When it Comes to Abortion Rights, the Issue is Access

By Rachel Walden |

Although we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Roe last week, access to abortion is not only difficult for many women, but legislators are working to make it even more difficult.

On Saturday, Melissa Harris-Perry opened a discussion on her show with these remarks:

Before 1973′s Roe v. Wade, complications from abortion was the leading cause of death among women of childbearing age. This was especially true for women of color. As access to abortion once again narrows, it puts women’s lives in danger. So while much of the debate about reproductive rights is focused on the legal interpretation and the Constitution and the bodily rights of women, we can’t forget the basic issue of access. [...] Access is the frontier on which we need to be fighting. 

It was a great conversation (watch above if you missed it!), and we were thrilled to see Steph Herold, a New York Abortion Access Fund board member and a contributor to the new edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” (which we’re aiming to send to all members of Congress; learn more here), and Feministing editor Chloe Angyal taking part in the round table, along with The Nation editor/publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel and Demos senior fellow Bob Herbert.

Herold talked about the implications of the Hyde Amendment, which since 1976 has banned Medicaid coverage of abortion, and how that limits access for low-income women.

“We really believe that however people feel about abortion, politicians shouldn’t be be able to deny women health care coverage just because they’re poor,” said Herold.

As legislatures reconvene for the new year, we’re keeping an eye on proposed bills that further restrict access to abortion.

In the states:

Proposed bills in Arkansas would prohibit all abortions after 20 weeks, ban the practice of remotely prescribing medication for abortions (otherwise known as telemedicine), and ban abortion coverage in health insurance exchanges.

A bill has been introduced in Florida to ban all abortions except in medical emergencies and to sentence abortion providers (or those who assist or own/run clinics) with up to life to prison. The bill has failed in previous years.

The previously defeated personhood bill is back in Oklahoma.

You may have seen news of a New Mexico bill from Republican state Rep. Cathrynn Brown, which would make it a felony for a woman to have an abortion if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. The bill frames such abortions as “evidence tampering.”

Brown claims the bill is being misunderstood; at the very least, it’s poorly written, as it very clearly prohibits not only “compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion” but also “procuring or facilitating an abortion.” The bill is reportedly being re-written; advocates should keep an eye out for clarification of the language.

Here’s another summary on more abortion restrictions being proposed around the country.

At the federal level:

Multiple bills have been proposed by Tennessee lawmakers to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X family planning funding (here’s my personal take as a Tennessean).

A bill has been introduced to define “life” as starting at fertilization.

Other bills would require hospital admitting privileges nationwide for abortion providers (a medically unnecessary move intended to restrict access), and would criminalize people who take a minor across state lines to access abortion, including a sister or aunt as well as other relatives and friends.

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2 Comments

  1. Doc says:

    “Before 1973′s Roe v. Wade, complications from abortion was the leading cause of death among women of childbearing age.”

    Wait….what? I thought “childbirth is more dangerous than abortion.” Now you’re saying abortion was killing women faster than childbirth back in the day before Roe?

    By the way, what are we supposed to call it now that we can’t call pro-abortion “Pro Choice any more?