This Week in Our BodiesHow Austin, Texas, Is Helping Fund Abortion Access

Illustration by Jessica De Jesus

In 2019, reproductive rights are in limbo. Nearly every week, another state attempts to pass a trickily-worded law to limit access to abortion, and with the upcoming 2020 presidential election, we’re waiting for a discourse around reproductive justice that’s more than just lip service. But we can’t give up hope. There have been, and continue to be, some wins, and the most vulnerable among us can’t afford for us to accept the losses along the way.

Reproductive rights matter, and each week, we’re bringing you an update on what happened this week with regard to our bodies—plus action steps for how you can get involved.

1. Dr. Rebecca Gomperts is suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so she can to continue providing abortion bills to people in the United States. [NPR]

Here’s what happened: Gomperts brought her service, Aid Access, to the United States in 2018 to increase access to pills that induce abortion. In March 2019, the FDA ordered Gomperts to stop providing abortion medication to people in the United States, with the letter expressing concern about the “inherent risk to consumers” who purchase these products. This week, she filed a lawsuit arguing that federal officials are preventing the medications from being delivered. “The real fear about seizing medicines is not the loss of the medicine, but it’s prosecution of the woman in the United States…either by the state or the federal government, for ordering the pills,” Gompert’s lawyer Richard Hearn told NPR.

Here’s what you can do: Continue donating to Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and reproductive rights organizations in your community. Learn more about how to do that here.

2. South Carolina is considering an abortion ban. [News 13 WLOS]

Here’s what happened: South Carolina legislators are reviewing a controversial bill that would ban almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected (around six weeks). The bill, which has the support of Governor Henry McMaster, has already passed the South Carolina House. The bill is currently in the state Senate where a subcommittee is weighing the pros and cons of passing the bill.

Here’s what you can do: Conservative legislators in South Carolina are planning to meet about the bill at an undisclosed time before their 2020 session starts. South Carolina constituents should reach out to their representatives and the governor to express their frustrations and opposition to the bill.

3. Austin, Texas, is allocating funds to make abortion more accessible. [NBC News]

Here’s what happened: This week, the Austin City Council passed a municipal budget package that allocates $150,000 for travel, lodging, childcare, and other “logistical support” for low-income people who need abortions with support from Austin Mayor Steve Adler. Austin is now the first city in the United States to increase abortion access by directly funding the logistics around the procedure.

Here’s what you can do: See if your lawmakers are pursuing similar measures, and, if not, encourage your city to do the same by reaching out to your representatives and supporting local advocacy groups.

4. Planned Parenthood is expanding its app. [The Progressive]

Here’s what happened: To expand access to reproductive healthcare, Planned Parenthood announced that it will make its app available in all 50 states by the end of 2020. Currently, the app, which offers healthcare advice, digitized access to birth control and other treatments, and a guidebook for finding local healthcare, serves 27 states and the District of Columbia. 

Here’s what you can do: Download the free app if it’s available in your area, and share it with people who might also benefit from its resources.

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5. A federal judge blocked a North Dakota law that required doctors to lie to their patients about medical abortions. [USA Today]

Here’s what happened: This year, North Dakota enacted a law that required doctors to tell patients who wanted a medical abortion that they could reverse it and that “time is of the essence” if they change their mind. As we all know, that information isn’t supported by research. It just casts doubt in the mind of the patient and serves no real purpose. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed an injunction to stop the law from going into effect, though they’re still trying to stop doctors from also having to tell patents that “[abortion terminates] the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

Here’s what you can do: Keep an eye on this language, as it’s obviously dangerous, especially if that messaging continues to expand from state to state, and see if a similar law exists in your state. The Center for Reproductive Rights has strengthened laws and legal language around reproductive rights across the United States, so you can join their mailing list, volunteer, or donate to be more in-tuned with these laws in your community and beyond so you’re ready to act.

6. Doctors aren’t taking potential side-effects of LEEPs seriously. [Cosmopolitan]

Here’s what happened: Loop electrosurgical excisional procedures, or LEEPs, which are used to remove irregular cells from the cervix, can cause people to lose their ability to orgasm.  There’s been little research conducted around LEEPs: how many are performed each year, what the side effects are, and if gynecologists are aware of the side effects and informing their patients before performing the procedure.

Here’s what you can do: Ask your gynecologist about the side effects before they recommend having the procedure performed. This is a good reminder to actively work to build a skillset where you’re able to be critical of healthcare, and are able to best advocate for yourself, as, unfortunately, not all doctors are transparent, or have your best interest at heart. You can read about how to advocate for yourself with your doctors here.

There’s more…

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by Rachel Charlene Lewis
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Rachel Charlene Lewis is the Senior Editor at Bitch. She has written about culture, identity, and the internet for publications including i-D, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, Glamour, Autostraddle, Ravishly, SELF, StyleCaster, The Frisky (RIP), The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. Her literary work, reviews, and interviews have been published in Catapult, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Normal School, Publisher’s Weekly, The Offing, and in several other magazines. She is on Twitter and Instagram, always.