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Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel drew on real-life politics but has never been more prescient, writes Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.

A white, wide-brimmed bonnet and a red cloak have come to mean one thing: women’s oppression. Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale seared this image into our souls with its depiction of a near-future dystopia in which women are forced into reproductive slavery to bear the children of the elite – and wear this uniform to underline their subservience. For more than three decades, the image has shown up on the covers of the book around the world, on posters from the 1990 film, in ads for the 2017 TV series, and even on real women at demonstrations for reproductive rights.

The handmaid we’re presumably seeing in most of these images, though we often don’t know for sure, is Offred, the tale’s narrator. As a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, she must routinely submit to ritualistic sex with her commander, Fred. (Her name derives from the term “of Fred.”) She’s one of the still-fertile women rounded up for the job of reproduction after many women in the ruling class were rendered infertile by environmental toxins. Before a coup toppled the US government to form the new theocratic state Gilead, she was married to a man named Luke and had a young daughter.

(Credit: McClelland and Stewart)

The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985 to instant acclaim and success – it was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and the Nebula Award (Credit: McClellan and Stewart)

Atwood conceived the novel as ‘speculative fiction,’ a work that imagines a future that could conceivably happen without any advances in technology from the present. In other words, she said, “Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen.” Every aspect of the book was inspired by social and political events of the early 1980s, when she wrote it.

(Credit: Alamy)

Margaret Atwood, aged 78, won the Man Booker prize in 2000 for The Blind Assassin – other works of hers have been adapted for TV and film, such as Alias Grace (Credit: Alamy)

Because of this, Atwood’s novel has an eerie way of always feeling of the moment, as it turns out, from its first publication through every other iteration that has followed. When it debuted in 1985, Atwood even took newspaper clips to her interviews about the book to show her plot points’ real-life antecedents. The book mirrored the United States’ embrace of conservatism, as evidenced by the election of Ronald Reagan as president, as well as the increasing power of the Christian right and its powerful lobbying organisations the Moral Majority, Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition – not to mention the rise of televangelism. The character of Serena Joy in The Handmaid’s Tale is a former televangelist who articulates theocratic policy suggestions that have now forced her, like all women, into a life solely at home: Atwood writes of Serena Joy, “She doesn’t make speeches anymore. She has become speechless. She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word.”

Atwood writes in The Handmaid’s Tale that African-Americans have been resettled to “National Homelands” in the Midwest

Though Atwood is Canadian and writing about a later time – Joyce Carol Oates, writing in The New York Review of Books, speculated the book was set around 2005 – she has said the commentary was aimed squarely at the United States of the 1980s, including the rising political power of Christian fundamentalists, environmental concerns, and attacks on women’s reproductive rights. The backlash against abortion in the US at the time included a widely distributed propaganda video called ‘The Silent Scream,’ a rash of abortion clinic bombings and arson cases and a proposed law that would give foetuses civil rights protections. The Reagan administration also broke with longstanding policy and declared that the US government would fund only international women’s health groups that promoted ‘natural’ family planning – that is, abstinence – in underdeveloped countries. As English professor SC Neuman wrote in a 2006 paper published in the University of Toronto Quarterly, “Offred, in short, is a fictional product of 1970s feminism, and she finds herself in a situation that is a fictional realisation of the backlash against women’s rights that gathered force during the early 1980s.”

(Credit: Hulu)

Hulu’s TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale was the streaming service’s biggest hit to date and the series won best drama at the Emmy Awards in 2017 (Credit: Hulu)

Not everyone in the US government at the time even opposed apartheid in South Africa: future vice president Dick Cheney was against the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, while Senator John McCain voted not to divest from the South African government. Recalling the Bantustans of apartheid-era South Africa, Atwood writes in The Handmaid’s Tale that African-Americans have been resettled to “National Homelands” in the Midwest.

Puritanism and public policy

The Handmaid’s Tale is always discussed as a feminist warning of sorts, and has also been interpreted as a commentary on sexism in the book of Genesis. But some of what Atwood describes wasn’t merely speculation about the end result of the religious right taking power in the US but was based on what was happening elsewhere. Atwood says she was inspired in part by Nicolai Ceausescu’s preoccupation with boosting female birth rates in Romania, which led to the policing of pregnant women and the banning of abortion and birth control, not to mention the murders of dissidents by the Ferdinand Marcos regime in the Philippines. The idea of ‘giving’ the offspring of lower classes to the ruling class came from Argentina, where a military junta seized power in 1976, subsequently ‘disappearing’ up to 500 children and placing them with selected leaders.

(Credit: Hulu)

Elisabeth Moss plays Offred, the main character in Atwood’s story – the TV series now goes beyond the events of the novel, with its writers inventing new material (Credit: Hulu)

But American Puritanism is undoubtedly the central reference point in Atwood’s text – and she drew connections between what was happening in the US in the 1980s and the original Puritan colonists in 17th Century New England. “Nations never build apparently radical forms of government on foundations that aren’t there already,” Atwood wrote in The Guardian in 2012. “Thus… the USSR replaced the dreaded imperial secret police with an even more dreaded secret police, and so forth. The deep foundation of the US – so went my thinking – was not the comparatively recent 18th-Century Enlightenment structures of the republic, with their talk of equality and their separation of church and state, but the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th-Century Puritan New England, with its marked bias against women, which would need only the opportunity of a period of social chaos to reassert itself.” Reagan himself referred to his dream of the US being a ‘shining city on a hill,’ coopting the term the Puritans had for their Massachusetts Bay colony.

Forever relevant?

Atwood’s book was a hit with critics and readers, but the film adaptation four years later was a dud. The production’s own difficulties showed how relevant it was: most studios wouldn’t consider putting out a movie that was so heavily female, and many major actresses were afraid of the radical material. The 1990 film version is a sometimes serious, sometimes sexed-up version that squandered the talents of stars Natasha Richardson and Faye Dunaway. German director Volker Schlöndorff envisioned it as a sexual thriller, an obvious misinterpretation of the original material. Richardson as Offred, was not only stripped of her agency – the script avoided voiceover, losing the urgency of the book – she seemed more objectified than ever. Reviews were mostly dismissive, and the film failed at the box office, too, making back only $5m of its $13m budget.

(Credit: Old Dutch)

Atwood, who is from Canada, took inspiration from the logo of the Canadian laundry and cleaning products company Old Dutch for the handmaids’ bonnets (Credit: Old Dutch)

Since then, The Handmaid’s Tale has inspired a number of lower-profile adaptations and related works. Stage adaptations have been produced in the United States at Tufts University and for a UK tour. An opera by Poul Ruders premiered in Copenhagen in 2000, and was performed by the English National Opera in London in 2003 and by the Canadian Opera Company in 2004-05. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet offered up its interpretation of the story in 2013.

(Credit: Jo Ingles/Ohio Public Radio/TV Statehouse News)

In June 2017 women wore outfits inspired by the TV series to protest restrictive new abortion bill in Ohio (Credit: Jo Ingles/Ohio Public Radio/TV Statehouse News)

It wasn’t until last year, when The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on Hulu as a television series adaptation, that the work got its pop cultural due. The show’s producers changed details to bring the series into the present day, including modern touchstones like Uber, Tinder, cappuccinos, and Craigslist in flashbacks to Offred’s pre-handmaid life. But the series felt all the more chilling because of the massive shift in US politics with the election of Donald Trump, who was inaugurated just three months before the series premiered. Suddenly, the book and series’ major flashpoints felt more possible than ever: a government declaring martial law after an attack by Islamic extremists, a regime that systematically eliminates gay people, a society that prioritises procreation (and subjugation of women) above all else. “[H]ow eerily prescient that the Republic of Gilead was established by a coup when Christian fundamentalists, revulsed by an overly liberal, godless, and promiscuous society, assassinated the president, machine-gunned Congress, declared a national state of emergency, and laid blame to ‘Islamic fanatics,’” Joyce Carol Oates wrote in a Handmaid retrospective in 2006. “As in Orwell’s 1984, the Republic consolidates its strength by maintaining continual wars against demonised ‘enemies.’”

(Credit: BBC News)

Manx protestors donned Handmaid’s Tale inspired outfits in July 2017 to protest women’s lack of access to abortion providers in the Isle of Man (Credit: BBC News)

This all dovetailed with fears of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and his vice president’s anti-gay and anti-abortion beliefs. Handmaid costumes even became common at protests of laws intended to limit women’s reproductive freedom. The Women’s March inspired by Trump’s inauguration mirrored the TV series’ flashback scenes of women in the streets protesting the stripping of their rights.

(Credit: Alamy)

The 1990 film version starring Natasha Richardson had the tagline ‘A haunting tale of sexuality in a country gone wrong’, suggesting it was more an erotic thriller (Credit: Alamy)

As The Handmaid’s Tale returns for its second season, it feels more vital than ever, even though the cultural landscape has once again shifted in a major way for women. Since the last series, the #metoo movement has taken hold, and Offred’s story is shifting with it. Without giving too much away about the second-season premiere, which goes, in some fashion, beyond the narrative in Atwood’s novel, Offred is now finding methods to take back her own power in the oppressive regime and seizing those moments in satisfying ways – not unlike women finding power in telling their own stories via #metoo and #timesup. Of course, this isn’t a coincidence; the producers of The Handmaid’s Tale series were aware of the changing women’s movement as they constructed this season.

Since the book’s release, The Handmaid’s Tale’s most quoted phrase has been the one scratched, presumably by Offred’s handmaid predecessor, in the wall of her room’s cupboard: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. It has become such a feminist rallying cry that many women have the phrase tattooed on their bodies. “Revellers dress up as Handmaids on Hallowe’en and also for protest marches – these two uses of its costumes mirroring its doubleness,” Atwood wrote for the Guardian. “Is it entertainment or dire political prophecy? Can it be both? I did not anticipate any of this when I was writing the book.”

The Handmaid’s Tale’s messages and iconography feel more applicable than ever today. But we always seem to be saying that about Atwood’s story. Will we be doing the same if yet another adaptation appears, three decades from now?

Source: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180425-why-the-handmaids-tale-is-so-relevant-today?fbclid=IwAR1wRU77hD59C4xNtoJqG_pNTGgaw2ac6S_mANVyGgfATcjlJIKOC32mn8E

As access to abortion has dried up across the South and Midwest, nowhere is it less secure than Louisiana, where a looming Supreme Court decision has the potential to leave the state with just one abortion clinic. While one side says the law in question makes the procedure safer for women, pro-abortion rights advocates argue the regulation is designed with one goal: to regulate abortion out of existence.


The Supreme Court announced this month it would hear arguments in the case of June Medical Services v. Gee, which challenges one of Louisiana’s many restrictions on abortion. For those on both sides of the abortion debate, the court’s decision to take up the case was vitally important: It’s the first abortion-related case since the high court’s ideology shifted conservative with the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

For the first installment of “Abortion in America: Louisiana,” CBS News reporter Kate Smith spoke to T.J. Tu, senior counsel for litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights and the lead counsel for June Medical Services v. Gee. Tu told CBS News the Louisiana law at the center of the Supreme Court case  – the “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act” – isn’t about safety, but rather is a way for the state to eliminate abortion access without having to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

“[Anti-abortion rights politicians] understand full well that these laws are a very surgical strike on abortion clinics and will force them to close,” Tu told CBS News in an interview on October 10. “And if they can do that with bogus laws like this one, then the Supreme Court never even has to consider whether Roe v. Wade is good law, they can just make abortion inaccessible for women throughout the state.”

In June Medical Services v. Gee, the Supreme Court will consider a Louisiana state law that requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital no less than 30 miles away. Tu, who’s arguing to strike down Louisiana’s law, explained to CBS News why that specific requirement has been so effective in shutting down abortion access. Tu said that if the Supreme Court upholds the law, he expects even more anti-abortion regulations to be introduced and more clinics to close.

Below is a transcript of the interview with Tu. It has been edited lightly for clarity.

Kate SmithWhat’s at the heart of the Supreme Court case?

T.J. Tu: At the heart of this case is whether states like Louisiana can regulate abortion providers out of the practice of medicine. In this particular case, the law requires admitting privileges, which is a law that the Supreme Court already looked at only three years ago, out of Texas, where they struck down the law. And the question is whether the Louisiana law should meet the same fate.

SmithWhole Woman’s Health [the case that considered the admitting privileges requirement in Texas] is extremely similar to this June Medical Services case. What’s the difference?

Tu: There is no difference. The law is identical. And it’s not identical by coincidence. It’s identical on purpose. So the legislators in Louisiana saw Texas passed the same law that closed half the clinics in that state and said, ‘We want to do that, too.’

So the law is word for word the same. In Louisiana, like Texas, it has no medical benefit for patients and the disastrous effect would actually be worse in Louisiana. In Texas, the law closed half the clinics. In Louisiana, it would close all of the clinics except one and leave only one doctor for roughly a million women.

SmithSo if this law is so similar, why did the Supreme Court take this case?

Tu: The Supreme Court had to take the case. They had to take it because the lower court in our case actually upheld the law, despite the fact that the Supreme Court only three years ago struck the same law down. And that’s really untenable. The Supreme Court can’t stand back and let lower courts violate their own precedents. So they had to jump in and look at this because it’s very clear that the law is identical.

SmithThere is one major difference between three years ago and today. There’s an ideological shift on the Supreme Court. Is that something that concerns you?

Tu: The makeup of the court is different, but the Constitution is the same. A law that the Supreme Court struck down only three years ago in Texas has to be unconstitutional. In [the case out of] Louisiana today, the Supreme Court, many of the justices have said that they believe in precedent. And that means following the rulings that have been laid down before. If that concept of precedent has any meaning, it means that this law has to meet the same fate as the Texas law.

Smith: I’d love to get in a little bit more about the law in question. What are admitting privileges?

Tu: Admitting privileges give doctors the right to actually admit patients to a local hospital. And what people really need to understand is, they’re totally medically unnecessary when it comes to abortion care. Abortion today is an extremely safe procedure. So the likelihood that a patient is ever going to need to be admitted to a hospital is pretty much near zero. So doctors who perform abortions don’t need admitting privileges.

But here’s the kicker: they also can’t get admitting privileges for a whole host of reasons. Doctors who perform abortions are excluded from admitting privileges. Many hospitals only give privileges to doctors who send them lots of patients. Abortion providers don’t send lots of patients to a hospital, precisely because abortion care is so safe. So when you outlaw abortions unless doctors have admitting privileges, you basically put a lot of really good doctors out of the practice of medicine, you close clinics, and you leave patients with literally nowhere to go.

SmithYou’re representing Hope Clinic, one of the three clinics left in the state. Can you tell me a little bit about the doctor’s experience trying to get admitting privileges?

Tu: Absolutely. So let’s just take one of the doctors who’s actually a plaintiff in this case – ob gyn, decades of experience, he went to a hospital to try and get admitting privileges where he actually had been on faculty for 18 years. And they said, ‘You know, now that you’re providing abortion care, we’d really not like to get involved.’

Then he went to a second hospital. And that hospital said, ‘We’ll consider your application, but only if you give us a list of all the patients you’ve seen in a hospital in the last year.’

But of course, he hasn’t seen any patients in a hospital because none of his patients had any complications. So they refuse to even consider his application.

So then he goes to a third hospital. And he says, ‘I’m really out of options. I need admitting privileges.’ And they say to him, ‘There’s some people on staff who think giving you admitting privileges given the nature of your work would be bad for hospital business.’ So through no fault of his own, he doesn’t have admitting privileges, and he has to tell his patients, ‘I’m sorry, I can no longer be your doctor.’

SmithWhat you’re describing doesn’t seem to have anything to do with safety.

Tu: These laws have literally nothing to do with safety. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Leading medical organizations like the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology – they all oppose these laws. And even more than that, the Supreme Court only three years ago said these laws are unnecessary for women’s health and safety because abortion care today is already so safe. In fact, the Supreme Court said there’s not even a single woman in the entire state of Texas who would have had a better result if her doctor had admitting privileges. And the same is true in Louisiana. We have been litigating this case now for five years, and Louisiana has never been able to point to even a single woman in the state whose care would be better if the doctor had admitting privileges.

SmithThere has to be another side to this, there has to be a reason why someone in a state house would believe that admitting privileges would help someone seeking an abortion.

Tu: I don’t think so. We’re talking about a state like Louisiana, that has gone on record saying that its end goal is to ban abortion. Just this past year, it passed a six-week ban on abortion. Next year, they’re going to consider a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions. We know what the end goal is. And admitting privileges laws are just a short circuit to get there.

They understand full well that these laws are a very surgical strike on abortion clinics and will force them to close. If they can do that with bogus laws like this one, then the Supreme Court never even has to consider whether Roe v. Wade is good law. They can just make abortion inaccessible for women throughout the state.

SmithSo you’re saying through all of these new smaller regulations, you can effectively overturn Roe v. Wade in a completely different way.

Tu: Absolutely. And they’ve been at this now for over 10 years. If you look across the country, we have seen over 400 of these laws, restrictions on abortion providers that basically make it impossible for them to continue providing good quality, cost-effective care to patients. So they shut their doors. And if you’re a patient in Louisiana, what does it matter if Roe v. Wade is still good law if you literally can’t find a single doctor to provide the care that you need.

Smith: On the other side, people believe that there is a moral problem with abortion, and some people believe it is akin to murder. What does that mean for you? If someone truly believes that, is that problematic to you?

Tu: I understand that we live in a country where people’s views are very diverse, especially on this issue. But we also live in a country where women are allowed to make this decision for themselves, in consultation with their families and with their physicians. And as long as that’s the law, I’m here to defend their right.

SmithThis law would not only impact access to abortion in Louisiana, it could impact nationally how women access abortion. Can you speak to what women outside of Louisiana might see if the Supreme Court upholds this law?

Tu: Absolutely. If the Supreme Court does not strike down this bogus Louisiana law, you are going to see anti-abortion activists double down, triple down on these types of restrictions. And it won’t just be admitting privileges laws. It’ll be any number of sham restrictions that are nominally about women’s health, but of course, are really just designed to shut down clinics.

We’ve already seen over 400 of these laws in the last decade and we’re going to see tons more unless the Supreme Court does what it did three years ago and says, ‘Not so fast, you can’t just run roughshod over women’s constitutional rights.’

SmithWe’ve seen an unprecedented wave of anti-abortion restrictions just this year. Do you think that’s a response to a new ideological makeup of the Supreme Court?

Tu: I don’t think there’s much mystery about that, because the anti-abortion activists have said that’s what they’re doing. They see the change in the court as an opportunity for them to do things that even a couple of years ago would have been considered really unconstitutional.

The makeup of the Supreme Court is not supposed to radically change our underlying fundamental constitutional rights. But of course, it’s inspired them to have a go at it. And that’s where the country finds itself today.

Smith: If the Supreme Court does uphold this law, Louisiana would go down to one clinic for all of the women in the state. What kind of burden does that put on people seeking abortion?

Tu: It puts a tremendous burden on patients. For many of them, that will mean that there’s literally nowhere to go in the state, because of course, one doctor cannot possibly treat all the women in the state. So plenty of women will have no doctor at all.

Women who actually can find their way to this doctor are going to face longer wait times. They’re going to push their procedures later into pregnancy. It’s going to be more expensive. Overcrowded clinics, less time with the doctor, and many women will have to go out of state.

And you have to realize that the campaign to restrict abortion access in the south has been ruthless, so there are very few clinics even in the neighboring states. What we have to worry about also is that when women have diminished options, some may take matters into their own hands and pursue things that are really unsafe, or even illegal.

SmithLouisiana wouldn’t be the only state with one clinic left. Nationally, how might this impact access?

Tu: Louisiana could [join] six states down to only one clinic. And really, that’s remarkable. But it’s a sign of what anti-abortion activists have been up to for the last decade. While much of the public has been talking about Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion activists have been steadily passing laws that put clinics out of business. So Roe v. Wade stays on the books, but abortion access goes away. Think about Louisiana: In 2001, that state had 11 clinics. Since then, year after year, they’ve passed regulation after regulation after regulation culminating in the admitting privileges law that we’re talking about today. And now we’re down to only three clinics, and this law would reduce it down to one.

SmithHow many other states might go down to one clinic, or even none?

Tu: Only time will tell, but I’m worried it may be plenty, because it’s not just admitting privileges laws. Anti-abortion activists have come up with loads of ways to put clinics out of business. And the Supreme Court’s decision three years ago was a real push on the brakes to say, ‘Hold on a minute, you can’t get away with this.’

If the Supreme Court takes its foot off the brake, we’re just going to see a whole bunch of the same bogus restrictions that are going to close clinics overnight.

Smith: Are you saying that if a Supreme Court upholds Louisiana’s law, politicians would pass even more anti-abortion restrictions than we’ve seen?

Tu: Absolutely. This past year was a terrible year when it comes to women’s constitutional rights. If the Supreme Court doesn’t stick by its precedent, it’s only going to take the lid off things. And I worry the country may be consumed with ridiculous laws that are meant to close clinics.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/louisiana-abortion-case-supreme-court-attorney-says-these-laws-have-literally-nothing-to-do-with-safety/?fbclid=IwAR3JhaT5nz_Hw211BnGmPVMEgFQmua00j4L3XtjzbmZzKrm7rt9XHRX7jr8

The bifurcation of abortion access in the United States means more clinics should be built on the border of states with onerous anti-choice restrictions, advocates say.

The location of the new Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights, Illinois, was strategically chosen to reach as many patients in the region as possible.
Michael Thomas / Getty Images

After 18 months of secret construction, Planned Parenthood will open one of the nation’s largest abortion clinics in southern Illinois this month, expanding access not just in the state but across the midwest.

The new health center in Fairview Heights, Illinois, will replace the city’s smaller Planned Parenthood clinic, which provided family planning and medication abortion services to more than 5,000 patients in 2018. The location of the new facility, just 13 miles from Missouri’s last remaining abortion clinic in St. Louis, was strategically chosen to reach as many patients in the region as possible, said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

The 18,000-square-foot facility, equipped to serve 11,000 patients a year, is the latest abortion clinic to be built near the border of a state where lawmakers have restricted access to abortion care at every turn. Reproductive rights advocates say it will be critically important to construct abortion-providing facilities near states where people are burdened by medically unnecessary anti-choice laws.

“We specifically chose Illinois because we know the policies in that state have made Illinois an oasis for access to the entire spectrum of reproductive health-care services,” Rodriguez told Rewire.News.

Missouri is one of six states with only one abortion provider, and that provider’s state license has been in jeopardy this year as anti-choice politicians continue to adjust licensing requirements. Conversely, Democrats in Illinois have passed legislation to protect and expand abortion access, making it one of the least restrictive states in the country. An increasing number of patients from surrounding states are traveling to Illinois to receive abortion care.

“Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri has been looking to expand and protect access to comprehensive reproductive health care not just in Missouri, where we know abortion access hangs on by a thread, but in the Midwest region, where we have states like Arkansas and Kentucky increasing restrictions to limit women’s access to these services,” Rodriguez said.

The divide between Illinois and Missouri illustrates an emerging trend across the country, as states with Republican-held legislatures, primarily in the South and Midwest, continue to make abortion care inaccessible, while states with Democratic-majority legislatures in the West and Northeast protect and expand access. In the first six months of 2019, state legislatures enacted 58 abortion restrictions, 26 of which would ban the procedure in all, most, or some cases, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

In Colorado, another state many people travel to for abortion care, the location of abortion clinics is strategically chosen to reach those needing services, said Laura Chapin, spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. Colorado is one of seven states that doesn’t restrict abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Colorado clinics served women from 34 states in 2018, the Denver Post reported.

“There’s a Planned Parenthood facility on the eastern side of Denver off I-70. That’s not an accident,” Chapin told Rewire.News. “There should be a national standard of care across the country. That’s why you have constitutional rights that aren’t dependent on your geography.”

While 2019 has brought a surge of GOP-backed abortion bans, spurred by hopes that conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, Democratic-led state legislatures have passed a record number of bills meant to secure and expand abortion access, said Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute. In the first six months of 2019, states have enacted 93 proactive provisions, including 29 that protect abortion rights, 11 that increase access to contraception, and 15 that seek to improve comprehensive sex education.

“The immediate catalyst is a more conservative Supreme Court, but these proactive bills are also a reaction to a longer trend of abortion restrictions,” Nash told Rewire.News. “And there isn’t a lot of overlap. States are either looking to ban abortion or protect it.”

Planned Parenthood built the new Fairview Heights facility using a shell company to avoid interference from protestors, CBS News reported. Other Planned Parenthood projects have been halted by protestors harassing contractors and putting pressure on other vendors The new clinic will begin serving patients in mid-October and will provide a broad spectrum of reproductive health-care services including medication and surgical abortions, cancer screenings, annual exams, family planning, HIV prevention, and STI testing.

Though the new Planned Parenthood facility in Illinois will be equipped to serve thousands of patients, many across the Midwest will still have to travel long distances to receive care. People in the middle or southern regions of Missouri will need to drive at least a couple hours to reach an abortion provider in either St. Louis or Illinois. People in western Missouri could seek care in eastern Kansas, but will still need to travel to get there.

“We know that increasing one access point doesn’t necessarily mean all people will be able to seek the care they need, but Planned Parenthood is committed to reducing as many barriers as we can,” Rodriguez said.

While the new Planned Parenthood facility will expand access in Missouri and Illinois, the same strategy may not be as effective in other parts of the country where neighboring states have onerous restrictions, Nash said.

“If we are looking at the current political environment, particularly in the South, you aren’t going to find many states where building a facility on a border will really increase access,” Nash said. “Certainly for Illinois, building capacity there is part of a solution, but if you’re in Alabama or Mississippi, where potentially could the next clinic be?”

As state legislatures continue to pass laws aimed at either restricting or expanding access to abortion care, more patients will be forced to travel or go without the care they need.

“I do think the existing divide in access will continue and be exacerbated, and that isn’t where we need to be,” Nash said. “We need to be looking at what patients need, and making sure they get the services they desire and deserve with respect and dignity.”

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2019/10/11/the-strategy-behind-where-to-build-abortion-clinics/

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, speaks to a legislative study committee, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas. The committee is considering whether lawmakers should propose an amendment to the Kansas Constitution to overturn a state Supreme Court decision declaring access to abortion a fundamental right. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Kansas conservatives are trying to overturn a state Supreme Court decision that protects abortion rights and threatens years’ worth of Republican-enacted restrictions, guaranteeing an election-year fight over amending the state constitution.

A legislative study committee opened two days of hearings Tuesday on a ruling in April by the state’s highest court that access to abortion is a fundamental right under the Kansas Constitution. The Republican-led committee is expected to urge the full, GOP-controlled Legislature to put a proposed constitutional change on the ballot next year for voters to consider.

Anti-abortion groups and legislators said Tuesday that they’re still drafting their proposal. Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said the measure wouldn’t seek to ban abortion outright but would declare that the Legislature determines how it is regulated.

If the effort succeeds, Kansas would be among a handful of states in which voters have added provisions to their state constitutions to declare that they don’t grant a right to an abortion. Alabama and West Virginia approved theirs last year, and Louisiana voters are considering a ballot question next year.

“We’re really stuck here,” Culp told the committee. “There is no other way to do it.”

Abortion rights opponents didn’t push for action before lawmakers adjourned their annual session in May, saying they wanted to confer with lawyers throughout the country and build political support.

The Legislature has long had anti-abortion majorities, but abortion opponents were a bit spooked in early May, when anti-abortion lawmakers narrowly failed to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill that would have required providers to tell patients about a disputed treatment to stop a medication-induced abortion after it has been started.

Overriding a veto requires the same two-thirds majorities in both chambers that are required to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for a statewide vote.

And in Iowa, another Republican-leaning state where the highest court issued an abortion-rights ruling in 2018, lawmakers have failed to move forward with a constitutional change, and one couldn’t go before voters there until 2022.

“Those politicians who are very opposed to abortion, for whom this is their No. 1 issue, realize that this isn’t an easy task anymore,” said Rachel Sweet, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “It’s going to be tricky for them to get the votes that they need.”

The Kansas court decision came as other states moved to ban most abortions in direct challenges to the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In Kansas, the April decision means that even if Roe were overturned, state courts could reject new restrictions or invalidate those enacted under Kelly’s conservative Republican predecessors.

The Kansas Supreme Court declared that the state constitution’s Bill of Rights grants a “natural right of personal autonomy” protecting a woman’s right to end her pregnancy. Critics see that as an overreach because most abortions were illegal in Kansas Territory when the state constitution was adopted in 1859.

Two justices in the 6-1 majority have announced their retirements, and Kelly, an abortion rights supporter, will name their replacements in the coming months, with no oversight from lawmakers. Abortion foes also are pushing a proposed constitutional change to require state Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justices, hoping that the court eventually would move to the right.

“Then, we are inserting politics into the judicial decision-making process, and that’s a very bad idea,” said state Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat who supports abortion rights.

The Kansas court’s abortion decision blocked enforcement of a first-in-the-nation ban on a common second-trimester procedure. Special health and safety regulators for abortion providers have been tied up in state court since 2011.

Abortion opponents worry that even long-standing laws, such as one requiring a parent’s consent for a minor’s abortion, could be in jeopardy if the decision isn’t overturned.

“Personally, it’s my top priority,” Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a conservative Wichita Republican, said in an interview. “And I have a lot of colleagues who agree that this is most important.”

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/kansas-conservatives-push-undo-abortion-rights-ruling-65990551?fbclid=IwAR1wqPgDw_ZeU7zGbIrP2M2NqoFlTQEs2KQXZgS3j-BS7Bzj4kjrYSqUdJc

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) threw a wrench into Republicans’ plans to funnel state funding to clinics that lie to pregnant people and don’t provide a full range of reproductive health services.

Whitmer, who won the governorship in 2018, last week used her line-item veto power to prevent Pennsylvania-based Real Alternatives from using more state dollars to line Real Alternatives executives’ pockets while failing to meet the promised metrics for success and promoting an anti-abortion agenda.
Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Michigan’s reproductive rights powerhouse Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) recently smacked down $700,000 in state funding for a group with a long history of misspending taxpayer dollars and deceiving pregnant people.

Whitmer, who won the governorship in 2018, last week used her line-item veto power to prevent Pennsylvania-based Real Alternatives from receiving more state dollars while failing to meet the promised metrics for success and promoting an anti-choice agenda.

Funding for Real Alternatives should have never made it into the Michigan budget, much less to our governor’s desk. The idea of increasing what the state was giving the anti-choice group is an insult to me as a woman, a taxpayer, and a person capable of reading a simple balance sheet. But given the absurdist theater of state politics of the past few years, I’m not the least bit surprised.

Months after Whitmer proposed her budget, Republican lawmakers tried to corner her by taking a summer vacation and giving her mere days to prevent a government shutdown. It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right. But what do you expect from GOP officials with a history of taking money away from needy families and children?

Real Alternatives has been proven to misuse money intended to serve vulnerable households with newborn children. They grew their own executives’ paychecks, missed yearly goals they promised to fulfill for the Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program, and funded anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers that lie to and manipulate people who seek abortion care.

We’ve known Whitmer is a powerful ally for reproductive rights. As a state senator and a representative, she was no stranger to the uphill battle against nonsense anti-abortion legislation. She fought back against attacks on later abortion care in 2008, and tried to fend off so-called rape insurance in 2014, although—unfortunately—both eventually passed with Republican support.

But it shouldn’t take an effective ally to see through Real Alternatives’ charade. Real Alternatives is just one piece of the growing anti-abortion movement in Michigan and across the country.

Since the spring, anti-choice groups Michigan Values Life (backed by Right to Life Michigan) and the Michigan Heartbeat Coalition have launched two ballot initiatives to make second-trimester abortions inaccessible and criminalize abortion at six weeks’ gestation, respectively.

But even without those ballot initiatives, abortion care is barely accessible for Michiganders. From Detroit to Kalamazoo, people have to wait for available appointments at clinics, pay for abortion out of pocket unless they purchase an additional insurance rider, and plan around a 24-hour forced waiting period to obtain an abortion.

And while legislators are trying to pay Real Alternatives to fund fake programs, our Planned Parenthood affiliates are under financial stress after a Trump administration policy forced the organization to reject federal family planning funding in order to keep providing abortion services.

When we find the small victories in the long list of battles pro-choice advocates face here in Michigan, we’ll take them.

If not for Whitmer’s strong pro-choice leadership, Republicans would’ve handed over the money to Real Alternatives. This would have been one more win for the right’s nationally coordinated attack on reproductive freedom in the United States.

Everyone knows abortion restrictions are not about protection or medical necessity—bad-faith arguments put forth by anti-choice Republicans. Making abortion illegal or inaccessible is a way for conservatives to oppress and punish people who seek necessary health care.

Funding groups like Real Alternatives is about taking money away from those who need it. Even without mentioning the word, “abortion,” funneling taxpayer money into Real Alternatives was a direct attack on abortion rights.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2019/10/09/michigan-governor-says-no-to-more-taxpayer-funds-for-anti-choice-clinics/

Banning abortions isn’t particularly effective. When governments restrict access to abortion, abortions actually continue to take place at roughly the same rate, according to the World Health Organization. But they get less safe. When abortion services are denied or limited, coat hangers, toxic herbal medicines and unqualified practitioners step into the breach, while medical professionals who provide proper care are criminalized.

Total bans or restrictive abortion laws in countries like El SalvadorPoland and more recently several U.S. states (including Louisiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Missouri) are designed to control and confine women and girls to stereotypical gender roles. They are an affront to their human rights and dignity and constitute gender discrimination. For transgender and queer people who need abortions, such restrictive laws are the latest in a long line of attacks on their rights and freedoms.

Organizations defending human rights have documented the agony and despair stemming from restrictive abortion laws around the world. One of the most harrowing stories is that of “Ms Y”, a woman who was granted asylum in Ireland after being beaten and raped by paramilitaries in her own country. Ms Y tried to kill herself several times when she was told she could not end her pregnancy, which was the result of rape. She was eventually forced to give birth by C-section. At every step of the way, the Irish authorities’ concern for the protection of the fetus trumped any consideration of Ms Y’s mental and physical health.

Last year Ireland joined the list of nearly 50 countries that have expanded access to lawful abortion over the last few decades. It was a historic move which came too late for Ms Y, but which will protect others from suffering the same trauma.

More recently, we have seen the horrific impact of criminal abortion laws being used to punish people for suffering pregnancy-related complications. In El Salvador, women who suffer miscarriages or stillbirths are routinely “suspected of having abortions” and charged with homicide.

In April 2016, Evelyn Hernández, a 21-year-old El Salvadorian woman, suffered an obstetric emergency at home, resulting in the loss of her pregnancy. She was arrested, tried and sentenced to 30 years in jail for aggravated homicide. In February this year, a higher court overturned this ruling and ordered a re-trial — which found Evelyn innocent. However, on Sept. 6, the Salvadoran Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that it would appeal that judgement – showing the authorities’ obsession with charging her under the country’s draconian laws.

We must continue to stand up to governments’ efforts to control women’s and girls’ bodies. According to the US-based reproductive health non-profit the Guttmacher Institute’s latest report, as of 2017, 42% of women of reproductive age live in the 125 countries where abortion is highly restricted (prohibited altogether, or allowed only to save a woman’s life or protect her health). Jurisdictions around the world are going to extreme lengths to restrict abortion access — stripping those who can get pregnant of their human rights and bodily autonomy.

Any person who does not control what happens to their body cannot be free. The debate around abortion should go beyond whether a person’s life is endangered by pregnancy. At the core of the issue is a person’s right to make decisions about what happens to their body. This right is critical to enabling all people who can get pregnant to fully exercise their human rights and to live their lives with dignity. Governments must not only decriminalize abortion and ensure access to safe abortion in practice, but also create social conditions in which people can make pregnancy-related decisions free of oppression, discrimination, stigma, coercion, violence, lack of opportunities or punishment.

More and more countries have woken up to this fact, despite the alarming rollback of reproductive rights in some countries, like the United States or Poland, driven by anti-choice groups and supported by populist politicians. Over the last 25 years, around 50 countries have changed their laws to allow for greater access to abortion. Although national contexts vary, one thing has united all successful campaigns to reform abortion laws: women speaking out. From Ireland to South Korea, activists have helped dispel the stigma and secrecy surrounding abortion by sharing their stories. In Argentina and Poland, over a million women have marched to demand that their voices be heard.

People who need, or have had, abortions deserve our support and solidarity. Whether by donating time and resources to national abortion networks, taking to the streets in protest or educating people in our lives about the need for safe abortion, we all have a role to play in reclaiming our rights.

At the same time, governments must expand access to safe, lawful and affordable abortion and contraception for all people. Not only is it the humane thing to do, it is a state obligation under international law. It will prevent countless deaths, life-long trauma and life-changing injuries.

Source: https://time.com/5684858/international-safe-abortion-day/?fbclid=IwAR3us_9q_kYCdrHa2SXTwF2cB-XnXxbJ1et5vTug6nTDXk3i2EMv3ILiOGM

In 1962, a woman named Sherri Chessen Finkbine, who was the host of a children’s TV show, learned that a tranquilizer she had been taking for chest pains contained a drug known to cause birth defects. This was definitely troubling enough, but Finkbine was pregnant too. Knowing that the fetus was in danger, the mother of four, accompanied by her husband, sought an abortion at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.

A doctor agreed to do the procedure, which at the time was illegal except in atypical health circumstances. But after Finkbine’s story made it into the press, the hospital reversed the decision, and the family of six was at the center of a fiery national moral debate. Eventually Finkbine went to Sweden and obtained an abortion. She was able to exercise her reproductive freedom, but she also lost her job as a result.

That August, the nonpartisan polling group Gallup conducted its first-ever poll concerning abortion, specifically about Finkbine (called “an Arizona woman” in the poll) and her decision to have the procedure. The poll asked: “As you may have heard or read, an Arizona woman recently had a LEGAL abortion in Sweden after having taken the drug thalidomide, which has been linked to birth defects. Do you think this woman did the right thing or the wrong thing in having this abortion operation?” When the poll was released in September 1962, 52% of the nation said the Arizona woman did the right thing; 32% said the abortion was the wrong thing; and 16% had no opinion.

Among those surveyed, 54% of men said it was the right thing, as did 50% of women.

The Gallup press release announcing that poll was headlined “Public Agrees With Abortion Action Taken by Mrs. Finkbine.” Nearly 60 years after the American public was asked to judge a working mother from Arizona, the subject of abortion, in one form or another, continues to have support from a majority of Americans. It just may not feel that way.

Abortion is almost always presented as a divisive and contentious issue. How can it not be when clinic workers know their protesters by name? When clinicians have reported more than 3,000 incidents of protester obstruction and more than 1,000 cases of trespassing at facilities? Since at least the first major wave of murders of abortion providers and their staffers in the 1990s, abortion has been largely presented as a ride-or-(literally)-die issue.

The truth is, though, abortion is largely condoned. One could even say abortion is popular. And while abortion may become more divisive when you dive into party identification, many other societal markers show that the medical procedure and the freedom it allows remain popular issues. Gallup has been tracking abortion as a social issue since 1975, two years after Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court, with one consistent question used to gauge public opinion: “Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances or illegal in all circumstances?”(The analytics company has tracked abortion through other questions starting earlier, but the 1975 question lets us measure (un)favorability over decades.)

When that question was asked in 1975, 55% of Republican voters said abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, with another 18% believing abortion should be legal under any circumstances. Only 25% of Republican voters in 1975 said abortion should be illegal no matter what. When looking at independent voters, these numbers were similar: 58% said abortion should be legal in certain conditions; 24% said legal under any conditions; and only 16% said abortion should be illegal.

These numbers were relatively similar when polling Democratic voters in 1975. Fifty-one percent said abortion should be legal under certain circumstances and 19% thought abortion should be legal under any circumstances. The Democratic voting pie was rounded out with 26% saying abortion should be illegal. This means that among the self-identified Republicans and Democrats polled, abortion had roughly the same amount of broad support, 18% and 19% respectively.

In 44 years the numbers haven’t moved that much. In 2019, 55% of Republican voters still said that abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. The number of Republicans who said abortion should be legal under any circumstances dropped 6 points to 12%. The number of Republicans who said abortion should be illegal increased by seven points from 25% to 32%. For independents, the numbers have changed even less: The only movement in 44 years was for those who believe abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances, which decreased from 58% to 56%.

Numbers among Democrats have seen real shake-ups, despite the trend lines staying at roughly the same level. Fewer people believe abortion should be legal in only certain circumstances (51% to 45%), but the number who believe abortion should be legal in all cases increased from 19% all the way to 39%. Additionally, the percentage of people who believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances decreased from 26% in 1975 to 14% in 2019.

“The overall trend hasn’t moved very much, but that’s masking the fact that Democrats have become more supportive of abortion rights and Republicans have become more entrenched in the pro-life position,” Gallup senior editor Lydia Saad told Teen Vogue.

To Saad’s point, Republicans who identify as “pro-life,” as opposed to “pro-choice,” increased from 51% in 1995, when Gallup first started asking the question, to 75% in 2019. Those who identify as pro-choice dropped by 21 points during those 24 years. Democrats who identify as pro-choice increased by 10 points to 68% and those who identify as pro-life dropped by 4 points to 29%.

Polling shows that support for abortion is up on both sides of the aisle. A poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found that the number of Democrats agreeing that “abortion should be legal all or most of the time” grew by 13 points between 2008 and early June 2019, when the poll was conducted. Republicans increased their broad support for abortion by four points during that same period.

That support was cited by National Abortion Federation interim president and CEO, the Very Rev. Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale: “The majority of people in this country want [people] to have safe, compassionate, quality health care,” Hancock Ragsdale told Teen Vogue. “Even if that were not true, [if] the majority didn’t agree, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to deny women safe, compassionate, quality health care. This is a basic human right that cannot be denied because of numbers, and a majority of people know that.”

Oddly, party identification is one of the only societal identifications where this split in opinions on abortion is so clear. Saad said that while the partisan entrenchment is real, it overlooks the crossover Americans have in their views on the procedure: “People are so nuanced on abortion that it oversimplifies public opinion. It makes it sound like this intransigent two different camps when there’s, in fact, a lot of overlap [in] views among both groups about when abortion should be legal.” Saad continued, “I always like to tell people there’s a lot more opportunity for compromise than you would think from the politics of it, or even these labels.”

Interestingly, views on abortion are not divided along gender lines. In May 2018, 26% of men and 31% of women favored legal abortion under all circumstances. This number has only grown since Gallup started tracking the opinion in the late 1970s; it was then 21% of men and 22% of women.

“Gender is one of the least differentiating demographics on abortion,” Saad told Teen Vogue. “Year to year, it goes back and forth whether men or women are more pro-choice or more pro-life. If you average it out over our history, it comes out pretty even-steven.”

Saad’s assessment remains true for the participants who favor abortion legalization but only in certain circumstances. In 1979, 54% of men and women said they favor legal abortion in certain circumstances. By 2018, the numbers had barely moved: 53% of men and 48% of women.

These numbers track with what Linda Greenhouse, coauthor of Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling, witnessed for decades while covering the Supreme Court for The New York Times. “All that’s changed is our politics. And the politics have been driven by particular, very engaged interest groups and politicians, not by anything that the public wants changed,” she said.

There have always been conflicts about abortion despite its popularity, Greenhouse added. “Public support for the right to abortion has basically not changed. It’s a little up, a little down. It’s been the case since Roe v. Wade; there’s a solid majority of the public that support women’s access to abortion,” she said. “One part of our efforts of the Before Roe v. Wade book was to show that it wasn’t the court in Roe v. Wade that created the conflicts over abortion. There were conflicts over abortion before then.”

Abortion may have incredibly vocal opponents, but polling that’s been conducted since before abortion was legal shows that reproductive choice was and remains popular. Maybe it’s time for the national media to treat abortion supporters as the loudest voices in the room.

Source: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/public-opinion-abortion-us-favorable