This was written on March 8, International Women’s Day. It was scheduled for posting the following week. I shudder to think about what legislation might be passed between writing this and your reading this today.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court repealed a nearly 50-year precedent of federal protections for the right to abortion, abortion has been banned or severely restricted in 18 states. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. If anti-abortion legislators have their way, abortion will be completely banned everywhere. Let’s review some of the flurry of bad abortion bills that intend to do just that.
To begin with, Wyoming legislators recently passed two anti-abortion bills that outlaw abortion (with rare exceptions) and criminalize abortion medication. It’s important to note that exceptions to abortions are very rarely granted. In Kansas, politicians advanced a bill that would ban telemedicine and require physicians to be physically present to provide abortion medication. This will dramatically make abortion harder to obtain for thousands of women in the state. To make it worse, Walgreens has bowed down to anti-abortion pressure and announced it will not distribute abortion pills in 20 states — even though the Food and Drug Administration has generally approved the ability to do so.
But for anti-choice proponents, it is not enough to ban abortion within their own state. The Idaho House Committee moved forward with a bill that would make it a felony to travel with a minor for an out-of-state abortion without parental consent. The legislators are ridiculously deeming that “trafficking.” Should that bill become a law, it will have horrific consequences for young people, particularly minors of religious families who would not support their right to an abortion. After all, research has shown that minors who do not tell their parents about their decision to end unwanted pregnancies often have very good reasons. This is especially true for children whose parents are religious extremists.
And yet banning abortion within a state or restricting people from leaving the state for care is still not sufficient. In perhaps one of the most egregious anti-abortion moves, Texas and Iowa politicians are seeking to outlaw websites offering information about abortion. Yes, that’s correct. Legislators in these states want to make it illegal to access anything on the internet related to abortion medication or how to obtain an abortion. This would effectively ban all websites that discuss abortion, including health centers, nonprofits, abortion funds and advocacy groups. Specifically in Iowa, a bill there would force libraries, schools and colleges to block these websites.
Not only are these proposed laws counter to public opinion, they are anti-science. To begin with, abortion is an extremely safe procedure. Dr. Ned Calonge, the co-chair of the committee that wrote a report for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, explained that state restrictions and bans on abortion “have been totally debunked” and that “delaying and making people wait and go through hoops of unnecessary, extra procedures does not improve the safety — and, actually, by having them delay can actually worsen the safety.” And more than 800 scientists and scientific organizations affirm that abortion access is important reproductive health care. The general public agrees. In fact, a Pew study found that the majority of Americans believes that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Additionally, 82 percent of religiously unaffiliated people support legal abortions. (As do 98.9 percent of FFRF members.)
This rapid assault on abortion at the state level only exacerbates existing inequalities and barriers to health care. This is especially true for immigrants, Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, rural, LGBTQ-plus and low-income people who already face significant disparities in health insurance coverage and health care access. These bills will make it even more difficult to receive care. And it is all in the name of Christian nationalism.
That’s why I am glad that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is standing up to this infringement on health care and state and church. FFRF recently joined over 200 advocates in an appeal to U.N. officials to hold the United States accountable for the decimation of abortion rights. I am also grateful that FFRF has united with 150-plus reproductive justice, health, and advocacy organizations to support the EACH Act. The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act would reverse the Hyde Amendment and related abortion coverage restrictions. I urge you to contact your member of Congress and demand that they support the EACH Act and condemn any bills that decimate abortion. You can find your representative here.
Secular voices are needed more than ever.