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Kristyn Ingram and her husband Ross, with their four children.  COURTESY/KRISTYN INGRAM

On the day before her abortion, Kristyn Ingram and her husband flipped through books of baby names. They chose one if it was a girl, and another for a boy.

The next morning — December 8, 2006 — Ingram, then a fourth-year medical student in San Antonio and 17 weeks pregnant, received the abortion pill cytotec to induce labor at her local hospital. She got an epidural. After 12 hours she delivered a girl, dead. They named her Annabelle Cartwright Ingram.

Ingram and her husband, Ross, wanted a baby. But a screening when she was 16 weeks pregnant found Potter syndrome, a rare condition in which fetal kidney failure prevents the lungs from developing. Knowing that the chance of survival was extremely low, the Ingrams decided to terminate the pregnancy.

“We were completely devastated,” said Ingram, who slept with Annabelle’s hospital blanket the week after. The couple wears matching rings with blue topaz — Annabelle’s birthstone. “But the idea of bringing a baby into the world to suffocate and only know pain was unacceptable.”

Ingram’s abortion was covered by her health insurance, costing her between $200 and $400 out of pocket, she told the Observer. But under a bill up for consideration in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee Saturday, Ingram said she would have been on the hook for the full cost — close to $10,000 for the second-trimester procedure and hospital stay. It’s a price tag that would have been “completely out of the realm of possibility” as a medical student paying for school, she said.

Senate Bill 8 would ban private insurance plans in Texas from covering abortion, without any exception for cases of fetal anomaly, like Ingram’s. If a person wants abortion coverage, the proposal says it “does not prevent” him or her from buying supplemental coverage outside of a qualified health plan. But the bill does not require that such plans exist. One of three anti-abortion measures on Governor Greg Abbott’s special session agenda, SB 8 does include an exception for “medical emergencies.” But under Texas law, medical emergencies are defined as a “life-threatening physical condition” that “places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.” Critics say the definition is so narrow that it could force someone facing a high-risk pregnancy to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket — or put off an abortion until their life is in danger.

“This has a direct impact on access to health care in tragic circumstances …  and to add insult to injury, the Texas Legislature is going to say, ‘Oh by the way, your insurance company won’t cover this safe thing that your doctor recommends,’” said Blake Rocap, legal counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. “They would have to wait until they’re basically actively miscarrying, and then it’s super dangerous — we’re talking about hospitalization; it’s much more expensive for the insurance plan, and much more dangerous for the mother to wait that long.”

Consideration of SB 8, authored by Senator Brendan Creighton, R-The Woodlands, with a House companion from Representative John Smithee, R-Amarillo, comes the day after the Senate Health and Human Services committee sent two anti-abortion bills to the full Senate for approval. On Thursday, reproductive-rights attorneys filed a lawsuit against Texas’ anti-abortion law passed during the regular session.

The measure to ban abortion coverage in private plans is a longtime favorite of anti-abortion advocates, who say they shouldn’t have to pay into health coverage that includes a procedure they vehemently oppose. A similar bill passed the Senate in the regular session, and passed out of committee in the House.“This is long overdue,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.

But terminating a pregnancy is by nature unplanned. Even if supplemental abortion coverage were available, people would be unlikely to buy it, the bill’s critics say. “Most people don’t go into a pregnancy thinking something bad will happen and they’ll need to terminate — especially a planned pregnancy,” Ingram said. “I would never have bought a supplemental abortion insurance policy because I’d never have thought I’d need it.”

Kristyn Ingram and her husband Ross, with their four children.  COURTESY KRISTYN INGRAM

Ingram, who turns 36 this month, has four healthy kids now, who “all know they had an older sister.” Each year on Annabelle’s birthday, the family decorates their Christmas tree with an angel ornament.

Ingram said she’s lucky to have had the resources and support she did during her abortion and that her medical background made a big difference. “I have no guilt whatsoever about my termination because I saw the ultrasound, I knew what it meant, I knew the outcome,” she said.

But had SB 8 been in place 11 years ago, she would have been in trouble.

“In medicine, we know all kinds of things can go wrong,” Ingram said. “But I had the innocence of a first pregnancy where you assume everything will go right and you’ll take home a baby at the end.”


A protest in India against child sex abuseImage copyrightAFP
Image captionCampaigners say parents are generally reluctant to admit child sexual abuse and incest is almost always hushed up

India’s Supreme Court has ordered doctors to examine a pregnant 10-year-old rape victim whose parents want permission for her to abort her baby.

The child is reported to be 26 weeks pregnant and doctors say her body is not developed enough to carry a baby.

Indian law does not allow terminations after 20 weeks unless doctors confirm the mother’s life is in danger.

The girl alleges she was raped several times in the past seven months by her uncle, who has been arrested.

Her pregnancy was only recently discovered when her parents took her to hospital after she complained of stomach pain.

She will be examined on Wednesday by Chandigarh’s Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research. Its doctors will advise the Supreme Court on how much risk to her life she faces by either carrying the baby to term or having an abortion.

Last week, a district court in the northern city of Chandigarh in Punjab turned down her parents’ petition to allow the child to abort.

The tough law against abortion was introduced in 1971 to prevent illegal and unsafe abortions and curb maternal mortality, and the restrictions remain an important weapon in India’s fight against a skewed gender ratio which has resulted from a deep-seated cultural preference for sons. Millions of female foetuses have been aborted over the years by pregnant women after undergoing foetal gender testing.

But in recent years, Indian courts have been inundated with petitions, many from child rape survivors, wanting to terminate pregnancies after 20 weeks, the BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi says.

In most such cases, the pregnancy is not even discovered until after the 20-week period is over because the children are themselves unaware of their condition, our correspondent adds.

In May, a court in Haryana state asked medical experts to take a call on a similar plea and a panel of doctors decided to carry out the termination.

In the latest case, doctors who have already examined the girl found her pelvic bones had not fully developed because of her age and said the life of both mother and baby were at “very serious risk”, lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava says in his petition.

“Medical experts have categorically opined that if the 10-year-old is forced to give birth, either through normal delivery or even through caesarean-section, it may be fatal to the life of the rape survivor as well as to her child,” the petition says.

In his public interest petition, he has also asked the Supreme Court to issue guidelines to deal with such cases in future, by ordering the authorities to set up teams of experts in every district to take quick decisions in cases involving child rape survivors.

Indian media reports say a psychiatrist, who was part of the team of doctors who met the girl, has said that “she doesn’t understand that she is pregnant or the implications of being pregnant”.

The girl belongs to an extremely poor family, her father is a government employee and mother works as a domestic help.

Medical experts say girls can start menstruating and ovulating at nine, but their bodies are not mature enough for pregnancy at that age.

India is home to the largest number of sexually abused children globally, with some campaigners saying it has reached epidemic proportions. But there’s a general reluctance to talk about the problem and it’s rarely discussed in public.

Studies have shown that in large numbers of cases the abusers are known to the children and include care-givers like parents, relatives and teachers.

India is home to 400 million childrenImage copyrightAFP

The scale of abuse in India

  • A child under 16 is raped every 155 minutes, a child under 10 every 13 hours
  • More than 10,000 children were raped in 2015
  • 240 million women living in India were married before they turned 18
  • 53.22% of children who participated in a government study reported some form of sexual abuse
  • 50% of abusers are known to the child or are “persons in trust and care-givers”


Attendees wait outside the King County Council Chambers at the Board of Health hearing on July 20. Photo by Sara Bernard

A new rule from the King County Board of Health reignites the abortion debate.

So many people showed up at the King County Board of Health meeting Thursday that they couldn’t fit inside the council chambers—not even close. They lined the walls and spilled into the hallway, pacing and murmuring, clutching their comment-card numbers, and waiting in a long, messy line to squeeze in. Among them: half a dozen nuns in royal-blue habits, at least two priests, a handful of women wearing pink Planned Parenthood and purple NARAL Pro-Choice Washington T-shirts, and dozens of people sporting green buttons with the words, “I Support Pregnancy Centers.” Inside the chambers, there were several balloons that read, “Love Them Both. Choose Life.”

This was the third public meeting the Board of Health held in the past few months on a new rule to require limited service pregnancy centers (LSPCs) to post a notice onsite—in large font and in ten languages—that reads, “This facility is not a health care facility.” It also mandates that the centers include the same language in their advertising. Centers that don’t comply can be subject to a fine of up to $100 a day.

There are approximately eight such facilities currently operating in King County and 60 across the state. Also known as “crisis pregnancy centers,” or, if you ask NARAL, “fake clinics,” they offer advice, counseling, pregnancy tests, and referrals to pregnant women free of charge, but do not offer other medical care (except sometimes ultrasounds). They are usually run by pro-life, faith-based groups that discourage abortion and contraception, and, according to the County, are unregulated, “often staffed by volunteers and employees who lack medical training or licensure.”

Supporters of these facilities claim they were given almost no warning and no chance to weigh in on a rule that affects them. “Our first formal notification was on July 14th, which is a Friday, and the following Monday, all written testimony had to be in,” says Kim Triller, executive director of Care Net of Puget Sound, the local branch of a Christian nonprofit organization that supports these pregnancy centers.

The rule passed Thursday nearly unanimously. The bulk of the board members’ discussion involved quibbling over the required font size.

“I believe fundamentally that women who are pregnant deserve complete, accurate, and timely information about their health care and their options,” said King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, the board’s chair. “I don’t think there’s any place for misleading folks when they’re in that situation.” Posting a sign like this “has really nothing to do with what goes on within the LSPCs and their ability to do what they do,” he added. “It has everything to do with having folks walking in the door knowing what they’re walking into.”

Seattle City Councilmember M. Lorena González, also a member of the county board of health, called the rule “common sense transparency,” saying, “We heard a lot during public testimony about choice, and how this regulation inhibits choice somehow. I actually think the opposite is true.”

Only King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert dissented. “For me … the crux of the difference [is] whether or not you offer abortions,” Lambert says. “Maybe the notice signs should say, ‘Notice, beware, abortions are not recommended here,’ because that’s really what we’re getting at.” In an interview after the meeting, Lambert added, “I believe everybody should have a choice. What this proves is, ‘You can have a choice, as long as it’s the choice I want you to have.’”

NARAL, Legal Voice, and other opponents of the pregnancy centers say that they’re run by anti-choice advocates who attempt to deceive vulnerable women—often low-income women without health insurance—into believing they’re receiving medical advice or care, when instead they’re being fed false information. Volunteers and legal interns from NARAL and Legal Voice report that when they visited these clinics, they were told that abortion can cause infertility, sterility, breast cancer, and pelvic inflammatory disease; that condoms are ineffective at preventing sexually transmitted diseases and abstinence is a better option; that hormonal contraceptive use could lead to difficulty getting pregnant later; and that there’s such a thing as “post-abortion syndrome.”

Offering misinformation like this, these groups say, is an insidious way to delay a woman’s decision-making process until abortion is no longer an option.

“Telling people that they have plenty of time to make this decision is such a falsehood and so dangerous,” says Sara Ainsworth, advocacy director at Legal Voice, a self-described progressive feminist organization that has been documenting the work of LSPCs for a number of years now. Ainsworth says Legal Voice started getting calls from women who’d gone to these centers and had negative experiences back in 2005. “We just started collecting stories from people, analyzing whether they had legal claims … realizing what [LSPCs] actually do,” she says. And Legal Voice was not the only group looking into it at the time. In 2006, former U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman commissioned a national report to investigate centers like these that were receiving federal funds. That report, Ainsworth says, found “the same kind of deception and misleading information that we’re still seeing. … This has been going on for quite some time.”

Therefore, Thursday’s rule is an important one, she says. “From our perspective, people are put at risk if they don’t know what kind of service they’re going to get when they go into a place, particularly if that place looks like, appears like, a health care facility.”

Adds Tiffany Hankins, executive director of NARAL, “We’re thrilled that they’ve taken this really important first step.” When NARAL volunteers recently visited some of these facilities, Hankins reports, the reception was “shaming and judgmental to say the least—definitely a bent towards discouraging any sex outside of marriage, and preaching morals, more than how to access health care.”

Those who support such facilities, on the other hand, vehemently disagree. Public testimony was filled with the insistence that these centers are indeed health care facilities; women who said they’d received excellent care and wouldn’t have been able to afford any prenatal care without them; and the claim that this whole thing was blatantly orchestrated by pro-choice groups. “What they passed today is not in the best interest of women’s health,” says Bonnie McEachern, a King County resident. “It’s more pushing a political agenda. And that’s what I’m against.”

“I am grieving,” says Triller. “This legislation will cast doubt in the public, cast doubt in those that support the centers, and hamper the small little resources we have to advertise. … We don’t take any government funding,” she says, just private donations. “And every service is offered for free. I think it’s sad. I think women lost today.”

Ainsworth and Hankins dispute the claim that Legal Voice and NARAL were behind the new rule. Dembowski approached them for information, they insist, not the other way around. “We did not propose the ordinance and we did not write it,” Ainsworth says. During his closing remarks, Dembowski told the room that he’d been working on it for about a year and a half.

“Undoubtedly, on both sides there’s sincere belief, and on both sides there is advocacy,” Ainsworth says. “Care Net may be advocating for the broader principle that they should remain unregulated to advocate against abortion. Our side of the issue is concerned that when people are misled about the nature of the services that they’re getting, their reproductive health is undermined.”

Lambert argues that someone seeking an abortion will get one, whether or not they go to an LSPC. She says the rule was railroaded through and relies too heavily on one-sided information from Legal Voice and NARAL. “I personally believe that both sides of every issue should be made available. When one group gets strong enough on any topic to shut out the other view, we are in a very unhealthy situation.”

Ainsworth and Hankins, meanwhile, are focused on Thursday’s news as a promising first step. Ainsworth says she worries about the medical inaccuracies that may be offered at these facilities, for instance. “There are other things that are very troubling and problematic and should be regulated,” she says. “This particular ordinance does not address that.”


Last month, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his office would file a lawsuit against anti-choice protestors who’ve harassed patients and staffers at the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens, since at least 2012. According to Schneiderman’s formal complaint, over a dozen anti-choice activists initiated “a barrage of unwanted physical contact, as well as verbal abuse, threats of harm, and lies about the clinic’s hours and its services,” directed at the clinic’s patients. The behavior wasn’t just offensive, Schneiderman insisted, but against the law. He would sue.

It isn’t the first time. Schneiderman, who was elected attorney general in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, has been devoted to women’s healthcare access for decades, representing abortion clinics pro-bono as a young lawyer and standing up for pro-choice legislation in the New York State Senate. In 2012, he sued to secure an expanded buffer zone around Planned Parenthood in Utica, New York. After Donald Trump’s election—but before he could be inaugurated—Schneiderman introduced the “Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act of 2017,” legislation that would ensure access to free contraception for New Yorkers, even if Trump repealed the Affordable Care Act. And in May, when lawmakers unveiled the American Health Care Act, Schneiderman didn’t waste any time; he made it clear he would sue if it became law; the AHCA, he maintained, was “unconstitutional,” placing an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose.

Schneiderman speaks at a NARAL rally in 2001, during his second term in the New York State Senate.

If all this is for a good soundbite or good press or in pursuit of some eventual bid for even higher office after he seeks re-election in 2018, then Schneiderman deserves some credit for his forethought; without fanfare, he’s been working to get women access to abortion services since 1972. Then fresh out of high school and not sure what he wanted to do next, Schneiderman moved to Washington, D.C. He found an office job, a gig so unremarkable he can hardly recall the details. It didn’t last; soon, he’d met a group of people who were in the process of setting up an abortion clinic. And he wanted to be involved.

It was the year before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. And in 1972, that meant abortion was legal in New York and D.C. and illegal everywhere else in the southeastern United States. “No one had any idea the Supreme Court was going to rule in Roe next year and change that,” Schneiderman remembers. At the time, activists and medical professionals assumed that D.C. would be “the southernmost outpost” for women nationwide—a destination for reproductive health care services for decades to come. “And so there were people setting up clinics—doctors, activists, and businesspeople who thought this was an investment,” Schneiderman says. It seemed like an opportunity. He applied for a job.

Schneiderman landed “at the bottom of the food chain,” an attendant whose job it was to stock supplies and to get women in an out of the clinic with as little drama as possible. At one point, he was dispatched to the national airport and instructed to pick up women “who were coming in from Atlanta or Chattanooga or wherever and bring them back and forth.”

“I didn’t really pry a lot,” Schneiderman says. “I was there trying to be professional and reassuring and sometimes people would share, but it’s not like people felt like they had to get into the car and spill their guts to me.” And yet the experience turned out to be “much richer and more emotional” than Schneiderman had anticipated, and the women made an impression on him, traveling to D.C. from all over the South to secure no less than their freedom. At the clinic, Schneiderman came to feel that the issue of choice was “not a controversial issue” at all. He’d borne witness; “if a woman can’t control her own body, she isn’t really free.”

Eric Schneiderman, during his time at Harvard Law School in the early 1980s.

By the following year, Schneiderman was enrolled at Amherst College and the Roe decision had legalized abortion nationwide. Well, that’s settled, he thought. He dropped in and out of school, was admitted to Harvard Law, and moved back to New York, where it became clear that the issue of access hadn’t really been decided at all. It turned out, Schneiderman realized, that while the pro-choice movement celebrated, its opponents had been building a much stronger infrastructure “from the grassroots up.” The battle was just getting started. Protests outside of clinics had turned violent. During Schneiderman’s first term in the New York State Senate, Dr. Barnett Slepian, an abortion provider, was murdered at his home just outside of Buffalo, New York. Schneiderman raced to introduce legislation to protect clinics, but he watched as states nationwide began to pass restrictions to limit women’s access. The pro-choice movement, he believed, had ceded essential ground; it couldn’t compete with the kind of discipline and organization that those on the opposite side of the issue had developed.

That is until the Supreme Court intervened once more. Over the past year or two, Schneiderman has become if not quite optimistic then at least heartened to see the pro-choice movement engage and organize. He points to the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case, which ruled in the clinic’s favor in 2016; how “our side” coordinated amici briefs to support a woman’s right to choose, how lawyers reached out to the public, how advocates learned to speak to people in words that resonated and galvanized. It had begun to feel to Schneiderman like a revival.

And then came the 2016 election, and after it, the kind of full-blown resistance that gives even the hyper-grounded Schneiderman real, wide-eyed hope. “I think people are now much more focused on the fact that women’s rights are under assault, in general, and reproductive health services are under assault, in particular,” Schneiderman insists, leaning forward at his desk, an expanse of the Manhattan skyline behind him. “And if we don’t fight back and fight back effectively, these rights are going to get eroded.” The good news—he has a game plan. Here, he outlines how progressives can run and win.

How do you think the pro-choice community’s advocacy work around last year’s Supreme Court case changed the way we talk about abortion in the United States?

I’m a student of American political movements, and sometimes I’ve looked at the difference between the abortion rights movement and the LGBT rights movement over the same 30-year span. Instead of asking for tolerance, [the LGBT movement] began asking for equality. The abortion rights movement took sort of the opposite [approach], saying, “We can agree to disagree; people have conscience and different views on this.”

 I think that the women who came forward to tell their stories [last year] personalized it and shifted public conscious and awareness. And to me, changing the language of the debate is as important as a legal victory, because if you want to build a movement that changes how people treat each other and how people think, you have to change the law, but you have to do more than change the law; you have to have people believe the law is just. The fact is it used to be that people were sort of shy when it came to talking about abortions and abortion rights, and that is less true and that’s going to make ours a more effective movement and that’s going to make us stronger.

Obviously, we rely on federal law, but change happens at the state level, and it’s states nationwide that are undermining access. How can progressives take that on and win back these state legislatures? What’s the recourse?

There’s no substitute for the hard work of organizing in politics. I’m a lawyer and I’m proud of the work we do, going to court to try to stop bad things from happening and promoting good causes. But ultimately, it comes down to organizing and electing good people from the ground up, and there’s no substitute for that. And I think there’s an increased awareness of that since November.

The notion that you vote once every four years for president, and that means you’ve done your civic duty is ridiculous, but we take it as a law of nature that there’ll be a big fall-off in turnout for liberals, except for presidential years. Well, that’s disgraceful and it’s not a law of nature; that’s just laziness on our side or failure to understand the consequences.

In the meantime, you recently brought a lawsuit against protestors at the Choices Clinic in Queens, New York, following a very extensive investigation by your office. Tell me what exactly the case is against them.

This is a situation where we were receiving complaints that a very aggressive campaign of harassment had started up outside the Choices Clinic. We had surveillance video from the clinic; we sent our investigators and looked into documents of what happened, and it was just very aggressive, appalling efforts to intimidate; screaming at patients that [they] could die at any moment, making references to shootings at Planned Parenthood clinics, physically blocking women and hustling people, pushing them. Some women have to bring their children to the clinic, [and protestors have been] harassing the children going in. It was really nasty stuff.

We documented it and went into court. We’re seeking a buffer zone to cover the sidewalk and to ensure there are protections for these women. Before I was AG, this office was involved in litigation over buffer zones, and there’s a case law in New York, and we have a federal [Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances] Act, and we have a clinic access bill that I was the sponsor of when I was in the New York State Senate, so we are quite optimistic that we’re going to get an injunction to protect this clinic and end this harassment and let these women proceed with dignity to make these important decisions about their own bodies.

It seems to me like over past six months, we’ve seen intimidation at all levels of government, and we’ve seen it used as a tool of harassment nationwide. Those who want to do it will tell you it’s free speech. Why are they wrong?

The cases are very clear on this. You can stand anywhere where you’re not impeding someone’s access to a constitutionally protected right to reproductive health services and you can state your point of view. You can give a speech. You can publish whatever you want. But you’re not allowed to blockade an entranceway and scream insults at women and say they’re going to die and go to hell in an effort to intimidate them and stop from accessing a constitutional right. There are pretty clear laws about what is acceptable free speech. For example, blackmail is speech, if you think about it that way, and the law is clear that you can’t use a free speech defense to claim you’re allowed to blackmail this person.

Eric Schneiderman, around the time he went to work in an abortion clinic in Washington, D.C.

There are lots of case where there are limits of speech based on other rights, and this is one that courts have been balancing for some time, so I feel that we have developed a good record on this particular case, but your point is right. It does feel like these instances are part of a much larger effort to more aggressively than ever deny women these basic rights—whether it’s Trump trying to change the rule so that employers can opt out of providing coverage under moral exceptions or it’s the provisions in these healthcare bills that passed the House and [were] considered in the Senate that would have a devastating effect on reproductive health services.

You’ve spoken out about these issues, in particular. What would your office do to prevent these kinds of measures from taking effect?

We have said that we would challenge the House bill on a constitutional basis, if it became law, and we’ll see what comes out of the Senate. Whether people like it or not, women have a constitutional right to an abortion, and you can’t impose a burden on a constitutional right. The Supreme Court has said that; it’s not just good wishes. And we are prepared to stand up in court and defend women’s rights and defend human rights, but at the end of the day, as much as we can win there, it comes back to doing the hard work of politics. We have to elect new people and better people, and we have to shift public awareness so people do understand that this is a matter of freedom. This is not something that should be up for debate, and in much of the world, it’s not. It’s scary because we’re talking about real people’s lives and real people can really be hurt.

We’ve tried to be focused on the substance and not be distracted by the personal quirks or conduct of people in the administration or in Congress, as fascinating as those are. We’re focused on whether people will lose their healthcare coverage, will people be wrongfully deported, is the air going to get dirtier?

Why do you think that some people still see fit to debate whether or not Democratic Party candidates need to be pro-choice?

There are very few issues on which donors and activists are more guilty of cutting people too much slack than on abortion rights. That needs to change. A candidate comes in and says, “I’m pro-choice,” and that’s the last time they’ll say the word “choice” until they come back in four years to run for reelection. This was 10 or 12 years ago, but I’ve been saying for over a decade that we really need to push for more than “checklist liberals,” people who say they support access, but don’t introduce legislation to protect it, for example. We need to demand more; evidence of what they’ve done. And I think the movement is shifting people into that place. People want results. They want action. They need to harass elected officials, including me, but that’s good; harassing elected officials is part of your duty as a citizen.

Like you said, there are many reasons why reproductive rights are still up for debate in the United States, but sexism or at least some men’s unwillingness to stand up for a woman’s right to choose in public is a factor. Clearly, that has never been a problem for you. Please advise men: How should they be advocating for the women in their lives?

The fact is I have real clarity on my position on these issues. I just have a clarity about it, and I’m not insecure and I’m not threatened by people. And I think that’s the first step—to be clear and grounded and be steady so that when you speak up, speak from a place of calm, but firm understanding of where you are on an issue. I think it makes it easier. I think there are too many folks—men and women—who are still kind of uncomfortable talking about [abortion], and that makes it harder to be honest. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know someone or has had her own experience with an abortion. It just doesn’t happen.

The truth of the matter is for most Americans who say they are against abortions, if something happened to a family member or friend in their personal life, they would be overwhelmingly likely to look the other way and not cut the other person off and sever the relationship. Really, the struggle of abortion rights is about equality, yes. But it’s also about justice because rich people will always have access to abortions. Let’s be really honest: What we’re really talking about is poor and working-class women who would struggle and be hurt by these restrictions, who would have trouble getting on an airplane to fly to somewhere. This is an issue of justice and an issue of equality, and when you talk about it, you need to have that clarity.

Where did you find that clarity?

In my case, it was listening to people and watching what was going on. I listened to women talking to the doctors and the people who worked in the clinic. I listened to social workers who were understanding these stories. It was obvious to me that these were very decent human beings who were trying to manage their lives as best as they could and had to flee from their homes in order to get basic health services. And I heard the doctors, too, who talked a lot about the fact that they viewed their role as saving women’s lives because when you don’t have legal abortion, women’s health suffers and people die.

Eric Schneiderman, with his daughter, Catherine.

In a way, it was all much starker then. It was clear what happened in a state where abortion was illegal and what happened in a jurisdiction where it was legal, and there was a much starker choice to be made. But it suits the other side to make it all hazier. Back then, we were in this time of tremendous activism—the anti-war movement, challenging authority. But I think we’re now seeing even better organizing than what was done then. People are running for office, training others to run for office, keeping themselves educated. After the election, I was afraid people would go to one or two demonstrations and then go home. That hasn’t happened. People are staying involved and staying active, and that’s historically how the United States has gotten better. We are a more just and more equal country than we were 100 years ago, and 100 years ago, we were more equal than 100 years before that. That’s our national trajectory. That’s our mission.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

This story has been updated to reflect that Schneiderman will seek re-election in 2018.


Have you ever felt the call to go counter-protest at an abortion clinic? You know — protest the protestors? I have. I think that what abortion clinic protestors do is wrong and part of me absolutely itches to get in their faces and fight back. But, unfortunately, a lot of abortion clinics say that counter-protestors actually do more than harm than good by escalating an already volatile situation outside the clinic. So what’s a dedicated pro-choicer to do? I have the answer: Join the #ExposeFakeClinics movement and protest outside fake abortion clinics.

Did you know that there are over 4,000 fake abortion clinics — which is about five times the number of real abortion clinics — in the United States? They’re called “crisis pregnancy centers” and they spread false information about abortion, get in the way of women trying to have abortions, and shame women for getting pregnant in the first place. They even have people who dress up like doctors who pretend that they’re actual medical professionals in order to be more convincing. Across the country, these unlicensed, unregulated clinics are targeting women — and, in particular, women of color — at their most vulnerable.

At a recent protest in front of a crisis pregnancy center in Pittsburgh, Lizz Winstead, founder of the pro-choice activist and performance group Lady Parts Justice League, went head-to-head with a woman who was dressed like a nurse. Turns out, she wasn’t a medical professional at all.

“The whole thing was just crazy,” Winstead tells Bustle. “She lied right to our faces about the information they pass out at their clinic, when two of our staff had gone in and gotten information that said if you have oral sex, you’re at a very high risk of HIV. And that’s just not true.”


Sound too weird to be true? Unfortunately, it gets worse. Not only do these clinics spread false medical information and pressure women to continue their pregnancy, but some are funded by taxpayer dollars. Yup, you read that right: Your money could be going to fund these misleading, damaging clinics. While we saw 46 anti-abortion laws put in front of state legislatures within the first two weeks of 2017, California is the only state that regulates what crisis pregnancy centers can tell women. The only state! Of all 50 states! And other states — like Texas — are actually increasing funding to crisis pregnancy centers, while simultaneously defunding real women’s health centers, i.e. Planned Parenthood. This is some weird, backwards, upside-down BS.

If the idea of women being lied to and shamed while they’re trying to decide what to do about an unplanned pregnancy infuriates you, then welcome to the #ExposeFakeClinics movement. Created by the Abortion Access Hackathonand Lady Parts Justice League and supported by a long list of partner organizations, #ExposeFakeClinics is having a week of action from July 17 to July 26. The goal is to spread the word about crisis pregnancy centers and to fight back, both online and IRL. Want to get involved? Here are some ways you can help #ExposeFakeClinics.

1Boost Accurate Reviews


IRL protesting isn’t for everyone — and that’s totally fine. Luckily, these days, you can fight back digitally. #ExposeFakeClinics suggests going to review sites like Yelp, Google+, and Facebook, finding accurate reviews of crisis pregnancy centers (i.e. ones that expose the truth about what they do), and boosting them. On Yelp, that means marking them “useful;” on Google+ it’s a thumbs up; and on Facebook it’s a “like.” Boosting these accurate reviews gets the word out that these are not abortion clinics, which helps women who are searching for help with an unplanned pregnancy.

2Write Your Own Accurate Reviews


If there aren’t any accurate reviews of the crisis pregnancy center in your area — or wherever you’re looking — then you can make your own. But that’s not to say you should just go on the review site and write whatever! #ExposeFakeReviews has written out an entire process and script for calling these fake abortion clinics and figuring out how they present themselves. Once you’ve done that, write an honest review of your experience. Did they neglect to mention that they don’t provide abortion services? What was positive? What was negative? The goal is to counterbalance the misinformation provided by the clinic with your real experience.

3Protest IRL!


Every weekend at abortion clinics across the country you’ll find people protesting. So why aren’t we fighting back with protests of our own against their fake clinics? #ExposeFakeClinics suggests finding out if there are already plans for protests against crisis pregnancy centers in your area. If there are, join them! And if there aren’t, start your own! (But please be mindful of the fact that a lot of fake clinics set up near real clinics and if that’s the case, you’re going to need to find an alternative location.)

But protesting for the first time can be scary, so #ExposeFakeClinics has sample signs you can print, chants for when you’re there, and advice on how to get the local involved. Also, remember: You don’t want to resort to the abusive tactics that anti-abortion protestors use.

“Even our protest signs are correct,” Winstead says. “We are not about yelling at a person going into a CDC. We’re taking more of a union tactic to let the community know that these places exist in their community and to fill them in on the real services they provide, so that they’re aware.”

4Report Crisis Pregnancy Centers In Your Town


The #ExposeFakeClinics site has a map of crisis pregnancy centers across the country, but it doesn’t have every single one on there yet. Take a look at your town, do a little research, and if you find a fake abortion clinic that isn’t included on the map, report it. The more we know about these places — where they’re located and who they are — the easier it is to fight back.

5Have An Action Party!


Activist work is hard. But you know what makes it easier? Doing it with friends. Join or arrange a feminist action party and commit to each boosting a certain number of accurate reviews, calling a target number of crisis pregnancy centers and writing reviews, or going out and protesting the fake abortion clinic in your town. Remember: Friends don’t let friends drop their commitment to the #resistance.

Abortion is a constitutionally protected right of every woman in this country, and yet that right is being hacked away at with every new anti-abortion law. In the meantime, these fake medical clinics are allowed to exist with no regulation and no rules. Fight back. It’s time to #ExposeFakeClinics.


Texas has long been at the forefront of aggressive antiabortion legislation, and a new bill filed in the state legislature’s special session poses a truly insidious threat to reproductive rights. The legislation would allow the state to revoke the medical licenses of doctors who perform abortions with very few exceptions.

According to the Texas Observer, Republican Rep. Valoree Swanson has championed House Bill 86, which would broaden the “prohibited practices” that can lead to the revocation of a medical doctor’s license. It would make providing an abortion illegal except in a small number of very specific circumstances. These include cases in which the is the abortion is “necessary to prevent the death” of the mother or she is facing “imminent severe, irreversible brain damage or imminent severe, irreversible paralysis.” Abortions can also legally be performed if the fetus has “severe, irreversible brain damage” or if the woman is pregnant with multiple fetuses, one or more of which can be saved by aborting one fetus. Notably, the bill explicitly states that performing an abortion due to any substantial risk to the “psychological condition” of the mother is prohibited.

In a statement shared with POPSUGAR, Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said the bill is part of an ongoing effort to undermine reproductive rights in the state. “This bill is just another in a relentless wave of legislation aimed at chipping away at the right to safe, legal abortion,” she said. “It does nothing to improve the health and safety of women, and the politicians behind this legislation have only one objective: to push their extreme agenda onto Texans who don’t want or support these dangerous policies.”

The bill is one of several antiabortion measures that will be considered during the special session, which was called for by Gov. Greg Abbot (pictured above) and began on July 18. “We must also use this opportunity to do more to protect our unborn children,” Abbott said in June when he announced his agenda for the special session. Among the other restrictive measures under consideration is a bill designed to prohibit cities and counties from sharing taxpayer dollars with abortion providers, legislation that would institute stricter reporting standards around health complications related to abortions, and an attempt to bar insurance premiums paid by Texans from funding “elective” abortions.

Texas’s repeated attempts to restrict abortion rights in recent years have not gone unchallenged. In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down a law that required doctors performing abortions to retain admitting privileges to hospitals — and forced abortion clinics to maintain hospital-level standards — as unconstitutional.

Critics say Abbott’s latest attempts to undermine abortion rights smack of hypocrisy. The governor vetoed a bill that would have maintained Texas’s Women’s Health Advisory Committee — which had bipartisan support and helped low-income women access reproductive care that would help prevent the need for abortion services — just three days before the special session began.


With one devastating flourish of the presidential pen, worldwide progress on family planning, population growth and reproductive rights was swept away. Now some of the world’s poorest women must count the cost

Donald Trump signs an executive order reintroducing the Mexico City policy
 Donald Trump signs an executive order reintroducing the Mexico City policy as Reince Preibus, Peter Navarro, Jared Kushner, Steven Miller, and Steve Bannon look on. Photograph: Ron Sachs/EPA

Six months ago, one powerful white man in the White House, watched by seven more, signed a piece of paper that will prevent millions of women around the world from deciding what they can and can’t do with their own bodies.

In that moment, on his very first Monday morning in office, Donald Trump effectively signed the death warrants of thousands of women. He reversed global progress on contraception, family planning, unsustainable population growth and reproductive rights. His executive order even has implications for the battle against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

Rarely can the presidential pen have been flourished to such devastating effect. The policy it reintroduced will shut health clinics in Uganda and HIV programmes in Mozambique; it will compel women from Nepal to Namibia to seek out deadly back-street abortions.

“It is an unprecedented attack on women’s rights – it goes much deeper than abortion,” said Ulla Müller, president and CEO of EngenderHealth, a leading advocacy organisation.


“Girls are kicked out of school if they get pregnant. They are very often forced to marry the fathers. Very often they have to live in their in-laws’ house, where they have to do unpaid labour. It is a violation of women’s rights. We need to see this as a gender issue and very much as a power issue.”

Tewodros Melesse, director general of the the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which stands to lose as much as $100m, said the US move “seeks to restrict the rights of millions of women. It asks us as a health provider, to stop providing services which are entirely legal in countries through our members – where some of the most poorest women, depend on them.

“The human cost of the gag rule will have a long and fatal legacy.”

Like so many far-reaching American policies, Trump’s executive order is enshrouded in complexity to the point where it seems almost designed to confuse.

The order reinstated the Mexico City policy (so called because it was first signed at the International Conference of Population in Mexico City, in 1984). Under this policy, any NGO outside the US seeking American funding for family planning has to pledge it will not carry out abortions anywhere in the world, even with its own money. Such organisations must agree not to talk to women about a termination, nor lobby governments to liberalise their policy on abortion.

US aid has never been used to fund abortion services (it is forbidden, by law). This is a ban on speaking about abortion – a restriction on free speech which the First Amendment does not permit within the US. For this reason, the rule became known as the global gag.

Trump’s version of the policy has massively expanded its reach. It is no longer just international family planning organisations that must agree not to “perform or actively promote abortion”. Every global health organisation that accepts US funding now has to sign the same clause. Anyone working to fight HIV, get vaccines or vitamins to children, or prevent Zika or malaria is facing a stark and unprecedented choice: sign, or lose all funding from the biggest aid donor in the world.

As much as $10bn (£7.7bn) of global health funding hangs in the balance. Among those who will lose money if they refuse to sign up to the anti-abortion orthodoxy are the two big international family planning organisations, Marie Stopes International (MSI) and the IPPF. But for the first time, global NGOs such as Save the Children, WaterAid and the International HIV/Aids Alliance are also targeted.

The effects will be felt most keenly in the tiny, frontline clinics run by small NGOs struggling to help women and children in crowded townships, refugee camps and remote rural villages. There are no abortion doctors in such places (in most African countries, abortion is banned unless the woman’s life is in danger). These clinics instead offer contraceptive injections and condoms for those who would struggle to feed numerous children. But they also treat children for malaria and malnutrition and their mothers for HIV. This integrated care is now under threat.

But that’s not all. Trump has also decided to stop funding the UN Population Fund, which does hard and heroic work, reaching some of the most oppressed women in the world in refugee camps and war zones, as well as getting contraception to the remotest parts of the planet. In 2016, the US gave the organisation $69m in core funds and for its humanitarian response work.

And deep budget cuts to foreign aid under Trump include a proposal to axe every cent for overseas family planning, currently $600m a year.

The triple blow is already being felt by some of the world’s poorest women.

Take Nigeria, a country with one of the world’s fastest growing populations. The average woman there has more than five children. MSI predicts that because of Trump’s “global gag rule”, there will be an additional 660,000 abortions in Nigeria over the next four years, with 10,000 women dying as a result.


“This is going to be really huge,” said MSI country head Effiom Effiom of the US decision to pull funding. “They’ve been key in strengthening healthcare. It’s their funding that allowed us to reach 500,000 women in the past three years. Who will bridge that gap?” he asks.

It’s a question that bothers Sakina Sani as well. She has two children already and knows she cannot afford many more. She is grateful to a family planning clinic in northern Nigeria for furnishing her with a contraceptive implant that will enable her to plan out her family for the next four years. But after that, she’ll be on her own.

Sakina Sani, a mother of two, receives a contraceptive implant
 Sakina Sani, a mother of two, has a contraceptive implant – known informally among young Nigerians as a ‘tattoo’ – placed in her arm. Photograph: Ruth Maclean for the Guardian

“I’d have to have more children,” she admits. “All I could do is pray harder for God to help feed them.”

Across the continent, in Uganda, her experience is replicated by Dausi Mukwana, 26, who had the first of her four children at the age of 14. An injectable contraceptive called Sayana Press and a tireless healthworker called Aisha Mugoya have belatedly given her control over family planning. But this is now in jeopardy: funding will dry up in the coming weeks.

“The number of maternal deaths will increase as the number of pregnancies increases, and the number of abortions is going to increase,” said Dr Moses Okilipa of Reproductive Health Uganda, a branch of the IPPF, which refuses to sign up to the Mexico City policy.

Dausi Mukwana, 26, a rural Ugandan, receives a contraceptive called Sayana Press
 Dausi Mukwana, 26, a rural Ugandan, receives a contraceptive called Sayana Press. Photograph: Juozas Cernius/for The Guardian

The glaring paradox is that the global gag policy doesn’t even work. “The gag rule contributes to the very thing it purportedly seeks to reduce: the frequency of abortion,” said a report in June from the Guttmacher Institute, a US research organisation focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Evidence shows that when the gag is imposed, unwanted pregnancies and abortions go up.


Banning abortions and forcing NGOs not to offer any counselling or advice about them drives desperate women to the back-street abortionists and witch doctors.

Hardline opponents of abortion don’t understand this; they don’t believe it or don’t care. At Trump’s right elbow when he signed the order was Mike Pence, a born again Christian. Trump is not religious, but some of his most influential advisers are – and the choice of Pence as his running mate brought on board the religious right. The new, improved global gag is their reward.

“I believe that President Trump doesn’t give a hoot about any of these issues one way or the other,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. He pointed out that Trump’s closest advisers include a significant number of ultraconservative Catholics. Kellyanne Conway has been a prominent anti-choice campaigner for decades, he said, claiming in interviews that “unborn babies can feel pain at 20 weeks” (a view that the evidence does not support). Steve Bannon, chief strategist and Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, are both conservative Catholics. Katy Talento, a health policy aide on the Domestic Policy Council, recently published an article alleging that “chemical birth control causes abortions and often has terrible side effects, including deliberate miscarriage”, a claim about the pill that is not supported by scientists.

And then there is Pence. At the Republican National Convention in Ohio last July, he called himself “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order”. Born into an Irish Catholic Democrat-voting family in Indiana, he found God at a Christian music festival in Kentucky in 1978. He was still a Democrat in 1980, when he voted for Jimmy Carter, but his views started to shift to the right at college and he became a big admirer of Ronald Reagan’s “common sense conservatism”. By 1988 he was running for Congress as a Republican. He lost but won a seat in the House of Representatives for Indiana in 2000.

In his 2000 Congressional campaign, he urged that the Ryan White Act, which provides funds for HIV treatment for the poor, should only be renewed if the money was “directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour”.

As governor of Indiana in 2015 he made national headlines when he signed into law a bill that was interpreted as permitting discrimination against LGBT people in the state. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, restaurants, hotels or shops would be able to cite a religious objection to serving gay customers. Pence was photographed signing the bill into law in March 2015 surrounded by monks and nuns in habits. A number of large businesses spoke out against the law, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and in the face of an outcry, Pence made revisions.

Opponents of the anti-abortion law signed by Mike Pence protest outside the Indiana State House in July 2016
 Opponents of the anti-abortion law signed by Mike Pence protest outside the Indiana State House last July. Photograph: Mykal McEldowney/AP

His opposition to abortion has been solid. In October 2015, he awarded $3.5m of Indiana state funds to a charity called Real Alternatives, which promotes sexual abstinence and counsels pregnant women wanting an abortion to have the baby. Then, in March 2016, Pence brought in one of the toughest state abortion laws in the US. Abortion on the grounds of foetal abnormality, including Down’s syndrome, would be banned. All women wanting an abortion would be required to have an ultrasound examination, where they would see the foetus on the monitor, at least 18 hours before the termination. The harsher aspects of this law were stayed by the courts, but the US by now understood Pence was willing to fight the most controversial battles on behalf of the religious right. As Rolling Stone put it in January: “When Trump needed a VP nominee with a career-long reputation for being virulently pro-life to balance his own abortion flip-flops, Mike Pence was the answer to all his political prayers.”

The day after the inauguration, 500,000 people attended the Women’s March on Washington on 21 January, to voice disgust at Trump’s past sexual behaviour and fear for the future of women’s reproductive rights. Days later, Pence became the first vice-president in history to attend the annual anti-abortion March for Life, held for the past 44 years on or near the anniversary of the historic judgement of Roe v Wade. Thousands of anti-abortion activists were bussed to the National Mall in Washington DC, some holding pictures of the foetus in the womb, others waving banners. “Trump loves the bump” was one. “We voted to make America pro-life again”, said another. A third read: “We hear your silent cries”.

“It is no coincidence that the first right cited in the US Declaration of Independence is the right to life,” Conway told the crowd, to cheers. But it was Pence who made the real impact. Trump had sent him to address this gathering, he said. Life, Pence said, “is winning again in America”.

Fighting back

The most devastating impact of the policy is on the big providers of family planning, IPPF and MSI, whose clinics all over the world will be stripped of US funds because they offer abortions in countries where it is legal to do so (in the UK, Marie Stopes provides terminations on behalf of the NHS). In developing countries, they partner with local NGOs, funding clinics where women may go for a contraceptive implant or injection but often for other healthcare too, such as an HIV test or cervical cancer smear. All of this is at risk.

MSI received $30m from USAid last year, which was 17% of its total funding. It is working to raise funds from other sources, but the gap will be hard to fill. Hardest hit will be services in Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Sahel. These are places where MSI has been running substantial programmes with USAid funding. In Madagascar, 40% of women get their contraception from MSI.

IPPF has about $100m annually in US funds but, after the last global gag, it deliberately invested nearly half the money in HIV services, decreasing its exposure in case another Republican president came in. Trump’s extension of the Mexico City policy to all forms of healthcare means they stand to lose the lot. Among programmes under threat unless alternative sources of funding can be found are HIV treatment in the Caribbean, clinics testing for Zika across Latin America, and help for displaced people in Colombia.

“We have become much more of an integrated service provider. We’re trying to be a one-stop shop that takes you from the start of life to the end of life,” said Matthew Lindley of IPPF, who support fragile health systems in impoverished and war-torn countries.

“If we had USAid funding, we would have expected to avert 6m unintended pregnancies,” said Megan Elliott, vice-president for strategy and development at MSI. “Because we can’t avert them, we believe there will be an additional 2m abortions. Because they are in restricted environments, the majority of those women will be getting a backstreet abortion where they won’t be properly cared for and certainly won’t get proper contraception to prevent a further unwanted pregnancy.”

Isabella Lövin
 In a picture widely seen as a parody of Trump signing the global gag order, Isabella Lövin, Sweden’s deputy prime minister, is flanked by female colleagues as she signs a bill. Photograph: Johan Schiff/EPA

Last time the gag rule was in force, between 2001 and 2008, USAid stopped supplying contraceptives to NGOs in 16 developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, many of which had very high rates of HIV. Guttmacher cites Lesotho, where one in four women were HIV-positive, and which got no US support at all for family planning or contraceptive supplies under George W Bush. In 13 other countries, USAid cut off support to the leading family planning organisation. The Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia suffered a 24% budget cut and had to reduce its services.

The fightback began in March. She Decides was the idea of the Dutch trade and development minister Lilianne Ploumen, who was backed by the Belgian, Swedish and Danish governments. A fundraising conference attracted representatives from 50 governments and raised €181m.

That’s a drop in the ocean, they acknowledge, but the campaign to persuade more governments, philanthropists and the private sector to step up with cash continues. Earlier this month, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which also funds work at the Guardian) announced it would increase its funding for family planning by 60%, with an extra $375m over the next four years.

Chris Hohn, a hedge fund manager, started the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, which makes grants for projects to improve children’s health in poor countries. Concerned about the harmful effects of pregnancy on so many adolescent girls, which can result in a baby suffering from stunting and malnutrition, his Fund is giving MSI $10m.

Millions of women have been given control over their bodies and their futures. Millions of girls have been able to stay in school and have hopes of a career. But the edicts of the Trump administration, rooted in an ideology that says the lives of women count for less than the life of a foetus, have set the world back years.

The gag meanwhile extends far beyond the world of NGOs. Western officials who don’t want to fall out with the Trump White House are silent. Those who work at the Department for International Development do not want to criticise their colleagues at USAid, who themselves are privately wringing their hands over a policy that will undo much of their good work on behalf of women and girls.

Further afield, the 30-year-old woman with 10 children she can’t feed or send to school, and the 14-year-old made pregnant by her uncle, can’t be gagged.

They have no voice at all.

Ruth Maclean in Maiduguri, Nigeria, and Liz Ford in Mbale, Uganda, contributed to this report