For sexually active women in 2019, our access to abortions can sometimes feel like a paradox. On one hand, it’s a constitutional right we’ve had for so long that we consider it as reliable and protected as our right to vote. But far from other laws have become normalized as time went on, abortion access has remained under attack. As a deeply entrenched part of what we consider women’s healthcare, abortion — and the way we talk about it in this country — is both immutable and vulnerable.
And yet for many women in the country, abortion has never been easy to access, or safe to get. In Missouri, where only one abortion-providing clinic remains, this tussle plays out in the courts, in doctor’s rooms, and on the ground, where a new generation of women have recognized that this right needs protecting.
There, the current battle has reached a fever pitch because of one state law — HB126 — that bans abortions after eight weeks, long before most women even know they’re pregnant. Perfectly designed to overturn Supreme Court cases that make abortion legal and accessible, HB126 is unique in how much of an “undue burden” — a significant and unnecessary difficulty or expense — it places on women. This law essentially makes abortions impossible to get. For many women in that state who live hundreds of miles away from any clinic, abortions are as plausible as a trip to Mars.
HB126 was passed on top of a series of restrictive, random laws designed to close down clinics, as well as a increasingly vocal group of anti-abortion organizers. This has happened in nine states around the country this year alone. But St. Louis has become a lightning field for how the government thinks about, protects, and gets in the way of women’s healthcare.
But pro-choice activists are fighting back. From the teenagers behind St. Louis Pro-Choice Student Activists to the organizers helping women travel to, pay for, and understand their abortions, the fight to keep abortion safe and legal in Missouri sets the stage for the rest of the country. What happens here might determine whether abortion will remain a right for all of us.
Watch Refinery29’s Truth Be Told episode on Missouri’s abortion avengers to see these women in action.