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Abortion bans further threaten victims of domestic violence

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AdobeStock 269197157 scaled Abortion bans further threaten victims of domestic violence

Anti-abortion laws favor abusers and contribute to domestic violence.

We need to only look at Poland. It has been just shy of one year since Poland enacted a near-total abortion ban even in cases of rape, incest or when the pregnancy endangered the woman. (Most abortions were already criminalized.) Justyna Wydrzyńska, an organizer at Poland’s Abortion Dream Team, is standing trial this week for providing abortion pills to a pregnant woman in a domestic violence situation.

As Wydrzyńska explained, the woman had attempted to travel to Germany for an abortion, but her husband prevented her. Bereft of options, she desperately reached out to Wydrzyńska for guidance, who sent her abortion pills. Unfortunately, the package was intercepted by the woman’s husband, who then called the police. The woman miscarried due to stress. Wydrzyńska now faces up to three years in jail.

Since the harsher abortion ban in Poland was enacted, at least two women have died from pregnancy-related complications after doctors refused to provide life-saving abortion care. The doctors feared criminalization by this new horrific law, and both women lost their lives as a result. One woman was forced to carry a dead fetus for over one week.

As can be seen, abortion bans harm women — and aid abusers. Being denied an abortion worsens financial, health and family outcomes, as extensive research by University of California San Francisco backs up. In fact, the findings specifically determined that “women turned away from getting an abortion are more likely to stay in contact with a violent partner.”

Under Polish law, the abusive husband’s actions are not only legal, they are justified. He prevented his partner from traveling to Germany for an abortion, intercepted her mail, and reported her friend for sending abortion pills, but according to Polish anti-abortion laws, he is the hero. And despite his aggressive behavior, he isn’t the one facing three years of prison; the woman providing health care may be the one serving this term.

This future isn’t perhaps far off from the United States. It has been nearly seven months since Texas passed the draconian SB 8 law that effectively bans abortion throughout the state. But beyond that, it also deputizes private citizens to enforce the law. This means that everyday people can be awarded up to $10,000 if they successfully sue someone for “aiding and abetting” someone in procuring an abortion after six weeks of gestation. To be clear, six weeks of gestation is often before most people even know that they are pregnant. And for those who do find out before six weeks, it is hardly enough time to secure an initial appointment at a clinic for state-directed counseling and then wait a mandated 24 hours before the procedure is provided. Essentially, an Uber driver who takes you to a clinic or a friend who emails you links to websites about abortion could be sued if the pregnant person receives an abortion.

Idaho recently became the first state to pass a Texas copycat law, but with an even larger abortion bounty-hunting reward of $20,000. And states such as Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Ohio are poised to pass identical legislation. This indicates that not only is the right to abortion on the line, but helping others obtain an abortion is also in great peril. And abusive partners will undoubtedly weaponize these horrific laws for control and power.

This has a compounded effect for women in religious extremist households where male dominance is the norm. Indeed, a cross-national study of 44 countries found that the greatest predictor of partner violence was “environments that support male control,” especially “norms related to male authority over female behavior.” And although studies have found women to be more religious, it is men who have authority. After all, religious groups like Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews allow only men to be clergy.

Indeed, women of all religions seek abortions — even those who come from severely anti-abortion environments. In fact, data by the Guttmacher Institute found that 24 percent of women who obtained an abortion were Catholic and 13 percent were evangelical.

As Wydrzyńska awaits trial, the message is clear: Abortion restrictions do not help pregnant people make healthy decisions. A woman was unable to obtain health care because of legislation and her abusive husband while another woman is facing imprisonment for helping someone in need. Women in the United States are on the verge of this future. Let’s use our secular voices (and votes) to stand up against anti-abortion laws. They only boost the control of abusers.

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