On October 22, 2013 the Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues, hosted by the Alliance For Justice, held their October lunch meeting which brought together feminist voices from varied backgrounds to discuss the condition of reproductive rights in 2013. Guests in attendance, including an intern from Senator Warren’s office, were treated to a pre-screening of Roe at Risk: Fighting for Reproductive Justice, which chronicled the degradation of access to safe, legal abortions in two states where the fight to preserve access has been particularly contentious: Mississippi and Texas. The film premiered Tuesday, Oct. 29.
After the film, a panel of three featured speakers including Amy Friedrich-Karnik, representing the Center for Reproductive Rights, Kimberly Inez McGuire representing the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) and Michelle Schwartz representing the Alliance for Justice each gave grim reports about the current state of reproductive rights across the country. They discussed the brazen, sometimes blatantly unconstitutional state-level attacks on access to abortion that have come to define the post-Roe era. Currently, 41 states limit access to abortion based on gestational period, 39 states require a licensed physician to perform the procedure and many states require physicians to give their patients medically unsound information about the link between abortion and breast cancer.
Kimberly, representing NLIRH, wanted to expand the conversation about reproductive health and focused on her organization’s mission: reproductive justice. Reproductive justice stresses the importance of intersectionality and comprehensive solutions when considering improving access to reproductive health care. She stressed that women of color are 2-5 times more likely to experience unintended pregnancies and have less access to abortion than white women. Additionally, women of color are more likely to receive their health care from the government. Given these pressing concerns, Kimberly asked attendees to re-frame the central argument against federally funded abortions (established by the Hyde Amendment). She asked women in the room to focus on how fundamentally unfair it is that the source of a woman’s insurance can affect whether or not she has access to abortion services. To combat the Hyde Amendment, Kimberly detailed the All Above All campaign, which is “united to lift bans that deny abortion coverage” to women who receive their insurance benefits through the federal government.
The last two speakers, Amy from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Michelle representing the Alliance for Justice highlighted the state-level wars that have been waged against Roe in the courts. Amy detailed the litany of unconstitutional restrictions that have been passed by Republican dominated state legislatures that the Center for Reproductive Justice, amongst other pro-choice organizations, have challenged. Both speakers expressed concern for the emboldened state legislature’s strategies of passing blatantly unconstitutional laws to challenge abortion access. Such strategies have created a patchwork of rights across the country, so that a woman’s access to reproductive health care heavily depends on her zip code. In response to this troubling trend, the Center for Reproductive Rights has launched the Draw the Line campaign, which asserts that a woman’s access to constitutional rights shouldn’t depend on her zip code. To learn more about their campaign and sign their Bill of Reproductive Rights, visit drawtheline.org.