What We’re Reading This Month

It’s a new month and a new blog, but still we’re facing some of the same anti-abortion nonsense. Trying to stay abreast of all the attacks on reproductive health care can be exhausting. We know persistence and resistance works, which is why we need to do what we can to remain in peak justice-fighting shape! To do so, we need to sometimes focus on self-care and may set aside important reading to prioritize our health. This is why we’ve helped roundup some interesting articles so you can catch up.

So, what’s new with state restrictions you may ask? Not a whole lot, except that states are still trying to misinform and block access to crucial reproductive health. Of note, the Arizona Senate recently passed a new type of TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law that requires abortion clinics to meet neonatal medical standards. Like many other TRAP laws, this bill ignores the life, autonomy, and rights of the patient who needs an abortion, and instead insists upon medically unsound and unnecessary practices to prioritize an unviable fetus. The Chicago Tribune reports that Montana has moved forward a similar bill in their Senate. In more uplifting news, here is a piece from the Pittsburgh PostGazette reminding readers of the importance of centering women when it comes to their health.

North Carolina introduced House Bill 62 which requires medical professionals to give false information to their patients. Of course, tactics that undermine and confuse the individuals seeking reproductive health care is not new—but abortion rights advocates must continue to counter these attacks. It’s not always bad news: check out this win of a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Florida!

To remain resistant, we must remain inspired! There are so many incredible individuals, coalitions, and organizations fighting for abortion rights. Women on Waves go through particularly epic measures to ensure women have access to reproductive health.

What reproductive rights stories are you reading? Share with us on Twitter at @DCAbortionFund!

By volunteer Alicia G.

Reproductive Justice Wins in Virginia

Credit: Planned Parenthood Virginia

The last few weeks have seen some surprisingly good news coming out of Virginia. In a win for reproductive justice advocates and patients, Governor Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a bill narrowly passed by the Senate that would have prevented the Virginia Department of Health from funding clinics that provide abortion services that would not be covered by Medicaid. This was the latest effort by Virginia legislators to defund women’s health clinics such as Planned Parenthood.

By vetoing this bill for a second year in a row, Governor McAuliffe is protecting the thousands of people who use Planned Parenthood for preventative health care, STD testing, birth control, breast exams, and a number of other vital health services.

Last week, the Virginia Senate also passed the Birth Control Access Act, which will require health insurance companies to cover a full year supply of birth control, rather than just a few months at a time. This is an enormous victory because barriers to contraception are a major factor in unintended pregnancies.

With a government that is expected to enact anti-choice policies in the coming years, we are happy to see support for reproductive rights coming through on the state level—especially in a state where we work to provide funding for abortion care.

What We’re Reading

A number of domestic and international reproductive health developments were in the news over the past month. Some of the stories we have been following relate to President Trump’s executive order on international health funding and abortions, a wrongful death lawsuit out of Alabama that could have repercussions for abortion cases in the future, and a recent study on abortion trends in the United States.

An article by Serra Sippel in the New York Times outlines the global health consequences associated with President Trump’s executive order that cuts off U.S. funding to health organizations that provide information or services related to abortion across the world. Although a similar funding restriction was in place during every Republican administration over the past 30 years, this order is more overarching, banning health funding for programs entirely unrelated to reproductive health or family planning. The article shares some devastating outcomes resulting from this global gag rule in the past, such as the halt of a condom distribution program in Lesotho during a period of 25 percent HIV prevalence among women, and the defunding of an awareness program about unsafe abortions in Nepal. Sippel explores two different studies — one from sub-Saharan Africa and one from Ghana — both establishing higher abortions rates in those regions during periods when the rule was previously enforced. The Atlantic also offers a good overview of the global gag rule.

In state news, the American Bar Association and Rewire News both reported a local Alabama case that brings up the questions of fetal personhood and doctor liability in negligence lawsuits. As the ABA writes, the Alabama Supreme Court allowed a patient to pursue a civil wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that her first-trimester miscarriage was the result of negligence on the part of her doctor. Based on suspicions of an ectopic pregnancy, which later turned out to be inaccurate, the patient was given a prescription by her doctor to terminate the pregnancy. Although Alabama law exempts doctors from criminal liability related to fetal death if it was the result of an unintentional mistake, the Alabama Supreme Court appeal allowed a civil legal action against the doctor. The Rewire article explains that, in 2006, the Brody Act in Alabama afforded personhood to all fetuses regardless of gestation in the context of criminal liability cases (while exempting doctors from prosecution), going against the fetal viability standard established in Roe v. Wade. In a concurring opinion in the current case, Tom Parker, one of Alabama’s Supreme Court justices, specifically addressed and rejected that fetal viability threshold, stating that fetuses are human beings regardless of their ability to survive outside of their mother’s womb.

Finally, we’ve been reading about some abortion trends. Christina Cauterucci at Slate reports that, according to a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates in the country were lower in 2014 than during any other year since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, dropping to below 1 million in 2013. That trend coincides with a decline in teen birth rates and in unplanned pregnancies across the country. One anti-choice activist attributed the abortions drop to stricter regulations denying women access to reproductive health care, while the study authors believe that the decline is at least partially due to greater access to contraception.

What reproductive rights stories are you reading? Share with us on Twitter at @DCAbortionFund!

By volunteer Maria S.

How Medicaid Bans Affect DC Residents

On January 24, the U.S. House passed H.R. 7 to codify — and expand — the Hyde Amendment and related longstanding restrictions on federal funding for abortion. For the last four decades, the Hyde Amendment and other budget riders like it have created financial hurdles for abortion access for DC Abortion Fund’s Medicaid patients. Our patients who live in the District face an additional hurdle because of Congress’ constant meddling in DC’s budget — and sadly, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.  

The Hyde Amendment bans the use of federal money for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the pregnant person’s life is in danger. Some states mitigate the effects of Hyde for their low-income residents by using their own funds to provide abortion access to people enrolled in Medicaid. But almost continuously since 1989, Congress has prohibited the District from using its own locally-raised Medicaid funds to pay for abortions through a rider known as the Dornan Amendment. (The ban was temporarily lifted in 1993, 1994, 2009, and 2010, but otherwise it has been in effect every year since 1989.) H.R. 7 converts these riders, which previously needed to be re-enacted every year, into permanent funding restrictions.

For many politicians and anti-choice advocates, DC residents are just another pawn in an ongoing effort to reverse the constitutional guarantee of abortion rights. It’s an easy “win” for them because the federal government exerts full control over DC’s budget while DC residents have no representation in Congress. Congress could not exert the same control over the residents of any other jurisdiction.

But for DCAF’s patients, this Medicaid ban is not just a move on a political chessboard.

When the Medicaid ban, also known as the Dornan Amendment, was suddenly reinstated in April 2011, DCAF saw “an immediate spike in need within our community,” and that need continues today, as DCAF board member Emily discussed on a recent episode of the Kojo Nnamdi Show.

In Fiscal Year 2016, 72 percent of our DC patients who reported their insurance type said they were insured under DC’s Medicaid program. The DC Medicaid ban stretches DCAF’s budget and forces many of our patients to scramble for funds that wouldn’t be needed if Medicaid covered abortion just like other medical procedures.

A first-trimester abortion can cost between $300 and $950. By comparison, the monthly income limit for an individual to be eligible for DC Medicaid is $2,128 — and that’s the upper limit, the maximum that a person can make and still be eligible for Medicaid. Many people make less than that, and when they can’t use their Medicaid coverage to pay for abortion, they often have to turn to family and friends who may also have a low income, pawn their belongings, consider which bills they can delay, or make other difficult choices.

In spite of all of this, we have a history in DCAF of turning rage into resilience. Our volunteers continue to take calls seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. In an ideal world, the Hyde Amendment — and all of its spinoff restrictions like the Dornan Amendment and H.R. 7 — would be history. We stand with our allies every day to try to make that world. And in the meantime, we keep answering the phone. Always.

By volunteer Deborah S.

Women’s March on Washington + First-Time Activists

Last weekend, more than three million people took part in a historic protest around the world, with over 500,000 participating here in Washington, DC. They gathered to speak up and march for women’s rights. The Women’s March on Washington had many themes, among them: Reproductive Rights = Women’s Rights = Human Rights.

For many, a Donald Trump presidency brings fear that women’s reproductive rights are in serious jeopardy. Indeed, that seems to be the case already this week when Trump signed an executive order to reinstate the “global gag rule,” which prohibits international non-governmental organizations that receive U.S. funding for their health programs from providing abortions, discussing abortion, or advocating for abortion legalization — even if they do so with their own funding.

As the DC Abortion Fund, other pro-choice organizations, and activists ready themselves to continue to fight for reproductive justice, one of the questions raised at the March was how first-time activists can stay involved. One way is to demand action from Congress and the President to protect abortion access. Another way to stay involved is to donate to non-profit organizations like DCAF, or sign up for newsletters from the organizations that you want to support.

Ready to take it a step further? Check out these local opportunities for activism, volunteering, and running for office:

By volunteer Rachel E.

Roe v. Wade Day 2017

To reproductive rights activists and advocates, Jan. 22, 1973 is the day that changed everything. The Supreme Court announced its decision that the constitutional right to privacy includes a right to abortion. Now, 44 years later, we celebrate Roe v. Wade Day as a historical moment in women’s rights.

Some legislators today are working hard to overturn Roe, and with the potential of incoming conservative Supreme Court justices, we could see the right to choose be slowly taken away. When we celebrate Roe v. Wade Day, we celebrate the clinics, physicians, patients, and advocates who work tirelessly to make sure people have access to the abortion care that is their constitutional right.

This year, Roe v. Wade Day falls the day after another important day for women’s rights: The Women’s March on Washington. Many organizations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia will be holding additional events to rally around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We encourage supporters to attend these events. If you can’t make it, join in the conversation by using #7in10forRoe and tweet why you stand with the 70 percent of Americans who support Roe v. Wade.

Jan. 12-Feb. 19: Roe
Get tickets to the world-premiere of Roe at Arena Stage. The play tells the story of the lawyer arguing Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court, the plaintiff looking to terminate her pregnancy, and the polarization in American culture.
Buy tickets here.

Sunday, Jan. 22: Rally for Roe
Join NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland at St. John’s United Methodist Church, where supporters will be celebrating the anniversary and committing to working together to fight the threat to justice in Maryland in the coming year.
RSVP here.

Friday, Jan. 27: Roe v. Wade Anniversary Rally and Celebration
The National Organization for Women and NARAL Pro-Choice America will gather at the Supreme Court to show support for the historic ruling.

Tuesday, Mar. 14: The Power of Roe
Mark your calendar for an event with NARAL Pro-Choice America at the Hamilton.

Black Cat Benefit for the DC Abortion Fund

Looking for something fun to do this week? Join us Wednesday, Jan. 18, for an all-ages concert benefiting the DC Abortion Fund!

Three awesome bands — Cigarette, Governess, and Scanners — will be performing a show to raise money and support for DCAF. DCAF gives grants directly to pregnant people in the DC area, as well as those traveling to the area, who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion.

Check out the bands below, and buy tickets here. Can’t make it? You can still donate.

Cigarette
Governess
Scanners

Where: Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW
When: Wednesday, January 18, 8-11:30 p.m.
Who: Cigarette, Governess, and Scanners

Thanks to the Black Cat and all of the performers for what will be a night of great music.

Only I Know

Letter to U.S. State and Federal Legislators,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today on this most personal issue.

Let me be clear. Only I Know when the time is right for me to bring a new life into this world. Only I Know when my partner and I want to keep our family at four. Only I Know that I don’t have the resources to raise a child. Only I Know that raising a child by myself is not an option. Only I Know that bearing a child and giving it up for adoption is not an option. Only I Know that I’m working two jobs just to support myself. Only I Know when my health is poor and my stamina weak. Only I Know what I need to do to care for my existing children. Only I Know that my contraception failed. Only I Know that I am too young and immature to have a baby. Only I Know that I have no job and lots of debt. Only I Know what I need to do to finish school and find meaningful work. Only I Know that my relationship is new and waiting is best. Only I Know that I have a plan for my life and it doesn’t include an unplanned pregnancy. Only I Know that my children are nearly grown and my childbearing years are behind me. Only I Know that I’ve become pregnant from a sexual assault. Only I Know when the time is right for me to bring a new life into this world.

Only I Know these things. You don’t Know.

It’s that simple.

Thank you for your attention and for backing-the-hell-off this most personal issue.

By volunteer Lynda D.

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