Reproductuve Health Care On the Line: Whose Fight?
Anti-Choice Lawmakers’ Attacks on Independent Abortion Clinics Are Working
Rewire, August 25, 2017
A fight is raging in Louisville, Kentucky, where the extremist anti-abortion group Operation Save America aims to shut down the state’s last remaining abortion clinic.
A new report suggests the anti-choice assault in Kentucky isn’t an isolated event. In the past five years, almost one-third of independent abortion clinics have been forced to close, according to a new report out Thursday by Abortion Care Network, a national association of independent providers.
The report suggests that while independent clinics provide the majority of U.S. abortion care, “anti-abortion politicians and extremists are forcing these clinics to close at an alarming rate,” said Nikki Madsen, executive director of the Abortion Care Network.
Independent clinics are the chief providers of abortion care in the United States. Three in five people ending a pregnancy go to an independent clinic, according to the report. And independent clinics perform 60 percent of U.S. abortions—nearly double the share performed by Planned Parenthood, which has more fundraising might and greater name recognition.
Due to their small size and sometimes isolated locations, independent providers, the report notes, “are also most vulnerable to anti-choice attacks (including anti-choice legislation, harassment, and violence), funding restrictions, and other attempts to close clinic doors and make abortion unavailable.”
The 12-page report paints a bleak picture of the state of abortion access at the nation’s remaining independent clinics. Fifty-six clinics have closed in the past two years, and 145 have shut down since 2012, leaving 365 left in the United States. Texas, a state leading the nation in harsh anti-abortion restrictions, saw the most independent clinics close: 20. But progressive states like California also had a high number of closures—15 between 2012 and this year.
Today, Kentucky and four other states—Mississippi, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming—are down to a single independent abortion clinic. In Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Nevada, independent clinics are the sole providers of surgical abortions after 10 weeks. Without these clinics, the report suggests, the only option for pregnant people would be a medication abortion. Independent clinics are also more likely to offer abortion at every stage of pregnancy.
“Independent abortion care providers are integral to abortion care access in the United States,” said Ibis Reproductive Health’s Caitlin Gerdts in a statement. “Without them, access to abortion care after 19 weeks would be nearly non-existent.”
The dwindling supply of clinics comes as the U.S. abortion rate has fallen. Even so, the report notes those hit hardest by the closures come from historically marginalized communities and are most likely to be people with low incomes and people of color. Nearly half of those who end their pregnancies live below the poverty line.
“For more than two decades, Feminist Women’s Health Center has been battling invasive anti-abortion laws in Georgia, as we continue to provide quality care with dignity and respect,” Kwajelyn Jackson, community education and advocacy director with the Feminist Women’s Health Center, said in a statement. “We are part of this community, and committed to the health of our patients and neighbors. That’s why we’ll keep fighting to keep our doors open.”
Report: Black People Back Comprehensive Reproductive Health Care
Rewire, August 24,2017
Eighty-nine percent support a person's right to abortion care and 75 percent don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
At a time when Black women are fighting for a voice in the health-care debate, a new reproductive justice report indicates that the majority of Black people polled in Tennessee are in favor of health insurance covering all costs of birth control, abortion care, and pregnancy.
A separate study, “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices: The State of Black Women & Reproductive Justice,” outlines how Black women’s rights are often marginalized, and offers an action plan for activist organizations.
Marcela Howell, founder and executive director of In Our Own Voice, told Rewire that the report combines comprehensive data with the experiences of Black women.
“We are living in times when attacks on women of color are increasing,” she said. The report is “a means to influence policy shift at the national, state, and municipal levels.”
The Tennessee report’s findings from a 2016 survey of 500 Black people indicate that:
- 87 percent support women’s access to full pregnancy care, including abortion;
- 91 percent agree women should have full access to birth control even if her company disagrees;
- 96 percent said a woman’s ability to control when or whether she has children is a major part of her financial stability;
- 89 percent support a woman’s right to abortion and 75 percent don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned;
- 84 percent would take their teens to get birth control if it is needed; and
- 81 percent said Black women should be trusted to make decisions that are best for them.
Other findings show that nearly all the Tennessee women surveyed support Black adult sex education programs to cover STDs, intimate partner violence, and unwanted pregnancy. A large majority want to include abstinence, pregnancy options, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the mix.
Howell said this report is one way in which Black women and organizations are taking the lead and speaking for themselves. The data collected will help activists working with policymakers.
“We know what our lives are like and we don’t need others to speak for us,” she said. “The report is a reflection of the human rights frame of Reproductive Justice and the intersectionality of our lives. The media needs to understand that no one speaks for us but us. When they want to know about our lives, they need to contact us.”
SisterReach hosted a policy briefing on the broader report Thursday in Memphis as part of the Reproductive Justice Week of Action.
The report adds to a state of Black women report released in June that highlights the disparities Black women face in every field from political participation and employment to health and safety. A report in May argued that progressive movements must center the experiences of women of color.
The new report challenges both the left and right to listen to Black women and outlines a seven-page action agenda for communities to address disparities. This includes protecting and expanding health-care access for Black women; providing contraceptive equity and culturally appropriate abortion care; adopting evidence-based, comprehensive sex education programs that empower Black youth; prioritizing a rights-based, self determination approach in health care; and funding research and data collection on the experiences of Black LGBTQ youth.
Nicole Knight is the Western regional reporter with Rewire, where she covers the politics of reproductive health and equality in the Western United States.
Auditi Guha is the race and justice reporter for Rewire. She has uncovered corruption, injustice, discrimination and fielded death threats in her career from India to Boston. She most recently worked at The Standard-Times in New Bedford and was previously a crime reporter for The Cambridge Chronicle and Somerville Journal where she was one of 12 national Guggenheim criminal justice fellows in New York in 2012.
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