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Congress Wants to Ban Abortion — Young Progressives Can’t Let Them

On the first day of the new Congress, two Republicans introduced a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks. In the following 36 hours, we saw four more pieces of legislative restrictions introduced. Between 2011 and 2014, 231 bills were passed restricting access to abortion — more than in the entire previous decade.

Under the false pretense of protecting, proposed restrictions on abortion threaten the rights of every woman in the United States, and are the center piece of the right’s unprecedented attack on birth control and reproductive health. Progressives must push back against these restrictions, but we must also fight for a comprehensive agenda that connects housing, policing, poverty, and other issues to sexual health.

That fight starts with the candidates we elect.

These bills, which conservative politicians claim would improve health care services, do exactly the opposite. An Arizona measure requiring doctors to comply with Food and Drug Administration regulations might sound like a good thing. In reality, it goes against more than a decade of medical research and would prevent access to safe abortion. If the law goes into effect, it would force doctors to prescribe a much higher dose of medication than necessary, despite scientific evidence of the safety of newer, evidence-based protocols. This bill demonstrates the very reason decisions about medical care must be made by individuals and their doctors — not by politicians who are more interested in newspaper headlines than in scientific evidence.

A number of states have also refused to allow payment for abortion with public and private health insurance. These bills, of course, only affect those who cannot afford to pay out of pocket. A first-trimester abortion can cost up to $400 or more. In America, where nearly 50 million people are living in poverty, ultraconservative politicians want to define the poor as “immoral,” even as ending services like food stamps and Medicaid and consigning millions more families to poverty are hailed as both “pro-family” and “fiscally responsible.”

Waiting periods, another darling of anti-abortion legislatures, impose an enormous burden on individuals who lack access to a doctor, health insurance, or the ability to travel over multiple days. For an individual living below the federal poverty line ($11,670 for a single person and $23,850 for a family of four), traveling hundreds of miles to wait three days before being able to have a procedure — and the associated costs of a hotel, child care, and time off work — are often insurmountable, and are, in effect, a ban.

These restrictions do exactly what they are intended to do: make it harder for low-income women of color and LGBTQ individuals to have full control over their bodies and health care decisions, and perpetuate structural inequities that keep people living in poverty from cradle to grave. Attacks on reproductive health disproportionally impact those who already struggle with access to quality health care. That’s why it’s critical that we not only push back against these threats to our health and support efforts to expand access to sexual and reproductive health care, but that we also work on resolving problems such as income and wealth inequality, racism, and discrimination that impose structural barriers to millions of people who want — and deserve — access to quality health care.

We watch this absurd posturing in Congress, while very real restrictions are enacted in states across the nation. These illogical and unconstitutional laws have been generated to force a Supreme Court decision on multiple abortion restrictions. And, from the right to lie about abortion in campaign ads to allowing more and more restrictions, SCOTUS has undermined basic access to birth control and abortion virtually every time they have had the opportunity since Roe v. Wade.

Choosing when, if, and how to parent children — in safety, in health — is a right every person should have. These restrictions do everything possible to make that unreachable for those whose voices are often silenced in the halls of Congress and in our state legislatures.

Which is why we need to change how our legislatures look and act.

As America becomes increasingly diverse, our political leadership should reflect that diversity. We, the millennial generation, are the most diverse in our history. Nearly 40 percent are people of color, and we make up 30 percent of the LGBTQ population.

No matter how uphill this battle looks, young progressives can make an impact by helping elect candidates who look like them, and understand these battles because they live them every day. That’s why I support young progressive candidates who see inequity in our communities and won’t “wait their turn” to raise their voices and bring change to America.

Connecting access to health care, housing, transportation, reasonable wages, and voting rights — this is how we win.

And when we win elections, it’s only a true success when we use our newly gained access to uplift the voices of those doing this work in communities across America.

Veronica Aveis is a member of the Candidate Advisory Board at LaunchProgress PAC and Political Director of Planned Parenthood NYC Votes.

Header image credit: Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Brooklyn, NY

Veronica Aveis is Political Director of Planned Parenthood NYC Votes, and a board member of LaunchProgress PAC, and organization that invests in people, not campaigns, because we want the people to direct our politics.

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