. Many doctors throughout the state are excited about the program, as they expect it will only reinforce all prior research that has demonstrated the safety and convenience of medication abortion, or Mifeprex and misoprostol pills that can terminate a pregnancy as late as about 10 weeks.
Currently, only three other states—Oregon, Washington and New York—are practicing tele-abortion, which faces an uphill battle across the country as abortion foes, despite failing to provide any actual evidence, continue to prevent it by citing concerns over women’s health and safety. Ironically, it’s these very concerns with “women’s safety” that are threatening that safety.
Restrictions on certain abortion methods, as well as TRAP laws and other policies targeting abortion providers, have severely limited women’s access to physical abortion clinics, and research has demonstrated the damning effects of this on maternal mortality rates and women’s living standards. For many women out of range of abortion clinics, tele-abortion is their last safe option, and it’s an option that those claiming to care about their safety are shamelessly gutting access to.
Here’s to hoping this pilot program in Hawaii will lead to much-needed change in the state, where, as of 2014, 40 percent of the state’s counties lack abortion providers.
Black Mirror confuses emergency contraception and the abortion pill
Let’s be real—sometimes your fave can be problematic, and this week, an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror riled up many viewers for a good reason, when it appeared to falsely equate emergency contraception with abortion. The portrayal was all kinds of harmful, as popular television unfailingly influences public opinion and general knowledge. For the likely majority of audience members who aren’t about to Google search how the medication abortion or Plan B work, this is probably just going to be what they believe now. And at a time when lawmakers are constantly limiting access to emergency contraception by equating it to abortion, this episode isn’t going to help.
Accuracy in portrayals of reproductive health care like abortion matter even in fictional representations, because so much of the politics around women’s health is intimately entwined with popular culture. The stigma and ignorance around everyday women’s health care are largely perpetuated by the dialogues taking place in media, and the laws that burden, undermine and endanger women across the country are the direct products of that stigma and ignorance. It’s time for TV to do better for women.
British Columbia makes medication abortion free, acknowledges abortion as a human right
Speaking of medication abortion, on Tuesday, British Columbia rang in the New Year with a press release announcing free coverage of medication abortion. From Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s dedicated quest to make feminists of everyone in his state to the whole universal health care thing, Canada is really showing America how we should be running things.
As of January 15, anyone who obtains a prescription by first having an ultrasound will be able to access the pill free of cost. While medication abortion is only effective in the first 10 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, it’s increasingly becoming a popular option.
Anyone who recognizes abortion as a human right should unequivocally back cost-free options for it. Access to human rights should never be contingent on someone’s economic status, and freedom from being forced to give birth is no exception.
Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!
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