The 4 Reproductive Rights Stories You Missed This Week
Most reproductive rights news went unnoticed this week as the world remains transfixed by the Nov. 13 Paris attacks and ongoing terrorist acts erupting across the globe. But here in the United States, abortion rights did play a major role from Texas to ShondaLand — that's right, everyone's favorite fictional power woman, Olivia Pope, had an abortion in the Scandal mid-season finale. Was it truly a scandal? Hardly, but Pope's decidedly uncontroversial decision to have an abortion — during a congressional hearing on Planned Parenthood, of all things — certainly made a statement that viewers can't stop talking about.
While Pope was able to access abortion fairly easily in TV land, let's remember that across the United States, women seeking abortion are increasingly running into legal and monetary barriers. In Texas, women who may lack funding and access to a clinic have resorted to self-inducing their own abortions. Is America sliding back into those pre-Roe days? We'll have to see what the Supreme Court says about that in 2016.
Here are the reproductive rights stories you may have missed this week...
Texas Women Are Performing Their Own Abortions
The Texas Policy Evaluation Project, a research arm of the University of Texas at Austin, released an alarming study this week on self-induced abortions. According to the researchers, between 100,000 and 240,000 Texas women between the ages of 18 and 49 have attempted to self-terminate a pregnancy without any medical assistance; this indicates a "high estimate" of 4.1 percent of Texas women of reproductive age. It's a figure, the researchers noted, that's much higher than any other state in America.
The study reveals that certain sociopolitical and geographical factors were at play. Latina women living near the Mexico border were more likely to attempt a self-abortion or know someone who did. Women who reported difficulty accessing other reproductive health care services, such as Pap smears or birth control, were also more likely to consider self-abortion. Slightly more than half of the women likely to attempt self-abortion were married.
Misoprostol — a cramp-inducing drug that's typically used as the second drug in doctor-prescribed medication abortions — was the most common method of self-abortion. However, women have also tried potentially dangerous termination methods, including untested herbal remedies, alcohol and drug use, and blunt-force impact to the abdomen, such as getting punched or kicked.
And while self-terminating a pregnancy may still be an anomaly in Texas, it may not be that way for long. If the Supreme Court upholds the third provision in HB2, which mandates that all clinics providing medication and surgical abortions must be ambulatory surgical centers, then Texas will be left with just 10 clinics come July 2016. (Currently, just 18 clinics are left in Texas.)
"Given that the populations we found to be most familiar with abortion self-induction are among those that have been most directly affected by the closure of abortion clinics in the state," the researchers wrote, "we suspect that abortion self-induction will increase as clinic-based care becomes more difficult to access."
Will This Abortion Case Head To The Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court is already scheduled to take up abortion in 2016, agreeing last week to hear arguments in the case of Texas' HB2 law. It may turn out to be the biggest abortion rights case since Roe v. Wade, and could drastically alter the state of abortion access and reproductive health care across the country. But North Dakota, perhaps feeling left out, thinks its onerous abortion ban should go before the Supreme Court, too. The North Dakota attorney general petitioned the Supreme Court on Thursday to consider the constitutionality of the state's six-week abortion ban, which was permanently blocked by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in July. Outlawing abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, the law would have been the harshest abortion ban in the nation. The law did not include exemptions for victims of rape or incest.
North Dakota asked the Supreme Court in its petition to evaluate the "increasing evidence of the devastating physical and psychological consequences of abortion," the "new scientific advances on viability," and "society’s willingness to remove from pregnant women the burden of child care for every unwanted child." The Supreme Court has yet to respond to North Dakota's petition.
Donna Karan Discusses Her Abortion Story
Fashion designer/legend/icon Donna Karan went on HuffPost Live this week to promote her upcoming memoir, My Journey, and ended up divulging a long-held secret (that, coincidentally, is discussed in her book). In 1973, not long after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, Karan had an abortion after becoming pregnant while entangled in a love affair between her first husband, Mark Karan, and future husband Stephan Weiss. Karan said the experience was "difficult," but she was certain about her decision.
"I said, 'I can't even fathom doing this,' and abortion had just been legalized — it was that week," she told HuffPost Live. "I told Mark about it and I said, 'I really think this is what I have to do, and he agreed with me and supported me completely on it."
Karan added that she wants to discuss her abortion now to help other women who may be going through a similar situation. "I know so many times that women really go 'What do I do? How do I handle this?' and I wanted to show that I'm with them," Karan said in the interview. "I totally understand what it's like — I went through it."
'Scandal' Portrays An Abortion
It's been 40 years since Bea Arthur's Maude became the first TV character to have an abortion yet abortion is still treated like the scarlet letter of Hollywood. Thank you, Shonda Rhimes, for not being afraid to show an abortion on TV. Yes, Olivia Pope terminated a pregnant on Thursday night's mid-season finale, and it wasn't the emotional, drawn-out, hand-wringing "OMG is she really doing it?" affair that we've come to know from unintended TV pregnancies. Better, still, was the depiction of the actual abortion itself. Scandal showed the beginning of the surgical abortion procedure — most common for first-trimester pregnancies — and it wasn't anything like Carly Fiorina's description of an abortion.