Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement from the Supreme Court spells a potential future in which even more women's reproductive rights are targeted and stripped away.
President Donald Trump has already promised to replace Kennedy with a justice who will take away the constitutional right to an abortion. And while this will undoubtedly lead to a chipping away, if not complete reversal, of Roe v. Wade, our rights are already under siege thanks to state legislatures.
According to a report from The Guttmacher Institute, "58% of American women of reproductive age lived in a state considered either hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights in 2017. Only 30% of women lived in a state supportive of abortion rights." For evidence, look no further than Iowa’s six-week ban, Mississippi’s 15-week ban, waiting period restrictions in many states, and Trump's proposed domestic gag rule.
"The work on the state level is so critical right now. It's not just about the Senate. It's not just about the Court. There’s so much that can be done to shore up these rights so we’re not only reliant on the federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court," Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, told Refinery29. "There’s a tremendous amount of power to shape access to care and the rights that we have via state and even municipal laws."
The state of the world may have you banging your head on your desk, which was pretty much our response when we found out Kennedy was retiring. But take it from the veteran civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis: "Do not get lost in a sea of despair." After you read our explainer on Kennedy's retirement, go out there and make some good, necessary trouble. Read how below.
Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. #goodtrouble— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 27, 2018
V-O-T-E. No, really, do it. In primaries and midterms. In local elections and in 2020. Vote early and often, and vote for pro-choice candidates.
Keep your representatives on speed-dial. A lot of damage to abortion access is already being done at the state level. Check out this database of pending abortion legislation, and then call your reps. This guide will direct you to your state assembly or legislature's website. Go to the House and Senate's official websites to input your zip code or state and find out who represents you. Once you have their name, you can find your elected officials' contact information in the House directory and the Senate directory. Here's our detailed guide.
Donate to Planned Parenthood and other groups. Donating to Planned Parenthood helps the organization fight for laws and policies that assure women access to the reproductive health they need. You can also donate to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which helps women who can't afford the procedure by paying for abortions and helping with services like transportation, translation, childcare, and a place to stay. Another organization that needs your help is the Abortion Care Network, which represents independent, community-based, abortion providers, many of which serve people who live in rural areas and have few resources.
Consider becoming a clinic escort. Abortion providers have faced an uptick in bullying, trespassing, and death threats from anti-choice activists. According to the 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey, 34.2% of abortion providers in the U.S. experienced threats or violence, which was up from 19.7% in 2014. If you are able to help, visit Planned Parenthood's volunteer page to learn more or contact your local clinic. You can also join the organization’s Clinic Defender program, which helps bring attention to the threats clinics are under.
Go to medical or nursing school to become an abortion-care provider, or study law so you can fight the power. If you are considering a career in medicine or law — or are still on the fence about your future plans — think about how you could help those in need.
Work to dispel the stigma around abortion. "The real political long game is culture change," Lindy West wrote in a recent column. Become informed and talk to your family members and friends. Remember: The majority of Americans support abortion access in some capacity. If you need some talking points, here's how to explain that abortion is not murder. Go out there and make some noise. You got this.