Women's Reproductive Health Is Under Fire (Again) & How That Affects You

     At first, this article was going to be about how women’s health is in jeopardy again, but if you think about it, there hasn’t been a time when it hasn’t been in danger on a legislative level. The newest threat is the slow rollback of women’s reproductive rights under the Trump administration. More limits to birth control and abortion access, a resurgence of abstinence-only education, and the nomination of anti-abortion judges have created a recipe for the ever lingering demise of women’s reproductive health. 

     So far there have been proposals to, “forbid federally family planning clinics from referring women for abortions and separately allowing more employers who cite moral or religious reasons to opt out of no-cost birth control for women workers.” New federal judges that are not only anti-abortion but backed by numerous anti-abortion groups are on the docket. 

     At an anti-choice gala Trump talked about his policy to bar funding from clinics that perform abortions, “and justified it by falsely claiming that federal funds were going to abortion care. The proposed restriction, referred to by health and human rights advocates as the 'domestic gag rule', would require health service providers receiving Title X funding to physically separate their abortion services from their program-funded services, eliminate a requirement that providers give counseling and referrals for all pregnancy options to their patients, and bar clinics that receive the funding from making abortion referrals. Doing so would be a step toward defunding Planned Parenthood, which serves roughly 40 percent of the 4 million mostly low-income people who utilize the Title X program to obtain family planning-related services such as contraceptive counseling, breast and cervical cancer screening, and sexually transmitted infections testing.”

     Once again, Planned Parenthood comes under fire for something 3% of what the organization provides. Planned Parenthood also provides sexual education, pregnancy prevention, birth control, prenatal care, sexually transmitted disease screening and treatment, pregnancy tests, pap smears, breast exams, and research. Most of their work lies in prevention and education. Not only that but the populations Planned Parenthood reach are often ones that need low-cost services the most, “nearly 80% had incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level” from 2010 to 2012

     Other recently proposed actions under this administration are: 

  • Proposing a shift in the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program to emphasize an abstinence-only approach.

  • Proposing new criteria for federal family-planning grants that would favor applicants who promote “natural family planning” and abstinence.

  • Expanding a ban on U.S. funding to foreign organizations that promote or provide abortions.

     Many have dismissed these new proposals as if they may never happen. But the reality is these threats are already being realized. Just this month, Iowa’s governor signed, “one of the country’s most restrictive abortion bills into law.” The “heartbeat” legislation bans all abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen at about six weeks of pregnancy. But there are many times a woman will not even find out she is pregnant until after this six week period.  

     In Arizona, recent changes to amend an abortion bill could force doctors to ask patients about their specific reasoning for wanting an abortion. More specifically asking if the abortion is a result of rape or sexual assault. While this could be a helpful measure for victims it may also be an opportunity for providers to shame victims in a notoriously conservative state, “Jodi Liggett, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Arizona, said the bill isn’t about helping women. She called Republicans’ move to remove and then reintroduce the detailed ‘why’ question for patients a “bait and switch.” 

     The courts have time to intervene in both of these examples. And although I sincerely hope intervention happens, the message being sent by our administration is just as important as the outcome. Yet again messages from our leaders show women do not matter. If they thought we did we would be allowed to make decisions about our own reproductive health, or be given the dignity to at least be a part of the conversation. I am of course worried about the outcomes of the terrifyingly restrictive legislation that keeps piling up but I continue to have a growing concern for how this shapes societies opinion of women. And what it does for women’s own self-image. 

     In these situations, it is easy to feel like we do not have a voice in the conversation. Especially when you are from out of state, it seems like an even further away problem. Something you can do is Call Your Representative. Not sure who that is? Check out this website to find yours! Tell them you’re pissed off and you want women to be heard. It can be super awkward at first calling some random office and leaving a message so if that’s not your thing find an organization, like Planned Parenthood, supporting these issues and donate. For those of us with the privilege to donate money, time, or our voice, it is our duty to do it. Women’s lives are at stake. 

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