2015 was a discouraging year for the abortion rights movement. In the past 12 months, an Indiana woman was convicted for feticide and sentenced to 20 years in prison, restrictive antiabortion laws were passed in a number of state legislatures, the government almost shut down over funding Planned Parenthood, and the violent rhetoric employed by and tolerated within the pro-life movement materialized in the form of the murders in Colorado Springs.
Here’s what we already know about the year ahead. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, a case challenging 2013’s Texas House Bill 2 (HB2), which places far-reaching restrictions on abortion providers and clinics for the purpose of shutting them down. If the Supreme Court and, specifically, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been known to green-light abortion restrictions and will likely be the deciding vote, finds that forcing 30 or more clinics to close does not place undue burden on Texan women (an unbelievable assertion, considering a recent report estimated that between 100,000 and 240,000 Texan women have self-induced home abortions since the clinic closures began), we could see an acceleration in the state-by-state dissolution of abortion access – a basic constitutional right.
We also know that legislators calling themselves pro-life are likely to continue to introduce many new restrictions on abortion at state and federal levels, all while continuing to block proposals that address how unchecked access to guns kills American children every day. And, of course, we know that in November voters will select a new president who will have the power to nominate new justices to the Supreme Court.
The first reaction to the opposition and violence of 2015 and the possibilities for 2016 can be fear; fear that 2016 will be the year antiabortion advocates finally get their wish to turn back the clock to the decades before Roe, which celebrates its 43rd anniversary in January. This is no sunny nostalgia. Fifty years ago, almost 200 women died each year after having unsafe, illegal abortions; a number that plummeted after the legalization of abortion. The “pro-life” label is therefore hypocrisy at its finest: If these restrictions are written into law, our country will be one step closer to a time when women died senseless, preventable deaths.
But a second possible reaction, a more productive one, is action. We cannot accept violence against women in the form of deadly attacks on abortion facilities. We cannot accept women being forced to resort to unsafe abortions because of abortion funding restrictions, unrealistic burdens placed on abortion patients and providers, and clinic shutdown laws. We cannot accept abortion stigma that segregates abortion from other forms of basic healthcare that is a human right.
2016 needs to be the year we spring forward.
According to a recent Politico poll, roughly 70 percent of registered American voters believe the government should not restrict abortion access. When we founded Reproaction, it was because we agreed, and wanted to kick our movement up a notch. We intend to put an end to the defeatist language and strategies of our own movement. We will force decision-makers to listen and understand that it is not a minority of vocal activists, but millions of Americans who reject their calculated, systematic dissolution of one of our most essential human rights: supremacy over our bodies.
It is time to be angry. It is time to take action. Write a letter to your pro-life governor or representative. Explain to them how abortion restrictions endanger women’s lives. Sign our petition calling for an end to the pro-life hate speech that motivates relentless harassment and attacks like the one in Colorado Spring. Above all, commit to action.
2016 does not have to be 2015.
Erin Matson writes and organizes for full reproductive justice and women’s human rights in the United States. She has appeared frequently on television, including MSNBC, CSPAN, Al-Jazeera English, ABC World News, BBC World News and PBS’ To the Contrary. An organizer and strategist, she has led local, state, and national advocacy campaigns on areas including abortion rights, contraceptive access, and cultural representations of women.
Pamela Merritt is a longtime writer, progressive activist and blogger at AngryBlackBitch.com. Her site was named one of the world’s 50 most powerful blogs by the Guardian in 2008. A featured contributor on National Public Radio, her writing has also been published in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Guardian UK, Rolling Stone and Salon.
Reproaction is a new direct action group forming to increase access to abortion and advance reproductive justice. Reproaction is proud of their left-flank analysis, and are not in this fight to protect the past or maintain the status quo. They believe that the current state of abortion access—the closed clinics, financial barriers, insulting hurdles, baseless religious exemptions, and terrorism against providers—is a degrading, man-made humanitarian crisis. Learn more at http://www.reproaction.org/.