Argentina’s Senate voted against legalizing elective abortion in the early hours of Thursday morning, dashing the hopes of pro-abortion rights advocates in the predominantly Catholic country, homeland of Pope Francis.

The Senate rejected the proposed bill 38 to 31, with two abstentions and one absentee.
The bill, which fueled contentious debate, would have expanded abortion rights to allow women to end a pregnancy in the first 14 weeks. Current laws allow the procedure only in cases of rape, or when the mother’s health is at risk.
A heavy police presence around the National Congress in Buenos Aires quickly quelled scattered confrontations after the vote’s outcome was announced.
Opposition mounted ahead of the vote in Argentina’s more conservative Senate after the legislation only narrowly passed through the lower house of Congress in June. And the bill lost momentum over the weekend when an opposition senator withdrew her support.
Activists in favour of the legalization of abortion comfort each other outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires.

Celia Szusterman, trustee of the UK board of Pro-Mujer and director of the Latin America program at the Institute for Statecraft, told CNN that is was “a step backward for women’s rights and women’s health.”
She says it’s a “sad day… not only because of the way the vote went but the way the campaign for and against went. It was so divisive.”
Protesters demonstrate in support of loosening the abortion law, left, and against abortion, right, in this photo taken from Congress where lawmakers were debating the issue.

But even with its defeat, the groundswell of support for the legislation is not expected to go away, with those who supported the bill saying it was a victory that it was even debated.
Activists say they’ll keep pushing the bill, in the hope that it passes one day soon.
“It will happen because that’s the world — to increase rights and this is one of the fundamental rights that is still not available to women in Latin America,” Szusterman said.
The bill has ignited passions and sparked widespread protests in Argentina, with anti-abortion campaigners protesting in the streets under blue “save both lives” banners and members of the opposing side in the debate donning green bandanas.
As senators debated the bill into the early hours of Thursday morning, pro-abortion rights activists rallied outside Congress chanting “legal abortion at the hospital” while the Catholic Church held a “Mass for Life” in the capital Buenos Aires.
Pro-choice activists hold a poster of a woman who died as a result of a clandestine abortion.

In recent weeks the so-called “green wave” demonstrations have spread outside of Argentina too. Green bandanas — now a symbol of the abortion rights movement — have been spotted in Brazil, where the country’s supreme court is considering loosening abortion restrictions. And momentum is growing in Chile, where lawmakers voted last year to ease the country’s strict ban.
Supporters of the bill rallied across the region Wednesday, in Chile, Uruguay, Mexico and Peru, as well as across the Atlantic, in Spain.
An activist in favour of the legalization of abortion holds a sign reading "Take out your Rosaries from our ovaries" during a demonstration outside of Argentina's embassy in Santiago de Chile.

Bolstered by Ireland’s referendum in May, which removed one of Europe’s last abortion bans, pro-abortion rights activists were hoping they could turn the tide on abortion law in Latin America, where more than 97% of women of reproductive age live in countries with restrictive abortion laws. On Tuesday, 60 Irish parliamentarians, across political parties and groups, signed a letter to the Argentinian senators urging a vote in favor of the bill.
While Pope Francis hasn’t addressed the legislation directly, he did speak out strongly against abortion just days after the bill was approved by the lower house — comparing abortion to avoid birth defects to Nazi eugenics.
The pontiff also issued a letter in March, as the abortion debate began, urging Argentines to “make a contribution in defense of life and justice.”

Abortion-rights advocates are intensifying efforts to make it easier for women to get abortions amid a new wave of state-level bans and restrictions expected to occur under a reconfigured U.S. Supreme Court. The efforts include boosting financial aid for women needing to travel long distances to get an abortion, and raising awareness about the option of do-it-yourself abortions.

The sense of urgency stems from the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sometimes provided the decisive vote in support of abortion rights, and the possibility that Brett Kavanaugh, nominated by President Donald Trump to replace him, would give the court an anti-abortion majority.

Advocates anticipate new limits on abortion access in red states that are emboldened by the prospect of a more solidly conservative court. The Republican-led states want more latitude in the courts to impose far-reaching abortion restrictions while hoping that a lawsuit on the issue makes its way to the Supreme Court and is the case that ultimately overturns Roe v. Wade — the 1973 establishing a nationwide right to abortion.

Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said that since Kennedy’s retirement announcement on June 27, there has been a surge of donations to help the network assist low-income women in paying for their abortions. There are 70 funds in 38 states, currently assisting about one-fifth of the 150,000 women who inquire about assistance each year.

“Without a doubt we’re moving into a bleaker time,” Hernandez said. “People who haven’t been paying attention are realizing what is at stake, and wanting to get involved.”

If Roe were overturned, abortion-rights advocates anticipate that 20 or more states would ban most abortions. Women in those states might face long and costly interstate journeys to reach an abortion provider, or they could avail themselves of information about how to self-induce an abortion.

The two main abortion-inducing drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, are legally available only through authorized medical professionals in the U.S., and numerous states have placed restrictions on medical abortions. In many places abroad, misoprostol is widely available, even over the counter in pharmacies in some countries, and has been used extensively for self-induced abortions in countries such as Brazil that have restrictive laws.

For American women, the most likely means of obtaining misoprostol is via an online purchase from a foreign provider. That method is considered difficult to prevent, even in states with laws explicitly banning self-induced abortion.

A 2-year-old California-based organization, the Self-Inducted Abortion Legal Team, is expanding its operations this summer, convinced that the ongoing push for tougher abortion restrictions will prompt more women to consider the self-induced option.

Jill Adams, the team’s founder and chief strategist, said a top priority is to provide legal advice and support for any women who face possible prosecution for do-it-yourself abortions. Her group plans to launch a help line this fall that will provide callers with basic advice and, if warranted, connect them with an attorney in their area.

Her team and its allies are advocating that states avoid such prosecutions, a goal recently backed by two major medical associations.

Dr. Jamila Perritt, a Washington, D.C.-based obstetrician-gynecologist who provides abortions, says she has counseled some women who opted for self-induced abortions, and is grateful that they now have relatively safe and effective means of doing that, thanks to the abortion pill.

“Whatever happens with the Supreme Court, there are safer options now that we didn’t have 40 years ago,” she said.

Anti-abortion leaders are troubled by the positive talk about self-induced abortion.

“This kind of effort is dangerous and highly irresponsible,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee. She evoked the potential difficulties of women who used that method and then suffered serious side effects.

Tobias said her organization does not favor criminal action against women who self-abort, and instead would prefer targeting those who make the medicine available.

Many of the abortion-related topics now being discussed in the context of the Supreme Court vacancy will be summarized in a book being written by journalist and activist Robin Marty, titled “Handbook for a Post-Roe America.” It is scheduled for publication on Jan. 22, the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Marty describes the book as “a step-by-step guide explaining what any person can do once abortion becomes illegal or inaccessible in the U.S.” It covers possible legislative action, ways of supporting women who need to cross state lines for abortions, and the key factors involved in considering a self-induced abortion.

“The internet will be a great way to find information, but it’s a double-edged sword because it leaves a trail,” Marty said. “How do you access these things online without being able to be tracked?”


“Voters rely on you to stay true to your word, and everything that I’m campaigning on, that’s what I’ll do when I get to Congress,” said Deb Haaland, who would be the first Native American woman elected to Congress if she wins in November. “You have to be courageous.”

When asked generally about whether the Democratic Party should compromise on reproductive rights, Deb Haaland, a Democratic candidate running to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. Congress, told Rewire.News, “absolutely not.”
Netroots Nation / Facebook

Progressives can win office and policy goals when they stick to their values—including protecting reproductive rights. That was the message shared by many activists, organizers, and candidates who convened for the annual progressive summit Netroots Nation in New Orleans last week.

New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon touched on the theme in her keynote speech on Friday. “I’m tired of a Democratic establishment that warns candidates not to run on single-payer health care, and tells us to stop talking about abolishing ICE because it doesn’t poll well. The same Democratic establishment that once told us not to talk about civil rights, or same-sex marriage, or abortion, or a $15 minimum wage,” she continued, going on to suggest that her campaign had pushed incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo further to the left on issues like marijuana policy and teacher evaluations.

A panel the day prior moderated by #VoteProChoice co-founder and CEO Heidi Sieck went even further, specifically addressing abortion as a Democratic litmus test and the panelists’ belief that “for too long the Democratic Party has been compromising on reproductive freedom.”

The topic has caused visible conflict among Democrats coming to a head last year when Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello, who had cast anti-choice votes as a state legislator, was slated to speak alongside high-ranking party members at a rally. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has maintained there should be no litmus test on abortion for candidates.

When asked generally about whether the Democratic Party should compromise on reproductive rights, Deb Haaland, a Democratic candidate running to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. Congress, told Rewire.News, “absolutely not.”

“Abortion is legal in this country. It’s legal, and that is the baseline,” said Haaland, who would be the first Native American woman elected to Congress if she wins in November. “We can’t go backward on that. I’ll always fight for that. Women have died, and that can happen again.”

“I’ll never sacrifice any of my values,” Haaland said when asked about whether Democrats should moderate their stances to appeal to more voters. “Voters rely on you to stay true to your word, and everything that I’m campaigning on, that’s what I’ll do when I get to Congress …. You have to be courageous.”

Reproductive rights as an issue is “solidly progressive,” according to Marvin Randolph, president of the Southern Elections Fund and Onyx Communications.

When it comes to whether the party should work to appeal to anti-choice voters, Randolph told Rewire.News doing so would be “a big mistake.”

“That’s one issue that is an absolute deal-breaker,” he said. “When you try to expand your tent where you include just everybody, at some point you lose your voice with who you are.”

While he later noted that he thought there would always be “candidates in some districts, in some place, that may take a different position on the issue” to oppose abortion, and that it was something that “voters and the party have to sort … out,” speaking more generally about the party’s beliefs Randolph said that the issue was a core Democratic value.

“As a platform, as a fundamental, ‘This is what being a progressive and a Democrat is about,’ that is territory we should not cede,” Randolph continued. “I would challenge anyone that says that to say, ‘Well does the Republican Party see their position the opposite [way]? Never. When their candidates get into office, they hold their feet to the fire on that. They don’t wait a second, they don’t wait a minute. They don’t want to wait zero seconds and they are unflinching—and we need to be too.”

Democrat’s 2016 national platform did include an explicit commitment to protecting abortion rights and, for the first time, to repealing restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

Erica Sackin, director of political communications at Planned Parenthood, told Rewire.News that while the reproductive health organization is nonpartisan, “what you can say is that right now we’re seeing a movement across the country of women and of people galvanized around women’s health and women’s rights.”

When it comes to whether Democrats need to change their stances to appeal to more moderate voters, she noted that “people are really hungry for people who will be champions for them.”

“Alabama is a great example,” Sackin continued. “Roy Moore was absolutely a terrifying candidate, and he thought that he could win by saying that he was anti-abortion and by trying to leverage the fact that Doug Jones is unabashedly pro-choice against him. And what you saw is that it didn’t work. You saw Doug Jones’ base galvanized by him being supportive of access to abortion and access to reproductive health.”

“I think that right now we’re seeing this moment where people are really hungry for people who will stand up and fight for them, and that’s being reflected in the activism that you’re seeing but also the new candidates who are running for office,” she said.

Sackin said that she was seeing some of that energy at Netroots this year, and it had been a theme at the summit. “People who are not just organizing their communities, but running for office as first-time candidates and really not shying away from talking about the rights that affect people, including reproductive rights,” she said.


Natanael Barbosa and his aunt, Maria Aparecida Barbosa, talking about Natanael’s sister Ingriane Barbosa Carvalho, who died from a clandestine abortion.CreditLianne Milton for The New York Times

PETRÓPOLIS, Brazil — For three days after she had an illegal abortion, Ingriane Barbosa Carvalho hemorrhaged in silence. Even as she writhed in pain, and an infection caused by the botched procedure spread, Ms. Carvalho insisted to relatives she was just nursing a stomach bug.

By the time she sought medical help, it was too late. Ms. Carvalho, a 31-year-old mother of three, died seven days later.

Her death on May 16 illustrates the high stakes of the fight over reproductive rights that is playing out before Brazil’s Supreme Court during a rare two-day public hearing that started Friday.

The court will consider whether Brazil’s abortion laws — which forbid terminating pregnancies with few exceptions, including cases of rape and instances in which the mother’s life is in peril — are at odds with constitutional protections.

The hearing, which will continue Monday, is unlikely to lead to the imminent legalization of abortion. But women’s rights activists hope the public hearing will set off a high-profile debate on the issue, draw attention to the risks hundreds of thousands of women take each year as they resort to clandestine abortions and ultimately pave the way to overhauling the existing law.

During the first day of arguments, a majority of the 26 speakers argued for decriminalizing abortion.

Though the Ministry of Health did not take an official position on the issue, Maria de Fátima Marinho, who represented the ministry before the court, made clear that unsafe abortions created public health challenges, leading to overcrowding of facilities as well as preventable illness and death.

The death of Ms. Carvalho, a 31-year-old mother of three, illustrates the high stakes of the abortion debate playing out before Brazil’s Supreme Court.CreditLianne Milton for The New York Times

Ms. Marinho said that she hoped the hearing would “give a voice to those who hide the act, who are ashamed, and, because of that, take too long to ask for help, face complications, and die.”

The hearing is being held as Brazilian lawmakers take steps to adopt even more restrictive laws and abortion rights groups across the region face a strong backlash after attaining victories.

“This hearing comes at a historic moment in Brazil and in Latin America, where we have seen a rise in recent years in the opposition to sexual and reproductive health and rights,” said Beatriz Galli, a Brazilian human rights lawyer. “Brazil exemplifies the regional paradox: There has been massive mobilization in civil society for expanded rights, contrasting with a very conservative Congress.”

Brazil’s top court has ruled narrowly on abortion cases in recent years, signaling an inclination to expand access, but it has refrained from making sweeping legal changes related to the politically fraught issue.

In March 2017, the leftist Socialism and Liberty Party and Anis, a women’s rights group, filed a petition asking the court to rule that terminating a pregnancy within the first 12 weeks of gestation should not subject the pregnant woman or the abortion provider to prosecution.

They argue that abortion laws written in 1940 violate protections conferred by the 1988 Constitution, including the right to dignity, equal protection and access to health care.

Taking up their petition, Justice Rosa Weber, one of two women on the 11-member court, took the relatively rare step of seeking input from legal analysts in Brazil and abroad and convened a hearing.


Doctors found a piece of mamona, a plant used to induce abortions, inside Ingraine Barbosa Carvalho’s uterus.CreditLianne Milton for The New York Times

In a March statement she called abortion rights one of the “most sensitive and delicate” legal issues, “since it involves matters of ethics, morality, religion, public health and fundamental rights.” Since then the court has received legal briefs from 38 groups, a record number.ADVERTISEMENT

While Ms. Carvalho’s case is not before the court, abortion rights activists say her death, which received extensive press coverage, starkly shows how the current abortion laws disproportionately affect poor women.

After a long struggle to make ends meet, Ms. Carvalho landed a good job as a nanny early this year. It paid twice the minimum wage and put her dream of buying a home within reach. The unexpected pregnancy threatened to derail that progress, according to an account of her final weeks drawn from police reports and interviews with relatives.

The man who got her pregnant made clear he had no interest in being a father. When Ms. Carvalho told him in a text message that she intended to have an abortion, he didn’t respond.

Ms. Carvalho seemed to know her relatives would try to talk her out of her decision. Her brother, Natanael Barbosa, an evangelical preacher, said he would have been adamantly opposed to an abortion.

“I wish she had told me,” Mr. Barbosa said during a recent interview at his small church in a hillside neighborhood. “I would have said, Give me one of your kids, I’ll raise it.”

A protest demanding the legalization of abortion in Rio de Janeiro in June.CreditSilvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

Ms. Carvalho first attempted to terminate the pregnancy by swallowing an entire pack of hypertension pills. When that didn’t work, she stuck a knitting needle in her uterus. By early May, when she was nearly four months pregnant, she sought the services of an underground abortion provider, who inserted a stalk of castor-oil plant into Ms. Carvalho’s uterus, according to the police report, which included an affidavit from the woman who administered the procedure.

Ms. Carvalho was instructed to remove the plant by pulling on a thread attached to it. But the thread came undone and the stalk remained inside her. As an infection took hold, she lay in a tiny bedroom in an aunt’s home. By the third night, when the aunt, Maria Aparecida Barbosa, went into the room to give her niece a blanket, the young woman’s lips were purple.

“I think I’m dying,” she told her aunt.

By the time Ms. Carvalho arrived at the hospital, the infection had entered her bloodstream.

Estimates of the number of abortions performed in Brazil each year range from 500,000 to 1.2 million. Each year, more than 250,000 women are hospitalized as a result of complications from abortions, according to the Brazilian Health Ministry. In 2016, the last year for which official figures were available, 203 women died as a result of botched abortions. Providing medical care for them has cost the government more than $130 million over the past decade.

Wealthy and middle-class women can have safer abortions by traveling abroad or resorting to medical professionals willing to perform them. Poor women, many of whom are black, make up a disproportionate number of those who die, become ill or get prosecuted as a result of the procedure, according to researchers, activists and public defenders.

Lívia Casseres, a public defender in Rio de Janeiro who is among those who will argue before the court, said that Brazil’s overwhelmingly male, and increasingly conservative, politicians had shown little interest in women’s reproductive rights.

“It makes our democracy weak,” Ms. Casseres said, noting that 11 percent of Brazil’s lawmakers are women, one of the lowest rates in the world.


Natanael Barbosa visits the grave of his sister.CreditLianne Milton for The New York Times

Since 2000, 28 countries and regions have expanded abortion rights. Last year, lawmakers in Chile lifted the country’s total prohibition on abortion, and next week the Senate in Argentina will vote on a bill that could legalize abortion there.

In Brazil, where Congress has become more conservative in recent years as the political power of evangelicals has grown, lawmakers have introduced bills that would ban abortion under any circumstances. Few women in politics publicly champion legalizing abortion. The activists who do are often threatened and ostracized.

Debora Diniz, an anthropologist at the University of Brasília who helped write the petition before the court, recently decided to leave the capital after receiving death threats. In an interview, she said she was hopeful the hearing would lead to a vigorous debate on the issue ahead of Brazil’s presidential election in October.

“This hearing has the potential to shape the political debate,” she said.

Even as the political establishment has become more conservative, a growing number of Brazilian women have spoken out about their decision to have abortions. Last year, Rebeca Mendes, a mother of two, unsuccessfully sought to get permission from the Supreme Court to have an abortion. She ultimately traveled to Colombia, where the rules are less strict, to undergo the procedure.

The Supreme Court hearing prompted Ladyane Souza, a lawyer in Brasília, to publicly disclose that she had an abortion two years ago, even though doing so means she could be prosecuted.

“It’s very cruel to submit women to dealing with this all alone, underground,” Ms. Souza, 22, said. “During that time, I wanted very much to talk to my mother, because I felt it would have been easier if my mother knew, if my friends knew, but I was afraid of being prosecuted.”

Prosecutors and religious organizations intend to rebut the arguments of advocates by telling the court that legalizing abortion would put an unreasonable burden on the public health care system.

José Paulo Leão Veloso, a lawyer who will represent the northeastern state of Sergipe before the court and argue against decriminalizing abortion, said that the penal code was the prerogative of the legislature and that the current law should stand.

“Of all the obligations of the state, the most important is to protect life,” he said.

Ms. Carvalho’s relatives opted to bury her in a cemetery several miles from her hometown after local residents reacted with outrage and scorn to details of her death. They held a low-key ceremony as her remains were deposited in an unmarked grave in a small hillside cemetery.

“I wish she had survived, so she could have been arrested and learned to be responsible,” Ms. Barbosa, her aunt, said.


Several months ago, I appeared on a morning TV show alongside Cecile Richards, then the president of Planned Parenthood. Our topic had been women’s activism, and we’d both spoken in equal amounts. But when I checked Twitter later, the violent insults were flying only at Ms. Richards, with commenters calling her a “baby butcher” and “this puke bitch” for her support of abortion rights. None took aim at me — and as I read the stream, I felt more cowardly than I can ever remember, as if I were crouched in a foxhole while Ms. Richards took fire for the rest of us.

Why was I letting her take the heat? After all, I’d had an abortion myself.

No woman has an obligation to talk about her most personal decisions. The right to privacy, in fact, is the legal underpinning of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that secures a woman’s right to choose. Still, that day I felt ashamed — not of my choice, which I have never regretted, but of my silence. The decision I made 30 years ago was perfectly legal. I’m a grown woman, with a family and a career I love. Why keep quiet?

Last week, that question has taken on new urgency. As Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote has helped protect abortion rights over his 30 years on the Supreme Court, prepares to retire, we are faced with the very real prospect of a court that would overturn Roe, at a time when states across the country are already restricting abortion rights. Against this alarming backdrop, my silence started to feel like a holdover from a safer time. Which this most certainly is not.

The story of my abortion is nothing out of the ordinary, though it determined the course of the rest of my life. I was a college freshman, completely infatuated with a boy I had chased most of the semester. Back home in Virginia, my mother was in the slow process of dying of cancer; she’d hung on for my high-school graduation and sat with fierce pride and tears running down her cheeks as I got my diploma. I loved her profoundly, but when she dropped me off at college, I felt free from the crushing nearness of grief, and then immediately guilty at feeling free. I immersed myself in late-night discussions and new friends. I drank too much. And one night, when the object of my affection and I ended up at the same party and walked each other home giddily singing little-known Bruce Springsteen lyrics, I forgot everything I’d ever known about birth control. (As did he.)

Seven difficult weeks later, I ended my pregnancy at a nearby clinic. My main emotions were intense regret that I’d gotten myself into this mess and equally intense relief that I could get myself out.

Before my mother died the next year, she told me she’d confided my experience to a friend so that I’d have someone to talk to about it if I ever felt alone. But the truth was, I found plenty of people to talk to about it those first years: friends, roommates, boyfriends, including the one I’d eventually marry. And my female friends and colleagues told me about their abortions — stories of broken condoms, carelessness, missed pills and sometimes rape. Some found their decisions agonizing, others not at all, but most had the same feeling that I did: not the situation I wanted to be in, but thank God it’s a choice I have.

Around us, it felt as if other women were talking too. Two decades earlier, in 1971, 343 well-known Frenchwomen like Catherine Deneuve and Simone de Beauvoir had signed the “Manifesto of the 343” testifying that they’d had abortions. They got called the “343 salopes,” or sluts, for it, but still, the next year 53 Americans, including Gloria Steinem, Judy Collins and Billie Jean King, followed suit, publishing an open letter in Ms. magazine titled “We Have Had Abortions.”

By the time I came of age, in the 1980s and early 1990s, such stories were not unusual: In 1985, the Hollywood sweetheart Ali MacGraw had appeared, with a soft smile, on the cover of People under the headline “Abortion: No Easy Answers”; inside, she detailed her own harrowing procedure when it was illegal — and her later discovery that her own mother had had one as well. In 1991, Whoopi Goldberg and Rita Moreno opened up about their abortions (in Ms. Goldberg’s heartbreaking case, at age 14 with a coat hanger) in the book “The Choices We Made.” If I was sharing my story, I had company.

Then, at some point, I stopped sharing. In part because of the passage of time — after a few decades, and the birth of my children, the experience became a memory I thought of mostly when filling out the “number of pregnancies” line on doctors’ charts. But it wasn’t just that: Around me, other women seemed quieter too. Many of the earlier generation of activists had been survivors of the coat-hanger era and they spoke out as a warning: never again. As the years passed, so did that urgency; my generation began to feel more secure — and perhaps less inclined to air our private business.Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change

Over the past few years, the attacks on reproductive rights have come fast and furious — 51 clinics closed nationally just between 2011 and 2014; in about 90 percent of American counties there are no abortion clinics; and the reduced access has hit poor communities and women of color especially hard. As a result, activism around abortion rights has risen, and I’ve watched in admiration as well-known women (from the entertainers Chelsea Handler and Vanessa Williams to Representative Jackie Speier) have spoken about their own experiences, while groups like We Testifyand Shout Your Abortion, co-founded by the writer Lindy West, have collected stories online. But silence is still the rule, and I observed it: When I spoke at pro-choice events, I told only the story of an older female relative of mine who’d risked her life seeking an illegal abortion decades ago. It was true — but it wasn’t the whole truth.

And that day on Twitter, I began to feel like a coward.

This silence, after all, has a price: First, it renders the women who make this choice anonymous and lets those who would deny us our freedom do so without looking us in the eye. There are so many would-be deniers today: Iowa has passed a law that outlaws most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually about six weeks into a pregnancy, making it virtually impossible for most women to have one; politicians and pundits — from President Trump on the campaign trail to the columnist Kevin Williamson — now like to bat around the idea of punishment for those of us who have made this choice. (“I’ve got a soft spot for hanging,” Mr. Williamson said, chillingly.)

But would it be quite so easy to demonize this common experience if it were clear that the women who have gone through it include kindergarten teachers, clergywomen, Republicans, C.E.O.s, the woman who served your coffee this morning, who cleans your house, who signs your paycheck, who patrols your neighborhood? As the activist Renee Bracey Sherman, who runs the We Testify site, put it: “Everyone loves someone who has had an abortion. And if you think you don’t, they just haven’t shared their story with you yet.”

Silence also allows menacing myths about abortion to thrive. Most Americans believe the procedure to be less common than it is, and more dangerous. No wonder: According to one study, on television 5 percent of all female characters who choose abortion die — a figure that is 7,000 times the actual, very low real-life mortality rate. As for the popular perception that women regret their abortions, 95 percent of women who end their pregnancies say they believe they made the right decision. Oh, and the stereotype that women who get abortions are selfish or unmaternal? Well, the majority already have one child, studies show. But for a young woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy, those are terrifying misperceptions to contend with.

It’s time for those of us who know and have lived the truth to raise our hands and say no, this is the real story: Many of us have been here before you, and we are here for you, and we will not let your rights be rolled back. With that in mind, I recently told my own 15-year-old daughter about the choice I’d made. To my surprise, I cried as I described my life that year — the confusion, my mother’s illness — and though she was just a kid, not much younger than I had been then, she wiped my tears. I told her that I felt immense gratitude for the life I have been able to build, for the two children I’ve been able to care and provide for, for the marriage I could choose freely, for the dreams I was able to pursue. And all of it, I told her, was made possible by my right to decide when I was ready to be a mother.

Today, that right is under greater threat than it has been in my adult lifetime, for her and for all women. And just as women decades ago shared their stories en masse in an effort to change inhumane laws, it’s time for those of us who feel we can share to do so once again. Already on social media, women have responded to the Supreme Court news by coming forward to say “I made this choice,” and their forthrightness encourages my own.

No woman owes anyone an answer about whether she has or hasn’t. But roughly one in four of us have, and we are your sisters and mothers and friends. We have lives. We have moral compasses. If you are going to call us immoral, ignore our basic human dignity, propose sending us (but not our partners) to jail, or enact bans that, make no mistake, will kill women — well, these are not anonymous characters you’re dealing with, represented by a few brave spokespeople on TV. You’re dealing with real women. You’re dealing with me. You’re dealing with us.

Cindi Leive is a media and publishing executive, and a former editor in chief of Glamour and Self.


“The good news is Oregon is a pro-choice state and we have a pro-choice electorate. We know that voters largely recognize these attempts to reduce access for what they are.”

A July poll of Oregon voters found 53 percent opposed a “ban on the ability to obtain an abortion in Oregon,” as Northwest Public Broadcasting reported. About one-third said they’d support a ban.
Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-choice activists mounted a counterattack the moment word spread: An Oregon ballot initiative to ban state funding for abortion care had gained enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.

Within 48 hours, more than 1,000 Oregonians had promised to vote no to Measure 106, organizers said.

The site went live with this message: Measure 106 would amend the state constitution to strip abortion insurance coverage from some 327,000 Oregon women. These were low-income women of reproductive age with public insurance or women with government jobs.

“This would really dramatically decrease access to abortion for many, many women in Oregon, including the most vulnerable who really already face high barriers to care,” said Grayson Dempsey, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon. NARAL is part of the campaign opposing Measure 106 that includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, the Oregon Nurses Association, and Catholics for Choice.

The anti-abortion insurance initiative isn’t new. But this year is the first time it will appear before voters after three failed attempts to qualify for the ballot. The Oregon secretary of state verified the signatures last week.

Dempsey is skeptical that voters in a state without a single restriction on abortion care will support Measure 106.

“The good news is Oregon is a pro-choice state and we have a pro-choice electorate,” Dempsey told Rewire.News. “We know that voters largely recognize these attempts to reduce access for what they are.”

A July poll of Oregon voters found 53 percent opposed a “ban on the ability to obtain an abortion in Oregon,” as Northwest Public Broadcasting reported. About one-third said they’d support a ban.

Oregon is one of 19 states that cover abortion under Medicaid, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The use of direct federal funds for abortion is illegal under the federal Hyde Amendment in all 50 states, except in rare circumstances. Last year, Oregon’s Democratic-led state legislature went a step further, extending abortion coverage and other reproductive services to undocumented immigrants.

It’s unclear how the measure’s backers intend to mobilize the state’s 2.7 million registered voters, about 36 percent of whom are registered Democrats.

Campaign records indicate the political action committee Stop the Funding spent at least $120,000 in in-kind contributions, typically goods or services, this year to get the initiative on the ballot. The PAC now has $900 cash on hand.

Jeff Jimerson, the head of Oregon Life United and the PAC’s chief organizer and main sponsor of Measure 106, did not respond to Rewire.News‘ request for comment. Jimerson told Oregon Public Broadcasting that Measure 106, if successful, wouldn’t outlaw abortion, but it might force pregnant people to reconsider their decision by adding “a little bit of a speed bump.”

NARAL’s Dempsey said the last time a similar proposition appeared on the ballot in the state was 1986. It failed.

In 2016, during an attempt to qualify the measure the ballot, the state supreme court ordered Jimerson to change the ballot language. The sponsors were forced to make it clear that the measure’s overarching effect was to deny abortion coverage to people with low incomes, as Rewire.News reported.

The measure’s title now says Measure 106 “reduces abortion access.”

“I do feel confident that doing the hard work, and reaching voters, that we will be able to defeat this in November,” Dempsey said.


Dawn Barlow offered more specifics about her views on abortion, including her support for the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, in a statement to Rewire.News.

A doctor who describes her political views as "moderate," Barlow is vocal on social media about being anti-choice.   Dawn Barlow / YouTube

A doctor who describes her political views as “moderate,” Barlow is vocal on social media about being anti-choice.
Dawn Barlow / YouTube

Dawn Barlow, a Democrat running in Tennessee’s Congressional District 6 primary on August 2, makes no secret of her opposition to abortion rights.

Barlow is a doctor and the director of hospital medicine at Livingston Regional Hospital. She describes her political views as “moderate.” While her campaign platform includes several mainstream Democratic positions such as saving the Affordable Care Act (ACA), advocating for public education, raising the minimum wage, and supporting pay equality, she strays from much of the party—or at least its 2016 national platform—when it comes to reproductive rights.

Barlow’s campaign site does not highlight abortion as a key issue, but she is vocal on social media about being anti-choice. On Twitter, she has repeatedly said that she is a “pro-life Democrat, proudly endorsed by” the anti-choice group Democrats for Life of America (DFLA). Barlow shared a Facebook post from DFLA on June 20, adding “I’m not running away from my values—I’m running on them!”

It’s a theme she hit on when announcing her campaign. “For far too long, common sense has taken a backseat to political hyperpartisanship,” she said in a statement, according to the Overton County News. “I am a pro-life democrat who values human life at all its stages and will fight for the well-being of all Tennesseans.”

Barlow offered specifics about her views in a statement to Rewire.News. “I oppose abortion except in cases of rape or life of the mother. I support the Hyde Amendment which prohibits federal funding of abortion. I also oppose physician assisted suicide,” she said. “Taking human life is fundamentally incompatible with the role of a healer. During my medical education, training and practice, I’ve cared for patients in all stages of life and in all stages of pregnancy.  I have a deep respect for human life in all its stages from the womb to the tomb. True reproductive justice will never be achieved as long as we refuse to acknowledge the basic fact that a human fetus is a human being.”

When it comes to policies she supports, Barlow pointed to the “Pregnant Women Support Act – Pregnancy Assistance Fund.” According to DFLA’s website, it is one of the organization’s “proudest accomplishments” and was introduced in Congress in hopes of reducing the number of abortions. Barlow said she would “work to improve the economic situation of women via support for raising the Federal Minimum Wage, support legislation for paid parental benefits, support Child Care For Working Families Act, support universal preK and support funding for before/after school programs.”

“Opposing abortion alone is simply not enough,” she said. “A whole life approach is necessary to save human life.  I spend my life caring for others and saving lives. I want to continue that fight of caring for others and saving lives in Congress.”

She did not directly answer questions about whether she would support funding for Planned Parenthood or if she would seek to restrict abortion access if elected.

One of the candidates Barlow faces in the Democratic primary is Merrilee Wineinger, an ordained United Methodist Church minister who has out-raised her. Wineinger “believes in protecting a woman’s right to safe, accessible, affordable and high-quality reproductive health care, or as she calls it, reproductive justice,” according to a post from Wineinger’s campaign manager on Daily Kos.

Asked about Barlow’s DFLA endorsement, Wineinger said, “The organization seeks to achieve zero abortions, which is unrealistic. Should we all strive to make abortions a rare occurrence? Absolutely! However, should we make it more difficult for women to receive one? No.”

In another statement, Wineinger said: “Let me start out by declaring, No one is for abortion. I refuse to stand across the political divide screaming at each other. It gets us nowhere. Therefore, I declare that I am Pro-Reproductive Justice and will protect a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion.” She went on to define reproductive justice as “the right for women to care for their whole being, to have children or not, and the right to take care of her family by earning equal pay, by accessing affordable, quality healthcare, and by providing a secure home in a safe neighborhood.”

If elected, Wineinger said she “will work for comprehensive reproductive health and family planning services to prevent unplanned pregnancies. I will fight for better policies and funding for family planning and access to affordable, high-quality health care.”

Christopher Martin Finley and Peter Heffernan also qualified to appear on the Democratic primary ballotfor the district. No public polling appears to be available for the race.

The winners in this week’s primary will compete in November’s general election to replace Republican Rep. Diane Black, who is running in the state’s gubernatorial race. Black, a vocal opponent of reproductive rights, has aligned with anti-choice activists.

The Republicans running in the District 6 primary have noted anti-choice views. Multiple GOP candidates in the district have pulled in more than $1 million in fundraising.

The Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales/Roll Call ratings rank the seat as “solid Republican.” The district voted for Trump by a 49-point margin in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Cook Political Report‘s 2017 Partisan Voter Index. Black won the seat when Democrat Bart Gordon retired in 2010 after serving 13 terms in Congress.