U.S. is sliding toward a grim future where abortion is criminalized
with little support for families. This “new normal” is
disproportionately impacting low-income people of color.
state legislatures are creating abortion refugees across
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a draconian bill, SB
into law last year, empowering bounty hunters to sue abortion
providers, those seeking care fled to the neighboring
of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
GOP leaders were ready for them. Oklahoma’s Republican Governor
Kevin Stitt on April 12 signed
the nation’s strictest abortion ban
into law, ending all abortions in his state except in cases of danger
to the pregnant person’s life. Now, reports are emerging of
Oklahomans turning to the neighboring state of Kansas
to be outdone by his GOP colleagues, presidential hopeful Ron
DeSantis, governor of Florida, also signed
a 15-week abortion ban
into law similar to the one passed by states like Kentucky.
think by the fall, abortion’s going to be criminalized in about
half of the states, and I think that’s a really scary place to
be,” Imani Gandy, senior legal analyst for Rewire
told me in a recent interview.
low-income people living in states with abortion bans are facing
prohibitively expensive travel to access care. The costs could jump
even higher as more states enact bans and people have to travel
farther, weighing the pressures of finances, juggling job schedules,
family obligations, and the ticking clock of gestation. “It’s
not going to be middle and upper-class white women who are going to
have problems accessing abortion,” said Gandy.
it’s only a matter of time before the anti-abortionists’
wildest dream of overturning the Roe
at the Supreme Court will come true. According to one analysis,
this would immediately result in abortion becoming illegal in at
least 13 states. Only 17 states and Washington, D.C., have ensured
that abortion will be legal and accessible if Roe
falls—and that figure is dependent on Democrats retaining
control of those state legislatures.
have to admire the long game that anti-abortion evangelicals have
played, steadfastly remaining single-issue
catapulting any state or federal leader into power—no matter
how antithetical to their values—as long as they promise to
oppose abortion. With a multipronged strategy of state-level abortion
bans that chipped away at reproductive rights bit by bit, tossing
case after case to the Supreme Court, while at the same time
relentlessly pressuring Republican leaders to appoint anti-abortion
conservative justices, anti-abortion advocates have ushered in the
end of Roe.
used to be that nations like El
where abortion is completely banned, were a cautionary tale for the
U.S. The laws are so strict that Salvadoran women who have
miscarriages and stillbirths have also been arrested and incarcerated
for harming their fetuses. It is not out of the realm of possibility
that the U.S. is heading in just such a direction.
26-year-old Texas woman named Lizelle
was recently arrested on murder charges after a grand jury indictment
for the “death of an individual by self-induced abortion.”
think they just wanted to see if they could get a grand jury to
convict a person of murder after a miscarriage,” said Gandy.
“And they did.” It was only after a local reproductive
rights group named Frontera
mobilized to demand Herrera’s release that the district
attorney in question withdrew charges, saying there was no basis for
her arrest in the first place.
to Gandy, going through a grand jury proceeding “is not
something that a district attorney does lightly,” and so she
suspects it was a trial balloon of sorts to see if those people
sitting on grand juries would tolerate a murder charge over a
miscarriage. In Herrera’s case, it turned out they
is going to be the new normal,” said Gandy. “Black and
Brown pregnant people are going to be the ones who are targeted by
these laws that criminalize pregnancy.”
fear is based on cases like Brittney
a Native American woman in Oklahoma who was convicted last year of
manslaughter after having a miscarriage; Purvi
an Indian American woman from Indiana who was convicted and sentenced
to 20 years in 2015 for inducing an abortion (her sentence was
a year later after a massive national outcry); and Bei
a Chinese immigrant, also in Indiana, who was convicted of feticide
after attempting suicide (she too had her charges eventually dropped
after public pressure).
than half of women who seek abortions are already mothers,”
said Gandy. “So, if we’re now going to start throwing
these pregnant people in jail, who’s going to be taking care of
is also disturbed by the timing of the new anti-abortion laws that
empower private citizens to sue individuals over abortions, such as
SB 8 in Texas. “It is particularly nefarious that this is going
on at a time of economic crisis,” she said.
rising inflation, interest rates, and gas prices, “we have
states that are capitalizing on people’s financial struggles to
encourage them to snitch on the private behavior of their neighbors
on the off chance that they are going to be able to collect on this
$10,000 bounty,” she added.
Congress has failed to ensure financial support for low-income
parents, dropping the ball on renewing the child
and passing paid
family and medical leave
horror that the U.S. is sliding toward could have been avoided had
Democrats codified reproductive rights into law during any of the
times they have been in control of both houses of Congress and the
presidency in the decades since the Roe
Supreme Court decision. Their inaction, even in the face of concerted
anti-abortion activism and resulting successes, is unconscionable.
legislative effort that was too little, too late, came this past
March in the form of the Women’s
Health Protection Act,
which would have legalized abortion. But it failed to pass the
Democratic-controlled Senate, with Vox describing the bill as
“primarily for messaging,” and asserted that its failure
to pass “makes the case for a larger Democratic
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, as well as the two sole
pro-abortion Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan
Collins of Maine, also voted against the bill, making clear their
support for abortion rights is mere lip service.
at the wheel, lawmakers have left Americans at the mercy of a vocal
minority intent on criminalizing abortion while caring little about
financial support for parents.
article was produced by Economy
for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.