This spring was a rude awakening to the reality of reproductive rights in this country. Republican legislatures in nine states passed draconian anti-abortion bans, garnering national attention and outrage for a few short weeks. But that fight isn’t over.
This fall, we have the opportunity to fight back.
Three states that passed bans this year—Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi—will hold elections in November. We have the chance to hold accountable the legislators and governors who passed and signed the most anti-women legislation in decades and elect progressive officials to replace them.
Kentucky is a prime example of how Republicans are using creative ways to attack reproductive rights. Not only did the state pass an abortion ban earlier this year, under current Republican Governor Matt Bevin, the state escalated its administrative fight to close down the state’s already-sparse women’s health clinics. The state has only one clinic that offers abortions, and Bevin’s administration is doing everything it can to shut it down. This could make the state the first in the country without any abortion services.
Thankfully, Kentucky has gubernatorial elections coming up November 5. Democratic candidate Andy Beshear, who is currently the state’s attorney general, is an uncompromising defender for reproductive health. Beshear is endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America and refused to defend a 2017 anti-abortion law passed by the Republican legislature.
In Mississippi, Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood is running for governor against a Republican who's made clear he will continue to be a foe of reproductive rights. Hood is one of the last statewide elected Democrats in the South, and has a fighting chance to ascend to the governor’s mansion. And on November 16, every single seat in the Louisiana legislature is up for grabs–meaning that supporters of abortion rights have an opportunity to donate, organize, and defeat legislators who passed the state’s abortion ban.
Even though the bans passed this spring are not yet in effect, the dystopian, anti-reproductive health future some imagined would only come in a post-Roe world is already here for many. Today, six states have only one abortion clinic, with the number likely to rise. The Guttmacher Institute recently released a study that showed nearly one-fifth of people seeking an abortion had to travel more than 50 miles for care.
Just last month, the Trump administration made it harder for people to get birth control and other critical medical services when it fundamentally changed the Title X family planning program. The Trump administration’s devastating assault on Title X will create even bigger obstacles for poor patients, as clinics across the country that rely on the funding are forced to close. And spoiler alert, that is the point. Slashing Title X is another prong of the Trump administration’s war on people of color; in 2017, two-thirds of program recipients were women and men of color. This means fewer women will have access to the comprehensive medical care they receive when they walk through the doors of a reproductive health clinic. From getting a Pap smear to HPV vaccination, these clinics protect the country’s most vulnerable women from falling victim to preventable diseases.
For years, Republicans have used "death by a thousand cuts" tactics, including requiring abortion clinics to have so-called "transfer agreements," passing method bans reducing clinicians’ abilities to provide the full range of abortion options, and employing aggressive administrative harassment. That is how we woke up in 2019 with six states that have only one abortion clinic. The country is finally paying attention because Republicans dropped the pretense about what they want to do—outlaw abortion—and went for the jugular by passing a spate of abortion bans this year.
The best way to fight back against the ongoing Republican onslaught against women is to elect and champion candidates who are uncompromising in their support for reproductive rights. If anyone was uncertain that the women who propelled a record number of new female candidates into Congress last November cared about getting rid of Trump, polls consistently show a huge gender divide between men and women in support for Trump.
We must continue to step up to both run for office and fight for others running who are uncompromising supporters. If we don’t, we may wake up one day in a country where there are no clinics providing comprehensive reproductive health care. We’ve traditionally relied on the courts to protect reproductive rights but following the Trump administration’s frenzy of judicial appointments, that is no longer the case. We have to elect a bulwark of strong, unrelenting reproductive rights champions. The fight of a lifetime is here, and we need to gear up and get on the battlefield.
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