This Week in Our BodiesAbortion Rates Have Dropped in America, but Not for the Reason You Think

An illustration of a variety of bodies in neutral tones.

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 news, alerts, and updates on who’s trying to control our bodies and lives—plus actionable ways you can get involved right now.

1. Activists are raising awareness about self-induced abortions. [NPR]

Here’s what happened: Historically, self-induced abortions have gained a reputation for being scary and often dangerous, but scientific advances mean more information and safer options. As access to reproductive healthcare continues to face threats in many states, activists are seeking ways to disseminate the facts about self-induced abortion. As NPR reports, Missouri’s Gateway Women’s Access Fund gave a talk to activists in St. Louis in August to help raise awareness of these abortions.

Here’s what you can do: Support organizations like If/When/How, a recently launched legal advocacy group that protects organizations and activists who offer informationand resources about self-induced abortions, and activists like Rebecca Gomperts who are working to change the way we view access to abortion.

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2. Reproductive justice in Oklahoma is at risk thanks to the governor’s appointment of an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice. [The Oklahoman]

Here’s what happened: In the next week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court is “expected to receive an appeal related to a 2015 Oklahoma law that bans—in most situations—the ‘dilation and evacuation’ method of abortion in the second trimester,” according to The Oklahoman.

Here’s what you can do: Oklahoma constituents should reach out to their representatives to voice their objection to the law. They can align with Demoractic state Senator Mary Brown Boren, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has expressed frustration with the apparent abuse of religious influence.

3. The number of abortions in the United States has dropped, and is now the lowest it’s been since the 1970s. [AP]

Here’s what happened: A new report from The Guttmacher Institute finds that, due in part to increased accessibility to birth control and in part to a decrease in birth rates overall, the abortion rate is the lowest it’s been since Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure in 1973.

Here’s what you can do: Amplify these findings to whomever needs to hear them, and make it clear that this isn’t a win for abortion foes—it’s not that abortion decreased due to the closing of clinics. Contact your representatives to make it clear that we need to preserve—and increase—access to birth control and reproductive healthcare overall. If the goal is to decrease abortions, this is the way to do it—not by making them inaccessible and challenging the ability of Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers to give people the repro healthcare they need.

4. Pregnant disabled people are still being pushed toward abortion. That’s a problem. [Quartz]

Here’s what happened: In Quartz, writer Nicole Lee writes of her experience, “I wanted people to understand how illogical it was: to doubt a disabled woman’s right to give birth to a child, but not to abort one…I wanted everyone, including other feminists, to understand us. To hear how differently disabled women’s agency is treated in regards to reproductive rights.”

Here’s what you can do: Listen to disabled pregnant people, and further develop your understanding of the concept of “choice.” Forced sterilization of disabled people is still very much an issue, and the structural inequity that Lee points out, alongside ableism and a lack of centering disabled voices in reproductive rights dialogues, is a part of the problem.

5. California seeks to expand access to medical abortion for students attending public universities. [New York Times]

Here’s what happened: When it comes to abortion, legal versus illegal isn’t the only debate worth having: The issue of accessibility is huge. In December 2018, California State Senator Connie M. Leyva authored SB 24, a bill that would require the state’s public universities to provide abortion pills at on-campus student health centers. Last week, the bill passed in assembly and the senate. As of Tuesday, the bill was enrolled.

Here’s what you can do: There is some really fantastic language in the bill, including the statement that “[A]bortion care is a constitutional right and an integral part of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.” If you’d like to see something similar enacted at your state’s universities, reach out to your senator and make it clear that you’d be interested in legislature that supports the reproductive freedom of local college students.


Rachel Charlene Lewis, who has light brown skin and dark brown curly hair, wears a white button up and gold jewelry and gold glasses.
by Rachel Charlene Lewis
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Rachel Charlene Lewis has written about culture, identity, and the internet for publications including i-D, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, Greatist, 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.