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Got Abortion Rights?
Hear from a woman who went to prison under El Salvadors current abortion laws some of the strictest in the world. And, one reproductive justice organization considers the future of reproductive health access under the US Supreme Court.
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TRANSCRIPT for US-based segment is below.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
* Special Thanks to the Mary Wohlford Foundation for supporting our Reproductive Justice programs
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TRANSCRIPT for Part 2 of program
Monica Lopez, — host of this Making Contact episode
The experience of Teodora Vasquez the woman that we just heard from in the previous segment may sound extraordinary to women who grew up in the U.S. where access to abortion has been legal for much if not all of our lives.
However some state houses across the country are already poised to consider banning abortion if Roe v. Wade is dismantled.
I sat down with Norbese Flint policy director at black women for wellness Los Angeles. We talked about some of the potential changes to reproductive health care access under the current US Supreme Court and other changes that have been underway for several years.
I’m wondering if you could talk about the criminalization of miscarriage in the United States and how it’s played out in certain states.
Nourbese Flint– from Black Women for Wellness http://www.bwwla.org/
There are about 38 states that have some type of feticide laws. So those laws having to do with the treatment of a fetus. However, about I believe 16 or 17 of them have ones that don’t have an exception (enhancement?) for the mother. Right. And so what that is looking like or what is happening in recent years is that prosecutors and judges have been using some of these various feticide laws to start collecting and looking at how to criminalize pregnant women.
The most famous of ones as Purvi Patel is who was in prison for three years for allegedly ending her pregnancy before she was finally freed by an appellate court. She was charged with homicide, but there are stories all over the country with women who have been charged with murder, homicide manslaughter from having stillborns.
And so we’re seeing an uptick of prosecutors, particularly in some of these states that are leaning more conservative, of finding very creative ways to criminalize women. And I think it’s really important also to highlight that many of the women who get criminalized are women of color. Right if it’s black Latino South Asian Asian. Those are the folks who are looking at getting criminalized for these behaviors. So it’s just another way of folks to try to control women’s bodies but also criminalizing black and brown bodies.
Can you talk about the differences between the different moves that different states are making to restrict abortion access versus say a Personhood movement .
Around 2008 there seemed to be a direct effort by many of the anti-choice organizations to look locally. And many of those organizations and funding started looking at how to take over states. While I think most of us in the repro world were still looking at the kind of federal landscape. With that being said, the vast majority of states have been for the last seven years have been passing anti -choice legislation. And they have conservative leaning houses so legislators and governors. And that has resulted in a whole bunch of 13 states that have trigger laws. So if Roe v.Wade gets overturned they immediately ban abortion.
So essentially trigger laws are laws that said if if Roe v. Wade becomes no longer the law of the land that abortion be outlawed either completely or at some type of time like eight weeks after eight weeks in that state. And so many of the states actually have been working on this or passing laws in their state–I would say to be ready for I think the moment that we are now.
Other states like California New York have been expanding reproductive access in our states with the same type of looking at how do we make sure that regardless of what happens at the federal level that women still have access in the state. We’ve also been looking at how to really look at the intersections of what it means to be/have abortion access when it comes to like the Hyde amendment and getting rid of that–and what we call TRAP laws which is another way many of these conservative leaning legislators have been putting into place. TRAP laws are essentially laws that systemically targeted to abortion providers and making it that they have to do some type of crazy type of laws or regulations in order to exist.
For example what happened with the Well Women’s case down in Texas that the clinic needed to have hallways big enough for two gurneys to get past– So talking about hospital type level facilities for a small clinic. And most clinics do not have the funding to rebuild their whole buildings in order to comply with many of those laws. And so between trap laws and trigger laws we are now looking at the vast majority of states where women live will have less access, and if for some reason Roe v. Wade gets dismantled,which we we think might happen in the next couple of years —that there will be no access in their state.
Lopez You said the vast majority of states, and I know you can’t list all the states, but can you tell me like how many ish and which states will probably be the first to try and restrict abortion access.
I’m not sure which states are the hungriest for this. Of course Mississippi + Alabama are couple of the states that do have some of these laws on the books; I also believe Utah does as well; I believe 26 states have some type of anti-abortion laws on the books that restrict abortion rights. I know a lot of folks have been doing, (social justice organizations have been working in civic engagement for a long time) e.g. Getting folks of color out to vote.
But one of the places that we just haven’t had our eye on the ball was courts and judges. And this is also why we need to pay super attention to prosecutors and super attention to judges. Before we even get to the Supreme Court. most women are having to face these prosecutors and anti-choice prosecutors and anti-choice judges that are making and changing the lives of women on a day to day basis. Right. So for many of the Feticide laws in the country it is up to the prosecutor decide if they want to charge or not. Right.
And they are the ones that are, I would say, bending the law to their will to start charging pregnant women– because the intention of them (the laws) was it really for anti abortion. It was really to kind of acknowledge pregnant women. And so if you can commit a crime against a pregnant woman that there was an extra charge or enhancement charge. And this is what they have been really working on like well how can we make it homicide or how could we they charged this pregnant woman with some type of manslaughter. Like her body for some reason doesn’t belong to her when she becomes pregnant and they take her uterus essentially and give it its own rights outside of her.
So I think what’s also interesting the reproductive justice movement started because of particularly black women were fighting for the right to have children. Why– And the feminist movement was fighting for the rights not to have children.
And so I think that’s really important to also think about: how both the anti choice laws are for all women– However how as they also try to regulate women’s bodies to have children they are also still working on ways for women of color to not be able to have children. Right. We just worked on a bill with Justice Now and I think we passed it in 2013 to stop the illegal sterilization of women in prison in California. Right. We know they re vast majority of women of color. So it’s always this very this kind of double edged sword I guess for lack of a better word of looking at why we see anti choice laws that impact all women. And it criminalizes all women and many women of color are the ones that actually get criminalized and have to go to jail for these things, that there also is a different way of still using kind of Gen-X policies to stop women of color from being able to have children as well.
I was reading the article this morning and it said it is not all women who are conflicted about Kavanagh, it’s white women and it broke down many of the polls that were happening. And then when they broke it down by race it was really women of color who werent with Kavanagh, white women were split. I think we need to start paying attention to the idea of a woman at this monolithic group and that we all have the same things to lose. When we have these conversations particularly around the anti-choice movement. We cannot take privilege out of that conversation and how that can be very pervasive. And how in which people who I would think that will be wanting to protect their rights for their own body, might choose privilege over their gender
Privilege in what sense?
— Essentially trying to save whiteness over the sense of a womanness. if we keep white folks in power and decrease access to people of color then we have um — we’re still winning even if it’s the loss of our own bodies.
What do you think the outlook is for abortion access and reproductive justice access for women,
if there is a more conservative justice who’s appointed to the supreme court.
I think the future for repro access is scary, that we’re going to go through a time where reproductive access is going to be shrunken and limited. And particularly many of the states that have legislative bodies that have been working on this for years.
The reproductive laws in this country have never been where we wanted them to be. Health care access has never been where we wanted them to be. And so we do also have an opportunity to completely dismantle and rebuild what we want and what we need. Right? And what we want what we need I think looks very radically different than what we have already. What does it look like for people to have health access and health insurance. Um it is total and everybody having them and not have a kind of cut out service for repro. — So like abortion rights is over here and the rest of your health access is over here. So I’m looking forward to that.
I do think that the fight though is with women of color leading the way.
I think the fight is that if we learn the lessons that need to be learned and center our movement, (center the things that we’re going to do around the folks who are most vulnerable) then there could be a very bright future for what it looks like to be women, what it looks like to exist what it looks like to be human in this country.
But that’s only if we learn the lessons.