Welcome to our Reproductive Justice Blog space. This is the place to learn more about this important topic and actions we can all take in the continuing battle to promote access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion for all women.
Save this for later…. just in case
How to Get an Illegal Abortion
I’ve been helping women outside of the US get safe illegal abortions for years.
Throughout Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia, abortion remains highly restricted yet commonplace. While many, especially young and marginalized women, still resort to sharp objects or dangerous cocktails, there are now safer options than in the pre-Roe days.
Many Americans already lack practical access to legal abortion due to onerous restrictions in a number of states. Millions more would join them if abortion was decided at the state level.
So if you are thousands of miles from a legal abortion, what are your options, short of crossing a border?
Here is what women in developing countries do, and how professionalized medicine in the US would make it easier for me to get an abortion in my adopted home, the most conservative state in Mexico, than in my native state of North Carolina. It’s time to start preparing for the worst.
The New and Improved ‘Back-Alley’ Procedure
Most surgical abortions in the first or second trimester do not require an operating room thanks to the invention of the Manual Vacuum Aspirator (MVA). Think a giant syringe with a blunt plastic tip. Clinicians are trained to use it by sucking seeds from a papaya.
MVA is also used for incomplete miscarriages, so is available to clinicians no matter what the legal status of abortion. In developing countries, private clinics and even public hospitals routinely use MVAs to perform illegal abortions off the books- for those who can pay.
How many clinics or hospitals in the US will be willing to risk being shut down for performing illegal abortions? Probably none, since abortion clinics are closing all over the country when they can’t comply with new operating restrictions. How many clinicians will be willing to put everything on the line to do an abortion in their guest bedroom? Likely some, but not nearly enough.
How many would teach lay people on a papaya? Networks of women who perform illegal abortions have happened before - learn more in this podcast. Sound like a risk you are willing to take? Then buy a speculum, and if you live in the tropics, plant a papaya tree. Just in case.
DIY - there’s an app for that
The other way women in developing countries have safe abortions is by taking misoprostol, a pill that causes uterine contractions. The drug was developed to treat ulcers and pregnancy was labeled as a contraindication; women in countries with restricted abortion but lax perscription enforcement quickly caught on to the practical uses of this side effect. It leaves no trace and looks clinically like a miscarriage.
Hesperian, publishers of the “Where There Is No Doctor” books, now has an app on how to use pills for abortion. The Dutch organization Women On Waves, who used to have to sail women into international waters to perform abortions, is now reaching many more on the web with mail-order pills.
Taking misoprostol is easy - the problem for Americans is how to get it. It’s not going to be OTC at CVS anytime before hell freezes over, and mailing it outside of the health system is illegal. Some Texan women have long been crossing into Mexico to buy it at pharmacies. Will misoprostol soon be moved by cartels, available from your corner drug dealer? It could fit between the gaps of Trump’s border fence...
Next time you are in a country without strict pharmaceutical controls, pick up a few boxes of misoprostol (also commonly known by its brand name, Cytotec) for your ‘ulcer’. Just in case.
If becoming part of an underground abortion network or a misoprostol drug smuggling ring makes you nervous, Make sure you request your absentee ballot at votefromabroad.org and VOTE!
August 3, 2020
The Reproductive Justice Team
On June 29, 2020 in the case of June Medical Services v Russo, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act is unconstitutional. The law, enacted in 2014, requires doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana to have the right to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of the place where the abortion is performed.
Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, reasoned that the law would impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion. Specifically, the District court (which is the lower court) - after a trial with much evidence submitted, concluded that if the law went into effect, there would be only one doctor in the entire state left performing abortions in the early stages of pregnancy, and none at all performing abortions between 17 and 21 weeks of pregnancy.Read more
On June 7th the Democrats Abroad Global Convention adopted the Democrats Abroad Platform. Please have a look here to read the platform: Our Platform - Democrats Abroad, which one of our DA leaders called “a page turner” platform. As one of the drafters (amongst many ,many others), I am proud of our platform, as it is both realistic and progressive.
Importantly, our platform reflects all of the work being done by the Women’s Caucus. The two planks that most affect our Caucus are “Children and Families” and “Gender and Sexual Identity Equality.
Here are a few excerpts to inspire you.Read more
This is a very interesting article, correctly entitled: THE WAR ON WOMEN. It describes the reproductive justice strategy of the current Administration.
As you can see, the current Administration it is doing all it can to restrict or if it can, eliminate, our reproductive rights
With so many issues facing voters this November, you might find yourself in conversations with friends and family members who are unclear on why reproductive justice is an issue that matters. Below are some questions/comments that might come up and here are some responses that we hope will help you convince those who are dubitative.
I’m more concerned about racial justice, poverty, healthcare, and the environment than reproductive rights.
The term “reproductive justice,” defined by the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, shows how certain issues affecting all of human beings intersect with reproduction. Their definition of reproductive justice is “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
For example, the idea of reproductive “choice” isn’t as meaningful when racist structures prevent women of color from being able to access reproductive health services.
I’m opposed (or neutral about) abortion.
Reproductive justice includes more than just access to abortion. It includes access to affordable birth control and to accurate sex education, both of which reduce the likelihood of unintended pregnancies and therefore the need for abortion. Reproductive justice also includes the right to have children, so this would include the right to not be pressured into or forced into abortion or sterilization.
Wasn’t the question of abortion settled in 1973 with Roe v. Wade?
Roe v. Wade still stands, but the State laws surrounding abortion are becoming a real problem and are not as settled as you might think. And there is no Federal law giving women the right to an abortion. Roe v Wade is based on an interpretation of privacy rights in the 9th and 14th amendments to the Constitution. A different Supreme court, such as the one currently sitting, could have a different interpretation of Roe v Wade.
And, many States have enacted laws that restrict the timeframe in which abortions can be performed (such as “heartbeat” laws, meaning as soon as you can hear a heartbeat, abortion is illegal). Other State laws, such as Ohio have made abortion totally illegal and subject to capital punishment.
Other State laws restrict how and when abortion may be carried out and when.
For example; the Supreme Court just rendered a decision in the June Medical case stating the Louisiana’s law restricting physicians who can perform abortions to only those who have admitting practices in a nearby hospital is unconstitutional thereby confirming an earlier decision concerning Texas legislation. But the majority of the court was 5-4 and this could change with a change in the Court. These State laws and the Supreme Court cases can change at any time, which could have the result of making the right to an abortion virtually meaningless or even totally illegal. As always, women who don’t have access to certain amount of resources will be more affected than others.
I’m a man, so women’s issues don’t involve me.
While you might not be confronted with reproductive justice issues as directly as women might be, recognize that these issues are human rights issues. When a significant portion of our society is unable to have a say in whether and how they reproduce – which in turn affects their health and their economic and social wellbeing – this is not just a women’s problem, this is society’s problem. Men participate in decision-making at every level of the healthcare, business and legal structures that impede the aims of reproductive justice. Men in these positions should take the time to understand and consider the reproductive justice implications of their decisions.
How can I use my vote to support reproductive justice?
Find out where candidates stand on these issues. Planned Parenthood has created a “2020 Congressional Scorecard” showing how Senators, Representatives, and candidates have voted on key legislation related to women’s health care and rights. For more information on candidates, see the GWC’s Candidate Information Action Team, as well as Emily’s List, an organization whose mission is to get pro-choice Democratic women elected to office. Finally, remember Supreme court and Federal court judges are appointed for life and it is the President who nominates Supreme Court justices and other Federal judges who are then ratified by the Senate. So we need not only to take back the Presidency, but the Senate as well for lot’s of reasons.
Following my post of June 29, 2020 on the June Medical decision victory, a sobering note from Cynthia Yee-Wallace who is deputy attorney general of the state of Idaho. She filed an amicus brief on behalf of the state in support of the respondent in June Medical Services v. Russo, along with Brian Kane, who is the assistant chief deputy attorney general for the state of Idaho. The following is an excerpt of her post on the Scotus Blog:
“The chief justice simplified the role of the judiciary in analyzing abortion regulations to a pair of straightforward questions: (1) Does the state have a legitimate purpose in adopting the regulation? and if so, (2) Does the regulation create a substantial obstacle to a woman’s right to a previability abortion? With this formulation, Roberts brought the balance of Casey back into the equation by making clear that courts analyzing abortion regulations as an undue burden are required to focus on whether the law creates a substantial obstacle to the abortion decision, not on whether the benefits of the law outweigh its costs. State abortion regulations will continue to be valid and enforceable if a challenger is unable to show that the law at issue is a substantial obstacle to women’s right to choose a previability abortion. Importantly, Roberts (and presumably the four dissenters) interprets a substantial obstacle as requiring more than a simple showing that the law makes it harder to obtain an abortion. It should not be overlooked that Roberts dissented in Whole Woman’s Health, and concurred in June Medical solely on the basis of stare decisis. In other words, states may enact admitting privileges regulations that can meet the Casey requirements, but a law identical to Texas’ or Louisiana’s will fall.
Abortion providers’ one-sided interpretation in Whole Woman’s Health sought to invalidate the states’ ability to regulate previability abortions for a legitimate purpose. The chief justice clarified that Casey continues to be the lodestar for legal and judicial interpretation of state previability abortion regulations. June Medical looks to be a critical victory for states because it reaffirmed the straightforward two-question inquiry that Casey created, and demonstrates that states may continue to regulate abortion within the well-defined boundaries of Supreme Court precedent.
We should remember that Robert’s concurring opinion is dictum, meaning it is an opinion but is not and will not be considered to be legally binding as precedent of the Supreme Court.
Four years ago, by a vote of 5-3, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that (among other things) required doctors who perform abortions to have the right to admit patients at a nearby hospital. In that case, Justice Anthony Kennedy joined his four more liberal colleagues in holding that, although Texas has a genuine interest in protecting the health of pregnant women, there was no evidence that the law actually did anything to promote that interest – but it did make it more difficult for women to get an abortion. Kennedy is no longer on the court, but today it was Chief Justice John Roberts who joined the court’s four liberals in ruling that a similar law from Louisiana is unconstitutional. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority, with a concurring opinion by Chief Justice Roberts.
The law at the center of today’s decision is the Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, enacted in 2014, which requires doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana to have the right to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of the place where the abortion is performed. After the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down the similar Texas law, a Federal court in Louisiana barred the state from implementing the admitting-privileges requirement. It ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it would impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion. Specifically, the District court (which is the lower court) - after a trial with much evidence submitted-concluded that if the law went into effect, there would be only one doctor in the entire state left performing abortions in the early stages of pregnancy, and none at all performing abortions between 17 and 21 weeks of pregnancy. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reversed that ruling, clearing the way for the State to enforce the admitting-privileges requirement.
The plaintiffs (doctors who performed abortions) in today’s case–asked the Supreme Court to intervene and block the Louisiana from putting the law into effect until they could file a petition for review of the 5th Circuit’s decision. In February 2019, Roberts provided the crucial fifth vote to put the law on hold. The Justices agreed to weigh in on the dispute last October and heard oral argument in March.
In an opinion that was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, Justice Stephen Breyer – who also wrote the court’s opinion in Whole Woman’s Health – portrayed the answer to the question before the Court as flowing almost directly from the ruling in the Texas case. The Louisiana admitting-privileges requirement, Breyer explained, “is almost word-for-word identical to Texas’ admitting-privileges law.” Just as in the Texas case, Breyer continued, the District court in Louisiana concluded that the requirement does not provide any real health benefits for women, while at the same time making it “impossible” for abortion providers to get privileges “for reasons that have nothing to do with the State’s asserted interests in promoting women’s health and safety.” And that in turn, Breyer wrote, prompted the district court to find that the requirement “places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion” in Louisiana.
There's more bad news from the Trump Administration regarding sexual assault on campuses. The U.S. Department of Education announced new rules for universities across the United States. The new rules give more rights to those accused of sexual assault on campus. The definition of sexual assault has been limited, so that the assault must be "severe and pervasive". The rule is being implemented under Title IX, which bars discrimination in federally-funded universities. The rule is clearly a step forward in our country's "don"t believe her" campaign. The regulations also come at a bizarre and inconvenient time, imposing a complex regulation as universities are reeling from Coronavirus shutdowns and measures. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, claims that "civil rights can't wait". Our question: whose civil rights does she want to protect?
This Wednesday, May 6, the Supreme Court will be hearing a case concerning access to birth control and the Affordable Care Act.
Wednesday, May 6: Birth control access
10 a.m. ET: Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania consolidated with Trump v. Pennsylvania
The court considers a Trump administration rule that would allow employers with religious or moral objections to birth control to limit their employees' access to free birth control under the Affordable Care Act.