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!
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood ran into a bit of controversy—shocking, I know. This time, the “offense” was a tweet from a Planned Parenthood branch in Pennsylvania calling for Disney princesses who were undocumented, union workers, trans, pro-choice, or had had abortions.
The tweet was deleted shortly after, but not before it had been screengrabbed and subjected to widespread mocking and criticism. And yet, really, what’s wrong with what the tweet is suggesting? What is so fundamentally wrong with people whose experiences and backgrounds are seldom ever positively represented in the media being represented and made visible?
Plenty of inspiring young women are not citizens. In the same vein, young women are members of the labor force; not all young women were born female; and, of course, plenty of young women have abortions. However much one may love or hate this reality, reality is what it is, and our art and storytelling are bettered with diversity and representation.
All feminists should stand with Planned Parenthood not only for the myriad, crucial reproductive health services they provide to so many, but also for their recognition of the equality of all groups as a reproductive justice issue. This is reflective not just in their tweets, but through their work to make health care available to all.
National Network of Abortion Funds files lawsuit against anti-choice groups for cyberattack
On Wednesday, the National Network of Abortion Funds filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Massachusetts. Along with five of their member funds against hackers, the organization told CNNMoney hackers had attacked their online abortion fundraiser, sending $66 billion in faulty donations, crashing the website and compromising donors’ contact information. Donors received vicious anti-abortion emails featuring pictures of fetuses and disturbing messages, including one that thanked abortion funds for “funding abortions for the lower races, such as Negroes and the Jews.” The email said, “I am indebted to feminism and this new opportunity it has provided to cleanse our future generations. Keep it up, NNAF.”
NNAF’s lawsuit says the hackers violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and also the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which specifically protects individuals and clinics from the “use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services.” In a day and age in which the internet is inextricably bound to the physical world and people’s physical safety, the hijacking and the messages sent by the cyber attackers in this situation closely reflect the language of the FACE law.
The group told CNN their lawsuit is about ensuring anonymous extremists know they will be held accountable. “We need to pull back the curtain on their activities, motivations, identities, and tactics. We want extremists to know they cannot hide behind … anonymous Twitter handles,” NNAF communications director Jenni Kotting said.
The lawsuit could have major implications for the future of online extremism. Notably, the incident in question took place two years ago during NNAF’s annual bowl-a-thon fundraiser, which is taking place right now. And while it would be easy for abortion rights supporters to be skeptical of tech, it’s worth noting that plenty of pro-choice advocates are also using their coding and programing skills not to threaten, but to promote and expand abortion access.
Kentucky House passes 11-week abortion ban
Approving changes made by the Kentucky Senate, on Tuesday, the state House passed a bill that would ban the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure, effectively banning abortion at or past 11 weeks. The bill now moves to the governor’s desk, awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who identifies as “100 percent pro-life.” It makes exceptions only in cases of medical emergencies.
In the state of Kentucky, which is one of only seven states in the country to have just one abortion clinic (and, as of last year, the existence of this clinic is the subject of a heated, ongoing legal battle), 16 percent of all abortions involve the dilation and evacuation method for late-term abortions. They may not be the majority, but their cruelty and disregard for women’s rights and the law render this irrelevant. This is especially the case in a state with only one clinic, as, in the state of Texas, the lack of clinics and burden of traveling great distances for access seemed to cause a 27 percent increase in second trimester abortions. In other words, geographical struggles to access abortion can be a decisive factor in when that abortion takes place. (This is certainly more likely to be the case than restrictions causing a woman to decide not to have an abortion.)
A similar law that was blocked last week from taking effect in Mississippi banned abortion at or after 15 weeks. While, as previously noted, late-term abortions are a distinct minority (only 9 percent of all abortions take place after the first trimester), the ease with which late-term abortion can be equated to “baby-killing,” arguably makes it a popular target among anti-choice lawmakers. After all, the key to their success in passing anti-choice bills is rhetoric that humanizes fetuses, and represents women and abortion providers as murderers.
App-based birth control provider expands to new states
According to an NPR report this week, app-based birth control provider NURX is now offering its birth control delivery services in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Founded in 2016, the San Francisco-based company originally only offered its services in a very limited group of states, including California, New York, Washington state and Washington, D.C. Now, that group includes Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, and Texas.
And according to NPR, it’s making a critical difference in regions known as “contraception deserts,” or areas with severely limited access to physical clinics that provide affordable, reliable contraception. According to the National Campaign to End Teen Pregnancy, nearly 20 million girls and women ages 13 to 44 in this country have limited access to clinics that provide birth control; limited access is defined as around one clinic for every 1,000 women. Texas has the most contraception deserts, according to NBC.
Circling back to the beginning of this week’s column, tech is making a major difference in accessibility, and improving affordable access to birth control where the Trump administration and extremists on every level of government are failing young women. While public funding for birth control and family planning remain an absolute necessity, the spread of Nurx’s coverage to regions that need it most is important, too.
Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!