5 Things You Need To Know About Your Reproductive Rights

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
By Nancy Northup

Imagine for a moment what your life would be like without affordable birth control. Imagine that, because you can’t get or afford the contraception you need, you get pregnant. If you aren’t in a place in your life where feel you can continue the pregnancy, imagine that there’s no way to end it without putting your health, your livelihood, or even your life, in danger. Or — if you are inclined to carry the pregnancy to term — imagine that high-quality pregnancy and maternity care is suddenly out of reach.  

For millions of women in large and growing swaths of the U.S. where reproductive rights have been under constant attack for several years, the scenario above is quite real. In fact, now even states considered "safe" face increasingly serious threats due to potential federal regulation. Over the last four years, opponents to reproductive health have passed nearly 250 laws restricting women’s access to safe and legal abortion — more than in the previous decade combined. The good news is there’s a concerted effort to fight back. Here’s what you need to know. 

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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Safe and legal abortion is still really hard to get if you don’t live in certain states. 
In the poignant and very funny film Obvious Child, Donna (played by Jenny Slate) becomes pregnant unexpectedly. Though she struggles to pay for an abortion, she can get an appointment at a clinic close to her home in New York City, on a day that is best for her, very early in her pregnancy. 

Donna is supported every step of the way by people who care about her. She isn’t forced to travel hundreds of miles, make multiple trips to the clinic, push past screaming protestors, or endure a script written to shame her for her decision. Yet those are exactly the kinds of obstacles faced by millions of women in states that have severely restricted access to safe and legal abortion services. 

Nearly every state in the south has passed an onslaught of laws designed to shut down women’s clinics. In Texas alone, the number of reproductive health clinics offering safe and legal abortion has shrunk from over 40 to just about a dozen. And, if you live in North Dakota or Mississippi, you’re in one of the nearly half-dozen states that now have just one abortion provider in the entire state. For many women, the nearest clinic is hundreds of miles away, sometimes even across state lines. Now, imagine facing such distances if you struggle to afford transportation or child care for your kids, or if you risk losing your job by taking time off to travel. 

The right of every woman to decide for herself whether to continue or end a pregnancy — without interference from politicians who presume to know better — is a basic right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. And, your constitutional rights, not to mention essential health care, should never depend on what state you happen to live in.  
Politicians aren’t just restricting access to abortion. They’re going after your birth control.  
Anti-choice politicians would like you to think that this fight is just about abortion, but it’s not. In the last few years, they’ve been making it harder and more expensive for women to prevent unintended pregnancies, too. 

The historic Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, ensures that women’s health care plans cover contraception without a copay. This includes all kinds of birth control, including the pill, long-acting IUDs, and the vaginal ring. Yet, conservative politicians have sought to limit and overturn this advancement. You might remember the uproar over the private business Hobby Lobby successfully suing for their right to refuse to cover birth control as part of their employees’ health insurance. 

Other organizations have followed their lead. When politicians pass sham laws that shut down clinics, women aren't just robbed of access to safe and legal abortion, they often lose their sole resource for other basic health care services, including birth control, pregnancy care, annual exams, and cancer screenings. 
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Everyone deserves affordable access to a full range of reproductive health care, including contraception.
This means regardless of when we need it, where we live, how much money we make, or where we get our health insurance. It's the women in states that have the most abortion restrictions who suffer the most. 

Abortion is one of the very safest medical procedures a woman can have in the U.S. But, in states like Texas and Louisiana, legislators justify restrictions on abortion services by claiming they’re intended to protect women’s health and safety. Here’s the reality: States with the highest number of these restrictive abortion restrictions also have the poorest record when it comes to the health and well-being of women and children. Across a range of outcomes, women and families are paying the price for politicians’ ideological agendas.  

There ought to be a law against all this. 
And, there is! The Women’s Health Protection Act would prohibit states from imposing restrictions on reproductive health providers that interfere with women’s personal decision making or block access to safe and legal abortion services. This federal bill, which was reintroduced in Congress last month, would enforce and protect the right of every woman to decide for herself whether to continue or end a pregnancy, regardless of where she lives. Make sure your representatives in Congress are among those fighting for this freedom of choice

War on women is over! (If you want it.)  
Sometimes, it might seem like we are closer than ever to the dark days before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision 42 years ago, when women who could afford it could travel to get safe abortion care — and the rest were left with few or no options. But, you know what? Seven in 10 Americans support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions. Seven in 10. If we all make our voices heard, we can shut the extremists down and get lawmakers to focus on what really matters in our health and lives. You have the power to change the future —  we all do. It means standing up and taking action. Learn more about what you can do.    
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