Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, may be open to reversing the landmark abortion-rights ruling Roe v. Wade.
Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, may be open to reversing the landmark abortion-rights ruling Roe v. Wade.
Angel Kai’s* heart sank when she found out she was pregnant again. The 20-year-old had delivered her second child only three months prior. She was on unpaid maternity leave from her job in Amarillo, TX, and she’d just received a $130 electricity bill in the mail that she didn’t know if she’d be able to pay. “Everything that was happening financially was just bad,” she remembers. “I couldn’t have another kid. I knew getting an abortion would be the best thing, because I couldn’t walk up the street to get a soda if I wanted one at the time. We were that tight on money.” It turned out, though, that Angel couldn’t even afford the abortion she knew she wanted. Her health plan was offered under state-funded Medicaid, which, in Texas, only covers abortion in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. So, Angel Googled “abortion financial help.” She came across a few different nonprofits called abortion funds, which provide financial assistance to people who can’t afford to go through the process themselves. One, Fund Texas Choice, said they would help Angel. They ended up footing the bill for the gas it would take to drive to the clinic, an overnight hotel stay, and her food for the trip. They also connected her with another fund that helped pay for the pill she was prescribed. The morning of her abortion, Angel dropped her baby off with a relative at 6 a.m. Then she put in a shift at the lawn company where she worked, her first since going on maternity leave. After clocking out, she started the four-and-a-half-hour drive to Albuquerque, NM. (The closest in-state clinic to her was in Dallas, an additional hour away.) Her then-partner was supposed to join her, but they got in a fight on the way, and she had to turn around and drop him off. She barely made it to the clinic on time, but she got there. And it changed her life for the better, she says. Before finding Fund Texas Choice, Angel had tried to get an ultrasound at a “crisis pregnancy center,” which is actually a coded name for an anti-abortion clinic. “They told me abortion is murder, and that I would go to hell if I had one,” Angel remembers now, a year later. “But I knew the abortion was the best thing for me to do.” Angel’s story could have looked very different. If she hadn’t learned about the fund, she may have not been able to get the abortion pill. Alternatively, if she lived in a different state, she may have been able to use her health insurance to pay for the abortion, at a clinic much closer to her house. In reality, the state of abortion access in America is woefully unequal. And soon, considering the tenuous status of Roe v. Wade, abortions may become even less attainable. If Abortion Is Legal, Why Is It So Hard To Access? In September 2020, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at age 87. This opened up a spot on the Supreme Court, and President Donald Trump quickly nominated conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsberg’s seat. Many fear that Barrett’s appointment could lead to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S., being overturned. While this possibility has led some to envision a future reminiscent of an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, the reality is that some people who already find it easy to get an abortion — those with wealth, power, and connections — may not notice such a big change in a post-Roe world. The ones who will be hit the hardest are those who already struggle to get abortion care. Namely, low-income people in states with already-restrictive abortion legislation. “Over the last few decades, Roe has been an unfulfilled promise for many,” says Jessica Arons, senior advocacy and policy counsel for reproductive freedom at the American Civil Liberties Union. States in the South and the Midwest tend to have the most restrictions around reproductive rights. The Bible Belt is known for legislation that typically makes abortions more expensive and time-consuming, and therefore less accessible. For instance, 34 states and Washington, D.C. only provide healthcare funding for abortions in the most extreme circumstances, such as rape or life endangerment. This is in accordance with the Hyde Amendment, which was passed just three years after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. This is, in part, why Angel couldn’t use her Medicaid insurance to pay for her abortion. Nearly half of abortion recipients live below the federal poverty line, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s 2014 Abortion Patient Survey, so the Hyde Amendment is particularly damaging. Those who are denied abortions are more likely to experience years-long economic hardship, according to a 2017 analysis from The American Journal of Public Health. The 16 states that let Medicaid be used for most “medically necessary” abortions, (a broad definition that includes physical, emotional, familial, and psychological factors) are largely liberal states. Another way state governments restrict access is through overly punitive regulations that are often called TRAP laws, short for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. They’re medically unnecessary, and make it harder and sometimes impossible for clinicians to offer abortion care, according to The Planned Parenthood Action Fund. That can limit the number of clinics in some areas. Five states have only one remaining abortion clinic: North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi, and West Virginia. People living in these states might have to travel up to 200 miles to reach a clinic, and could have to wait a few weeks for an available appointment. In 2019, the average woman of childbearing age lived 25 miles away from the nearest abortion clinic, according to data from the journal Contraception. But that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Large cities with clinics have high populations concentrated in one area. Although the mean travel distance for a person in New York was five miles, it was 136 for a woman in South Dakota. What’s more, some states have mandatory 24-hour waiting periods or require counseling before going through the process. That means patients may have to make two individual trips to the clinic, or get a hotel and stay overnight. The trips, plus the cost of the medical regimen or procedure — which can be $1,000 or more — can be untenable without financial aid. “Across the country, we’ve already seen a systematic chipping away at the right to access abortion, even without overturning Roe,” explains Rachel Sussman, The Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s vice president of state policy and advocacy. “Since the 2010 elections, we’ve seen 480 state-level abortion restrictions passed.” The legislation disproportionately affects Black women and people of color, says Marcela Howell, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice, the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. Some of the states with the most restrictions have higher POC populations. In Mississippi, for instance, which upholds the Hyde Amendment and requires patients to undergo counseling before having an abortion, 38% of the population is Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “Roe is the floor, not the ceiling,” Howell says. “What we’re concerned about is: How do we grant access to that right for everyone?” And the future of abortion rights is looking bleaker and bleaker by the year, many abortion rights advocates say. In 2019, 58 new restrictions were enacted, including 25 abortion bans in 12 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute. They seek to place limitations on how, when, or why an abortion is performed. Some of the bans offer “exceptions” for pregnancies that occur due to rape or incest, but only if the patient has filed an official police report. Alabama has proposed a ban that would prohibit all abortions — period. All this is to say, access to abortion is already compromised, and that’s with the Roe v. Wade decision intact. “Yes, we all have a constitutional right to abortion, but the access has never been equally shared,” Howell says. “Women who are poor, those who have the kind of jobs that don’t have flexible hours to go to a clinic in states where they need to wait 24 to 48 hours between the initial appointment and procedure — they don’t have access.” What Will Happen If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned? At the first presidential debate in September Trump said, “there is nothing happening” with Roe v. Wade, and that he didn’t “know [Barrett’s] view on” the landmark ruling. But, during her confirmation hearings last week, Barrett noted “Roe is not a super-precedent because calls for its overruling have never ceased.” The prevailing belief is that the ruling is in grave danger of being overturned, Arons says. Perhaps unsurprisingly, at least some anti-abortion advocates are happy with Barrett’s appointment. “Americans United for Life was the first pro-life group to urge the president to select Judge Barrett,” Catherine Glenn Foster, president & CEO of the anti-abortion organization, told Refinery29 in a statement. She noted it’s likely the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to rule on questions of abortion rights. “We are confident that if confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Barrett would prove herself a trusted caretaker of the constitutional protections extended to every human person in America,” Glenn Foster said. The Supreme Court may get its chance to reconsider Roe v. Wade within the next year, according to multiple experts Refinery29 spoke to. “Right now, there are 17 abortion-related cases that are one step away from the Supreme Court,” Sussman says. “There are several cases that could give the court the opportunity to completely gut Roe or perhaps overturn it.” That’s more likely to happen if Barrett is confirmed. Barrett has not returned a message Refinery29 left with the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit requesting comment. If Roe v. Wade was overturned, abortion wouldn’t become illegal across the nation overnight. However, “trigger laws” that are on the books now would go into effect and ban the procedure almost immediately. And, more broadly, access would be even more dependent on state legislation than it is now, says Noel León, interim director of state abortion access at the National Women’s Law Center. Some states may pass bills or change their constitutions to protect access. Others, such as New York (where abortion was legal even before Roe was decided), have already passed laws to protect access in the event the landmark case is overturned. Meanwhile, other states could further curtail access or ban abortions completely. Without Roe, abortion would likely become illegal in 22 states, according to a recent analysis from Middlebury College. In that case, for 41% of women of childbearing age, the nearest abortion clinic would close. They’d then have to travel and average distance of 280 miles to the nearest one — compared to 36 miles, the current average for counties where a Roe reversal is likely to occur, explains Caitlin Knowles Myers, a professor of economics at Middlebury College. And even if Roe is not overturned in one fell swoop, states could continue passing legislation that chips away at access bit by bit, and the Supreme Court could uphold those state laws, explains Laurence H. Tribe, university professor of constitutional law emeritus at Harvard. If Roe is dismantled, Sussman says that 25 million women of reproductive age live in a state where abortion would be banned. This is perhaps the most likely scenario: That a more conservative Supreme Court will first “hollow out” Roe until there’s almost nothing left. That could look like banning common procedures for abortion, such as Dilation and Evacuation, or even forbidding abortions after brain waves are detected, Tribe says. Right now, with the 17 abortion-related cases held up in federal appeals courts, the Supreme Court has what Tribe describes as a “menu” of cases, and they’ll get to pick and choose which to take. “They’re going to be looking for cases that will give them the maximum opportunity to do the most damage to Roe v. Wade,” Tribe says. “You’ve heard of death by a thousand cuts? That’s what may happen to Roe, after about a dozen decisions over the next three to four years.” If that occurs, or in the case of overturning Roe entirely, Congress could try to enact a national law protecting the right to abortion. “But the Supreme Court with three Trump-appointed Justices, plus Justices [Samuel] Alito and [Clarence] Thomas might hold that it’s beyond Congress’s power under the interstate commerce clause to pass such a law,” Tribe adds. Then, determining access would be in the hands of the states. But it won’t necessarily stay with them. If Roe is eventually overturned, a more liberal state, say California, could write in their constitution that it’s still legal to have an abortion in the first two trimesters. But eventually, anti-abortion advocates could take a case to the Supreme Court saying that’s depriving the fetus of its “right to life.” “That kind of argument, which would have gone nowhere five or 10 years ago, might well have five justices behind it if Barrett is confirmed,” Tribe says. Congress could also pass a federal abortion ban that the president signs. The worst possible outcome is a sweeping constitutional amendment banning abortion federally, according to Talcott Camp, the chief legal and strategy officer at the National Abortion Federation — though she doesn’t see it happening in the near future. However, it’s been part of the Republican platform for years. “We are confronting a world in which women can be controlled by people in power,” Tribe says. But no matter which scenario actually becomes reality, abortion access will continue to affect people unequally. “You’ve got to hold two things at once,” Camp says. “It would be a terrible, tragic loss if Roe was overturned, and that would have a huge impact on low-income, Black, brown, and rural women. But it is also true that those folks are already suffering from lack of abortion access today. And that they would suffer disproportionately were the courts to hollow out Roe so much that states could effectively ban abortion.” Organizations that help fund abortions, like the one Angel used, are already struggling to meet the needs of their communities. “Here’s the reality a lot of people aren’t talking about,” says Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of both the Mississippi Freedom Fund and the Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama. Roberts, who uses she/her and they/them pronouns, has been helping low income folks pay for abortions in the South since 2013. “People are saying, ‘Well, we’ll just get money together and drive all these people to states where abortion is legal like we did before Roe,'” Roberts says. “As I always say when something is ridiculous, ‘That’s cute.’ Capacity-wise, clinics could not afford to take all of those patients. Even if we all had private jets to fly people out of state, it still would not solve the problem.” As Roberts says, “You’re gonna see folks who, with Roe, could swing it not be able to swing it any more.” The same person who could drive from Texas to New Mexico for an abortion may not be able to make it all the way to Chicago. And definitely not to Europe. This may prompt more women to try terminating their pregnancies at home, says Jen Villavicencio, MD, MPP, a physician providing abortions in Michigan and a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “There’s evidence to suggest that self-managed abortion — whether done with guidance from others, or done by a woman herself — can be done safely,” Dr. Villavicencio says. “I worry about the stigma associated with this… We’re in a scary place where people will potentially not be willing to seek care if they have one of the few rare complications because they’re afraid of the consequences. There are laws that exist right now that criminalize this, and people have been put in jail for it, taken away from their families.” Even though abortion is legal, there have been numerous attempts to charge and convict women for self-inducing abortion. Arons says that Black and brown women are at heightened risk for being targeted by overzealous prosecutors misusing statutes to criminalize behavior during pregnancy. States with abortion bans held up in courts right now, such as Alabama, claim they’d only prosecute doctors, not pregnant people seeking abortions. “But how would you enforce that?” asks Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University and author of Abortion and the Law in America: A Legal History of the Abortion Debate. “People are going to fly out of state or order abortion pills online. If you’re Alabama, you’re faced with this choice: Do you not enforce your law, or do you punish your patients? That’s going to be a zero-sum decision.” All this may seem dismal, but not all is lost, advocates say. “There are certainly states looking to protect abortion rights right now,” says Elizabeth Nash, the interim associate director of states issues at The Guttmacher Institute. “Virginia just rolled back restrictions such as counseling and waiting period requirements this year, and expanded access to abortion. In that state, 10 years ago you wouldn’t have thought that was possible, but it shows that progress can be made.” But those advancements won’t happen if people don’t make their voices heard and vote, says Rachel Fey, the senior director of public policy at Power to Decide. She urges people to learn where their national and local candidates stand on the right to choose before casting a ballot. She notes that folks can call their Congresspeople to voice support for bills that aim to protect reproductive rights. Two are currently in the House of Representatives: the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would stop restrictions that block access to abortion care; and The EACH Woman Act, which would eliminate restrictions on abortion coverage in public and private insurance plans. Tribe adds that it’s not too late to continue to push your senators to hold off on the confirmation of Barrett before the vote on Oct. 22. “If there was a massive uprising and people realized what was at stake for them, and marched on Washington on reproductive rights, who knows?” Tribe says. “She will likely be confirmed very narrowly, and, at this point, only political pressure will matter. There’s no procedure or silver bullet available to stop this nomination. Rising up is the only way.” What To Do If You Need An Abortion (Or Know Someone Who Does) These days, most people who need an abortion start in the same place as Angel: Google. But it can be hard to decipher your state’s laws, and sometimes doing so takes time that you may not have. Luckily, there are organizations that make it easier. To find the abortion clinic nearest to you, visit the National Abortion Federation’s website or call them at 1-877-257-0012, Roberts suggests. They have a list of certified clinics on their website, which demonstrate that they comply with NAF’s high standards for safety and patient-centered care. Additionally, the nonprofit Power To Decide launched a digital abortion finder tool just last month that can help you safely find a verified physician or nurse practitioner in your area. This can be accessed at abortionfinder.org. If you know you won’t be able to pay for your abortion, NAF has a confidential hotline you can call to request help with funding: 1-800-772-9100. If they can’t cover you, try the National Network of Abortion Funds website, which lists organizations that help folks pay for their abortions, broken down by state. If your state doesn’t have a fund, call the one in the neighboring state, and they’ll likely know what to do. “If someone goes through the trouble to find us, we’ll rarely turn them away,” Roberts adds. Besides money for abortions, these funds may offer assistance with travel, hotels, and emotional support, too. Worth noting: Many abortion funds need financial support. If you’re able, consider donating to a fund using the resources above. “Any way people want to give money or resources, we’ll make it happen and find a way to take the donation, just reach out,” Roberts says. “Even if that means giving us a gift card you got for your birthday that you know you won’t use, everything helps.” DashDividers_1_500x100 Angel, now 21, is pregnant again — and this time, she’s thrilled. Her abortion allowed her to get back on her feet financially, and she says she has no regrets. She’ll forever be grateful for the emotional and physical support that Fund Texas Choice gave her as she traveled across state lines to take the abortion pill at five weeks. She remembers sipping a Sprite on her long drive home — a soda the fund’s program coordinator had bought her — knowing she’d made the right decision. And she feels even more confident in her choice today. “I’m much happier now,” she says. “Right now, if I wanted to have an abortion, I could actually afford to make that choice. My abortion helped open up doors to get me where I’m at now. It was something that needed to happen.” *Angel’s name has been changed to protect her identity. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?
Over the course of a deeply frustrating week, Amy Coney Barrett provided non-answer after non-answer to the Senate Judiciary Committee during her rushed Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Prior to dodging questions from Republicans and Democrats alike, though, Barrett neglected to disclose anti-abortion speeches she gave as a professor at the Univeristy of Notre Dame, as well as a letter she signed calling for the dismantling of Roe v Wade and the criminalization of IVF. Now, as the committee prepares to send her nomination to the Senate floor for a vote, another revelation of Barrett’s past has emerged: her barbaric decision to overturn a ruling in favor of a pregnant rape victim. And once again, Barrett is proving to be an undeniable threat to victims of sexual assault. On Oct. 16, Salon reported that during her tenure as an appellate court judge, Barrett voted to overturn a district court ruling that found a county in Wisconsin “liable for millions in damages to a woman who alleged she had been repeatedly rape by a jail guard.” “After a 19-year old pregnant prison inmate was repeatedly raped by a prison guard, Amy Coney Barrett ruled that the county responsible for the prison could not be held liable because the sexual assaults fell outside of the guard’s official duties. Her judgment demonstrates a level of unconscionable cruelty that has no place on the high court,” Kyle Herrig, president of the watchdog group Accountable.US, told Salon. But this unconscionable judicial ruling made by the Republican’s purposefully manufactered buttress of “conservative family values and morality” is just one of her many past judicial decisions that highlight how severely Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett will harm sexual assault survivors. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which made it possible for 20 million Americans to secure health insurance, being a victim of sexual assault and/or rape (as well as domestic violence) was designated as a “pre-existing condition” and grounds for refusing health care coverage. If Barrett ascends to the Supreme Court and rule to gut the Affordable Care Act — a likely possibility, given that in 2017 she wrote that “Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save statute” and in 2015 claimed the dissenting judges in a ruling that also upheld the ACA had “the better of the legal argument” — victims of rape and/or sexual assault could once again be legally denied health care coverage. And if Roe v Wade does fall — another credible inevitability, given Barrett’s anti-abortion sentiments and history of speaking at “pro-life” events while supporting “pro-life” organizations — at least 10 states will immediately make abortion access illegal, the consequence of what are known as “trigger laws.” The laws, which would go into effect as soon as the constitutional right to have an abortion is no longer protected by federal law, would include bans on abortion with no exception for rape or incest cases. In other words, if you’re one of the one in five women who will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and you live in Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Missouri, Tennessee, South Dakota and Utah, you could be legally forced by the state to carry a pregnancy resulting from rape to term. Barrett has also argued that Title IX anti-discrimination protections should not be extended to transgender students, claiming that it’s a “strain on the text of the statue.” One 2005 study found that one in two trans people are sexually assaulted or abused during their lifetime, and that perpetuated shame, stigma, and anti-LGBTQ sentiments can inhibit a trans victim of sexual assault from coming forward and subjecting themselves to necessary physical exams or medical treatments. And when lesbian, gay, and bisexual people experience sexual violence at higher rates than cis or straight people, having a judge on the Supreme Court who believes their sexual orientation is a “preference” only stands to cause them additional harm. Barrett refused to answer straightforward questions about her judicial positions in an attempt to shield her true identity from the American people. But all the tip-toeing and question-dodging can’t hide the truth her past judicial rulings have long-revealed about who she is as a person, as a judge, and who she will be as a Supreme Court Justice — a living, breathing detriment to sexual assault survivors everywhere. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Amy Coney Barrett's White Womanhood Is A ShieldAmy Coney Barrett Denies LGBTQ+ DiscriminationAmy Coney Barrett's Record On Abortion Rights
After nearly a week of Senate hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, we’ve gotten several viral moments from the experience, but nothing near the outrage that characterized the Brett Kavanaugh hearings several years ago. Yes, some people were taken aback when Barrett held up a blank notepad after being asked what notes she was using to answer questions. And, true, many were incensed when she could not list all five of the First Amendment freedoms (something asked on the citizenship test, and which people can be denied citizenship for not knowing). And there was a lot of consternation when Barrett refused to answer a question about whether presidents should commit to a peaceful transfer of power. But, mostly, pointed criticism of Barrett has been muted — which is exactly what Trump and Republicans assumed would happen, and why they nominated a candidate who could hide behind the shield of white motherhood. The harshest critiques of Barrett have been leveled at her by left-leaning Democrats, and have centered around her lack of knowledge regarding the basics of the Constitution and how the legal system works, but they’ve avoided going after Barrett personally, even though there is a direct connection between her personal religious beliefs and her potential rulings. In part, this avoidance has been a response to the fact that Republicans preemptively created a narrative in which they said it would be bigoted if Democrats attacked Barrett’s motherhood or her Christianity, even though she has said the latter directly informs her views on things like abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. This narrative created by the GOP was not done on the spur of the moment, and, in fact, its availability as a framing device is a big part of why Republicans saw Amy Coney Barrett as the perfect pick for the Supreme Court. They were relying on the fact that, as a society, we have been trained not to criticize people like Barrett: white women, mothers, Christians. Her white womanhood allows her to be seen as innocent, good-intentioned, and “pure” — despite the fact that she has shown she favors stripping rights away from countless people in this country. Her status as a mother is an indication that she cares about family and children — despite the fact that she doesn’t care if other people will be able to plan their families with the same freedom she had while planning hers. Her Christianity is used to signal that she is compassionate and a person of faith — despite the fact that religion has been historically used to justify colonization and slavery and other horrific abuses. In this way, her identity as a white Christian mother is a shield — but it is also a weapon. “White women are positioned as the virtue of society because they hold that position as the mother, as the keepers of virtuosity, all these ideologies that we associate with white motherhood and white women in particular, their certain role in society gives them power,” Dr. Apryl Williams, an assistant professor in communications and media at the University of Michigan and a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, told TIME. In this way, Barrett is not unlike Serena Joy in Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, a comparison that has been frequently made on social media — and not just because Barrett’s sect of Catholicism may have served as inspiration for the book. Barrett has said she supports constitutional originalism, saying “constitutional text means what it did at the time it was ratified and… this original public meaning is authoritative.” This is, of course, an interesting statement to make considering that adherence to the original version of the Constitution would mean, as a woman, she wouldn’t be able to vote or sit on a jury — let alone on the Supreme Court. Similarly, Serena Joy made her career writing texts that argued women shouldn’t be able to have their own careers, texts which eventually “relegat[ed her] to the role of decorative, insignificant housewife at the very moment she proved herself capable of running the world,” Sady Doyle wrote in 2017 for Elle. Serena Joy, Doyle says, is an example of oppressive leaders getting “smart enough to sell us poison in an on-trend, very blonde package.” So, it seems, is Amy Coney Barrett. And while it’s easy to refuse to drink from a bottle clearly stamped with a skull-and-crossbones, it’s a lot harder to do that when it’s presented without that label. The GOP knows this, and is aware that the optics will be terrible if a Democrat attacks Barrett. It a man does it, he will be painted as aggressive and a misogynist. And if a woman — particularly a Black woman or women of color — forcefully interrogates Barrett’s oppressive positions, she stands to get dismissed as “angry.” Republicans are counting on Barrett’s whiteness, her womanhood, and her motherhood, to insulate her from the degree of criticism she deserves, and which any other nominee to a lifetime position would receive. This weaponized white womanhood is an important part of the Republicans’ larger strategy. They can call themselves “feminists” for putting more women from their party in leadership roles, but those women are almost exclusively white and nearly always want to quash the freedom of those who are not. Ivanka Trump is a good example of the emptiness of “Girl Boss Feminism,” as are Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks and Kayleigh McEnany — all of whom are willing to lie while smiling to defend an administration that veers ever more closely into fascism. Barrett is a culmination of those women, with the added protection of motherhood and religion, as if any of those things have prevented her from making decisions like blocking the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from preventing racially motivated employee-transfers in Chicago, or criticizing and pushing back against the Affordable Care Act. The GOP is counting on societal constructs that tell us that white women are essentially harmless to counteract the criticism a man might withstand in a similar position, which is why Barrett is the GOP’s ultimate maneuver to outplay Democrats, a Trojan Horse of right-wing principles wrapped up in an unassuming package. Tempted, then, as many people might be to marvel at the exterior aspects of Barrett that we’ve been trained to admire — her devotion to faith and family and femininity — it’s essential to remember that all of that masks an army of arch-conservative values, which she’s more than willing to deploy to take away the freedoms of anyone who doesn’t fit into her ideal worldview. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Amy Coney Barrett Denies LGBTQ+ DiscriminationAmy Coney Barrett's Record On Abortion RightsThe Superspreader Event Could Cost Barrett Votes
Thousands gathered to honor RBG, protest the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, and urge people to vote On Saturday, women from across the country participated in more than 430 marches as part of this year’s Women’s March. Protesters of all ages not only paid tribute to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but 
In 1973, Roe v. Wade made abortion legal across the U.S., but, as is the case with many other laws and landmark decisions, its application throughout the country was anything but simple — or equal. Decades after the Supreme Court’s ruling that a person’s freedom to have an abortion without excessive government limitations is constitutionally protected, various restrictions continue to pose obstacles for people seeking abortions. And, with the appointment of several new conservative judges to the Supreme Court, as well as a rise in restrictive abortion legislation being passed at the state level, the road ahead isn’t looking much clearer. In 2019 alone, 25 new abortion laws were passed — including bans on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy in Mississippi, Kentucky, and Georgia, and a full abortion ban in Alabama. “We saw these political attacks on the reproductive rights of Southerners [in 2018] across Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama,” Quita Tinsley, co-director of Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, a regional abortion fund, told Refinery29 last year after the signing of Tennessee’s near-total abortion ban. With 2020 and the advent of the coronavirus pandemic came a slew of new challenges, including the fact that abortion services are now considered “non-essential” medical services in many states. Many of these bans occurred in alignment with a common goal of anti-abortion lobbyists: the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade. And while the need to protect people’s access to abortion care has always been an urgent one, especially for Black people, the necessity feels particularly pronounced amid this country’s double crisis: not only has the coronavirus run rampant throughout the U.S., but this nation’s ongoing epidemic of anti-Black racism continues apace. At the center of it all exists America’s most vulnerable population: Black women and girls. As the recent grand jury decision surrounding Breonna Taylor’s murder demonstrated, American institutions do not protect Black women. And why would they? They’re not intended to do so. This fact is evident in the various systems of oppression that make it difficult for Black women to survive in this country. It’s evident in how they are treated in the workplace. It’s evident in their experience of excessively high rates of pregnancy-related deaths, many of which are preventable, but are exacerbated by a discriminatory healthcare system. And it’s evident in abortion restrictions that disproportionately harm Black women. All of this is a reminder of how long-standing systemic racism is built into every facet of our society; it’s why Black and brown lives are not safe, and never have been. Of course, the endangerment of Black women’s lives is not new. Black women’s sexual and reproductive health in particular has been in jeopardy for decades. “Black women’s bodies have been a site of control since slavery,” Zakiya Luna, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and author of Reproductive Rights as Human Rights: Women of Color and the Fight for Reproductive Justice, tells R29Unbothered. “They were thought of as vessels for reproductive control for the benefit of white slave masters and their families, even as Black women were providing so much important, critical labor.” In the same way that slavery was rooted in the exploitation of Black bodies, anti-abortion efforts have white supremacist roots in which Black women were pushed aside in order for white men to increase their own wealth and power. “Prior to the Civil War, abortion and contraceptives were legal in the U.S., used by Indigenous women as well as those who sailed to these lands from Europe,” reports the American Civil Liberties Union. Back then, most women received reproductive health care from midwives, not doctors, and around half the women who provided reproductive health care were Black women. “[Black women] also were keepers of knowledge of how to actually terminate an early pregnancy before ‘quickening,’” a term used to describe the first sensations of fetal movement, says Luna. But, once Black women’s prowess within the field posed a threat to white men looking to capitalize in the field, midwifery was decried as a “degrading” form of obstetrical care. Male doctors lobbied to ban the practice and abortion along with it, positioning themselves as superior, and ultimately removing Black and Indigenous women from the same spaces they helped cultivate. Of course, it had been those same Black women whose bodies were probed and prodded in experimental, dangerous surgeries that ultimately made it possible for the kind of obstetrical advances that would further delegitimize midwifery. “Dr. Marion Sims famously wrote about his insomniac-induced ‘epiphanies’ that stirred him to experiment on enslaved Black women, lacerating, suturing, and cutting, providing no anesthesia or pain relief,” notes the ACLU. In addition to being used, mistreated and mutilated, Black women were also barred from practicing inside hospitals once they came into existence. Another effect of the sidelining of Black midwives was the banning of abortion and contraceptives; this made it possible for white men to have all the power when it came to women’s reproductive choices, and also made it illegal for Black women to help their communities in the way they’d been doing for generations. What we’re experiencing now, then, a time when Black women are jumping additional hurdles to obtain the reproductive care they need, feels horribly familiar. “It’s a different moment, but it’s similar in that restricting who has access to the means of reproduction is part of the history of the U.S.,” stresses Luna. “Black women in particular have been used in a way to develop policies that end up having a broad affect on all women and people, controlling the reproductive possibility of their lives.” There is no arguing the fact that abortion bans disproportionately harm Black people, who are three times as likely to die during childbirth as white people. Making it more difficult for Black people to access reproductive healthcare literally puts their lives at risk. With multiple states calling for the postponing of abortion procedures amid COVID-19 — during which Black and brown communities are being hit the hardest — Black women are being met with the prospect of navigating an already treacherous healthcare system to birth children during a pandemic if they are unable to gain access to abortion care. “[The COVID-19 pandemic] certainly makes it all the more tenuous for folks to get the kind of care that they need,” Kwajelyn Jackson, Executive Director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, Georgia tells R29Unbothered. “We know that folks are taking a tremendous risk just by being outside of their homes during this period of time. But also, abortion care has always been an obstacle course.” In order to get an abortion, patients often need to take time off work, find childcare, secure safe transportation, and find someone who will be able to be with them throughout the day, particularly if they’re undergoing a surgical procedure that requires them to have anesthesia. There’s also the challenge of paying for the care, which may be especially difficult right now, with 54 percent of Black women reporting that they were facing some sort of economic hardship in June — including being laid off from their jobs — amid the rapid rise in unemployment seen as a result of the pandemic. In states like Georgia, Jackson explains, the Hyde Amendment has been deployed to ban the use of state Medicaid funding to cover the cost of abortion care in most cases. Worth noting: Georgia has one of the highest Black maternal mortality rates in the country, making it clear their policy isn’t borne out of concern for women or children. It’s why reproductive justice advocates of color are fighting to end racist and classist legislation like the Hyde Amendment. And with Black and brown pregnant women being more likely to be exposed to and die from COVID-19, their fight has become especially critical. Not only do abortion bans perpetuate the systems of oppression that threaten Black women’s lives daily, but during this especially prounounced period of anti-Black racism and social unrest, it becomes increasingly difficult for Black women and their families to survive in their homes and communities. “What is very clear is that [access] very much depends on your geography, and that has been the case with abortion access in the U.S. for a long time,” says Luna. “For some folks, that likely meant that they ended up taking a pregnancy full term, but then there’s other folks who did what people did before the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion federally, where there was patchwork and access varied state by state: they will travel to another state if they’re able to.” In either case, the stakes are high for Black women and girls, who — without safe and legal access to abortion care — will continue to die, especially those who may not be able to afford to travel. Black women, Jackson adds, are in a place where it doesn’t feel safe to continue a pregnancy, particularly during a pandemic. It doesn’t feel safe to venture out of your home, let alone travel across the country to another state. It doesn’t feel safe to move through crowds of protesters in order to enter an abortion provider. And consistent, stress-free access to contraceptive care is becoming scarce. “There are so many systems that are working against our ability to live full, self-determined, autonomous lives when it comes to our safety and our reproduction,” says Jackson. As we continue to navigate this pandemic, one in which clear, up-to-date, science-based information regarding safety protocol remains unavailable to many in this country, people across the nation face a bleak future — but it’s Black women who will carry the heaviest burden. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Meg Thee Stallion Will Always Protect Black WomenHow Nature's Holding Space For Black WomenWhy Tennessee's Abortion Ban Is Racist
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