It's not enough for abortion to be legal; It must also be accessible
As the 45th anniversary of Roe v Wade passed just weeks ago, nobody was ignoring the elephant in the room — that is, that it’s forty-five years later and we still don’t have accessible, affordable abortion in this country. Yes, it is legal. At the bare, bare minimum, it is legal to have an abortion. A legal right to abortion makes it sound straightforward. If you have a right to it, you should be able to have one — right? But it’s just not that simple. Because although Roe v Wade still stands, though women still technically do have the right to do what they want with their own bodies, for some women that is only a technicality. The reality is far more prohibitive.
From defunding health clinics that perform abortions to changing legislation and requirements for existing abortion clinics, there are plenty of ways abortions are made inaccessible to millions of women in America — even if they are legal. To get a sense of what the state of abortion really is in America today, you have to look at the whole system, rather than just the legality and technicalities. Here’s why abortion is still a struggle for so many women — even 45 years after Roe v Wade.
TRAP laws are shutting down clinics
Abortion rates are the lowest they’ve ever been in this country, which may sound like a good thing — but it’s not only because some people are being more responsible with their birth control. It’s also because abortion clinics are closing rapidly. Between 2008 and 2014, 63 abortion clinics were shut down — seven percent of the total clinics in this country. Many of these were due to TRAP laws, which work under the guise of increasing standards for patient safety, but are actually aimed at closing abortion clinics by setting parameters that they can’t reach. “Twenty-five states have enacted Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers —or TRAP — laws imposing strict requirements on abortion clinics and providers that the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group, says ‘go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety,’” Business Insider reports. “Reproductive rights activists also call them ‘clinic shutdown laws,’ because they say the laws are often written with the intent of closing abortion clinics in the state.”
As a result, a handful of states are down to a single abortion clinic and in some states, like Kentucky, that single clinic is facing legal challenges. With so few clinics available, they are spaced out in such a way that many women cannot make the journey to have an abortion. They don’t have the time to take off from work or the money for the trip, so an abortion suddenly isn’t an option. Many women are pushed to extremes from a total lack of support and there’s been an increase in searches for DIY abortions as these closings have happened, a truly terrifying state of affair.
Funding challenges are a problem
You’ve probably heard about defunding Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics — although some Republican initiatives initially failed, there have been recent moves to make it easier for states to defund Planned Parenthood. But the language of ‘defunding’ may have given you the wrong impression about how abortions are funded. What’s crucial to remember is that these clinics, like Planned Parenthood, are never given federal funds for abortions. That is not what the money is going towards — legally, it can’t.
But defunding other aspects of Planned Parenthood’s services would limit its ability to perform abortions. "’Defunding’ Planned Parenthood really means blocking patients who rely on public health care programs (like Medicaid and Title X) from getting their care at Planned Parenthood health centers,” their website explains. “Approximately 60% of Planned Parenthood patients rely on these programs to access care, and most of those patients use Medicaid. Anti-abortion politicians like Mike Pence target Planned Parenthood health centers because they provide abortion. But it’s already federal law that patients cannot use federal funding, like Medicaid, for abortion (except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is at risk). Instead, ‘defund’ legislation prevents patients who are already struggling to get by — or who already face barriers to accessing health care — from getting essential, preventive care like birth control, cancer screenings, well-woman exams, STD tests and treatment, and other care at Planned Parenthood health centers.” Without the funding, more centers will shut — and that means even fewer places performing abortions.
And the emotional trauma is huge
For women who are lucky enough to access an abortion clinic, the struggle is far from over. Firstly, they have to come up with money if it’s not covered by insurance — and we’re talking thousands of dollars. But then the emotional toll begins. The number of threats, protests, and violence that take place outside abortion clinics means that volunteers are often necessary to protect patients when entering and leaving — and for the doctors performing the operations. They are told they are going to hell, they have things thrown at them, they have feet stomped — just for trying to get a legal medical procedure. Once they get inside, women in some states are forced to listen to the (disproven) links between abortion and other medically incorrect information in an attempt to talk them out of abortion. Some are even forced to listen to the fetal heartbeat.
We are 45 years on from when abortion was made legal, but for some women, it might as well not be. Continued Republican attempts to make abortion inaccessible and close down clinics are taking their toll. And American women are entitled to better. For Roe v Wade to really ring true, so much has to change.
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