Ten years. That's how long it's been since the United States Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart, a case testing a federal ban on the intact dilation and extraction abortion procedure. A notable holding: an exception for the health of the pregnant woman was unnecessary because the medical community had not reached "consensus" on this point. Unsurprisingly the opinion was an #AllMalePanel.
By opening the door to allowing junk "science" into the court proceedings below, and accepting a lack of consensus as a means to ignore the safety and health of pregnant women, the Court has done lasting damage, and we are seeing the effects in tightening of restrictions across the country. While there is the Frye test for admissibility of scientific evidence, the assumption that judges have no bias is wrong. The current administration is hell-bent on demeaning and restricting the rights of women. With his pick of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, it is clear this misogyny will extend to his judicial picks, and anti-choice judges are much more likely to support evidence submitted by anti-choice state governments to meet the need of restricting access to abortion.
With (some) liberals still obsessing over ideological purity at all levels (seriously, if you think a primary challenge to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp or Joe Manchin will do anything but help Republicans, you're stuck in a liberal bubble), the reality is that we risk a second term of Donald Trump. As part of the lefty "dream team" in 2015, it troubles me greatly to see the rate and velocity in which some are so goddamn convinced that the only way to make the DNC more liberal is to tear apart the Party from the ground up. Ignoring that we have the most liberal DNC Chair in...forever, there remains a loud group of folks hell-bent on burning down all that we have. And the people who will lose - poor people, women, communities of color, the LGBTQ community. The devastation of a second term is that dire. And ideological purity tests in red states is not going to bring about the change we need as a country.
The most damaging part of this administration will be felt in the courts. While Barack Obama had done plenty to reshape the judiciary, the Republicans did a phenomenal job blocking appointments from occurring. The opening this has created at all levels of the judiciary means, plainly, that Roe v. Wade is at risk. While Carhart opened the door for even more restrictions on abortion based on junk science, eliminating Roe will mean states will outlaw abortion.
Here in Washington, the impacts of a repeal of Roe will likely be less severe. In 1970, Washington voters approved Referendum 20, legalizing early abortions. That was three years before Roe. Washington recommitted to abortion rights and access in 1991 with the passage of Initiative 120, codifying the holding of Roe into state law. Anti-choice activists attempted to pass a restriction on "late-term" abortions in 1998 with Initiative 694 - and voters soundly rejected the measure, with 57% voting no.
This leaves us with a choice. With male-dominated legislatures across the country looking to restrict women's access to abortion, the women most impacted will be poor women. Fun fact: wealthy white women will always have access to safe abortion procedures. Money buys a lot. Our choice boils down to this: what will we do as a city and state to ensure that all women, regardless of where they live, can have access to safe, affordable abortions?
For one, as individuals, we can support the CAIR Project. CAIR provides resources so women who have to travel for an abortion, but can't afford it, can have that choice.
As a government, we can work to provide additional support and funding for organizations like the CAIR Project. This comes in many forms. Using tax dollars to support low-cost short-term medical-rental units, for instance, means more money can be spread to support more women who need to travel great distances for an abortion procedure. Backstop funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood, particularly in light of the attacks by the federal government on family planning dollars, will help keep the cost of abortion affordable. Requiring insurers to provide abortion coverage means fewer women will need the support of the CAIR Project for the procedure cost.
To me, being pro-choice is about more than just opposing laws that would restrict abortion access. It means being willing to do more to ensure all women have access to the medical care they need, and have access to safe and affordable abortion services. While we continue to make progress on birth control access (HURRAH! on Washington moving to 12-month prescriptions!), and education in the classroom, we must not abdicate our responsibility to women across the state and country who lack access to the full range of family planning options.
This obligation isn't limited in scope. All levels of government have a role to play - whether in direct action, or through lobbying efforts. I look forward to hearing more from our City Council and Mayoral candidates this year on what they intend to do for reproductive healthcare access, beyond just stating that they are "pro-choice."