Here's wishing a very Happy New Year to all BPW-NC members and your families in 2016. We hope you had a wonderful time at our annual Holiday Party. We should all be pleased that we raised $541 (auction $449 plus floral centerpiece raffle $92) toward scholarships for re-entry women. Thanks to everyone for your participation.
Now it is time to get to work again, defending the right of women to control their own lives and health. January 22 is the 43rd anniversary of Roe V. Wade when the Supreme Court
declared that laws prohibiting abortion violated a woman's constitutional right to privacy. And yet and yet......
The reproductive rights rollback of 2015 was astounding and should be a warning call to us all. The endless parade of laws attempting to make it more difficult for women to get abortions, birth control and even minimal health care will not cease. They are part of an illegal, nationwide assault by politicians, right-wing agitators and religious fundamentalists (see Quiverfull below) on the individual rights of women to self-actualization.
Since the beginning of 2011, there have been 288 abortion restrictions enacted by states. The trend accelerated in 2015, as state legislators passed 57 new constraints; hundreds more were considered and they will come up again in 2016. Disingenuous lawmakers will disguise them by claiming interest in protecting the health of women. Hogwash. A major lawsuit from Texas will be heard by the Supreme Court on March 2, 2016. The case involved a state law passed in 2013 requiring abortion clinics to meet the same building, equipment and staffing standards as surgical centers, a costly and medically unnecessary ruse.
Laws such as these, known as TRAP laws, are intended to continue to diminish and eventually end women's Constitutional rights. TRAP laws in many states have resulted in the closing of all but a few clinics, forcing women to travel hundreds of miles for basic health care. This compels desperate poor or young women, in particular, to attempt self-induced abortion. One study, according to The New York Times, estimated that "100,000 to 240,000 Texas women ages 18 to 49 have attempted a self-induced abortion with medical assistance." TRAP laws are the only ones before the Supreme Court to date, but far from the only attempts to end women's right to choose. If the Texas Supreme Court case is lost, states will be allowed to eliminate access to abortion by simply shutting down every abortion clinic.
On December 29, 2015, a federal court judge reversed a prior decision ruling that the state of Utah can block $275,000 from Planned Parenthood (PP) by canceling its contracts due to illegal, faked undercover videos that purported to show sales of fetal body parts. U.S. District judge Clark Waddoups ruled that while PP "had done nothing wrong, it was associated with other entities accused of illegal activity because of the videos." Two states, Arizona and Arkansas, recently passed laws requiring doctors to give women misleading information about the possibility of reversing a medication-induced abortion. Arkansas also banned the use of drugs to end pregnancies medically. Wisconsin and Indiana have forced clinics that do not perform any abortions to shut down. This, of course, eliminates lower-income women's access to birth control, resulting in more unintended pregnancies.
Do lawmakers intentionally support that contradiction -- cutting off women's access to contraceptives at the same time as they attempt to end their access to legal abortion? Of course they do! The real reason behind anti-choice legislation is to render women powerless over their own biology, effectively ending their ability to progress in the world. The lives of women in Middle-Eastern countries are instructive, as are the lives of American women, for example, in the cultish Quiverfull movement that eschews all forms of birth control including natural family planning, adhering to a biblically-mandated role of wives and mothers as bearers of children under the authority of a husband while claiming that sex without intent to procreate is perverted.
Since 1977, in the U.S. and Canada, there have been 11 murders including four doctors, two clinic employees, a security guard, a police officer and a clinic escort, 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, 100 butyric acid attacks, 373 physical invasions, 41 bombings, 655 anthrax threats and three kidnappings committed against abortion providers! Property crimes include 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1,630 incidents of trespassing, and 1,264 incidents of vandalism. As of September 2015, the FBI has warned of continuous threats to reproductive health care facilities. An FBI Intelligence Assessment says, "It is likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities." The FBI believes these incidents are "typical of the [so-called] pro-life extremist movement."
The FBI warning comes as certain politicians fan the flame of anti-woman terrorism. Just days before the November 29, 2015 murders at a PP in Colorado Springs, Republican Candidate Ted Cruz unashamedly touted his endorsement from Troy Newman, an activist who has called for the execution of abortion providers and who masterminded the undercover video operation against PP. Both Cruz and Marco Rubio have stated they are against abortion even in the case of rape or incest and, in Rubio's case, the life of the mother (which he later backpedaled on). The right to abortion is a Constitutionally protected one. Those who work in clinics or support them should not have to take their lives in their hands every time they show up for work. We must protect and support them.
And where are "concerned citizens" and so-called "supporters of life" when it comes to votes to support poor women without health care, to support food stamp availability, or paycheck equality or child care for working women or access to education? Right now, the fight for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bi-partisan, common-sense bill mandating that employers must accommodate pregnant workers, is being openly spearheaded by the pro-choice National Women's Law Center. Where are the so-called pro-life advocates then? Where are they in the fight to support living women? Nowhere, that's where.
2016 stands to be a watershed year because it is an election year. We must remain vigilant. Be smart and resolute. Know where candidates stand on every aspect of women's lives. Speak up if you don't like where they stand. And most of all, VOTE! One voice can make all the difference.