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Guide: Fight for abortion rights with FFRF

CAL 6506 Guide: Fight for abortion rights with FFRF
Women across the country desperately need your help in defending abortion rights from religious attacks. These are troubling times, and the onslaught of abortion bans feels disheartening and scary, especially for women of color, immigrants, rural women and members of the LGBTQ community. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is committed to defending secular values and the separation of state and church. This includes abortion. Please read how FFRF has been fighting for these precious rights and how you can defend abortion rights in your community.

Abortion bans are anti-science
Stick to science and facts when discussing abortion rights. To be sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and personal decisions about abortion. However, as we live in a secular nation, health care laws should only reflect science and should be immune from religious impositions. The science proves that there is no basis for abortion bans — there are only religious motivations.

Here are the facts:

• Abortion is an extremely safe procedure, especially when conducted early in a pregnancy. Indeed, 90 percent of abortions happen within the first 12 weeks of gestation.
• Major complications occur in less than a quarter of 1 percent. To put that in context, there are more complications from wisdom tooth removals and tonsillectomies than from abortions.
• Researchers have found that pregnant people are 14 times more likely to die during childbirth than they are from any abortion complications.
Studies have shown that 99 percent of individuals who obtain an abortion feel relief, not regret.
• Countries that have banned abortion prove that abortion restrictions do not reduce abortion rates. Instead, they make abortion care more dangerous. This has resulted in numerous preventable pregnancy-related deaths around the world every year.
• In Texas, maternal deaths rose from 72 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 148 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2012 after abortion restrictions.
• The American Medical Association does not support abortion bans and says that it will always defend science.
• The U.N. Human Rights Commission has asserted that abortion is a human right, that denying abortion access is linked to discrimination and that it can constitute gender-based violence, torture, and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
• The so-called “fetal heartbeat” in so many abortion legislation is a misnomer. Dr. Ted Anderson, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an organization representing 58,000 physicians in the United States, remarks that the phrase is intended to hide its anti-science roots. Instead, Anderson explains that the pulsing is “electrically induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops.”

And yet, despite these facts, abortion restrictions abound. To be sure, abortion bans are driven by a religious minority which seeks to impose its extremist worldview on a secular nation. The year 2021 has been record-setting in adoption of abortion restrictions —106 abortion restrictions have become law in this year alone. For context, the previous record for anti-abortion legislation was in 2011 with 89 restrictions.

The Women’s Health Protection Act
Because of these rampant anti-abortion bills, it is imperative that we pass legislation to protect the right to an abortion throughout the United States. Perhaps the most well-known threat to abortion is SB 8, the Texas abortion ban.

It has been six weeks since Texas passed the most restrictive abortion ban in the country on Sept. 1. After the Supreme Court shockingly allowed the law to remain in place, the courts have been battling about the legality of this severely anti-science, anti-woman bill. As a reminder, this bill not only bans virtually all abortions, but also deputizes private citizens to be abortion bounty hunters. This means that Uber drivers, friends who lend money and abortion providers alike can be sued for assisting someone in receiving an abortion after six weeks of gestation. To be clear, most women do not realize that they are pregnant at six weeks gestation since it is only two weeks after a missed period. So this is a flagrant violation of women’s right to reproductive care. That means that millions of women are without comprehensive reproductive care. Those who can afford the burdensome time and expense have been fleeing to Oklahoma for abortion care. However, clinics in Oklahoma are now overwhelmed with patients as they battle their own pending anti-abortion ban.

FFRF has actively urged overturning this law and supports the Justice Department in its bid to ask the Supreme Court intervene and block the unconstitutional abortion ban. FFRF has also been vocal in supporting the Women’s Health Protection Act.

The Women’s Health Protection Act would render unenforceable medically unnecessary and burdensome restrictions against abortion passed by state legislatures. FFRF submitted formal testimony in support of this crucial bill, explaining that “the general welfare is being endangered by anti-abortion zealotry at the state level.” You can read the full letter here.

Thanks to the work of many activist citizens, including FFRF members, the act passed the House, but faces major resistance in the Senate. That’s why we need you to call on your senators and ask them to pass this important piece of abortion legislation so that hundreds of restrictions are nullified.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the Mississippi abortion ban. on Dec. 1.  Mississippi Bill 1510 would ban abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, which is antithetical to the foundation of Roe v. Wade. Should the ultraconservative Supreme Court allow the law to stand, the principles undergirding Roe v. Wade would effectively be overturned. FFRF attorneys have filed an amicus brief, explaining the religious impetus of the anti-abortion bill. In the brief, FFRF explained that “Religion has always been at the heart of anti-abortion legislation, and Mississippi House Bill 1510 is likewise motivated by religious ideology.” FFRF Associate Counsel Elizabeth Cavell drafted the amicus brief for the organization, with help from FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert, Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott and FFRF Reproductive Rights Intern Barbara Alvarez. The Center for Inquiry and American Atheists are the other groups that have joined in FFRF’s brief. Read the full amicus brief here.

Global HER Act
Reproductive Rights Intern Barbara Alvarez defended reproductive rights on Capitol Hill, urging senators and members of the House to pass the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act (Global HER Act). This necessary legislation would prevent any future president from imposing the Global Gag Rule, formally known as the Mexico City Policy, which was first introduced in 1984 by President Reagan. It prevents U.S. funding to any foreign nongovernmental organization that provides or even mentions abortion services, and has been re-enacted by every Republican president and overturned by every Democratic president.

FFRF submitted formal public comment opposing action by the Trump administration to expand the already prohibitive gag eule to all U.S. global fund assistance. And while FFRF cheered the Biden administration for reversing the Global Gag Rule, it is important that FFRF members call on their representatives to pass the Global Her Act so that it can’t be reinstated by a future religiously rooted president. Contact your representatives now.

Title X funding restored to abortion providers 
FFRF submitted a formal comment to the Department of Health and Human Services about reversing the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule. This rule stripped public funding under Title X from health care providers who offered abortion services, referrals, or information. Planned Parenthood was most severely impacted by this decision, since it serves 40 percent of Title X’ 4 million patients with reproductive care, such as cancer screenings and birth control. In the public comment, FFRF wrote that this callous move “undermine[d] women’s reproductive rights, access, and health.”

FFRF heartily cheered the Biden administration’s reversal of this horrific policy, which takes effect on Nov. 8.

Historic moves by the House of Representatives 
FFRF and its members have been instrumental in voicing their opposition to the religiously rooted Hyde and Weldon Amendments. History was made in July when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending bill without their inclusion.  The Hyde Amendment, in effect for 45 years, has denied low-income women on Medicaid (one in five women in the United States), as well as those in the Indian Health Services Plan and Peace Corps, from receiving affordable abortion care. Very few states have picked up coverage to ensure abortion access for low-income women.The Hyde Amendment was introduced by Rep. Henry J. Hyde, a staunch Catholic who was religiously motivated to stomp out abortion rights in the country. The Weldon Amendment, passed in 2005, allows health care providers to refuse to cover, provide, pay or refer someone for an abortion based on “religious or moral grounds.”

Reproductive Rights Intern Barbara Alvarez published an op-ed in the Madison Capital Times urging U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to pass the budget without these amendments. We ask you to contact your senators to do the same.

Abortion stigma letter
At the core of the anti-abortion movement is the stigma surrounding abortion. This stigma manifests in harmful misinformation about abortion and in draconian anti-abortion legislation. That is why it is so important for public officials and policymakers to end this unjust stigma and be fearless in saying the word “abortion.” FFRF joined 117 organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, American Humanist Association, American Atheists, American Civil Liberties Union, Guttmacher Institute, SisterSong: Women of Color Collective and Whole Women’s Health, in an open letter that affirms abortion is health care and not something that is shameful. You can read the full letter here and learn more about destigmatizing abortion through language here.

Other actions
In its home state of Wisconsin, FFRF submitted testimony opposing three major anti-abortion restrictions that are making their way through the Capitol. FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote to Committee on Health and Human Services Chair Rep. Joe Sanfelippo to object to bills limiting medication abortion and overall access to care, explaining: “States that have more abortion restrictions have higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. Structural racism contributes to those poor maternal health outcomes for women of color who experience higher levels of stress, discrimination, and exclusion from the health care system.”
FFRF members also called upon their representatives and asked them to reject these bills.

Freethinkers in Massachusetts stood up to religious zealots when FFRF called on them to reject an anti-abortion education proposal and New York members supported reproductive freedom bills regarding rights to pregnant inmates and emergency contraception access on college campuses.

Action alerts are crucial to defending reproductive rights. Your voice matters! Sign up for action alerts and be part of this important movement.

Your voice is needed more than ever 
There is no scientific rationale for restricting reproductive health care and public opinion agrees. A recent Pew study found that the majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Additionally, 82 percent of religiously unaffiliated people support legal abortions.

We cannot depend on the courts to save us from harmful abortion legislation. Serious court reform is needed to protect individual liberties. And until that happens, we need voices of science and reason. Essentially, we need you in this fight! In a recent membership survey conducted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a whopping 98.8 percent of FFRF members support the constitutional right to legal abortion.

It is time to make your voices known and heard.
• Speak to your friends, family, and neighbors about abortion rights and secular values.
• Contact your representatives.
• Submit a letter to your local newspaper.
• Sign up for action alerts.
• Consider donating to the Women’s Medical Fund, which was co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor, FFRF’s principal founder. Gaylor oversaw this fund as a volunteer from the late 1970s until her death in 2015. The fund annually helps an average of 900-1,000 Wisconsin residents without means exercise their constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade. It is all-volunteer, with donations paying for abortion care. Make a donation, deductible for income-tax purposes.

Women’s rights demand our secular voices and we are grateful to have you in this important fight.

Photo by Chris Line

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