Roe v. Wade has protected the basic humanity of American women for forty-nine years. Its end is expected by June. How can we prepare for that dark day? In “Women who had Abortions before Roe v. Wade” New York Times columnists Ilana Panich-Linsman and Lauren Kelley say that we should first study what came before.
Some of us can consult our memories for that. I remember “necessary” marriages of high school kids who were far too young for the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood. (These ended in divorce.) There were “bad girls” shipped away somewhere to carry a child for nine months and then give it away like a stray kitten. (The “Roe” of Roe v. Wade tried to kill herself after they took her newborn without even letting her see it.) And then, of course, there were back alleys and coat hangers and caustic substances. I remember hearing about women throwing themselves down staircases trying to induce a miscarriage. (which doesn’t necessarily work) because really WTF are you supposed to do when you’re shackled to your body and they tell you that your life doesn’t matter?
But it doesn’t take a long memory to imagine how dangerous things might get for women of reproductive age. Just look at what is happening right now in religiously oriented hospitals. Katherine Stewart writes in the Washington Post of her own harrowing experience of having a miscarriage and nearly bleeding to death in the emergency room of a religious hospital. By the way, in some parts of the country, it isn’t only Catholic hospitals who practice medicine that way. Read “Why was a Catholic Hospital Willing to Gamble with My Life?”
That was depressing.
So, what can we do about it? Federal legislation in this area could save women’s lives. The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 (H.R.3755 and S.1975) is the latest incarnation of a bill first proposed in 2013 that would encode the protections of Roe into law. The House passed its bill by 218-211 in September 2021. The Senate bill is filibuster-bait—dead on arrival.
That was depressing.
But what do you need to find your way on a dark day? You need a beacon. A Blue Beacon. California. And for that we have the California Future of Abortion Council (CA FAB) which is a coalition of forty organizations that came together with the support of our Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Assembly Speaker, and State Senate President Pro Tempore to find a way to make our state a sanctuary for women.
The Guttmacher Institute report estimates that a total ban on abortion in other states could increase the number of women coming to California for help by 2,923 percent. We need to be ready to welcome the refugees. To that end, the CA FAB has generated 45 recommendations. Some of these include:
• Funding this work as if women’s lives matter;
• Developing infrastructure including telemedicine services, an internet landing page to provide accurate information, and training so that medical students learn about miscarriage management and abortion;
• Legal protections for doctors that provide services (even to those patients who come from Texas);
• Legal protections for patients from prosecution for abortion or pregnancy loss;
• Legislation to ensure that no Californian would be denied the right to access abortion care because of co-pays and other cost-sharing arrangements;
• And, for pity’s sakes, can we finally repeal the already-invalidated parental consent law in this state?
We can make a down payment on the CA FAB’s long “to-do” list by supporting SB245, the Abortion Accessibility Act which would eliminate cost barriers to reproductive health care.
State Senator Toni Atkins, President Pro Tempore, said “This is crunch time, but we will not be dragged into the past. California will keep leading for the future.”