Commentary Abortion

Poor Women Suffer Most From Restrictive Abortion Policies

Linda Goler Blount

When a low-income mother is able to plan her pregnancies, she is much more likely to be able to provide for her baby. When she cannot get an abortion, if that is her choice, she is three times more likely to descend into and remain in poverty.

There are those who view poverty as if it were a choice, as if poverty could only be the result of a series of bad decisions. Poverty is many things. It is linked to hypertension and diabetes; it’s a carcinogen. For many, poverty results from a single event, such as job loss, a serious illness, or the birth of an unexpected child.

It is not a character flaw.

I continue to be amazed at how some people can ignore the all too common circumstances of life that throw us into poverty. In my work, I often speak with wealthy individuals to solicit donations. In conversations too numerous to count, a well-meaning donor has said to me: “Well, if they would only take proper precautions, then they wouldn’t have children they can’t afford.” I suppose the donor was saying, if “they,” meaning poor women, would only take the pill, or have an IUD implanted, or just wouldn’t have sex they would not be in this situation. There are many problems with this statementI got stuck on “they.” I wondered if the donor realized that the “they” whom she referred to look like me.

Of course, every able woman has the responsibility to do her best to avoid unplanned pregnancies; the vast majority try. But if she doesn’t have access to information and reproductive care services, then she can’t make the best choices for her health and well-being. If she doesn’t have health insurance, then she likely can’t afford contraceptives. If a woman is poor and lives in a state without Medicaid expansion, she may not be able to afford to buy health insurance from the exchange. That apparently leaves her with one choice: abstinence.

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Should she be condemned for engaging in the most basic human activity?

I wonder what my donor would say to Natalie—not her real namewho in 2011, as a single mother of three working a low-wage job, experienced two life-changing events. First in July, just four days after moving into a rental home with her children, her boyfriend set fire to the house and burned it to the ground, destroying all of their possessions. She had not yet had the chance to secure insurance and so was unable to replace anything. Two weeks later, while living in an emergency shelter, she went to the hospital because she was not feeling well and found out she was HIV-positive and had been for some time. Her absences due to illness resulted in her losing her job, and for the next eight months, she moved from one friend’s house to the other. Now, imagine if Natalie had been pregnant.

Thirty-nine years ago, the Hyde Amendment began creating significant barriers to health for women, particularly low-income women, who are disproportionately women of color. This law bans the use of federal funds for abortion services for women who need them mostwomen most likely to face barriers to these services because of cost, lack of health insurance, and the inability to access abortion providers because they live in racially segregated or rural communities. Because of lack of access to abortion services and the many state restrictions that make accessing abortions so time-consuming, thousands of women have been forced to have children they are physically, psychologically, and financially ill-prepared to raise.

Half of all pregnancies are unplanned and 21 percent end in abortion. Tracy Weitz, an abortion researcher and investigator on the “Turnaway Study,” a five-year examination of the effects of unintended pregnancy on women’s lives by ANSIRH (Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health), has found that the main reason women terminate their pregnancies is because they can’t afford to have a child.

That’s understandable. In 2014, the Department of Agriculture reported the average cost of raising a child by a couple whose income is between $61,530 and $106,540 per year was $245,000. For couples earning less than $61,530 per year, that cost was $176,550.

When a low-income mother is able to plan her pregnancies, she is much more likely to be able to provide for her baby. When she cannot get an abortion, if that is her choice, she is three times more likely to descend into and remain in poverty.

Women of color are more likely to live in poverty, and more likely to suffer the consequences of an unintended pregnancy. Women who cannot afford to pay for abortion services out of pocket are forced to delay or postpone the procedure for up to three weeks, if not longer. Forty-two percent of women obtaining abortions live below the federal poverty line, according to the 2008 report, Characteristics of US Abortion Patients. States such as Mississippi and Texas, with high poverty rates, have the most severe restrictions on abortion services.

A July 2014 report published by the Guttmacher Institute showed the overall incidence of abortions has fallen to the lowest level since the landmark Roe vs. Wade 42 years ago. This implies that many women who seek abortion care have been able to find and obtain services. However, one in four Medicaid-eligible women who seek an abortion must carry the child to term because there are no state funds available.

Grotesque billboard campaigns, sponsored by the anti-abortion group Life Always, have been placed in African-American neighborhoods, declaring “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American Is in the Womb.” Black women and Latinas face attacks from anti-choice groups running so-called crisis pregnancy centers that masquerade as legitimate health centers for women, but whose sole purpose is to deter women from getting abortion care services. These federally funded facilities misinform pregnant teens about the health risks of abortion, for example, by claiming abortion increases the risk of severe mental illness or that, contrary to science, there is a link between abortion and breast cancer.

After the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, conservative politicians moved quickly to deny abortions to women in greatest need. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) said, “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.” (Emphasis added.)

Anti-choice lawmakers have introduced hundreds of new restrictions on abortions since January. Who will advocate for poor women? Of 535 members of Congress, 27 are Black women and Latinas. Of the 7,382 members of state legislatures, only 337 are Black women and Latinas. We need lawmakers who are more likely to understand the realities of life for low-income women, regardless of political party. These are the men and women who will be inclined to enact legislation to ensure women get the care they need.

For those of us who care about the health and wellness of poor women, our challenge is to be critical but not to blame; to observe the reality of women’s choices while acknowledging the external forces that limit those choices; and to create a culture where every woman can do her best.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?