Last month, my social media feed was all fired up as states across our country introduced 6-week abortion bans that would essentially eliminate access to care before most people even know they are pregnant. The outrage was palpable. It seemed as if people with uteruses saw how this legislation will affect their lives for the first time, but this shock-and-horror wave crossing the Facebook universe has been the reality for abortion providers since Roe was decided over 40 years ago. Restrictions on abortion have been a thing since the dawn of legal abortion, and providers have been screaming for years that our country is on a slippery slope backwards, staring down the inevitability of Roe being overturned in our lifetime.
So, what has changed? After 40 years of constant attacks, restrictions, and violence against providers, why are people outraged now? Maybe the outrage and activism we saw blossom after the 2016 election is still making waves. More likely, though, the politicians supporting anti-abortion legislation are no longer hiding behind the mask of “protecting women” and have revealed their true intentions. They want to eliminate access to abortion. Full stop. Because reproductive freedom is powerful and the rich, white, American male is feeling a little fragile. What better way to remind people with uteruses where they belong, than to control their bodily autonomy?
Last month, the Michigan State Senate and House passed bills that would punish doctors for following the standard of care in abortion. Yet another example of individuals with no medical experience and their pure disdain for people who can get pregnant straight up lying to the public, claiming to know what they do not know in order to protect us all.
It’s time to remove the rose-colored lens of the protections of Roe and face reality before it is too late. If you’re new to protecting abortion access, there are a few pointers that can direct you where to start. Here is what we know:
1. The Supreme Court of the United States will have a conservative influence over the next generation of Americans thanks to Donald Trump’s lifetime appointment of two new justices. The SCOTUS that brought an end to separate but equal, took action to stop women dying from illegal abortion, and passed marriage equality is in jeopardy. Abortion advocates have warned us for years about the emerging path to overturn Roe and it did not start in the Alabama legislature last month. Hundreds of abortion restrictions have been introduced across the country to chip away at the rights promised by Roe. It is a slow systematic effort that brought us the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) Laws and that closed hundreds of clinics across the country. Even though clinics were able to survive TRAP laws, they are left with a hefty financial burden. Michigan has faced its own set of challenges, and new abortion bans were introduced here last year. So let’s move our focus a little closer to home.
2. Pro-choice Michigan supporters are on a high from the 2018 Midterm elections. The people showed up at the polls and elected Democratic, pro-choice women for Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State. Abortion advocates did a collective sigh of relief knowing that a Governor’s veto would protect abortion access in Michigan for the next 4 years. However, depending on the Governor to veto abortion bans is a Band-aid, not a solution, to the ever-growing abortion ban problem. Pro-choice supporters and advocates have historically missed the long-term strategy bus. They seem to be forever reacting to abortion restrictions introduced in our state instead of being proactive with protections to the bodily autonomy of our citizens. Yes, Governor Whitmer has promised to veto any abortion restrictions that cross her desk; however, the anti-abortion movement is not discouraged and their sights are set for 2020. They have already started a ballot initiative that would leave it up to the voters to decide the best practices for abortion in Michigan. They have the rhetoric, imagery, and money to influence voters in 2020. Ballot initiatives for abortion restrictions have been successful in Michigan’s past including 1) parental consent for abortions, 2) 24-hour waiting periods, and 3) insurance bans. All vetoed by the sitting governor, all enacted through ballot initiatives. It’s time we focus on long-term solutions to abortion access in Michigan.
3. Michigan has an ancient law from 1931 making it a felony for doctors to perform abortions. This law became moot after Roe v. Wade passed; however, with a conservative majority on the US Supreme Court and the 46-year attack on Roe, overturning the landmark legislation is more possible than ever. Michigan’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, has promised never to prosecute pregnant people for seeking abortion or providers for performing abortions. This is great… at the state level. Nessel’s proclamation does not prevent county prosecutors from pursuing the law. Though the Attorney General may never prosecute providers and pregnant people for abortion, the 83 Michigan County Prosecutors have not made the same promises.
4. Abortion does not just benefit people with uteruses. We have to hear from the men who’ve benefitted from abortions. Abortion can no longer be seen as a “woman’s issue,” (btw—women are not the only ones having abortions). Men benefit from abortion financially, emotionally, professionally, all the ways uterus bearing people benefit from bodily autonomy, and it is time for them to recognize and start speaking up! If you have a story of how someone else’s abortion benefitted you, please send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the big take away: abortion rights are protected by and taken away by the government. Michiganders must be single-issue voters. If candidates waiver on choice, they have no place becoming our elected officials. Pro-choice politicians support pro-choice policies and respect the bodily autonomy of Michigan’s citizens. Elected officials are where pro-choice protections begin and abortion bans end. To find out if a candidate that you are considering supporting believes in protecting the bodily autonomy of our citizens, check out sites like Vote411 and Ballotpedia.