For many pro-choice advocates, 2015 was one of the most detrimental years for abortion rights on the books. At the end of last year, Texas' omnibus abortion bill, HB2, was still hanging in the U.S. Supreme Court's balance, a gunman killed three people after opening fire in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, and a slew of anti-abortion attacks had been waged in state legislatures across the country. While 2016 saw some key victories, there's been plenty of reasons why pro-choice advocates need to keep fighting to deal with the attacks on Roe v. Wade in 2016 and how to fight back against them.
Although key parts of Texas HB2 law were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court this summer in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt — certainly one of the bigger victories of the past decade for reproductive health — there have also been numerous attacks against women's rights to maintain control over their own bodies in 2016. At times, it can seem bleak. As with any kind of forward progress, it seems that women have to brace for an inevitable backlash. Luckily, though, with each subsequent attack on abortion, there are heartening responses that make it clear that there are strong women (and men!) out there who support the right to choose. Here are some of those attacks, and what you can do to help stop them.
1. Donald Trump's Election
The election of Donald Trump is one of the most frightening threats to abortion access since Roe v. Wade made abortion a constitutional right. Trump has, on multiple occasions, threatened to defund Planned Parenthood because the clinics perform abortions. He has named Tom Price, a noted Obamacare critic and anti-abortion legislator, as his potential secretary for health and human services. He has said that women who obtain abortions should receive "some form of punishment" (and then walked back on that).
Needless to say, Trump's presidency could be a nightmare for women's reproductive health and abortion access. It's too late to change the election results, but write or call legislators from your state and let them know that attacks on abortion should be a primary concern for Americans.
2. Texas' Fetal Remains Rule
Without going through the state legislature, which meets this January, Texas will put a new rule into the books that requires abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains from abortions, regardless of the gestational state of the fetus. The new rule will take effect on Dec. 19 with no funding from the state of Texas set to cover any costs for cremation or burial, which some estimate could cost thousands of dollars in each case.
Unfortunately, it looks as though the costs will be passed on to the women obtaining abortions unless clinics can somehow foot the bill. That means that affording access to safe and legal abortion could get much harder for many economically disadvantaged women. If you want to help, consider donating to the Lilith Fund or the West Fund, both of which provide grants to women who need help obtaining the money for an abortion in Texas.
3. Ohio's "Heartbeat" Bill
Late on Tuesday, the Ohio legislature passed a bill that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, which is typically around six weeks. That's before most women even know that they are pregnant. If it is signed into law, this would be the most restrictive abortion law in the country, and would fly in the face of previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
The bill hasn't been signed into law yet, but all it needs is a signature from Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Encourage friends in Ohio (often citizens of the state get more priority, but hey, just blow the phone lines up if you're ready) to call or write to Kasich's office before he signs this abortion restriction into law.
4. "Dismemberment Abortion" Bans
In 2016, three states — West Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi — banned so-called "dismemberment abortions," with another state, Alabama, finding its version of the law blocked by a federal judge. Although dismemberment abortions sound like something that should be horrifying, it is the most common method used on second-trimester pregnancies. It is more generally referred to as a dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion, which is perhaps a more accurate idea of what happens in the procedure.
The rebranding of D&E abortions has been a wildly successful attempt from anti-abortion groups to make the procedure sound arcane. If you hear anyone talking about "dismemberment" abortions, try and remind them that is not a medical term, and that most medical professionals would call it D&E. That can help in dispelling some of the bad publicity D&E abortions often receive unfairly.
5. South Carolina's 20-Week Abortion Ban
In May, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a 20-week abortion ban into law. Although South Carolina is not the first state to put this kind of ban the books (in fact, it is the 17th to do so), this move was notable for a few reasons. First, it does not provide any exceptions for rape or incest, only if the mother's life is in danger. Secondly, Haley, should she be confirmed, will be a member of Trump's cabinet — which doesn't bode well for how his administration will respect reproductive rights, even if her appointment as United Nations ambassador may not directly relate to reproductive health policy in the United States.
In this case, lobbying Haley's office while she's still acting as governor of South Carolina could be the best course of action. When she assumes her position as U.N. ambassador, she could feasibly write off any complaints that she got as not relating to her office. So call or write her office to let her know if you have a problem with the restrictive abortion ban she put into place.
6. Oklahoma's Would-Be Ban On All Abortions
Although it never came to fruition, this year, Oklahoma came perilously close to passing a law that would have criminalized performing any abortion, essentially banning all abortions in the state. Gov. Mary Fallin, who is typically an enthusiastic backer of anti-abortion measures, ultimately vetoed the bill because of its scope. Still, the fact that the bill passed through the Oklahoma House and Senate shows that, at least in that state, there are a lot of lawmakers who would be willing to criminalize performing abortions.
Pay attention to your state legislature. Often, the blueprint for a bill in one state will pop up in others shortly after, so it wouldn't be entirely surprising if the language from that bill wound into another state capital.