On the evening of Monday, July 6th, NARAL Pro-Choice CT was joined by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, United States Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, for a virtual Champions for Choice Happy Hour! Even in the midst of a nation-wide public health crisis, attacks on reproductive freedom have persisted. This is not a coincidence. On both the state and federal level, anti-choicers have weaponized the COVID-19 pandemic to pass unjust TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws to make access to reproductive health care even more burdensome (as if it isn’t already!). These types of restrictions only exacerbate the pre-existing inequities in health care and place a disproportionate burden on women of color and their communities. However, in the midst of these unprecedented times, there have also been victories. On June 29, 2020, the Supreme Court decided June Medical Services LLC v. Russo in a 5-4 vote, striking down Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Act, which required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Of course, Chief Justice Roberts’ support for the right to bodily autonomy was only fleeting, because no more than a week later, SCOTUS upheld an exemption under the Affordable Care Act that allows employers with religious or moral objections to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. Confused? So are we. Maybe SCOTUS is too. If anything, their unpredictable decisions are only proof that access to reproductive health care is not guaranteed, even here in Connecticut. Now, more than ever, we must continue the fight to protect essential reproductive health care for all. To help you do so (and to lessen your FOMO) , we have compiled a five-step call to action inspired by our Champions for Choice Happy Hour.
Senator Blumenthal put it bluntly, but best when he said that reproductive rights “hang by a thread.” On June 23rd, 2020, Trump’s 200th judicial appointee was confirmed to the Fifth Circuit court of appeals. This, by way, is a life-tenured judicial opinion. These conservative appointments pose a far-reaching risk to reproductive rights. As Attorney General Tong echoed, “the Trump administration is hell-bent on dismantling the system of health care that all of us recognize. That damage is profound.” It cannot be emphasized enough that in the fight to protect reproductive health care, American courts matter. By voting, you have the power to determine who sits on them. So, register to vote, check your voter registration status, and go to the polls (or if you don’t want to vote in person, request your absentee ballot!).
2. Educate yourself about the inequities within the American health care system & help dismantle them.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed more pre-existing inequities in the American health care system than it created new ones. Long-standing, systemic health, and social inequities have put Black and Brown and low-income communities at a disproportionately higher risk of infection. When it comes to access to reproductive health care services for these communities, this is nothing new. In the United States, maternal mortality rates have consistently been higher amongst Black women compared to white women. As Senator Blumenthal reiterated, “poor women, women who are Black or Brown, who live in communities where they may not have access to these services” are most affected by restrictions on reproductive rights. We must broaden the lens on racism Reproductive freedom is a racial justice issue. As Ilyse shared, “it is one fight to beagle to have the tools, the resources, and the access to control your own destiny.” For resources on reproductive justice, check out our last blog post here.
3. Ask your representatives why the Women’s Health Protection Act hasn’t been passed.
The Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) is a federal bill that was introduced in the Senate by Senator Blumenthal in 2019. If passed, the bill would “protect the right to access to abortion care by creating a safeguard against bans and medically unnecessary restrictions that apply to no similar medical care” (Actforwomen.org). Though the WHPA has over 200 co-sponsors in the Senate and 42 in the Senate, it has yet to be passed. At our Champions for Choice Happy Hour, Senator Blumenthal assured that “if we have a Democratic Senate, we will pass it.” Now is the time to urge your representatives and lawmakers to pass the WHPA. To learn more about how you can take action to support the WHPA, you can visit, https://www.actforwomen.org.
4. Make some noise!
Shout “Abortion is health care” from the rooftops! Talk to your family and friends that live in less progressive states about how they can join the fight to protect access to reproductive health care. Call and e-mail your representatives and demand that they fight against structural racism and inequality, and uphold reproductive freedom. As Ilyse put it best, “Make some noise….it’s what we do best!”
5. Don’t forget to continue the fight in your home state!
One attendee at our Champions for Choice Happy Hour asked the panelists about how to continue to be an advocate for reproductive rights in a progressive state, like Connecticut, where these rights are not actively under attack. As Attorney General Tong reminded the crowd, “there are attacks, big and small, microaggressions, against women, even here in Connecticut.” All three panelists warned that tragedy will strike the legislature when we think we are safe. Trump’s war on American women will affect every state. Do research on what local organizations need your help. Keep fighting to uphold access to reproductive health care at home, because your support is critical.