Commentary Abortion

New Abortion Play Could Spur Difficult Discussions Among Audiences and Activists—and That’s a Good Thing

Erin Matson

Perhaps the same thing can take place with abortion rights as has happened with the Vagina Monologues: that, at the least, Out of Silence can act as a jumping-off point for activism that may push even further than abortion storytelling itself in the future.

There was a time when “vagina” was more of a whisper at universities than a word, when communities and administrators were not engaged in high-profile debates on how to better address sexual violence. The Vagina Monologues helped, in part, to change that with annual stagings in campus theater houses around the country. The play has become so ubiquitous, in fact, that some feminists are ready to move on, or at least raise critiques of it and call for greater inclusion in its messaging.

Even so, the Vagina Monologues’ vignette-driven format has been an inspiration for activists seeking to use a similar mechanism to draw attention to other issues. Most recently, the reproductive rights group Advocates for Youth dramatized 14 real stories submitted to its 1 in 3 Campaign for Out of Silence, a new play designed for use on college campuses that aims to destigmatize abortion, honor the diverse range of experiences that come with ending a pregnancy, and encourage others to share their abortion stories.

A world in which society prioritizes comprehensive reproductive health care and does not shame abortion is a bold vision indeed. The usual trifecta of grassroots movement building, public policy initiatives, and electoral strategy cannot, alone, achieve it. Something squishier needs to happen, too—culture change. And perhaps the same thing can take place with abortion rights as has happened with the Vagina Monologues: that, at the least, Out of Silence can act as a jumping-off point for activism that may push even further than abortion storytelling itself in the future.

In late January in Washington, D.C., an audience of abortion-rights advocates were present for a preview of Out of Silence, poised to gobble up both the concept and the stories themselves.

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The first story began as a woman named Ruah and her friend sipped beer, listened to Bikini Kill, fretted over a missed period and the idea of taking a pregnancy test, and wondered whether abortion is wrong. The immediate message was that abortion was going to be discussed beyond talking points and abstract debates about constitutional rights and religious beliefs, with more nuance and in the context of the lived experiences of multidimensional—and sometimes contradictory—people.

The characters had a variety of reasons for seeking abortions, and feelings about having them: A young woman, age 15, had an abortion and no problem with it. A devastated lesbian couple sought abortion after receiving unexpected prenatal testing results. A new opposite-sex couple that could barely stop making out chose abortion because they simply didn’t know each other well enough. A mother and a daughter fought about rape, abortion, and the support one could—or should—expect from other people.

Each story was chosen from the nearly 700 abortion stories collected by the 1 in 3 Campaign because it spoke to one of ten playwrights who read through them and created the vignettes. Still, it is an artistic production, and so while some of the fictionalized narratives may include words and details from the original stories, others may be largely drawn from the imagination of the artists.

This does not mean the play was apolitical. In the current environment, sharing abortion stories is in itself political, a fact evidenced by the handful of protesters with graphic signs gathered outside the theater on the evening of the premiere (one said “here come the killing women” as I walked inside behind a small group of people). The production itself also included chiffon-like banners in the background, on which footage of both abortion-rights and anti-abortion-rights protests were silently screened in between stories.

It is in these spaces where art may offer the most hope, with its ability to articulate realities that don’t fit neatly on unified protest signs, and through its representation and re-creation of the inner lives and complex experiences of women. Character, in the sense that it includes the idiosyncrasies that make a person who they uniquely are, is pretty much the antithesis of a story that has been focus-grouped or edited to be indistinguishable from talking points for a political point of view. The multi-page blocks of didactic “dialogue” in Ayn Rand’s novels showcase precisely what goes wrong, artistically, when characters are viewed as vessels for political messages rather than representations of people who do human things like take out a bad night’s sleep on their coworkers, or get crushes on people who snort when they laugh. In a panel discussion after the production, one of the playwrights, Anu Yadav, expanded on her view of theater’s role in advocacy, including that theater can help “smash stereotypes with good character development.”

That’s a heavy lift with vignettes surrounding an action the audience already knows: that the main character of each story will have an abortion. It was, however, indeed clear the playwrights were striving to flesh out who the characters were not just in the context of their pregnancies, but in their lives as people. They largely succeeded, although there were occasionally times when it appeared that the desire to convey a specific political message was overpowering a natural flow of dialogue.

Overall, from an artistic and activist perspective, there are advantages and disadvantages to this Vagina Monologues-style model of theater, in which individual characters speak to her—or perhaps his—truth. Recently, in fact, the Vagina Monologues found itself the focus of scrutiny that many of the pioneering student actors and women’s studies professors who championed its first productions could not have imagined.

Earlier this month, a student-run theater board at the women’s college canceled its production of the Vagina Monologues, explaining its view that the play does not effectively include transgender women. “At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman,” said Erin Murphy, a representative of the board, in a campus-wide email obtained by the conservative blog Campus Reform. “Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive.”

The student group’s decision on the play came on the heels of the college’s announcement at fall convocation that Mount Holyoke was adjusting its admission policy to explicitly include transgender students. “Mount Holyoke remains committed to its historic mission as a women’s college,” according to its website. “Yet concepts of what it means to be a woman are not static. Traditional binaries around who counts as a man or woman are being challenged by those whose gender identity does not conform to their biology.”

It is not surprising to see a 20-year-old feminist play dropped by students because it rallies for women’s empowerment under the banner of vaginas, in both the specific context of Mount Holyoke this academic year, as well as the broader context of youth activists often leading the demand that traditional feminist spaces grow to include a conception of gender that does not depend on genitalia. This critique is not explicitly new; in 2005, Ensler wrote an additional, optional monologue featuring a transgender woman. 

Quickly after the news of the removal of the play hit the blogosphere, playwright Eve Ensler responded with a piece in TIME. “The Vagina Monologues never intended to be a play about what it means to be a woman,” she wrote. “It is and always has been a play about what it means to have a vagina. In the play, I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina.” Ensler also referenced transgender women performing the play, and the inclusion of a new monologue that features the story of a transgender woman.

While many may have nodded their heads in response to Ensler’s viewpoint, her response overlooked that art is in the eye of the beholder. This is one reason why art plays such a powerful role in liberation. Storytelling art is not just about building empathy with others; it is about viewers having the freedom to interact with, interpret, and project their needs into artistically created lives. Art is created to provoke reactions, and some of those reactions might include calls for better artistic representations of people who do not see their realities reflected.

To that end, what is revolutionary for some is reactionary to others. It is perfectly legitimate to not interpret art according to the maker’s intentions, and Ensler missed that point by sharing what she envisioned and using “I” statements in her response to Mount Holyoke. For whatever flaws it is perceived to have, one of the greatest beauties of the Vagina Monologues is that it became something much bigger than Eve Ensler sitting at a keyboard with the aim of empowering women with vaginas.

It is perfectly acceptable, and beautiful even, if after the passage of two decades that something bigger is not big enough for younger feminists who want more inclusion. It means that some are ready to move past destigmatizing vaginas and onto transgender inclusion—or the inclusion of a more diverse range of stories, period. In this way, Ensler may have succeeded in driving a feminist conversation beyond her wildest dreams.

As far as Out of Silence is concerned, then, the production of an abortion play would likely be greeted differently depending on the community. On some campuses it might be revolutionary just to stage an abortion play, period. On others, the play might help destigmatize abortion and encourage the sharing of stories. On still others, it might serve as inspiration for campus activists to continue their work to increase access to abortion, defang sexuality as a weapon for discriminators, and realize gender equality or racial equality or reproductive justice.

If it really succeeds, however, Out of Silence will spur difficult discussions about the nature of inclusion—and that is a positive thing. In fact, such discussions are already taking place. During a panel following the premiere, for example, a member of the audience identified as having a disability. With regard to the prenatal testing vignette, this person urged the playwrights to expand their thinking about what quality of life can mean for people with disabilities. The comment was not met with Eve Ensler-style defensiveness; it was acknowledged and not rebutted. In this way, the comment itself was allowed to hang in the room for further reflection by the audience and the playwrights.

That moment gave me the most hope for Out of Silence and the groundbreaking activism it aims to spur. Messy, raw, and honest conversations from multiple perspectives are among the best things liberatory art can inspire. It is not possible to tell the abortion story, or represent women as a whole, and those who try will fail and do harm to the community, especially to those left behind. But when more people are inspired to raise their unique voices fearlessly, and to pursue further justice? That’s magic. 

Commentary Politics

It’s Not Just Trump: The Right Wing’s Increasing Reliance on Violence and Intimidation as a Path to Power

Jodi Jacobson

Republicans have tried to pass Trump's most recent comments off as a joke because to accept the reality of that rhetoric would mean going to the core of their entire party platform and their strategies. The GOP would have to come to terms with the toll its power plays are taking on the country writ large.

This week, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump stated that, if Hillary Clinton were elected and able to nominate justices to the Supreme Court, “Second Amendment people” might be able to do something about it. After blaming the media for “being dishonest” in reporting his statement, the Trump campaign has since tried to pass the comment off as a joke. However characterized, Trump’s statement is not only part of his own election strategy, but also a strategy that has become synonymous with those of candidates, legislators, and groups affiliated with the positions of the GOP.

To me, the phrase “Second Amendment people” translates to those reflexively opposed to any regulation of gun sales and ownership and who feel they need guns to arm themselves against the government. I’m not alone: The comment was widely perceived as an implicit threat of violence against the Democratic presidential nominee. Yet, GOP party leaders have failed to condemn his comment, with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) agreeing with the Trump campaign that it was “a joke gone bad.”

Republicans have tried to pass it off as a joke because to accept the reality of their rhetoric would mean going to the core of their entire party platform and their strategies. The GOP would have to come to terms with the toll its power plays are taking on the country writ large. The rhetoric is part of a longer and increasingly dangerous effort by the GOP, aided by corporate-funded right-wing organizations and talk show hosts, to de-legitimize the federal government, undermine confidence in our voting system, play on the fears held by a segment of the population about tyranny and the loss of liberty, and intimidate people Republican leaders see as political enemies.

Ironically, while GOP candidates and leaders decry the random violence of terrorist groups like Daeshitself an outgrowth of desperate circumstances, failed states, and a perceived or real loss of powerthey are perpetuating the idea of loss and desperation in the United States and inciting others to random violence against political opponents.

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Trump’s “Second Amendment” comment came after a week of efforts by the Trump campaign to de-legitimize the 2016 presidential election well before a single vote has been cast. On Monday, August 1, after polls showed Trump losing ground, he asserted in an Ohio campaign speech that “I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged, I have to be honest.”

Manufactured claims of widespread voter fraud—a problem that does not exist, as several analyses have shown—have nonetheless been repeatedly pushed by the GOP since the 2008 election. Using these disproven claims as support, GOP legislatures in 20 states have passed new voter restrictions since 2010, and still the GOP claims elections are suspect, stoking the fears of average voters seeking easy answers to complex problems and feeding the paranoia of separatist and white nationalist groups. Taking up arms against an illegitimate government is, after all, exactly what “Second Amendment remedies” are for.

Several days before Trump’s Ohio speech, Trump adviser Roger Stone suggested that the result of the election might be “illegitimate,” leading to “widespread civil disobedience” and a “bloodbath,” a term I personally find chilling.

Well before these comments were made, there was the hate-fest otherwise known as the Republican National Convention (RNC), during which both speakers and supporters variously called for Clinton to be imprisoned or shot, and during which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a man not widely known for his high ethical standards or sense of accountability, led a mock trial of Hillary Clinton to chants from the crowd of “lock her up.” And that was the tame part.

The number of times Trump has called for or supported violence at his rallies is too long to catalogue here. His speeches are rife with threats to punch opponents; after the Democratic National Convention, he threatened to hit speakers who critiqued his policies “so hard their heads would spin.” He also famously promised to pay the legal fees of anyone who hurt protesters at his rallies and defended former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski after allegations surfaced that Lewandowski had assaulted a female Breitbart reporter.

A recent New York Times video compiled over a year of reporting at Trump rallies revealed the degree to which many of Trump’s supporters unapologetically express violence and hatred—for women, immigrants, and people of color. And Trump eschews any responsibility for what has transpired, repeatedly claiming he does not condone violence—his own rhetoric, that of his associates, and other evidence notwithstanding.

Still, to focus only on Trump is to ignore a broader and deeper acceptance, even encouragement of, incitement to violence by the GOP that began long before the 2016 campaign.

In 2008, in what may appear to be a now forgotten but eerily prescient peek at the 2016 RNC, then-GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and his running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, used race-baiting and hints at violence to gin up their crowds. First, Palin accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” a claim that became part of her stump speech. As a result, Frank Rich then wrote in the New York Times:

At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.

Nothing was in fact done. No price was paid by GOP candidates encouraging this kind of behavior.

In 2009, during congressional debates on the Affordable Care Act, opponents of the health-care law, who’d been fed a steady diet of misleading and sensationalist information, were encouraged by conservative groups like FreedomWorks and Right Principles, as well as talk show hosts such as Sean Hannity, to disrupt town hall meetings on the legislation held throughout the country. Protesters turned up at some town hall meetings armed with rifles with the apparent intention of intimidating those who, in supporting health reform, disagreed with them. In some cases, what began as nasty verbal attacks turned violent. As the New York Times then reported: “[M]embers of Congress have been shouted down, hanged in effigy and taunted by crowds. In several cities, noisy demonstrations have led to fistfights, arrests and hospitalizations.”

In 2010, as first reported by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), suggested that armed insurrection would be the answer if “this Congress keeps going the way it is.” In response to a request for clarification by the host of the radio show on which she made her comments, Angle said:

You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years.

I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

Also in 2010, Palin, by then a failed vice-presidential candidate, created a map “targeting” congressional Democrats up for re-election, complete with crosshairs. Palin announced the map to her supporters with this exhortation: “Don’t retreat. Instead, reload!”

One of the congresspeople on that map was Arizona Democrat Gabby Giffords, who in the 2010 Congressional race was challenged by Jesse Kelly, a Palin-backed Tea Party candidate. Kelly’s campaign described an event this way:

Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.

Someone took this literally. In January 2011, Jared Lee Loughner went on a shooting rampage in a Tuscon grocery store at which Giffords was meeting with constituents. Loughner killed six people and injured 13 others, including Giffords who, as a result of permanent disability resulting from the shooting, resigned from Congress. Investigators later found that Loughner had for months become obsessed with government conspiracy theories such as those spread by GOP and Tea Party candidates.

These events didn’t stop GOP candidates from fear-mongering and suggesting “remedies.”  To the contrary, the goading continued. As the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein wrote in 2011:

Florida Senate candidate Mike McCalister, who is running against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), offered a variation of the much-lampooned line during a speech before the Palms West Republican Club earlier this week.

“I get asked sometimes where do I stand on the Second and 10th Amendment, and I have a little saying,” he declared. “We need a sign at every harbor, every airport and every road entering our state: ‘You’re entering a 10th Amendment-owned and -operated state, and justice will be served with the Second Amendment.’” [Emphasis added.]

These kinds of threats by the GOP against other legislators and even the president have gone unpunished by the leadership of the party. Not a word has come from either House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decrying these statements, and the hyperbole and threats have only continued. Recently, for example, former Illinois GOP Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted and then deleted this threat to the president after the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas:

“3 Dallas cops killed, 7 wounded,” former congressman Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican, wrote just before midnight in a tweet that is no longer on his profile. “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”
Even after the outcry over his recent remarks, Trump has escalated the rhetoric against both President Obama and against Clinton, calling them the “founders of ISIS.” And again no word from the GOP leadership.
This rhetoric is part of a pattern used by the right wing within and outside elections. Anti-choice groups, for example, consistently misrepresent reproductive health care writ large, and abortion specifically. They “target” providers with public lists of names, addresses, and other personal information. They lie, intimidate, and make efforts to both vilify and stigmatize doctors. When this leads to violence, as David Cohen wrote in Rolling Stone this week, the anti-choice groups—and their GOP supporters—shrug off any responsibility.
Some gun rights groups also use this tactic of intimidation and targeting to silence critique. In 2011, for example, 40 men armed with semi-automatic weapons and other guns surrounded a restaurant in Arlington, Texas, in which a mothers’ group had gathered to discuss gun regulations. “Second Amendment people” have spit upon women arguing for gun regulation and threatened them with rape. In one case, a member of these groups waited in the dark at the home of an advocate and then sought to intimidate her as she approached in her wheelchair.
The growing resort to violence and intimidation in our country is a product of an environment in which leading politicians not only look the other way as their constituents and affiliated groups use such tactics to press a political point, but in which the leaders themselves are complicit.
These are dangerous games being played by a major political party in its own quest for power. Whether or not Donald Trump is the most recent and most bombastic evidence of what has become of the GOP, it is the leadership and the elected officials of the party who are condoning and perpetuating an environment in which insinuations of violence will increasingly lead to acts of violence. The more that the right uses and suggests violence as a method of capturing, consolidating, and holding power, the more they become like the very terrorists they claim to be against.

Culture & Conversation Abortion

With Buffer Zones and Decline of ‘Rescues’ Came Anti-Choice Legal Boom, Book Argues

Eleanor J. Bader

University of Denver's Joshua Wilson argues that prosecutions of abortion-clinic protesters and the decline of "rescue" groups in the 1980s and 1990s boosted conservative anti-abortion legal activism nationwide.

There is nothing startling or even new in University of Denver Professor Joshua C. Wilson’s The New States of Abortion Politics (Stanford University Press). But the concise volume—just 99 pages of text—pulls together several recent trends among abortion opponents and offers a clear assessment of where that movement is going.

As Wilson sees it, anti-choice activists have moved from the streets, sidewalks, and driveways surrounding clinics to the courts. This, he argues, represents not only a change of agitational location but also a strategic shift. Like many other scholars and advocates, Wilson interprets this as a move away from pushing for the complete reversal of Roe v. Wade and toward a more incremental, state-by-state winnowing of access to reproductive health care. Furthermore, he points out that it is no coincidence that this maneuver took root in the country’s most socially conservative regions—the South and Midwest—before expanding outward.

Wilson credits two factors with provoking this metamorphosis. The first was congressional passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act in 1994, legislation that imposed penalties on protesters who blocked patients and staff from entering or leaving reproductive health facilities. FACE led to the establishment of protest-free buffer zones at freestanding clinics, something anti-choicers saw as an infringement on their right to speak freely.

Not surprisingly, reproductive rights activists—especially those who became active in the 1980s and early 1990s as a response to blockades, butyric acid attacks, and various forms of property damage at abortion clinics—saw the zones as imperative. In their experiences, buffer zones were the only way to ensure that patients and staff could enter or leave a facility without being harassed or menaced.

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The second factor, Wilson writes, involved the reduced ranks of the so-called “rescue” movement, a fundamentalist effort led by the Lambs of Christ, Operation Rescue, Operation Save America, and Priests for Life. While these groups are former shadows of themselves, the end of the rescue era did not end anti-choice activism. Clinics continue to be picketed, and clinicians are still menaced. In fact, local protesters and groups such as 40 Days for Life and the Center for Medical Progress (which has exclusively targeted Planned Parenthood) negatively affect access to care. Unfortunately, Wilson does not tackle these updated forms of harassment and intimidation—or mention that some of the same players are involved, albeit in different roles.

Instead, he argues the two threads—FACE and the demise of most large-scale clinic protests—are thoroughly intertwined. Wilson accurately reports that the rescue movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s resulted in hundreds of arrests as well as fines and jail sentences for clinic blockaders. This, he writes, opened the door to right-wing Christian attorneys eager to make a name for themselves by representing arrested and incarcerated activists.

But the lawyers’ efforts did not stop there. Instead, they set their sights on FACE and challenged the statute on First Amendment grounds. As Wilson reports, for almost two decades, a loosely connected group of litigators and activists worked diligently to challenge the buffer zones’ legitimacy. Their efforts finally paid off in 2014, when the U.S. Supreme Court found that “protection against unwelcome speech cannot justify restrictions on the use of public streets and sidewalks.” In short, the decision in McCullen v. Coakley found that clinics could no longer ask the courts for blanket prohibitions on picketing outside their doors—even when they anticipated prayer vigils, demonstrations, or other disruptions. They had to wait until something happened.

This, of course, was bad news for people in need of abortions and other reproductive health services, and good news for the anti-choice activists and the lawyers who represented them. Indeed, the McCullen case was an enormous win for the conservative Christian legal community, which by the early 2000s had developed into a network united by opposition to abortion and LGBTQ rights.

The New States of Abortion Politics zeroes in on one of these legal groups: the well-heeled and virulently anti-choice Alliance Defending Freedom, previously known as the Alliance Defense Fund. It’s a chilling portrait.

According to Wilson, ADF’s budget was $40 million in 2012, a quarter of which came from the National Christian Foundation, an Alpharetta, Georgia, entity that claims to have distributed $6 billion in grants to right-wing Christian organizing efforts since 1982.

By any measure, ADF has been effective in promoting its multipronged agenda: “religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and the family.” In practical terms, this means opposing LGBTQ inclusion, abortion, marriage equality, and the right to determine one’s gender identity for oneself.

The group’s tentacles run deep. In addition to a staff of 51 full-time lawyers and hundreds of volunteers, a network of approximately 3,000 “allied attorneys” work in all 50 states to boost ADF’s agenda. Allies are required to sign a statement affirming their commitment to the Trinitarian Statement of Faith, a hallmark of fundamentalist Christianity that rests on a literal interpretation of biblical scripture. They also have to commit to providing 450 hours of pro bono legal work over three years to promote ADF’s interests—no matter their day job or other obligations. Unlike the American Bar Association, which encourages lawyers to provide free legal representation to poor clients, ADF’s allied attorneys steer clear of the indigent and instead focus exclusively on sexuality, reproduction, and social conservatism.

What’s more, by collaborating with other like-minded outfits—among them, Liberty Counsel and the American Center for Law and Justice—ADF provides conservative Christian lawyers with an opportunity to team up on both local and national cases. Periodic trainings—online as well as in-person ones—offer additional chances for skill development and schmoozing. Lastly, thanks to Americans United for Life, model legislation and sample legal briefs give ADF’s other allies an easy way to plug in and introduce ready-made bills to slowly but surely chip away at abortion, contraceptive access, and LGBTQ equality.

The upshot has been dramatic. Despite the recent Supreme Court win in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the number of anti-choice measures passed by statehouses across the country has ramped up since 2011. Restrictions—ranging from parental consent provisions to mandatory ultrasound bills and expanded waiting periods for people seeking abortions—have been imposed. Needless to say, the situation is unlikely to improve appreciably for the foreseeable future. What’s more, the same people who oppose abortion have unleashed a backlash to marriage equality as well as anti-discrimination protections for the trans community, and their howls of disapproval have hit a fever pitch.

The end result, Wilson notes, is that the United States now has “an inconstant localized patchwork of rules” governing abortion; some counties persist in denying marriage licenses to LGBTQ couples, making homophobic public servants martyrs in some quarters. As for reproductive health care, it all depends on where one lives: By virtue of location, some people have relatively easy access to medical providers while others have to travel hundreds of miles and take multiple days off from work to end an unwanted pregnancy. Needless to say, this is highly pleasing to ADF’s attorneys and has served to bolster their fundraising efforts. After all, nothing brings in money faster than demonstrable success.

The New States of Abortion Politics is a sobering reminder of the gains won by the anti-choice movement. And while Wilson does not tip his hand to indicate his reaction to this or other conservative victories—he is merely the reporter—it is hard to read the volume as anything short of a call for renewed activism in support of reproductive rights, both in the courts and in the streets.


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