As we celebrate this International Women’s Day, it is important that we take time to reflect on the rapidly changing status of reproductive freedom in our country following the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
Yesterday, Florida Republicans introduced an extreme 6-week abortion ban in the state legislature, with the Republican supermajority making it almost certain that the state will further restrict abortion past its current 15-week ban. The bill allows for anyone who “willfully performs or actively participates in a termination of pregnancy” that violates these restrictions to be charged with a third-degree felony and a maximum prison sentence of five years. Governor DeSantis has already stated that he will sign this bill if it gets to his desk.
The most restrictive abortion bills have been passed in the South and the Midwest, exacerbating inequalities in abortion access, especially based on race. Many of these states also lack strong social policies that support families and childcare and have limited access to maternity care, worsening maternal and infant health outcomes. With the costs of being denied abortion access so high, women and girls will face extremely difficult decisions, with some inevitably resorting to unsafe abortion methods, threatening their lives.
The fate of mifepristone still remains uncertain as we await the ruling of the Texas federal judge. According to the Guttmacher Institute, medication abortions account for 54% of abortions. Pharmacies have become a primary battleground in the fight for abortion rights over the distribution of abortion pills. Walgreens recently announced that they are not planning to sell the abortion drug in 20 states where abortion is legal, following threats by Republican leaders. In response, California Governor Gavin Newsom has threatened to completely cut ties with Walgreens “or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk.”
Currently, 18 states, including DC, have in place legal protections to abortion access. But this is not enough. Millions of women have been stripped of their freedom to make decisions over their own body as 12 states have banned abortion and many others have passed severe restrictions.
We will not stop fighting until every person in the country has equal access to reproductive rights.
Sources: HuffPost 3/7/2023; Guttmacher 2/1/2023; Washington Post 3/6/2023