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How the anti-abortion movement uses children to legitimize its message.

Kids link arms outside A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte to protest abortion access. 

Annie* was just 8 years old when her Southern Baptist parents started taking her to protest outside abortion clinics in Southern California. She marched in anti-abortion rallies, stood outside clinics with signs, and volunteered at crisis pregnancy centers.

Now, looking back at age 29, Annie wishes her parents hadn’t pushed her so hard to actively participate in a cause she didn’t quite understand at the time.

“I know, somewhere,” she told HuffPost, “there’s a picture of me holding a sign as a kid that read, ‘Would You Kill Me, Too?’”

“[Being forced to protest at such a young age] made me yell slogans for an issue I did not comprehend, and I deeply regret the hurt I probably caused as a child,” said Annie. “I remember women walking past me into a clinic, crying when they saw me.”

Annie’s experiences as a young child in the anti-abortion movement (if not her feelings about those experiences) are far from unique. Across the U.S., kids of all ages are woken up early on Saturday mornings and brought to local abortion clinics to protest with their parents. They pray, sing, pass out fliers, decorate sidewalks with chalk, or hold signs and posters.

While passing down religious and political beliefs is a natural part of parenting, and certainly not a bad thing, many patients, companions, clinic escorts and abortion providers that HuffPost spoke to question the role children are pushed to play in the anti-abortion movement. While anti-abortion leaders see children as an integral part of their protesting strategies, abortion rights advocates see young people being used as pawns to harass women making private health care decisions.

A 1996 protest in Chicago, Illinois during the Democratic National Convention.  

The anti-abortion movement has long used images of children in their marketing materials and posters. Protesters might carry posters featuring a baby or a young child’s face,  with words like, “Would you kill me, too?” overlaying the photo. Many volunteers at Crisis Pregnancy Centers pass out pamphlets and fliers outside abortion clinics that include photos of happy-looking families or smiling children.

A page from a Human Life (crisis pregnancy center and anti-abortion organization) pamphlet. 

But the role children play extends outside of appearing on posters.

Kids are also leading prayers or engaging in group prayers led by religious leaders, speaking anti-abortion rhetoric into megaphones or microphones, and passing out literature from crisis pregnancy centers.

There is perhaps no better manifestation of the movement’s use of children than last Saturday morning’s Youth For Life march in Charlotte, North Carolina, outside of A Preferred Women’s Health Center (APWHC), one of the biggest abortion providers in the south.

Love Life Charlotte, a conglomeration of churches in the Charlotte area who have come together to protest abortion access, was granted a parade permit by the city for Saturday morning for their Youth For Life march. According to Love Life Charlotte, about 40 churches bused in children of all ages to march outside the clinic.

Justin Reeder, the founder of Love Life Charlotte, told HuffPost that the event was an opportunity for youth members to “see how being pro-life is not just being against abortion but also offering love and life to those who feel abortion is their only option.”

“As our nation continues to become more pro-life (Editor’s note: a recent Gallup poll showed that 49 percent of Americans currently identify as “pro-choice” while 46 percent identify as “pro-life”) it’s important for young people to see how much love and life the Church can bring to those who feel abortion is their only option,” Reeder said. “The youth are not engaging people, but rather praying that God ushers in a culture of love and life to a place where mothers feel so alone and afraid.”

The youth march drew close to 1,000 participants on Saturday, according to Love Life Charlotte. The patients and patient companions that HuffPost heard from said that the sheer number of people marching outside the clinic coupled with the noise that they were making ensured an overwhelming and distressing experience for anyone moving in and out of APWHC. Two volunteer clinic escorts were so upset by the number of children participating in the demonstration that they left in tears.

Though Reeder said that the aim of the march was not to “engage” with the clinic’s patients, the protest very much affected the appointments of APWHC’S  patients. Although the participants never touched any of the patients, they did address them, often directly.

At one point, a 17-year-old member of Love Life Charlotte wept into a microphone, begging women who she called “Mom,” not to murder their babies. A small group of kids performed live music into microphones so that their songs could be heard from inside the clinic.

A Preferred Women’s Health Center is located at the bottom of Latrobe Drive, home to various local businesses on a wide two-lane road. Because Love Life Charlotte had been granted a parade permit, they were able to block off one of those lanes, thus disrupting the usual flow of traffic.

Members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department were present to direct traffic and make sure members of all parties ― Love Life Charlotte, other anti-abortion groups, and Pro Choice Charlotte counter-protesters ― were abiding by all of the rules.

Calla Hales, clinic administrator at APWHC, has been skeptical of the police presence at these protests for a long time ― especially after an incident this summer in which members of CMPD were seen entertaining young kids from Love Life Charlotte while their parents prayed and protested outside APWHC.

(HuffPost reached out to CMPD for comment about this incident and did not hear back in time for publication.)

View image on Twitter

On Saturday morning, in preparation for the youth march, Hales created confidential questionnaires for patients to fill out once they’d made their way into the clinic. Just entering the clinic on Saturday meant passing not just the parade of children praying and singing at them, but also the usual gamut of aggressive protesters, and  the three mobile crisis pregnancy centers and their nurses who often try to divert traffic away from the clinic.

Of the 22 patients or patient companions who filled out the questionnaires, which were obtained by HuffPost, 12 of them said that the number of people on the street made them consider leaving their already-hard-to-get appointments.

One woman wrote, “I was scared to death of all those protesters.” Another person, who was a patient’s companion, commented, “I should not have to watch my friend be shamed and emotionally attacked for one of the hardest personal choices she has ever made.”

“They yelled into my car and embarrassed and upset my friend,” a second patient companion wrote on their feedback form. “Music ridiculously loud, able to hear inside the clinic. Very disturbing.”

And one woman, who had brought her daughter to the clinic, complained in her feedback form that on her way down Latrobe Drive to get to the clinic, she had been told by anti-abortion protesters to park “way way away from where I was supposed to be ― I am also handicapped.”

Children protest in the snow outside of Planned Parenthood’s Portland, Maine clinic last Februrary.  

While Love Life Charlotte’s youth march was an extreme example of child-based anti-abortion demonstrating, children all over the country are party to anti-abortion protests at the behest of their parents and their parents’ religious groups. According to patients and clinic staffers that spoke to HuffPost, this participation sometimes crosses the line from simply attending a protest to engaging in harassment.

One volunteer clinic escort based in Atlanta, Karen, told HuffPost that at the clinic she volunteers at, she’s seen an increase in this kind of harassment since the 2016 election.

“Since the election, we have a group from Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) and they often bring at least one little girl to participate in holding giant signs and speaking into the wireless-amplified megaphone,” Karen said. “The little girl will read from the Bible or from an AHA script. It’s clear [these girls] have no real understanding of what they are reading.”

Karen recalled an incident in which one of these young girls looked at her and called her “evil.”

“With direct eye-contact she asked me, ‘Why are you doing this? Why do you want to make money off of murdering babies? Do you know you are evil? Do you know you will burn in hell?’” Karen told HuffPost. “It’s chilling to see young children used this way … I’ve seen babies being carried as props, and toddlers tagging along as props with the AHA group.”

In Michigan at Northland Family Planning, one anti-abortion protester, Elvis Kesto, regularly brings his son, a toddler, to stand outside and protest with a sign that says, “Babies Are Murdered Here.” Kesto regularly posts photos of this onto his Facebook page.

Jessica James, a clinic escort at Northland Family Planning, argues that forcing children to engage in the abortion debate outside clinics is akin to “religious and emotional abuse.”

“My issue is with the long-term effects of what I consider to be religious and emotional abuse on a child that doesn’t have a choice in the matter,” Gird, who is training to be a social worker, told HuffPost.

At the Planned Parenthood in Columbus, Ohio, two young girls regularly use chalk to write messages on the sidewalk by the clinic.

Steven Meyers, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago, told HuffPost children that young “have limited perspective taking abilities, so they will have difficulty understanding what others experience.”

“Their emerging cognitive abilities mean that they don’t understand the complexity of issues and are more likely to perceive events in black-and-white terms,” he said. “Their stage in moral development involves mainly pleasing their parents and avoiding punishment rather than having the ability at this point to grapple with abstract or complicated decisions.”

In other words, anti-abortion protesters’ kids will follow the lead of their parents, regardless of the emotional consequences it will have on patients, because of their innate want to do right by their mother and father.

Of course, parents across the political spectrum encourage their kids to engage in political discourse. There were many children at the Women’s March on Washington the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and many of their photos and posters went viral.

Meyers sees a clear difference between the Women’s March ― or any other peaceful march in a neutral space ― and anti-abortion protests, which often involve targeting individuals outside of clinics.

“The main difference between [the Women’s March and anti-abortion protests] is the amount of conflict and negative emotion that children are exposed to at these events,” he said. “Peaceful and orderly marches have the advantage of allowing parents to share their values with their children in ways that are more likely to be constructive teaching experiences. High conflict demonstrations can become more volatile and potentially distressing to young children.”

Annie, whose political views have changed since she held signs outside her area abortion clinic, agrees with this assessment.

“I remember first hearing about the concept of abortion when I was 6, I believe, when Bill Clinton got elected,” Annie told HuffPost. “My parents said it was a crime, for he wanted to kill babies.”

She also said that she’s had a hard time engaging in political demonstrations, because it brings back uncomfortable memories.

“I tried to attend an anti-Trump [protest] recently, and almost had a panic attack at the yelling, because it reminded me of the hurt I probably caused as a kid,” she said. “Whenever I see kids in any sort of political protest now, I just want to hug them and hide them away, even if I fundamentally agree with the idea they’re protesting.”

By 11am on Saturday, after the Youth For Life rally and over an hour of marching and praying in the humid North Carolina end-of-summer heat, two young girls from Love Life Charlotte fainted.

A young member of Love Life Charlotte tries to stand up after suffering dehydration and heat exhaustion on Saturday.

The two young teenagers were too faint to stand up. They were both ultimately fine, but the rest of Love Life Charlotte, including Reeder, carried on up the hill to finish their parade, while only a handful of youths and a couple of adults waited with the girls.

As all of this was happening, a member of another anti-choice group, Cities4Life, yelled prayers into a microphone, and begged women to come out of the clinic.

“Abortion is child abuse,” he said.

Women will soon be able to book abortions directly, province to cover abortion pill

Nova Scotia women will soon be able to get an abortion without a doctor's referral.

Nova Scotia women will soon be able to get an abortion without a doctor’s referral. (Shutterstock)

Nova Scotia will soon no longer be the only province in Canada where women must get a referral from a doctor before booking an abortion.

The province announced Friday that women will be able to book a surgical abortion directly through the termination of pregnancy unit at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority will also be setting up a phone line so women can call and make appointments. The new measures are expected to take effect in the next few months. The actual phone number hasn’t been decided on yet.

“We believe that women should have control over their reproductive health and that’s why we’ve made that decision,” Kelly Regan, the minister responsible for status of women, told reporters at Province House.

Advocates have said Nova Scotia has some of the highest barriers in Canada to getting an abortion; women have been required to get a doctor’s referral for a surgical abortion, there are lengthy wait times for the time-sensitive procedure and no provincial coverage for medical abortions using pills.

Abortion pill to become free

As part of Friday’s announcement, the province said it will make the abortion pill Mifegymiso available for free to all Nova Scotia women looking to terminate an early pregnancy, up to 49 days.

Beginning in November, women with a valid health card and prescription will be able to get the drug at pharmacies.

“If they already have a health benefits plan we would ask them to use that and then any remainder the province will cover,” Regan said. “If they don’t have a health plan, we will cover that cost.”

The province expects the measure to cost up to $200,000 per year.


Mifegymiso is a drug treatment for women to end pregnancies. (CBC)

To receive the abortion pill, women must get a prescription and have an ultrasound performed to rule out health risks and confirm how far along they are in the pregnancy.

Women seeking the pill will be given “same-day and urgent access” to ultrasound equipment in the diagnostic imaging department of the QEII, according to Kim Munroe, the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s director of ambulatory care.

The province said it’s working on ensuring the same standard is in place outside metro Halifax.

On its own, the pill would cost about $350.

In August, Health Minister Randy Delorey said the practice of requiring a referral for an abortion was likely “historical practice,” not law.

Not all family doctors and pharmacists in Nova Scotia have been trained to prescribe Mifegymiso. The province said that as of Sept. 16, 15 physicians and 55 pharmacists in Nova Scotia had take the online course for prescribing the pill.



Abortion protesters at the A Preferred Women's Health Center of Charlotte go too far, and the city lets them.

Controversial reproductive health bill awaits Governor Brown’s signature
KMTR – Springfield, OR

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown held a signing ceremony Monday to commemorate a new law making abortion free for everyone in the state, including illegal immigrants.

The event was attended by members of the state legislature and pro-choice advocates, who regularly broke into rousing cheers and applause to celebrate the enactment of the Reproductive Health Equity Act.

“To lead productive and thriving lives, Oregonians must have the ability to control their bodies and make informed decisions about their health care,” Ms. Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement. “I am proud to sign legislation that expands access to basic reproductive health services for all Oregonians regardless of where they live, where they come from, or how they identify as a person.”

Jonathan Lockwood, a spokesman for the Oregon Senate Republicans, said celebrating abortion may be macabre, but it’s not surprising given that Ms. Brown was an abortion rights lobbyist before entering public life.

“Gov. Brown celebrating abortion and averting moderation is nothing new,” Mr. Lockwood said.

Ms. Brown officially signed HB 3391 on Aug. 15. The $10.2 million legislation allocates $500,000 to pay for abortions for women who would otherwise be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program, if it weren’t for their immigration status.

State Rep. Jeff Barker, a Democrat and chief sponsor of the legislation, said the law “ensures Oregonians can use these health care services when they need them, regardless of their economic status, their gender identity or their citizen status.”

“Oregon has a long history of defending reproductive freedom,” Mr. Barker said, “but rights don’t matter if you can’t afford access to them.”

He also read a postcard that he said was from his daughter thanking him for standing up for women’s reproductive health.

“It says, ‘Dad, thanks for being a sponsor of HB 3391. As your daughter, it means a lot to me that you take women’s health care so seriously,’” Mr. Barker read, drawing appreciative noises from the audience. “‘I love you. Thanks. Your daughter, Heather.’”

The first-of-its-kind law went into effect immediately after it was signed and requires Oregon insurers to provide 100 percent of the cost of abortions without co-pays or deductibles.

Qualifying state residents covered by Providence Health Care, a nonprofit Catholic insurance company that does not provide abortions, will be reimbursed for the procedure by the state.

Linda Roman, director of health policy and government relations of Oregon Latino Health Coalition, said the abortion law is a “validation of humanity in every Oregonian.”

“At the heart of the Reproductive Health Equity Act was always the deep belief that no one should be denied health care just because they are low income, people of color, transgender or undocumented,” Ms. Roman said at the signing ceremony.


Dude said it was a joke after I shared my abortion advocacy job while online dating. I wasn’t amused.

Last week, online dating giant OKCupid announced a partnership with Planned Parenthood. Site users can choose to answer a question about the health-care organization and earn an #IStandwithPP badge for their dating profiles. OKCupid says that about 200,000 people have now identified themselves as Planned Parenthood supporters.

This move, which allows me to see if someone disagrees with efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, couldn’t come at a better time for me. Last week, I had a run-in with the shadiest of online dating characters: the secretly anti-choice guy. We met on OKCupid and matched on a number of variables. We both have young kids; we both like travel and the outdoors.

I thought he was cute, so I suggested moving off the site to text, adding a humorous pre-admonishment not to send dick pics. I didn’t realize this would be nearly prophetic.

He texted, “What type of work do you do?” I replied, “abortion rights.”

I work in abortion rights advocacy in North Carolina. No lie, it’s a sweet gig and I’m super proud of it. I’ve worked for more than a decade for feminist causes, and it’s such a personal victory to say my career is specifically in abortion access.

But sure enough, my would-be-dreamboat showed me his—metaphorical—dick.

“Ugh your [sic] a baby killer.”

In that moment, I was the physical manifestation of the “typing” ellipses that tell you when someone begins typing but hasn’t hit send. I sat agog, staring at the hateful words.

Working in abortion advocacy means knowing some people find your work controversial. When I go to a clinic or step into the halls of my state’s legislature, I steel myself for the attacks. I harden myself against those who would take away the rights of others who choose abortion.

But when I’m online dating, I’m a bit softer. I have an expectation that the guys trying to hook up with me—the guys who had to see a picture of me holding a pro-abortion sign to reach my profile—will treat me with a modicum of respect.

While I sat in shock, another text followed.

“Hahah jkjk I believe it’s choice”

And another.

“I was looking for a fire up on your end.”

Oh, buddy. You have no idea what kind of fire you just set.

There is a rich tradition of men being offensive and then gaslighting those who don’t laugh, accusing them of not being able to take a joke. It felt like I was being set up to fail, no matter how I replied. Since the forum was online dating—in theory, a lighthearted space—I could feel my own internalized pressure to laugh it off and reassure this man that he was still in my good graces.

It was frightening to respond with my own truth.

“I mean, it’s not a great joke,” I wrote back after some consideration. “It’s my life’s work, you know?”

Long pause from my suitorduring which I experienced the self-doubt and adrenaline dump that confrontation brings.

Clearly, this should have been it. I should have written off the guy and moved on to other prospects. But because I am a communicator, a consensus seeker, and a glutton for punishment (and maybe because I just wanted to win, dang it), the conversation continued. If I were in any other career, I argued, it’d be offensive for him to make a joke at my expense.

“I’m not sure when it was made clear to me you were passionate about … oh well as I said I didn’t mean to offend you,” he wrote.

I wished him best of luck in his endeavors and closed the chat window.

As a woman, my body is a target. As a public-facing abortion rights activist, my work can be in the crosshairs. I receive hateful, even threatening Facebook messages almost weekly. Some even question my parenting abilities. I’ve been called a “baby killer” more times than I could ever count. I have no expectation that abortion rights is a 40-hour-a-week endeavor. But when it creeps into my dating life, I’m knocked off kilter.

A few years ago, newly divorced and fresh to the world of dating, I went out with a guy who didn’t know about my work before we sat down for drinks. When talk turned to careers, he asked me, “Don’t you think some people use abortion as birth control?” To my shame, I quickly changed the subject; I was more afraid of losing his attention than I was passionate about standing up for my values.

This time was different. Although I didn’t respond with anger and outrage, at least I pushed back. I had to wonder: How would have this been different if I were in a professional context?

Had I been on a street with a protest sign, I would have spoken with authority, telling him how his words were incorrect, and how they hurt women. If I were on the record with a TV station or a newspaper I would have quoted statistics or given a powerful quote.

But since I was in the odd interstitial space of online dating, where we are all concurrently strangers and also potential intimate partners, I didn’t have a snappy clapback waiting in the wings.

Two years ago when I built my first-ever online dating profile, I listed my profession as “nonprofit communications” and left my profile pictures apolitical. Since that time, I’ve had some good dates—great dates even—where I revealed my work, and I’m lucky that I seldom encountered negative responses.

That luck is probably more a statement about my liberal bubble. Stigma against abortion—and against those working in abortion advocacy—is very real and documented. Many of us don’t tell our potential dates what we do—at least not at first—because you don’t know what response we’ll get. People who work in abortion, like me, often cluster together to avoid the violence, harassment, and pain involved in dealing with people who accuse you of murder.

Unfortunately in online dating, there is no true safe space and no way to really cluster with like-minded individuals. An online badge like #IStandWithPP could even be a method creepy anti-choicers use to gain access to abortion advocates like me.

If I sound paranoid, I’m not. A local abortion provider recently revealed that she’d been raped by an online dating match, who talked about her work while assaulting her.

I’ve realized that I concealed the true nature of my work not out of personal privacy, but because I was afraid of rejection based on it. Realizing the absurdity of working specifically in abortion communications while being shadowy on OKCupid, I switched to a more “out loud” dating profile. My number of responses immediately went down, but the quality went up.

“I love the work you do! Get it!” wrote one anonymous dude a few weeks ago.

I just checked, and my gaslighting chat companion doesn’t have the #IStandWithPP flare on his profile. Then again, neither did I until a few days ago when I read about the promotion. It might be a helpful sign in the uncertain universe of online romance, but like any bumper sticker, yard sign, or T-shirt, it can’t be the only sign of a paramour’s convictions.

I join OKCupid in standing with Planned Parenthood, but I also stand with every woman who has been gaslighted in an interaction with a man—especially by a stranger on a dating site.

OKCupid, could you make a badge for that? It might save us all some hassle.


The Graham-Cassidy bill has all the problems of its predecessors — and some new ones.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood at a rally in Los Angeles on June 21, 2017.
 MARK RALSTON / Getty Images

Republicans’ latest effort to repeal Obamacare may look a little different from previous attempts — sponsors argue, for instance, that the plan lets states keep Obamacare if they want to. But when it comes to reproductive health care, the bill sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is a lot like previous repeal bills, except in areas where it’s much harsher.

Like previous bills, Graham-Cassidy imposes new restrictions that would make it harder for people to get insurance coverage for abortion, and for low-income patients to visit Planned Parenthood. Also like the other bills, it threatens Medicaid coverage and makes it easier for states to get rid of maternity care requirements.

A new element in this bill is that its program of block grants would create new ways for the federal government to restrict abortion coverage. Republican-led state legislatures have been working to curtail abortion access and pull funds away from Planned Parenthood for years now; Graham-Cassidy would accomplish both goals on a national scale.

Graham-Cassidy includes a lot of familiar abortion restrictions

The bill includes a provision, similar to those in previous repeal bills, that would effectively bar the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for care at Planned Parenthood clinics. This would mean low-income patients who rely on Medicaid wouldn’t be able to get care at Planned Parenthood. Backers of such provisions have often claimed that community health centers would be able to fill in the gaps left by Planned Parenthood, but many reproductive health experts say this is unrealistic, since those centers would have to double or even triple the number of patients they saw for certain services. In order to replace Planned Parenthood’s contraceptive services, one of the many services they offer, health centers would have to see 2 million extra patients nationwide, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

What’s more, Planned Parenthood is a trusted and familiar provider for many patients, who may not necessarily know anything about their local community health center. As Dan Ramos, a state representative from Ohio, told the New York Times last year, “If someone doesn’t know where to turn, they know that Planned Parenthood provides a service that they might need.”

Like its forebears, Graham-Cassidy also includes restrictions on abortion coverage. Patients who got a tax credit to buy insurance on the individual market wouldn’t be able to use it to purchase insurance with abortion coverage, and small businesses that received a tax credit for providing insurance to their employees wouldn’t be able to offer plans covering abortion. Over time, this would mean fewer people would be able to buy individual plans that covered abortion, and so fewer insurers would offer them. Patients who can’t get insurance coverage for abortion are sometimes forced to forgo food or other necessities to pay for the procedure and may try to self-induce an abortion, which can be dangerous.

Graham-Cassidy would let states cut requirements that insurers cover essential health benefits, meaning insurance companies could stop offering maternal care or prescription drug benefits. Thirteen million women could lose access to maternal care.

Finally, the bill would end the Medicaid expansion, potentially depriving millions of low-income Americans of coverage. (The Congressional Budget Office announced on Monday that it would release a “preliminary” analysis of the bill early next week, but that won’t include an estimate of how many would lose coverage.) One in five women of reproductive age get their health insurance through Medicaid, and cuts to the program would put essential reproductive health services out of reach of many low-income Americans, especially black and Latino patients. More than half of all births and three-quarters of publicly funded family planning services are currently covered by Medicaid.

The bill also adds a new way for the federal government to restrict abortion at the state level

The new concerns for reproductive rights in Graham-Cassidy largely stem from its block grant program. As Vox’s Sarah Kliff explains, the bill would repeal Obamacare’s individual tax credits and the Medicaid expansion in 2020, and replace them with grants to the states. Those grants could then be spent in a variety of ways — on high-risk pools, for instance, or on programs “to help individuals purchase health benefits coverage.” But, crucially, none of the money from the grants could be spent on insurance coverage for abortion.

Many states already have restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion. But Graham-Cassidy would require all states to ban abortion coverage in any program that gets federal block grant money. If it took money to offer subsidies for individual coverage or otherwise bolster the individual market, then it would have to restrict abortion coverage on that market. If it used federal funds to offer subsidies to employers, the ban on abortion coverage would affect the employer market too.

Essentially, the federal government would have the states over a barrel — if they wanted money to help keep their residents covered, they’d have to sacrifice abortion coverage to get it.

Because there’s no telling yet exactly what states would do with the block grants, or how the law would be interpreted, it’s not clear what the impact of the abortion restrictions would be. But the block grant program would certainly offer the federal government a new and powerful tool to restrict abortion coverage, including in states that have few restrictions in place now.

It’s also worth noting that spending for the bill would expire in 2026, meaning that unless Congress acted to replace the block grant money somehow, anybody who relied on that money for any reproductive health care — or, indeed, any health care at all — would be out of luck.

Moderates in the Senate have expressed reservations over past repeal bills that would have left millions of low-income Americans uninsured. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have opposed stripping funding from Planned Parenthood — and have votedagainst every repeal bill so far. As Vox’s Dylan Scott reports, the bill still needs a CBO score and the approval of the Senate parliamentarian before it can come to a vote, and in order to pass it, the bill’s sponsors can only afford to lose two Republican votes.

Graham-Cassidy would leave millions without coverage and severely curtail reproductive health coverage nationwide. It remains to be seen if that’s enough to kill it.

Correction: This article originally stated that the Graham-Cassidy bill would require states that got federal block grant money for their Medicaid programs to stop using state Medicaid funds to cover abortion. The bill would not do this.


As the founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, it’s the right thing to do.

As soon as I heard Hurricane Harvey was coming to wreak havoc on Texas, I decided to offer free abortion care at Texas Whole Woman’s Health clinics to women affected by the storm. As independent abortion care providers rooted in the communities we serve, we stand up for the people who need us most. We did it after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, we did it for Hurricane Rita in September 2005, and we did it for Hurricane Ike in September 2008. Until the end of September, we’ll be doing it again for those affected by Harvey. This is who we are, and this is what we do.

In trying times like these, I remember something one of my fellow reproductive rights warriors told me years ago. We were tangled in a Supreme Court case to fight Texas’ TRAP law House Bill 2, which passed in 2013. HB2 required that any clinic offering abortion services be classified as an “ambulatory surgical center” and any doctor performing an abortion have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 minutes of the clinic. As founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, those years were a difficult blur (although our eventual triumph made every second worth it). HB2 was unnecessary—abortion, being 14 times safer than childbirth, is very safe—and its devastating passage forced us to close our clinics in Austin and Beaumont. (Our Austin clinic has since reopened).

As we fought that exhausting battle, a colleague said to me, “It is always the right time to do the next right thing.” I carry that with me always, especially in these times. Right now, as abortion rights are threatened throughout the country, offering no-cost abortion care to women affected by Hurricane Harvey is the right thing to do.

Natural disasters like hurricanes can compromise abortion access in many ways.

At Whole Woman’s Health, our values are based in the moral and ethical human rights work of supporting and caring for people. To us, quality abortion care is health care. But it is also an integral part of economic justice, racial justice, and true reproductive justice for all. Our care model is rooted in the belief that access to quality abortion care is not only vital to women’s autonomy and self-determination, it is essential to our ability to function in society with true equality.

After devastation from a storm like Harvey, everything changes. People often lose their homes, their cars, and their jobs. People may have to evacuate to an area without accessible abortion care. Work schedules are cut, school is canceled, and people worry about lost pets. Daycares are closed. Local health care clinics are, too. There are countless ways a natural disaster can make it difficult to find a health center that offers abortions or make it impossible to pay for one. That’s why we’re here to help.

Whole Woman’s Health can’t fix everything after storms like Harvey, but we sure can offer our expertise and compassion to ease the financial, logistical, and emotional burden of getting an abortion after a natural disaster. Our highly-trained team is ready to offer cost-free abortions throughout the month of September at our San Antonio, Austin, McAllen, and Fort Worth clinics. This is who we are. We take care of each other.

Responses to our providing free abortions to those affected by Harvey have, unsurprisingly, been mixed.

Our efforts have drawn the attention of right-wing zealots. They have responded to our no-cost abortion care relief efforts with great vitriol. They’ve trolled us by asking whether anyone has been raped by the hurricane. They’ve targeted me personally in memes with my photo, saying simply awful things like, “There is a place in hell for you, Amy.” It appears our kindness to people in need makes them hostile. Go figure.

Delightfully, we have also had a great outpouring of support online, as well as generous donations to our Stigma Relief Fund, which is how we’re able to provide these services for free. We currently have 74 patients who have had care or are booked for care using this program. To date we have raised $15,000 for this effort, but the total cost of care for these patients will come to $40,000. If you’d like to donate, you can do so here. These contributions will serve the women who need them the most.

Let me tell you about a woman who is coming to one of our clinics this week after her life was devastated by the hurricane. She will have to take three overnight buses to access the Whole Woman’s Health closest to her, which will get her to town at 6:00 in the morning. Then she needs to take an Uber or a Lyft to a coffee shop or restaurant that is open early to wait for our clinic to open. And this is just for her “consult visit,” where she has to have a state-mandated sonogram and a script meant to intimidate her read to her by the physician. After that, she’ll have to spend the night away from home, unable to get her abortion until 24 hours after her sonogram, because of Texas’ cruel 24-hour delay law.

After she finally has her abortion with us, she’ll repeat the ride-sharing and bus routine back to her home. Through generous donations to our Stigma Relief Fund, we’ll be able to pay for all of this. Even when it seemed we had everything in place, she called late yesterday and said she still needed to find child care for those two days away from her children. We hope to help her with that, too. This is all to get a five-minute, much-needed, first-trimester abortion she simply cannot afford. This is her right. It should be, no matter where she lives or her ability to pay.

It is for her and for the many people like her that we at Whole Woman’s Health do the work that we do. In these times in our country, in light of the devastation on so many levels, doing this one small thing is our honor. Along with all my staff and physicians at Whole Woman’s Health, I’m grateful to help Texans rebuild their lives with dignity.