Kimya Forouzan, Vice President on the board of reproductive justice organization If/When/How, outlines the most pivotal moments in this year’s fight for reproductive rights, and what we should be ready for in 2019.
In present day America, most weeks feel like a year. While the fight for equality and justice has always existed in this country, it can be hard to keep track of how politicians are currently chipping away at our ability to control our health and bodies. So, looking back, what really happened to our reproductive rights over the past 12 months? And what is on the horizon in 2019?
1Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Do we even need to say his name? Despite Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s courageous testimony, Brett Kavanaugh now sits on the Supreme Court, and his previous rulings on abortion access don’t leave room for optimism. Abortion access has always been heavily limited, especially for communities of color; with a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, we can only expect the right to safe, legal abortion to be even further dismantled—whether or not Roe v. Wade is overturned outright.
2The Trump administration launched major attacks on both reproductive rights and immigrant rights.
When it comes to being able to stay safe and healthy, the tenuous position of many immigrant women became crystal clear in the case of Jane Doe. Jane was an unaccompanied immigrant minor whom the government tried to block from obtaining an abortion, although she had complied with all applicable Texas laws. Thanks to an ongoing lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, Jane was able to get her abortion. and with a preliminary injunction in place, the federal government can’t block others like her from getting care. What happened to Jane is one of the more public examples of the longstanding tradition of the government controlling women of color and their bodies, calling into question who even gets to have rights in this country. The answer shouldn’t be only some of us.
3People took unprecedented, meaningful action.
From our faves speaking up, to more women of color running for office and winning, to unstoppable activists protesting injustice, the movement for health care equality grew stronger. In August—ahead of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings—women of color gathered in D.C. to boldly resist his confirmation. Women of color have always pushed for a more just country, but this year brought a greater national focus to their work. Change doesn’t happen in a single protest, election, or year, and in 2018, activists built power to demand a more just future.
4Trump tried to chip away at birth control access and more.
The administration has not hesitated to leverage every ounce of its executive power to take away women’s birth control and make it harder to get an abortion. In 2018, Trump tried to cut funding for critical family planning programs and teen pregnancy prevention, and denied women private insurance coverage for abortion. The administration also proposed rule changes to block federal funds from health care providers who also provide abortion, and limit certain immigrants’ access to necessary public programs, like SNAP and housing assistance.
Things to watch in 2019:
Pay attention to what is happening in your state. Between our conservative federal court system and an executive branch focused on reproductive coercion, our reproductive rights are increasingly dependent on which state we live in. Some states are taking active steps to protect birth control and abortion access (see New York), missing out on opportunities to do so (ahem, California and abortion care on university campuses), or emboldened to pass even more extreme anti-abortion laws.
Ohio legislators introduced a bill that would subject women who get an abortion and the doctor providing the abortion to the death penalty, and the Ohio Senate passed a bill that could effectively ban abortion entirely, though it has since been vetoed. Many state legislative sessions begin in January, when new bills will be introduced. Everyone should be able to make decisions about whether and when to parent based on their own unique circumstances, no matter where they live. But for now, we must hold our elected officials accountable and stay vigilant, raising our voices against these harmful policies.