It’s pretty lowkey, but last week, America made some pretty big decisions! Some of these were fun: Joe Biden became the President and ballot measures legalized weed in multiple states. Others were less fun: like the two states that voted on whether or not people with uteruses would get to retain their rights to bodily autonomy.
Colorado and Louisiana both had ballot measures referencing abortion rights and access, and I’m pretty sure you can guess how it ended up. Here’s a breakdown of where there’s good news and where there’s decidedly not.
Good News: Colorado
Honestly, Colorado’s been like the fun cousin during this entire election season. Not only did they flip a senate seat, replacing Republican Cory Gardner with Democrat John Hickenlooper, but voters in Colorado overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 115. If passed, the proposition would have introduced a ban on abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy (about five and a half months) with exceptions for risks to the parent’s life.
Proposition 115 is the fourth failed ballot measure in the last 12 years that would have either restricted or banned abortion in Colorado, which is not entirely surprising given the state’s pro-choice history. According to The Denver Post, Colorado was the first state to decriminalize abortion. In 1967 a law was passed to allow abortion “in cases of rape, incest, if the woman’s health was threatened, or if the unborn child might have birth defects.”
TBH: I’m just hoping that Colorado clings on to their legacy as a pro-choice, pro-bodily autonomy icon and keeps setting an excellent example for their neighboring states.
Bad News: Louisiana
Now for the bad news. If you have Republican family members or acquaintances, you might be used to them asking you precisely what rights or liberties you have lost over the last few years. Well, at least now you have some clear-as-f*cking-day evidence to point to.
Louisiana voted to add an amendment to the state’s Declaration of Rights that could further restrict abortion access in the state. Because anti-abortion advocates love hiding behind the lie of being ‘pro-life,’ the text of the amendment is as follows:
“Nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”
This amendment does not totally ban abortions in the state. Instead, it strengthened Louisiana’s trigger laws, which would immediately criminalize all abortions if Roe v. Wade was overturned. It also makes it so pro-choice advocates and organizations wouldn’t have much ground to sue on if abortion is prohibited since citizens no longer have any state right to access abortion according to the amendment. Their right to an abortion remains protected by Roe v. Wade, which holds that the federal constitution protects this right.
Again, as of right now, this is not an all-out ban on abortion access. There definitely should be more of them, but Louisiana still has three clinics that provide abortions.
Sidenote: Listen, this f*cking sucks and is so disheartening. But, before you go and make generalizations about the south and specifically the state of Louisiana, remember all of the young/progressive people doing really hard work down here. As a college student who has lived in New Orleans for four years, I have seen so many of my friends and residents of the city fighting for progressive change. We phone banked for Democratic Senate candidates and to educate voters on Amendment One. Change is too slow, but we’re working on it!
These two polar opposite states give us a glimpse into what the country may look like if (G-d forbid) Roe v. Wade was overturned. States will likely continue passing trigger laws to ban abortions or laws and amendments that reaffirm the right to choose on local and state levels.
In the meantime, if you’re wondering how you can help individuals in areas where abortion rights are at risk: check out NARAL’s website and local abortion funds like the New Orleans Abortion Fund.
As a woman, I can’t recall a time (before childhood) when I didn’t feel as if my body and my rights were up for debate — if not under attack. But now, with a president who has been accused of sexual assault and rape by upwards of 25 women, an accused sexual predator in the Supreme Court, and access to abortion being chipped away in states like Alabama, Texas, Georgia, and Missouri, I am experiencing the legitimate fear that my body and my choice might actually be taken away from me by federal law.
As women, we have been fighting for our rights for a long time, but since Roe v. Wade determined that we had the right to abortion in 1973, we at least have been able to say we have the legal right to decide what happens when we get pregnant. This is not to say it’s a right we haven’t had to continuously and rigorously defend, but it has at least stood in place. As a woman of privilege, I have always felt that if I needed to get an abortion, I could. But now, with the newly conservative-leaning Supreme Court, I have found myself asking, “What would happen if abortion became illegal? What would I do if I got pregnant? What would this mean for American women?”
A powerful new film called Ask For Jane explored and answered these questions for me, as well as made me ugly cry on my couch while reflecting on the resilience of women. It’s a film we should all watch like, yesterday, and I’d like to tell you why.
Ask For Jane follows a group of women who took matters into their own hands when abortion was illegal in most states throughout the 1960s. The film is based on a true story and is set in Chicago, where a group of college women created an underground network that helped women with unwanted pregnancies get abortions. The women were known as “The Jane Collective” because they referred to themselves as Jane and instructed women to call them on their secret landline and to “ask for Jane.” This was the code that was used to perform an estimated 11,000 safe abortions for women who couldn’t afford to travel to the few places where abortion was legal. We god damn f*cking love to see it.
A film that shows women banding together and building an incredibly organized and highly effective system that helps keep women safe and in control of their bodies is obviously very inspiring, but it also serves as a warning, or as producer Caroline Hirsch told Betches: “This is a reminder of what could happen.”
The opening scene of the movie shows a desperate pregnant woman punching herself in the stomach and eventually jumping off of a building in order to terminate her pregnancy. It also shows us young middle school girls who discuss drinking rat poison; one ends up dying as a result. Additionally, we see a character with slit wrists because she is pregnant and doesn’t feel she can go through with it. As we know, when women aren’t given access to safe, legal abortions, many of them turn to unsafe alternatives, which can tragically lead to death.
Abortion saves lives, and this film reminds us of the dire situation that led these women to doing what they did. While what they did is amazing, we hope we never have to do it again, because too many lives are at stake.
The specific story told in Ask For Jane is inspiring because it shows a particular group of women in a particular place who were able to overcome the law’s attempt to strip them of their freedoms, but the film as a whole shows us a dark world where this freedom wasn’t available to most women — a world we ourselves are heading towards today. Hirsch told me, “This couldn’t be any timelier. We had a screening in New York this past May and when we were finished, everyone’s phones lit up because what had happened in Alabama, where it would be made a criminal offense if a woman was seeking an abortion or had an abortion.”
The film is made by women, which is apparent by its authenticity and clear understanding of the nuances of feminism and autonomy. Hirsch told us, “Of course this movie would be made by women. If it was up to men, this movie would never have been made. And of course the cast is made of women because it’s a true story of women. There were women behind and in front of the camera.”
The film is written and directed by Rachel Carey, and the original concept came from the film’s lead actress Cait Cortelyou. And while the premise’s main focus is abortion, it also gives us a close look at how other issues of feminism played a major role in how women were denied agency over their own bodies during this time.
For example, the main character, Rose (played by Cortelyou), attempts to obtain birth control from her doctor so she can practice safe sex with her fiancé. However, her doctor refuses to give it to her before she gets married, and when she tries to protest, he says he would need to speak to her male fiancé about it. Another character, Joyce (played by Sophie von Haselberg) sits idly by in her hospital bed while a group of male doctors discuss with her husband whether or not they should do a procedure on her that would save her life but endanger the baby growing inside of her. Another main character, Janice (played by Cody Horn) sums the significance of all of this up by saying, “Women will never truly be liberated unless they can control whether or not they are pregnant.”
You can stream Ask For Jane on a variety of platforms including Amazon Prime, Apple TV, iTunes, DirecTV and more, and I highly recommend that you do. It reminds us of the strength women have and the length we will go to and the risks we will take for no other reason than to protect to each other. It also sends an urgent and important message: the fight is here and now, and it’s time to get started.
As Hirsch told me: “The reason why we originally did this film was to tell the stories of very courageous women. More than ever, this film needs to be seen by every young girl today because they do not realize what could happen again and what is in the process of really happening right now in…Alabama, Georgia and Missouri. I think it’s a very important reminder that people need to use their writing privileges, voting privileges and get out to the polls to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
You know what to do.
There are a lot of things you can do by mail. You can pay your bills, you can vote, and now you can even get an abortion. That’s right mail-order-brides, step aside because there’s a new in demand, and possibly illegal (depending on your state and/or where Brett Kavanaugh is at in his hangover) service coming to the U.S. We’re talking about mail order abortions and yes, this is legit a thing.
But before you ask, “Are Americans seriously so lazy that they can’t even go out to get abortions now?” take a pause. In reality, getting an abortion in the U.S. can be very difficult, despite it being legal. Many states make it virtually impossible for a woman to terminate her pregnancy, and with Justice Fratbro joining the Supreme Court who knows how long Roe v. Wade will hold up. That’s part of the reason that Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch physician and women’s rights activist, launched a mail based abortion service six months ago in the U.S. The service is known as “Aid Access” in the U.S and “Women on Web” internationally, where Gomperts has been offering the ability to get at home abortion drugs to women in
countries that are two seconds from Handmaid’s Tale oppressed healthcare systems.
WTF Is An At Home Abortion?
So first of all, you don’t have to figure out how to perform surgery on yourself to do this. Think of it as Plan C, a pill that can be used up to 10 weeks into the pregnancy. You receive the pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) in the mail, which you can take at home and will result in the termination of your pregnancy. These are the same drugs that doctors use and are approved by the FDA, however in most states they are not approved for personal use. Those are typically the same states that make you jump through hoops to get an abortion in the first place, so definitely double check your state’s specific rules before hitting “pay now” at checkout.
Is This Safe?
Great q. Based on one study where women self reported the results of taking the pills at home, it seems to have very few negative side effects. Gomperts also does an online consultation with the women beforehand to assess if they fit very specific criteria that ensure it is safe. Then she fills the prescription through a trusted pharmacist in India. The biggest risk that many women face for using this service is being arrested for self-managed abortion, which, like I said before kind of a big no no in many states. In many cases the women who have been arrested for at home abortions have been turned in by someone else (it be ya own besties), so if you are considering this make sure you only tell your tight lipped friends or ones that will bail you out of jail. Also maybe take a quick vacay to a state where this is legal just to be safe?
This service will most definitely face opposition from the lovely men (and some women – Susan Collins what’s good?) in Congress who love to dictate what women can and cannot do with their bodies. (Though, of course, no one can ever tell a man what he can or cannot do with his gun.) The FDA is also currently investigating Aid Access “to assess potential violations of U.S. law,” so there’s a chance the service could be shut down by having its FDA approval revoked. For now, it’s one very good option for women who are in need and cannot get an abortion from a doctor because of the barriers put in place in their state. The pills cost $95 total and Aid Access says it will help women who can not afford the price still get the care they need.
In the end, it is up to the individual if they would like to go through with this, but if America’s healthcare system is messed up enough that women are actually ordering abortion pills by mail from India, it’s safe to say there are larger problems at work here.
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