Analysis Abortion

Reproductive Rights Defenders Promise ‘Good Trouble’ in 2017

Katie Klabusich

“Along with my colleagues Jan Schakowsky, Diana DeGette, and Louise Slaughter, I am looking forward to re-introducing the EACH Woman Act for the 115th Congress,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) told Rewire in an email.

The incoming administration and Congress are arguably the most adamantly anti-reproductive health ever elected, having promised to reduce or end access to everything from contraception to sexually transmitted infection testing to abortion care. However, as reported at Rewire this week: “Reproductive rights advocates are not waiting for President-elect Trump to take office before they push back against the stringent anti-choice policies he promised to implement throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.”

All* Above All and its member organizations this week launched “We Will Be BOLD. We Won’t Be PUNISHED,” a six-figure advertising campaign to raise awareness of the oppressive agenda descending on the Capitol. The campaign represents an important step toward mobilizing broad resistance.

“Awareness is only the first step,” Marcela Howell, founder and executive director of All* Above All coalition member In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, told Rewire. “Our voices—loud and clear—are our most important components. Mobilized and organized, women of color have proven we are a force.”

Advocates are building on the proactive move by 100 members of Congress who sent a letter to President-elect Trump in December demanding an end to the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition on federal funding for most abortion care, and the substantial support in the House for the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, or EACH Woman Act. Introduced by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGette (D-CO) last session, and co-sponsored by more than one-quarter of sitting House members, the EACH Woman Act would nullify state and federal abortion funding bans like Hyde.

“Along with my colleagues Jan Schakowsky, Diana DeGette, and Louise Slaughter, I am looking forward to re-introducing the EACH Woman Act for the 115th Congress,” Rep. Lee told Rewire in an email. “In the 114th Congress, the EACH Woman Act was signed onto by 130 members. This issue is far too important to halt our momentum now. We will be hitting the ground running in the 115th Congress to build on previous support and sign more members onto the bill.”

Asked why she and her colleagues would bother to reintroduce such legislation during a time of intense opposition to abortion rights, Lee expressed a responsibility for ensuring everyone is able to decide what is best for their families.

“Regardless of the incoming administration, the movement to protect reproductive rights and end the discriminatory Hyde Amendment is growing,” she said. “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue; in a recent survey, 86 percent of voters agreed that ‘however we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage because she is poor.’”

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“The movement to end Hyde isn’t going anywhere,” Lee added. “While we may not have support in the Trump White House, I’m confident that the grassroots reproductive rights coalition will continue to grow over the next four years.”

Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), also told Rewire that an unfriendly-at-best administration doesn’t mean pro-choice advocates and supporters should throw up their hands—or sit on them—for the next four years.

“We need every single person who cares about abortion being accessible and affordable to get loud and stay loud when saying we won’t leave anyone behind,” said Hernandez. “We need the imagination to dream big—of a world where everyone has the rights and resources for all of their reproductive decisions and where economic coercion isn’t part of the equation. When we are building toward that world, [we] will be able to harness our larger power, come out of a defensive crouch, and become unstoppable.”

Lee was emphatic about a multi-level strategy for the growing reproductive rights and justice coalitions.

“We also need to focus on state and local laws,” she said. “Many of the most egregious violations of reproductive rights happen at the state level. State legislatures and governors also need to know that we’re paying attention and we will hold them accountable for their actions.”

Hernandez’s organization has affiliates across the country, whose volunteers see the effects both federal and local laws have on abortion access when people call for help affording the care they need. She seconded Lee’s call for people to get to know their state legislators and restrictions.

“Local abortion funds are doing a critical job educating their communities and NNAF is working hard to connect people and funds across states and regions to share resources, information, and power,” she said. “We’ve seen time and again that anti-abortion legislators use misdirection, lies, and misinformation to confuse and intimidate people seeking abortions. While most Americans support legal abortion, and the majority agree that denying abortion access based on where someone lives or how much money they make is discriminatory and cruel, many aren’t aware that state legislators are pushing through regulations constantly to make abortion legal only for those with the most resources and support.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute and reported at Rewire this week, the abortion restriction onslaught that began during the Tea Party wave of 2010 has shown no signs of letting up.

“In 2016, 18 states enacted 50 new abortion restrictions, bringing the number of new abortion restrictions enacted since 2010 to 338,” Guttmacher’s latest analysis notes.

Hernandez wants to see a movement that continues to push for legislators to “expand, not contract, reproductive health care” even in this hostile climate, citing the long history of coordinated actions and resources of groups seeking to eliminate abortion.

“Anti-abortion activists are enjoying this level of success because they have organized for years at every level, from school boards to statehouses and beyond,” Hernandez said. Lawmakers “need to know we will not go away or become complacent.”

Both Lee and Hernandez encourage everyone not to give up, because marginalized and low-income people can’t simply wait out this administration.

“Everyone should support their local abortion fund to redistribute money and resources to the people who are already most affected by restrictions: people of color, people with low incomes, those folks who live in rural areas, who have disabilities, language, or documentation barriers,” said Hernandez. “Awareness is a critical component, but more importantly, we need to see compassion, commitment, and resistance.”

Howell also spoke of resistance—for more than just continued access to reproductive health care.

“Resisting hate is an American value,” she said. “This incoming administration presents an opportunity to rally women of color across racial lines in a way that we have never seen. All* Above All is leading the way for this resistance.”

Rep. Lee is here for jumping on this opportunity.

“We need everyone to bring the ‘street heat’ and make sure that their voice is being heard at all levels—local, state and national,” Lee said. “Keep picking up the phone, writing your representatives, and going to their town halls. As my dear friend and colleague [Rep.] John Lewis likes to say, we need to make ‘good trouble.’”

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