‘Menopausal Militia’ to Young Women: It’s Your Body!

Rebecca Sive

Young women of America: Today’s fight is a defining battle for American women. Fail to understand this at your peril.

I write as a member of the “menopausal militia,” as the New York Times, quoting NARAL’s President, Nancy Keenan this weekend, characterized those of us, “of a certain age,” who have led America’s decades’-long fight for reproductive rights.

But, on this day after the National Day of Action (to stop Stupak), I feel like I’m still 18, in the fall of 1968, gathering nickels, dimes and dollars for a friend to take the bus to Rapid City, South Dakota to get an (illegal) abortion.

On other recent days, I’ve felt like the newly married 23-year-old I was, living in Chicago the year abortion became legal, realizing that the fight was on; that I needed to make this fight a part of my life’s work, for my personal sake.

And on this day after, though still a married woman living in Chicago, things are very different for me. Today, it doesn’t matter to me, for me, whether abortion remains legal or not. It doesn’t even matter to me for my immediate family: I don’t have children or grandchildren. Even so, I know, with every bone in my body, that this is still a fight worth fighting.

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So, it still feels like a day in 1968. For if abortion becomes illegal again, or impossible to obtain in a conventional medical setting–because the Stupak Amendment has become law–it will be 1968 all over again.

For sure, it will be 1968 all over again if America’s young women don’t wake up and realize that women’s reproductive rights can only be secured by battling to secure this human right, the right to control one’s own body.

In 1968, as we looked towards adulthood, we knew that the threshold determinant of women’s equality was the capacity to control one’s reproductive destiny. We recognized that, absent that capacity, the rest just isn’t possible; nope, and hear me clearly on this one: none of it: not that cuddly family, not that nice home, not that non-sexist husband, not that good job, not the ability to choose when to have children, or how many to have, for the capacity to determine one’s own reproductive life is what makes all the rest of this achievable.

So, yes, we’ve battled ever since, and in the process we’ve become a (menopausal) militia.

And because we have, we’re here to tell you to stop talking about personal choice, as though it could be the basis of the strategy to win this fight (to stop Stupak) to keep abortion safe and legal. It isn’t.

Time to leave the talk to the (male) academics, pollsters and journalists. And while you’re at it, time to leave to the big-time male executives at the big-time ad agencies (they can waste their time) the business of proposing new taglines and “softer” messages: "If you just try this one, ma’am, you’re sure to get those middle-of-the-road moms on your side"…as though selling a permanent commitment to women’s reproductive choice were like selling perfume. 

Listen to us, us members of the menopausal militia. We know, from direct and repeated experience for decades, that there just isn’t any “nice” way to convince politicians to keep abortion safe and legal. This one is “hard time,” not in prison, but certainly in a war zone. 

Time to get real–you (younger) women who are wishing it were otherwise: This fight is about your body, and who controls it.

Why in the world do you think that it was only women’s reproductive healthcare that got exempted from a reasonable and comprehensive approach to providing Americans with access to healthcare? Was this just the luck-of-the-draw, just Congressional business as usual?

Hell, no.

There have been numerous other issues facing Congress on which the Blue Dogs said they’d hold out.  But, when it came down to it, they didn’t. Yet, when it came to legislation that would guarantee women’s autonomy, they did, and then, to add insult to injury, they convinced others to join them in their war against American women.

Why were these Members of Congress able to do this?  Because women’s autonomy–remember: it took women almost 150 years to get the right to vote in this country–isn’t what the men who (still) rule America want for us. Why? Because our gaining our autonomy is about their giving up their power.

If I cede the basic position from whence my power stems–in the case of a male legislator, that’s being male–what might I have left?

Forget the catchy slogans and friendly messages. Forget the pretty pink websites. Forget the pollsters. Forget trying to make deals with legislators fundamentally unsympathetic to the cause of women’s autonomy. Forget trying to make ever-so-reasonable arguments about reducing the cost of health care, or about the benefits of health care, if we just have reproductive coverage for those mothers who love their children just so much.

Instead, recognize that today’s fight is a defining battle for American women.

Today, and on every day to come, be battle-ready: be prepared to tell your legislators they’ve crossed the line. In fact, tell them they need to step back. Tell them you will lie down on the steps of the Capitol, so they can’t get in to vote; tell them you will picket the White House, so they can’t meet with the President; tell them you will ruin their family’s Christmas, and oh, by the way, while you’re at it, remind them you birthed the children now going to Afghanistan to fight, and because you did, you know every child should be a loved and wanted child; tell them you know that the America your children now fight for, and die for, is one which should give you equal rights, in all matters, and that means the right to control your own body. Tell them nothing less will do.

Young women of America: Fail to understand this at your peril. Take this lesson from the menopausal militia to heart.

Young women of America: Prepare for many, many more national days of action. And know that we’ll be right there with you. 

News Abortion

Pennsylvania’s TRAP Law Could Be the Next to Go Down

Teddy Wilson

The Democrats' bill would repeal language from a measure that targets abortion clinics, forcing them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that would repeal a state law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a similar provision in Texas’ anti-choice omnibus law known as HB 2.

A similar so-called targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 with bipartisan majorities in both the house and state senate, and was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

SB 1350, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) would repeal language from Act 122 that requires abortion clinics to meet ASF regulations. The text of the bill has not yet been posted on the state’s legislative website.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

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Leach said in a statement that there has been a “nationwide attack on patients and their doctors,” but that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion is a legal, Constitutionally-protected right that should be available to all women,” Leach said. “Every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly swore an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, so we must act swiftly to repeal this unconstitutional requirement.”

TRAP laws, which single out abortion clinics and providers and subject them to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics, have been passed in several states in recent years.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down two of the provisions in HB 2 has already had ramifications on similar laws passed in other states with GOP-held legislatures.

The Supreme Court blocked similar anti-choice laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi, and Alabama’s attorney general announced he would drop an appeal to a legal challenge of a similar law.

News Abortion

Reproductive Justice Groups Hit Back at RNC’s Anti-Choice Platform

Michelle D. Anderson

Reproductive rights and justice groups are greeting the Republican National Convention with billboards and media campaigns that challenge anti-choice policies.

Reproductive advocacy groups have moved to counter negative images that will be displayed this week during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, while educating the public about anti-choice legislation that has eroded abortion care access nationwide.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, along with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), Trump’s choice for vice president, have supported a slew of anti-choice policies.

The National Institute for Reproductive Health is among the many groups bringing attention to the Republican Party’s anti-abortion platform. The New York City-based nonprofit organization this month erected six billboards near RNC headquarters and around downtown Cleveland hotels with the message, “If abortion is made illegal, how much time will a person serve?”

The institute’s campaign comes as Created Equal, an anti-abortion organization based in Columbus, Ohio, released its plans to use aerial advertising. The group’s plan was first reported by The Stream, a conservative Christian website.

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The site reported that the anti-choice banners would span 50 feet by 100 feet and seek to “pressure congressional Republicans into defunding Planned Parenthood.” Those plans were scrapped after the Federal Aviation Administration created a no-fly zone around both parties’ conventions.

Created Equal, which was banned from using similar messages on a large public monitor near the popular Alamo historic site in San Antonio, Texas, in 2014, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, said in an interview with Rewire that Created Equal’s stance and tactics on abortion show how “dramatically out of touch” its leaders compared to where most of the public stands on reproductive rights. Last year, a Gallup poll suggested half of Americans supported a person’s right to have an abortion, while 44 percent considered themselves “pro-life.”

About 56 percent of U.S. adults believe abortion care should be legal all or most of the time, according to the Pew Research Center’s FactTank.

“It’s important to raise awareness about what the RNC platform has historically endorsed and what they have continued to endorse,” Miller told Rewire.

Miller noted that more than a dozen women, like Purvi Patel of Indiana, have been arrested or convicted of alleged self-induced abortion since 2004. The billboards, she said, help convey what might happen if the Republican Party platform becomes law across the country.

Miller said the National Institute for Reproductive Health’s campaign had been in the works for several months before Created Equal announced its now-cancelled aerial advertising plans. Although the group was not aware of Created Equal’s plans, staff anticipated that intimidating messages seeking to shame and stigmatize people would be used during the GOP convention, Miller said.

The institute, in a statement about its billboard campaign, noted that many are unaware of “both the number of anti-choice laws that have passed and their real-life consequences.” The group unveiled an in-depth analysis looking at how the RNC platform “has consistently sought to make abortion both illegal and inaccessible” over the last 30 years.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio last week began an online newspaper campaign that placed messages in the Cleveland Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com, the Columbus Dispatch, and the Dayton Daily News, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio spokesman Gabriel Mann told Rewire.

The ads address actions carried out by Created Equal by asking, “When Did The Right To Life Become The Right To Terrorize Ohio Abortion Providers?”

“We’re looking to expose how bad [Created Equal has] been in these specific media markets in Ohio. Created Equal has targeted doctors outside their homes,” Mann said. “It’s been a very aggressive campaign.”

The NARAL ads direct readers to OhioAbortionFacts.org, an educational website created by NARAL; Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio; the human rights and reproductive justice group, New Voices Cleveland; and Preterm, the only abortion provider located within Cleveland city limits.

The website provides visitors with a chronological look at anti-abortion restrictions that have been passed in Ohio since the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In 2015, for example, Ohio’s Republican-held legislature passed a law requiring all abortion facilities to have a transfer agreement with a non-public hospital within 30 miles of their location. 

Like NARAL and the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Preterm has erected a communications campaign against the RNC platform. In Cleveland, that includes a billboard bearing the message, “End The Silence. End the Shame,” along a major highway near the airport, Miller said.

New Voices has focused its advocacy on combatting anti-choice policies and violence against Black women, especially on social media sites like Twitter.

After the police killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy, New Voices collaborated with the Repeal Hyde Art Project to erect billboard signage showing that reproductive justice includes the right to raise children who are protected from police brutality.

Abortion is not the only issue that has become the subject of billboard advertising at the GOP convention.

Kansas-based environmental and LGBTQ rights group Planting Peace erected a billboard depicting Donald Trump kissing his former challenger Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) just minutes from the RNC site, according to the Plain Dealer.

The billboard, which features the message, “Love Trumps Hate. End Homophobia,” calls for an “immediate change in the Republican Party platform with regard to our LGBT family and LGBT rights,” according to news reports.

CORRECTION: A version of this article incorrectly stated the percentage of Americans in favor of abortion rights.