Feminist Majority fights on every front to protect women’s reproductive rights, from access to birth control to keeping the doors open at women’s health clinics. Here are just a few of the battles we are fighting right now:
Trump Administration Anti-Abortion Domestic Gag Rule and Expanded Global Gag Rule
President Trump by executive order reinstituted on his first day office the Global Gag rule of the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush Administrations. But Trump expanded the impact of the Global Gag Rule. The Global Gag Rule prohibits the allocation of U.S. funding to foreign organizations or government agencies that provide abortion services or even provide information about abortion or advocate for legalizing abortion. Previously the gag rule applied only to reproductive health care or family planning funding. Trump made it apply to all global health care programs. The impact already is disastrous and heartless. Clinics are closing and unsafe abortions are rising sharply. The Gag Rule now applies to $8.8 billion in Global Health care funding. For example, it now is affecting HIV/AIDS and anti-Tuberculosis services and programs. For thousands of women in the poorest countries this global gag rule will be a death sentence. The clinics cannot even provide abortion services or information with funds from other sources.
In May, 2018 the Trump administration released proposed language for a Domestic Gag Rule aimed at Planned Parenthood that serves 31% of patients who receive care through federal Title X family planning funding. If these clinics were to close many of their women patients will have nowhere else to go to for birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment or health exams. The domestic gag rule applies to some 4000 Title IX funded health centers or clinics. This would have the biggest impact on people of color, LGBTQ community and people in rural areas. The administration says it is not a gag rule but rather says clinics do not have to counsel women about abortion and do not have to provide referrals to abortion services but would be required to separate physical as well as financial separation between Title X family planning programs and ones in which abortion is “supported or referred for as a method of family planning.” The comments period for the Domestic Gag Rule ended at the end of July, 2018, and we are in the waiting period for the final language of the new rule.
The Feminist Majority opposes both the Extended Global Gag Rule and a domestic gag rule.
Threats to Women’s Health Clinics and Planned Parenthood
Feminist Majority has long been active in the defense of women’s health clinics that are targeted because they provide abortion and contraception, as well as comprehensive preventive care. We provide legal and organizing assistance to clinics that are under attack from anti-abortion zealots, as well as those targeted by anti-abortion politicians and politically motivated medical boards. Recently anti-choice politicians have passed laws defunding family planning programs and specifically to defund Planned Parenthood. We work to oppose such legislation.
“Religious Freedom” Used to Deny Access
In 2012 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops put tremendous pressure on the Obama administration to expand the religious exemption for provision of birth control in the preventive care package of the Affordable Care Act. If they had been successful, students and employees of religiously-affiliated institutions that are not churches (e.g. hospitals, universities, insurance agencies) would not have had the same right as students and employees of other institutions to access birth control in their health plans without co-pays or deductibles. The bishops, with the support of Republican leaders in the House and Senate, are pursuing federal legislation that would allow any religiously-affiliated institution to refuse coverage. In the meantime this concept has been used to deny women who work for religiously affiliated institutions access to the Obamacare birth control mandate without co-pays or deductibles. Under the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision of 2014, employees of employers of closely held for-profit corporations who claim that they must be exempted from the mandate or regulation because their owners religiously object according to the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RERA) can also be denied access to coverage. Women’s rights were totally ignored in this decision.
In North Dakota in 2012, feminists led the effort to turn out student votes against Measure 3, a “religious freedom” constitutional amendment. It was soundly defeated, 64% to 36%, after the voters understood what was at stake. Measure 3 would have threatened access to birth control as well as laws against sex discrimination, domestic violence, child abuse and more. The amendment could have provided a defense to wife beaters and child abusers – who would have been able to claim their religious beliefs allow them to use violence against family members. It would have also opened the door, based on moral or religious beliefs, to sex discrimination and the denial of birth control and other fundamental services and protections.
Outright Bans on Abortion Services
Some states aren’t subtle. They’re simply adopting bans on abortion after a certain time, often 20 weeks, and with few exceptions. Many do not even have exceptions in instances of rape, incest, or to protect the life or health of the woman.
In April 2012 Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a law banning abortion coverage in private insurance plans, so that women will not be able to choose a policy that contains abortion coverage, and private policies with existing coverage will have to drop it. Other states are considering similar bans, as well as bans on medication abortion (Mifeprex or RU-486), a safe way to end an early pregnancy.
The Feminist Majority opposes all such state bans or limitations to a women’s right to make her own medical decisions.
“Fetal Personhood” Laws and Ballot Measures
Bills and ballot measures have been introduced in many states to declare a fertilized egg to be a “person” with full rights from the moment of conception. This would ban a wide range of vital women’s health services, including lifesaving treatment of ectopic pregnancies, in vitro fertilization, common forms of birth control, and all abortions.
Feminists were instrumental in the defeat of the Mississippi personhood amendment ballot measure in 2011 by a resounding 2-1 vote. Similar measures were placed on the the state ballots of Florida and South Dakota in 2012 and were solidly defeated. Voters in North Dakota and Colorado defeated Personhood ballot measures in 2014. Voters in Colorado voted no by a massive margin of 63% to 37% and in North Dakota by a 64% to 36% margin.
In 2018, ballot measures in West Virginia and Alabama will seek to amend their state constitutions to declare abortion rights are not protected by the state constitution. So if Roe v. Wade is reversed the state legislature could ban or restrict access to abortion as in pre Roe days.
The Feminist Majority opposes such measures to ban or limit access to abortion and some forms of birth control.
State Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP)
The passage of TRAP provisions (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) has increased in recent years, despite the fact that abortion clinics are already heavily regulated. TRAP laws are unnecessary regulations designed to be difficult or prohibitively expensive to follow, with the intention of forcing the closure of small clinics.
For example, Feminist Majority successfully fought regulations in Virginia that would essentially require clinics to meet the same requirements as a hospital. These kinds of regulations are spreading, and they can have disastrous impact – for example requiring clinics to have hallways wide enough for two gurneys to pass side-by-side, or worse yet, an elevator large enough to fit two gurneys at once. Clearly this is a ridiculous requirement for a clinic with only one or two procedure rooms, and the goal of these rules is simply to drive small clinics out of business through unnecessary regulation.
Mississippi legislators have been trying to close the one remaining clinic in that state by requiring that each abortion provider be a board-certified ob/gyn and personally have admitting privileges at a local hospital (it is insufficient to have an agreement with a doctor at a local hospital in case of complication. This clearly isn’t about women’s health – doctors in Mississippi don’t have to be board certified or have admitting privileges to deliver a baby, even though women are about 14 times more likely to die during or after giving birth to a live baby than to die from complications of a legal abortion, according to a report published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. This is another transparent effort to close the one remaining clinic in the state. The Mississippi clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization fought the law for 5 years from 2012 to 2017 when finally a federal court permanently blocked the law. The Supreme Court rejected appeals from Mississippi and the Mississippi clinic remains open.
The Feminist Majority vigorously opposes TRAP laws.
Pre-Abortion Requirements such as Ultrasounds, Waiting Periods, Inaccurate “Counseling”
These kinds of provisions introduced by anti-abortion legislators are now widespread, with many states requiring that doctors read misleading “information” to their patients, increasing costs to the patient by requiring that pre-abortion counseling be done by the physician instead of a trained nurse or counselor, and increasing travel costs for rural women by imposing mandatory delays after the counseling. The most recent limitations are coming in the form of mandatory ultrasound tests, which are prohibitively expensive for low-income women.
Feminist Majority was a leader in the statewide protests when Virginia lawmakers tried to pass an invasive vaginal-probe ultrasound requirement in 2012. The protests resulted in dropping the probe, but a regular (expensive and unnecessary) ultrasound is still a prerequisite for abortion in Virginia. Several states are considering enacting new laws of this kind. The purpose of these kinds of restrictions is not to advance women’s health, but to mislead women and create additional delays and expenses in the hope that the procedure will become too costly for many women.