Right now, our hearts are heavy. As a reproductive justice leader, my heart hurts for my friends, colleagues, and our families in Alabama, Georgia, and other states that have passed restrictions on abortion this year. And I’m angry. That politicians could pass policies that will so deeply shred the idea that each of us knows when the right time is for us to become a parent.
In legislative sessions across the country this year–many of which are still going–we’ve witnessed the passage of the most restrictive abortion policies since Roe v. Wade legalized access to abortion over 40 years ago. Earlier this week, Alabama voted to ban abortion in nearly all cases. It joined Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio, who banned abortion after 6 weeks, essentially making abortion inaccessible. Four other states are expected to pass legislation to severely restrict abortion later this year.
These state laws fly in the face of reality: one in four* women in the US will have an abortion during the course of her life.
Let’s be clear. These laws are racing through state legislatures as part of a coordinated legal strategy. The passage of multiple abortion bans sets up the legal challenge to Roe vs Wade at a Supreme Court that is now dominated by President Trump’s appointees and conservatives hostile to abortion.
And these abortion bans are sailing through legislatures as a political tactic. They give conservative voters and those opposed to abortion access a huge political win as we lead up to a critical 2020 election. They remind these voters that conservatives are willing to engage in the “culture war” around social issues, whether its abortion access, rights for LGBTQ people, or immigration.
All of this in spite of the broad and overwhelming public support that abortion should remain a decision between a pregnant person, their family and their doctor. Communities of color – and especially women of color – have consistently said: we trust pregnant people to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. This support is in every part of our country, including our rural communities. Forward Together’s rural research on abortion in New Mexico showed that of rural New Mexicans surveyed, 77% agree that “I can hold my own moral views on abortion and still trust a woman and her family to make this decision for themselves.”
At Forward Together, we are in this fight for the long haul. This year, we led the fight in New Mexico to dismantle archaic abortion laws that would punish doctors who provide abortion if Roe vs. Wade were overturned. While we didn’t win in 2019, we will be back next year. In 2018, we knocked on doors in communities of color in Oregon to defeat a statewide ballot measure to restrict access to abortion for low-income Oregonians. In all our work, we’ve heard again and again: Our communities share our beliefs and understanding about abortion and they both want and need access to abortion.
Now is not the time to back down. It’s not the time to wring our hands. It’s not the time to be silenced by what seems like an overwhelming fight. It’s time to show up. And show up hard. How can we show up for reproductive justice in these troubling times?
- Continue to trust pregnant people to know what is best for them and their families.
- Trust reproductive justice organizations at the state level to lead. Groups on the ground in GA, AL, MS, OH and all the places that have passed restrictive laws know best what is needed on the ground. Feminist Women’s Health Center, Women Engaged, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity and so many others have our trust and should be the ones in the lead.
- Directly fund access to abortion. Consider supporting the Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama and ARC-Southeast in Georgia, A Fund and Kentucky Health Justice Network in Kentucky, Women Have Options in Ohio, Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund in Mississippi. For a full list of abortion funds in states across the country, visit and support National Network of Abortion Funds.
Although we are on an uphill battle to ensure that people have full autonomy over their bodies, our fight for social change, our fight for a better world for our families and our communities, must continue. We must charge forward, together.
Executive Director, Forward Together
* From Guttmacher Institute (2017). Stats for trans and gender nonconforming people seeking abortion are not currently available.