Yesterday, Louisiana’s governor signed into law a bill that would ban abortions after 15 weeks. Mississippi just passed similar legislation, which is currently tied up in court. And while neither law will be implemented until that case is decided, a 15-week abortion limit would be the earliest in the nation. Already, the abortion ban Louisiana passed is setting a dangerous precedent.
Why is 15 weeks so bad? That’s more than three months.
Fifteen weeks might sound like enough time between learning you’re pregnant and terminating a pregnancy, but there are innumerable challenges that the abortion ban Louisiana and Mississippi are introducing that are effectively designed to run out the clock for people seeking abortion care. As journalist Gina Pollack writes in the New York Times:
“To get an abortion in the state of Louisiana, patients must fulfill a long list of requirements: There is a state-mandated ultrasound during which the technician is required to ask if they want to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus, there is an informational pamphlet designed to discourage them from ending their pregnancy, and there is a 24-hour waiting period before they can return to the clinic for the procedure. Lawmakers say this time empowers women to ‘reflect’ upon their choice.”
In 2014, the last year for which comprehensive data is available, 92% of Louisiana counties had no clinics that provided abortions—meaning that people seeking them often have to pay for their travel, hotel rooms, and time off work. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 49 percent of abortion patients nationwide live below the federal poverty line. In Mississippi and Louisiana, the first and second poorest states in the nation respectively, that percentage is likely much higher. Abortions are not covered by Medicaid; the process of seeking one in Louisiana is onerous, expensive, and time-consuming.
OK so we need to start electing more Democrats to protect abortion rights, yeah?
You may think that the best way to turn the tide would be to elect more Democrats into office, but it’s not always so cut-and-dry in the South. Both the bill’s sponsor, Senator John Millkovich, and Governor John Bel Edwards are Democrats. Edwards ran on a strong pro-life platform, which featured a campaign ad about how he and his wife were committed to having their daughter, even after they learned she would be born with a painful, serious spinal cord condition.
Both Millkovich and Bel Edwards have acknowledged they anticipated the legal challenges they’re currently facing; in a recent interview, Millkovich said, “The abortion cartel is going to sue and challenge in federal court everything we do to protect the lives of the unborn.”
I feel badly for women who live in states that are passing anti-abortion legislation, but it doesn’t affect me directly ‘cause I live in a super liberal state.
Some pro-choice advocates believe these legislators’ goal is to actually to provoke countersuits and raise their case to the Supreme Court, ultimately overturning Roe vs. Wade. In pursuit of that goal, they’ll find enthusiastic partnership from the other side of the aisle; the Republican Party’s 2016 platform supported “a human life amendment,” which would make abortion illegal. So what happens in Louisiana—or Mississippi, or Texas, or Iowa—abortion law is unlikely to stay contained within each state, as when a controversial Texas abortion “clinic shut down” law ascended to the Supreme Court (and was ultimately struck down) in 2016. However, that 5-3 ruling was issued before Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s conservative appointee, joined the bench. Gorsuch’s view on abortion remains unclear and he, understandably, hedged when pressed on his position during his confirmation hearing; as an appeals court judge, Gorsuch never ruled on an abortion case.
TL;DR these cases may start in Southern statehouses, and pose terrific, immediate threats to the people who reproduce who live in those states, but they go all the way up. In a New Yorker piece reflecting on President Trump’s first year in office, Eyal Press wrote that a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion “has seldom seemed more in doubt.”
What can I do?
The most important thing you can do if you live in a state where abortion rights are under threat is to register to vote and vote for pro-choice candidates in every single election, from local primaries to state races. If you live in a state where abortion rights are solidly protected, you should do the same—and support candidates in those states from afar.
What if I’m not registered to vote?
Text Girlboss to RTVOTE (788-683) and they’ll help you get started.
How do I learn if my local candidates are pro-choice?
You can visit your candidates’ websites, read your local newspaper’s endorsement column, or call the candidates’ campaign offices and ask directly. Calling is also valuable because it shows the candidates’ team that people in their area care about pro-choice positions. Organizations like #VoteProChoice and Planned Parenthood Action Fund have lists of pro-choice candidates for bigger races. For smaller races, reaching out to your state’s Planned Parenthood Action Fund office is always a smart move.
What if there are no pro-choice candidates where I live?
Emily’s List is an organization that “ignites change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office.” On their site, you can find which women fit the bill in your state and either volunteer with their campaign team or donate.
There are a few states, including Mississippi and Louisiana, that don’t have any Emily’s List-endorsed candidates running at the moment. If you live in one of these states and are passionate about service but nervous about what running might entail, the organization was literally created to support you. Learn more about running here.
This sounds like tons of work and I have a lot going on right now.
It does and it very much sucks that our rights are under constant attack, but researching local races is significantly less work than hauling ass to Canada to get an abortion. There are tons of opportunities for us to step up and organize together. The critical thing is to protect our rights now so we don’t have to protest when it’s too late.