Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Claiming that anti-choice groups regularly “harassed, threatened, and menaced” patients outside an abortion clinic in Queens, the New York attorney general announced a federal lawsuit against protestors targeting Choices Women’s Medical Center on Tuesday. In addition to seeking damages, penalties, costs, and attorney’s fees, the suit is aiming to establish a 16-foot buffer zone around the center.

The complaint alleges that between 25 and 65 protestors (several affiliated with Brooklyn and New York State-based church groups) have gathered outside the clinic every Saturday morning for five years to disseminate anti-choice literature and “menace” people connected to the clinic. Further, they allege that protestors consistently verbally harassed patients, employees, and volunteers, physically blocked their ability to enter the clinic, lied about the clinic’s hours, made death threats, and filmed patients and volunteers outside the clinic.

In a statement, Schneiderman condemned the protestors’ alleged tactics:

While speaking outside the clinic on Tuesday, Schneiderman added that the alleged “harassment and intimidation” described by the patients, providers, and volunteers are not protected under free speech.

Founder, President, and CEO of Choices Women’s Medical Center Merle Hoffman commended Schneiderman’s move in a statement, describing the long history of anti-abortion violence and harassment she’s witnessed throughout her career:

Schneiderman also cited his own personal experiences working in reproductive health while announcing the lawsuit on Twitter, further condemning sidewalk bullies that seek to scare women away from the healthcare they’re legally entitled to.

“The summer after I graduated high school, I worked in an abortion clinic. It was pre-Roe. I still remember the fear many women had,” Schneiderman tweeted. “Today, the law guarantees women the right to access reproductive health care, without obstruction. I won’t tolerate attacks on that right.”

Coming off a year that has been particularly difficult for reproductive rights and justice, advocates are hopeful that this move from New York State will set an example for handling clinic harassment across the country.


Anti-abortion protestors stand outside a Portland, Maine, abortion clinic in April.

QUEENS, N.Y. ― New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a federal lawsuit Tuesday against anti-abortion protestors for the unlawful harassment of patients and their companions outside a New York City abortion clinic.

“The tactics used to harass and menace Choices’ patients, families, volunteers, and staff are not only horrifying ― they’re illegal,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The law guarantees women the right to control their own bodies and access the reproductive health care they need, without obstruction. We’ll do what it takes to protect those rights for women across New York.”

The announcement was made outside Choices, an abortion clinic in New York City’s Jamaica neighborhood. Every Saturday for the last five years, local anti-abortion protestors have posted up outside of Choices to harass patients. This harassment has included following patients with 3×5 grotesque and heavily edited photos of aborted fetuses, following patients to the door of the clinic and attempting to go inside with them, preaching anti-abortion and misogynist rhetoric loudly just outside the clinic entrance, waiting for patients as they exit their cars, and waving pamphlets and fliers into the faces of the patients and their companions. (Full disclosure: I work as a clinic escort volunteer at Choices, and have seen all of this firsthand.)

This behavior from abortion clinic protestors is often defended under the guise of the First Amendment. But Schneiderman was quick to point out in the press conference that access to safe and legal abortion is also protected by the U.S. Constitution, and that there have always been laws that regulate freedom of speech.

“It is as old as the First Amendment that proper restrictions on time, place and manner of speech are totally lawful. There are many things that are ‘speech’ that are restricted by the law,” Schneiderman said Tuesday.

“You are not allowed to … harass, intimidate and try and prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights,” he added.

Theresa White, a longtime volunteer clinic escort from Queens and clinic escort supervisor who worked with Schneiderman to build the case against the anti-abortion protestors (or “antis”), told HuffPost that this is a serious win for the women of New York and the pro-abortion rights community.

“We’ve been working on this for over a year,” she said. “This just feels fantastic.”

Volunteer Clinic Escort Supervisors Margot Garnick, Pearl Brady and Theresa White have spent the last year and a half working to build a case against anti-abortion protestors outside Choices in Queens.

Other women’s rights activists around the country see New York’s lawsuit against the antis as a loud statement against abortion clinic harassment ― and hope that their cities can follow suit.

Calla Hales, clinic administrator at A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, told HuffPost that she hopes the city of Charlotte is paying attention.

Hales is used to hundreds of protestors every Saturday outside the clinic in Charlotte and faces ambivalence with local legislators when it comes to protecting patients.

“I feel so positive about this,” Hales said. “I understand that protesting and free speech are protected rights. However, it’s very clear that what’s occurring when these groups protest abortion clinics is not merely voicing a different opinion ― it’s harassment, it’s intimidation, and it’s simply cruel. I hope that other cities, Charlotte included, will take note of this.”

A member of anti-abortion group Cities4Life harasses a patient driving into A Preferred Women’s Health Center Charlotte in June.

Jessica Gird, a clinic escort in Michigan at Northland Family Planning, told HuffPost that the city of Westland has done little to support patients and clinic staff.

“Legislation has really not done a whole lot that benefits patients and staff alike,” she said Tuesday. “In regard to what the antis can and cannot do, it’s relatively expansive in their favor, especially if looked at from the psychological and emotional effects from the patient’s standpoint.”

Elvis Kesto, an avid anti-abortion protestor in Michigan, stands outside Northland Family Planning. “He tends to carry with him a pocketknife, voice amplification devices, a GoPro and anti-choice literature,” Gird told Huffpost.

Gird said that choosing to terminate a pregnancy isn’t always an easy choice ― and that antis make the entire experience much more traumatizing than it should be.

“While there is no universal abortion experience, this can already be an emotionally charged collection of moments in time,” she said. “They shame our patients and staff, they use manipulation tactics with patients from black and brown communities and with people who are forced to arrive with children, they promote these ideas that have no factual basis to those in vulnerable states, and to me that is in direct opposition to the Christian belief system that they claim to adhere so closely to.”

Derenda Hancock, a clinic escort for Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Mississippi, told HuffPost that she wishes the city of Jackson would do more to protect patients, too ― especially because “the Pink House” is the only remaining clinic in the state.

Keith Dalton, a member and organizer of anti-abortion group Abolish Human Abortion, stands on a step-ladder to see over the fence protecting the clinic in Jackson, Mississippi. The Jackson clinic is the only remaining abortion clinic in the entire state.

“We used to have an incredible relationship with the police department,” Hancock told HuffPost. But changes in the local government in November have made it difficult to have a good relationship with the city, and a peaceful one with protestors.

Hancock said that the antis sued the city of Jackson, and the city government caved ― the antis were given a consent decree and no longer have to follow city ordinances for noise levels, signage and buffer zones.

“They get away with all kinds of things,” she said.

As states continue to allow the constant interference that occurs outside of abortion clinics, New York’s lawsuit against aggressive anti-abortion harassment is a major win for clinic patients and the abortion rights community. The lawsuit has set a strong precedent for state and city governments to defend women’s health care access.

“Stop calling anti-abortion activists ‘pro-life.’ They’re not.”



At least, not if you are a woman who believes that your body is your own.

The Trump administration may be the most fervently anti-abortion since Reagan.

This will likely come as a surprise to every man who, prior to Trump’s election, assured me, “don’t worry, he’s really a democrat! He’s not going to do anything about abortion!”

It seems you guys were wrong.

Trump has reinstated the global gag rule, preventing funding for overseas reproductive health organizations that offer abortion related services. Closer to home, Trump signed a bill on April 13 that allows states to cut off funding from organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortions. He has suggested that federal funding could continue to go to the women’s health organization only if they stopped performing abortions.

All of this falls under the banner of a “pro-life” agenda.

Indeed, Vice President Mike Pence and counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, both spoke enthusiastically at the March for Life. There, the Vice President proclaimed, “We will not rest until we restore a culture of life in America.”

Perhaps, when people enact these laws, they imagine what a world with more restrictive abortion rights—or a “culture of life” looks like. I do not think these people are evil. I suspect they have a vision of a world that is flawed. I think when they imagine that world of outlawed abortions, they imagine a world full of adorable, bouncing babies. They imagine happy mothers, and fathers who are, unexpectedly, delighted and doting fathers.

That is not reality.

“The U.S. is a place where having a baby means risking your own life, as our Maternal Mortal Rate is the highest in the developed world.”

It’s not hard to see what a pro-life world looks like. It looks like a world with a lot of dead women in it.

El Salvador has a “culture of life.” There, abortion is banned for any reason. Estimates from the Ministry of Health put the number of illegal abortions performed at 19,290 between 2005 and 2008. However, it’s difficult to trace illegal activity properly, so some other estimates claim this is closer to the annual average. We do know, from a 2011 study by the World Health Organization that 11 percent of the women undergoing these illegal abortions die. That is, at the bare minimum, over 2,000 women.

Amnesty International reports that suicide now accounts for 57 percent of deaths of pregnant females ages 10-19 in El Salvador. Because in an attempt to terminate their pregnancies, women are “ingesting rat poison or other pesticides, and thrusting knitting needles, pieces of wood and other sharp objects into the cervix.”

It was not so long ago that women in the United States were in a position similar to the one women in El Salvador find themselves in today.

Before the passage of Roe. Vs. Wade in 1973, it’s estimated that between 250 and 8,000 American women were dying per year of illegal abortions.

Today, in the United States, women experience complications from safe, legal abortion less than one percent of the time. And whether or not anyone talks about it, it’s a common medical procedure—30 percent of women in the U.S. have had a safe, legal abortion.

There will be people—like Republican Sen. Dan Foreman, an Idaho lawmaker who recently proposed a bill that would try women who have abortions for first degree murder—who will reply, “why don’t they just give the baby up for adoption instead?”

I suspect if someone turned up and asked to live in Dan’s house for nine months he would decline, and that’s infinitely less invasive than something taking up residence in your body.

Still, the best answer to that is, perhaps because the United States is not such a wonderful place to have a baby. It is a place where, for many, the cost of prenatal care and birthing in a hospital runs around $3,500, and pre and post-natal care can raise that price to around $8,802. That doesn’t take into account the incredibly costly proposition of raising a child and the fact that most companies still don’t provide maternity leave.

Abortion protest

More troublingly, the United States is a place where having a baby means risking your own life, as our Maternal Mortality Rate is the highest in the developed world.

The Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in the United States is, according to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, now 24 in every 100,000. For perspective, if that does not seem like a significant enough number to cause concern, the odds of being an American killed in a terrorist attack by a foreign born individual are one in 3.6 million.

But then, don’t we have it so much better than so many other countries? Well, in terms of women’s reproductive health, not especially.

The Federalist makes an argument that women should not be dressing up to protest restrictions on abortion in Ohio because, “To compare restrictions on abortion… to the abuses many women still suffer around the world today is both intellectually insulting and downright dishonest… In Saudi Arabia, women aren’t allowed to drive, wear makeup, or clothes that ‘show off their beauty.’”

Pretending that women should remain quiet on the topic of their rights because women have it worse in other countries is absurd. We do not live in other countries. This argument should carry all the weight of a C student, who, when told to do better by their parents, replies by shouting, “I could be getting Fs! I could be shooting heroin into my eyeballs!” Which is to say, it should carry no weight at all.

The comparison to Saudi Arabia as a country that doesn’t value women’s existence is interesting and timely, though. Our Maternal Mortality Rate puts us statistically on par with Saudi Arabia. Though, in fairness to Saudi Arabia, the CIA dates that statistic regarding their MMR to 2010. Maternal mortality rates are generally on the decline, so Saudi Arabia’s rate may have improved in the past seven years. The U.S. is the only country in the developed world where the Maternal Mortality Rate is rising.

So, it is very nice that we are allowed to wear makeup, but it might be nicer still if having a baby were not so likely to kill us. You want to talk about how much better the U.S. is for women than Saudi Arabia? Stop letting pregnant women die at the same rate as Saudi Arabia.

“It’s not hard to see what a pro-life world looks like. It looks like a world with a lot of dead women in it.”

If the goal of anti-abortionists is to protect life in all its forms, then our MMR should be cause for great concern. It’s especially high in places like Texas. While causes for women’s deaths during and post pregnancy can vary wildly, and range from drug abuse to cardiac events, The Nation notes that, “We do know that most of them died because they were low-income women who lacked good medical care.”

Today, as the Republican-led negotiations over the Affordable Care Act occur, experts, like Adriana Kohler, a senior health policy associate at Texans Care for Children, have voiced their concerns to Dallas News. She remarks that changes in funding—like those cutting back on Medicaid, which pays for more than 50 percent of the births in Texas—will “pose a real threat to prenatal care for Texas women and undermine efforts to address maternal mortality.”

This is not a change that a group that actually values the sacredness of human life should be enthused about.

So, if you live in the U.S.—especially if you live in the U.S. as a low income woman—pregnancy is a dangerous business.

But you know one good thing about living in the U.S.? Citizens are not required to risk their own lives to save another individual. You do not, for instance, have to fling yourself onto the subway tracks to pull out someone who has fallen in. Unless you are a woman carrying a collection of cells which may become an individual—in which case, it would appear some people really, bewilderingly, expect you to.

But, you are not required to.

Not yet, at least. We have, thank God, not yet restored Mike Pence’s “culture of life.”

Though we may be coming closer. Missouri just passed a bill imposing additional restrictions on facilities that perform abortions, making it harder for them to operate. A prayer walk of 600 people in Charlotte North Carolina just declared that abortion is “more a man’s issue than a woman’s issue.” (Spoiler: it is not.) In Ohio, a bill is being debated banning most abortions after the first trimester.

Foster teens experience staggering rates of pregnancy, but parental involvement laws make abortion all but inaccessible to them.1201

For Jamie Sabino’s client, a young woman who had been taken into state custody in Massachusetts, “court represented her family being torn apart.”

The young woman, Sabino said, was pregnant and wanted an abortion. But like everyone under 18 in Massachusetts, state policies required her to get consent from a parent or guardian, or else seek judicial approval. Because the teen was in foster care, she automatically needed to plead her case before a judge, and she was terrified.

Sabino, who is co-chair of the Judicial Consent for Minors Lawyer Referral Panel, an association of attorneys who are trained and certified to be appointed to represent petitioners in judicial bypass in Massachusetts, started the proceedings so the teen could obtain abortion care; her caseworker, though sympathetic, did not want the teen’s next placement to know about the pregnancy or the abortion. The foster teen was worried about her new placement, and embarrassed that she did not have what she considered to be a decent change of clothes to wear to her hearing.

“For her, the court hearing for the abortion was torture,” said Sabino.

“Parental involvement” laws like the one in Massachusetts currently exist in 36 other states. At best, they are unnecessary hurdles; at worst, they put teens through an arduous and humiliating process. Most teens involve a parent in their decision to have an abortion, and those who don’t often have a good reason, such as avoiding abuse. These parental involvement laws pose a special set of complications for foster teens, who are living outside of the care of their parents, and in the care of a system that generally does little to ensure they have access to abortion.

There are roughly a quarter million girls living in foster care. And while teen pregnancy rates have been steadily declining, they remain staggering among foster teens, due to a number of factors. Girls living in the foster care system are twice as likely to experience pregnancy by the time they turn 19 than their peers living outside of the system. Still, while research indicates the majority of pregnancies among foster teens are “unwanted,” most foster teens carry their pregnancies to term. One study conducted in 2009 found between 80 and 90 percent of foster teens’ pregnancies end in a live birth, and of the pregnancies they tracked, less than 5 percent ended in abortion; the national average among teens the same age is over 30 percent.

In general, parental involvement laws treat foster teens unequally, in that they fail to account for the population of minors living in the custody of someone other than their parents. Shoshanna Ehrlich, co-chair of the Judicial Consent for Minors Lawyer Referral Panel, points out that these policies and laws “deprive foster teens of options.” For foster teens, the state agency that oversees child welfare—usually the state’s department of children and families (DCF)—is technically their legal guardian, and it’s likely the relationship they have with their biological parents is not conducive to supporting them through the abortion decision. Rachel Rebouché, a law professor at Temple University, says in some states, foster parents and caseworkers are outright prohibited from consenting to or providing notification.

This leaves the judicial bypass process, which varies from state to state. In some states, there are organizations that guide minors through the steps, and the bulk of petitions are approved. But in other states, minors are largely on their own when it comes to finding an attorney and navigating the law. They may face judges who harbor anti-choice views and who ask them intrusive questions, or other abortion restrictions that incur delays on their procedure. The likelihood their petition will be approved also varies.

In Massachusetts, for example, state policy explicitly prohibits caseworkers and foster parents from consenting to the procedure for foster teens, and designates that unless they can get consent from both of their biological parents, foster teens must plead their case to a judge. This means most, if not all, foster teens in the state must go through the judicial bypass process to have an abortion. Massachusetts has a relatively well-functioning judicial bypass system: Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts has a hotline that teens can call to get information on their abortion decision, which refers teens directly to attorneys from the Judicial Consent for Minors Lawyer Referral Panel to help them through the process. Public hospitals in Massachusetts also cover abortion costs for uninsured people, including minors. Still, Sabino cautions that “even in the most perfect system, the judicial bypass process still creates trauma” and “delay … to no benefit.”

Jessica Berry of the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts says that making foster teens who choose abortion to go through the judicial bypass process may also compromise a teen’s ability to control who knows about their abortion. She notes that, while caseworkers in Massachusetts cannot consent to an abortion, record of the procedure may be made in a minor’s file. As files move from caseworker to caseworker, it increases the number of people who may know about the abortion.

Beyond the issue of confidentiality, caseworkers, depending on their personal feelings about abortion, may see a foster teens’ decision to have one as a reason that they need counseling or as another indication of trauma.

When states don’t have explicit policies prohibiting child welfare agents from providing notification or consenting to a foster teen’s abortion, Rebouché says caseworkers often self-impose a kind of prohibition on it. Advocates like Sabino can, and do, help foster teens figure out the steps they need to take, but state agencies and employees are often less supportive. And while Berry points out that some caseworkers are willing to help minors through the undertaking, Sabino says that varies from DCF office to DCF office, and from caseworker to caseworker, meaning that the medical care foster teens receive as it pertains to abortion is largely luck of the draw.

This could be because state employees have personal views about abortion, or are unclear as to whether they are even allowed to aid a foster teen in the process. The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding from going to abortion care in most circumstances, and similar state laws could contribute to that confusion, as caseworkers may be unsure if being employed by the state prohibits them from even helping a minor obtain an abortion. Such laws also can have a direct impact on policy: In Alabama, for example, the state passed a regulation prohibiting child welfare agencies from consenting to abortions on the assumption that doing so would be in violation of the federal Hyde Amendment, and would result in them losing funding.

Sabino says one important thing to remember is that reproductive rights advocates know the number of teens they work with, but what they don’t know is the “negative”—how many teens start the process and never finish, who are put off by what it involves, or who are unaware of their rights all together.

Confusion about who can pay for a foster teen’s abortion may also impede access. In 2003, a Pennsylvania foster teen had her bypass petition initially denied because there was confusion among agency staff about who would pay for her procedure. And the truth of the matter is that many foster teens will face problems paying for their abortions, even after they obtain judicial permission. Because they are covered by Medicaid, they receive no insurance coverage for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

In states where foster parents or caseworkers can be involved, there can still be complications. Illinois is a notification state, meaning that minors need to notify their parents about their abortion, but do not need to get their consent. Emily Werth, the Judicial Bypass Coordination Project staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, says that when minors are wards of the state in Illinois—as in, when legal guardianship has been transferred—caseworkers simply call the same medical consent line they would for any other procedure and notify the state. But for minors in temporary or protective custody, for whom the state does not have legal guardianship, the state is not allowed to accept notifications on behalf of parents who still have parental rights. Those foster teens have to find some other way to comply with the law in Illinois, such as using its abuse or neglect exception or getting a judicial bypass.

For the vast majority of foster teens in the United States who chose to terminate their pregnancies, then, going to court can be their only option.

Even the court hearing itself puts foster teens at a disadvantage. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that parental involvement laws were constitutional so long as a judicial bypass option was present in the 1979 case Bellotti v. Baird, and have largely upheld them since. In Bellotti, the court put forward a two-pronged test to determine whether a minor should have judicial permission to have an abortion; first whether the minor was mature enough, and second if the minor was not found to be mature enough, if it was in her best interest to have an abortion. But the Court has never clearly defined maturity, so it varies: Some of the standard factors that go into determining it can put foster teens at a disadvantage.

“They have all the strikes against them,” says Sabino, who notes the nature of life in foster care, and the stresses it puts on teens, often means that it’s hard for them to maintain a steady job or good grades, which judges might see as a sign of immaturity.

One Massachusetts foster teen, an orphan who was a recent Spanish-speaking immigrant to the United States, was living in a group home with no Spanish-speaking staff when she decided she wanted to terminate her pregnancy. An advocate with a children’s rights group in Massachusetts says she was contacted by the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), who provided the teen with the number for Planned Parenthood, but would not aid her any further in the process. The minor had little to no understanding of the U.S. government and law was almost nonexistent and she didn’t have any savings, a source of income, or a driver’s license. The advocate says she helped the teen called Planned Parenthood and schedule the procedure as well as secure counsel for her judicial bypass hearing, but because the minor was living in a group home, she was not allowed to place any calls on her own without her caseworker’s permission. When she tried, staff at the group home reached out to her advocate, who then tried to get in touch with her caseworker, but to no avail. The foster teen was eventually forced to disclose her pregnancy and her desire to terminate it to continue making calls related to the matter. The advocate communicated and coordinated with the minor’s English-speaking attorney on her behalf and transported her to and from her hearing, where her petition was approved. The group home staff agreed to transport the teen to the appointment, but would not be involved further, so the advocate provided support for the remainder of the appointment.

At first, medical staff at the clinic said they could not operate on the teen because a DCF caseworker was not present, but when the advocate explained that judicial consent allowed them to, they went ahead with the procedure.

Needless to say, had the advocate not stepped in, the system would have left this teen in an impossible situation: trying to terminate a pregnancy in an unfamiliar country, with a language barrier and no understanding of the law dictating her access to abortion, living in the care of people who refused to support her.

In some states, the same judge who hears a foster teen’s bypass case might also hear her child welfare case. This creates the potential for a conflict of interest for the presiding judge, and increases the risk of compromising the minor’s confidentiality as it pertains to the abortion decision.

And, of course, the teens may encounter the issue of judicial anti-choice stances. A Nebraska judicial bypass case involving a foster teen made headlines in 2013 when a Nebraska Supreme Court judge handed down a ruling that Rewire‘s vice president of law and the courts Jessica Mason Pieklo says effectively banned abortion for foster teens in the state by relegating them to the torturous bypass procedure. A teen, who had been placed with an Evangelical Christian family along with her siblings, testified that she was not ready to be a mother, and feared her child would end up in foster care. But after a tortuous hearing, in which a judge told the girl “when you have the abortion it’s going to kill the child inside you,” the minor’s petition was denied.

Sabino says there are several factors that make this situation even more fraught for foster teens. Practically all teens involve an adult in their decision to have an abortion, even if that person isn’t a parent. They might turn to grandparents, neighbors, or people they trust at school. But as Sabino points out, for foster teens who might be in an unfamiliar school or environment, turning to a trusted adult might be difficult or even impossible. “I’m sure there are kids who, because they’re out of their support system, are unable to access” abortion, she says.

Furthermore, getting to and from court or a clinic is presents challenges for many teens, but for those in foster care it can come with the added stress of living in an unfamiliar place.

“Sometimes they really need to tell somebody,” she says, “because they have no way of accessing the court process, because they’re living in a foster home or residential placement in a place where they don’t even know the bus system. And yet, if they reveal it, it can become a problem.”

Sabino also points out that teens living in a residential placement have their movements “closely monitored,” which means the option of slipping out for a court hearing and confidential medical procedure can be difficult, if not impossible altogether. She says she has also run into social workers who have told teens that they have to tell their foster families or the residential placement, or they’ll be removed.

“We’ve successfully beat those back,” she says, “but I suspect this happens all the time and we don’t know about it.”

Trauma, abuse, and neglect factor into a large number of foster care cases, and that this can make the judicial bypass process an even more tortuous one. Foster teens are also at an increased risk for sexual exploitation, which makes the need for comprehensive access to reproductive health care, including abortion, all the more urgent. A portion of minors in state care have parents who are incarcerated, who have been deported, or are going through the deportation processes, which can make going to court carry especially terrifying implications. Many of these minors are immigrants themselves, which presents another set of challenges.

Some advocates argue that foster teens should be able to consent to abortion the same way they can consent to other pregnancy-related care, without oversight of a legal guardian or judge. This would be the ideal situation for teens living in and outside of foster care. Unfortunately, though, parental involvement laws likely aren’t going anywhere. Other advocates argue that while parental involvement laws remain in place, allowing foster parents or caseworkers in all states to consent to abortion would at least provide minors with the option, and that for those few lucky foster teens who do have a supportive caseworker or foster parent, it would allow them to avoid the arduous bypass process.

While it is not possible to draw a direct correlation between high rates of teen parenting and birth among foster teens and a lack of access to abortion, what is clear is that parental involvement laws, which are unnecessary and harmful for all teens, make abortion all but inaccessible for those who are most at risk for unintended pregnancy.

When it comes down to it, Rebouché says, “these laws are just not written for minors in state care.”

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Women’s rights and health services in Missouri could take a nosedive after the state Senate voted on Wednesday to pass a bill that would force unwarranted inspections on abortion providers, allow discriminatory hiring practices, and give law enforcement power to the attorney general. The legislation could effectively enable the legal discrimination of Missourians if they’ve had an abortion or use birth control.

For starters, the bill would overturn St. Louis’ ordinance banning discrimination in housing and employment based on “reproductive health decisions.” If nullified, employers and landlords would be allowed to refuse employment or tenancy to women who are pregnant, use contraceptives, or have had an abortion. Opponents of the St. Louis ordinance say it infringes on the religious rights of faith-based employers.

On top of that, health clinics that provide abortions could also face more scrutiny. The bill would require state health departments to conduct annual unannounced inspections at abortion facilities. (Arizona signed a similar law in 2014 permitting unwarranted inspections during working hours.) Lawmakers who support the requirement argue that clinics shouldn’t have anything to hide and that the surprise inspections are for the safety of the patients. Those who disagree say this gives inspectors permission to enter abortion facilities with the intention to harass patients and providers.

But laws need enforcement, and this bill has got that covered, too. One section of the legislation would grant power to the state attorney general to prosecute abortion law violators. Missouri’s current attorney general Josh Hawley, who was on the legal team that represented Hobby Lobby in arguing for an exemption to provide contraceptive coverage for employees under Obamacare before the Supreme Court, is a vocal anti-abortion proponent. Current law enforcement falls to local prosecutors, but the bill’s supporters distrust local prosecutors in more liberal areas, such as St. Louis and Kansas City, to enforce anti-abortion laws.

This legislation is the latest in Missouri’s onslaught of anti-abortion bills. It comes in response to a federal judge’s decision to strike down a previous attempt at regulating abortion providers on the grounds that the regulations were unconstitutional. After this decision, Gov. Eric Greitens called for state lawmakers to convene in a special late night legislative session behind closed doors.

This bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Andrew Koenig, must still go through the House, where it will likely pass. A Greitens administration official described the bill as “a good start” and said that he hoped the House will improve it with stronger restrictions. Recent history indicates that the Missouri House would be in favor of abortion restrictions.

The Missouri House convenes next week, where they will either approve the legislation without changes and pass it on to the governor, or negotiate with the Senate for adjustments.

Pete Marovich/Getty Images News/Getty Images

I’m one of those women who basically always thinks she’s pregnant. Seriously — at least once every month, some part of my brain convinces me that I must be pregnant, despite the fact that I’m really careful about birth control. In fact, making it to 30 without a pregnancy is somewhat of a miracle in the history of womanhood and that’s because I’m of a generation that has had the most access to birth control ever. Since I became sexually active at age 15, I’ve used a wide range of contraceptives, from the Pill to condoms to a diaphragm. But as we stare down potential moves by the Trump administration to limit easy and cheap access to contraception, it’s a good time to remember that the history of the reproductive rights movement is fairly recent — and the fight to get us here has been anything but easy.

“Over the past half century, birth control has provided enormous benefits to women and their families, and has been nothing short of revolutionary for women and society,” Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says in a statement. “But under the Trump administration, we are now facing an immediate future where a woman’s ability to make a most basic and personal decision — when and if to have a child — could be limited by her boss.”

So as a reminder of what we have to lose, let’s take a look at some crucial moments in the history of the reproductive rights movement.

11916: Margaret Sanger Opens First Birth Control Clinic

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Just over 100 years ago, on October 16, 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the country’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn. She was arrested under the Comstock law, which forbade talking about or distributing information about birth control. That didn’t stop her, though — her one clinic later grew to become the international women’s health organization Planned Parenthood.

21938: Federal Ban On Birth Control Lifted


Over 20 years after that first clinic opened in Brooklyn, the federal ban on birth control was lifted. The ban — part of the Comstock laws — said that talking about contraception was “obscene” and doctors could be jailed for prescribing any time of contraception. (Remember, this is pre-Pill so we’re talking condoms and diaphragms, here.)

“It is one of the anomalies of modern civilization that the forces of bigotry, reaction and legalism could so long have kept on the federal statute books a law that classed contraceptive information with obscenity and was interpreted to prevent physicians from prescribing contraceptives,” Sanger wrote in the New Republic in 1938. “Year after year this vicious law legally tied the hands of reputable physicians, while quacks and purveyors of bootleg contraceptives and ‘feminine hygiene’ articles and formulas flourished. It was an absurd situation in which the federal law in effect nullified the laws of practically every state.”

31960: The Pill Is Approved As Contraception


The initial funding for the Pill was provided by — you guessed it — Margaret Sanger, who raised $150,000 in 1950 while she was in her eighties. But it wasn’t until May 9, 1960 that the FDA approved of hormonal contraceptives. The Pill had been available before that but it was prescribed for irregular menstruation, with birth control listed as a possible side effect. By 1959, half a million women were using Enovid, the first Pill, specifically for its side effect.

41965: Griswold v. Connecticut


While the federal ban on birth control was lifted in 1938, that doesn’t mean states couldn’t implement their own laws. (States rights, y’all.) But on June 6, 1965, the landmark case of Griswold v. Connecticut made it illegal for states to ban contraception for married couples. If you were unmarried, however, you’d still have to wait a few years…

51968: IUDs Are Approved


IUDs, which are increasingly popular as a super effective form of long term, reversible birth control, have had a rocky history in the United States. They were invented in the early 1900s but weren’t approved by the FDA until 1968. But after the Dalkon Shied caused ectopic pregnancies, infections, and even sterilization in women, they were largely off the market for a couple of decades. These days, both the copper and low dose hormonal IUDs are considered safe and effective.

61970: The Nelson Pill Hearings

Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Ten years after the approval of the Pill, feminist Barbara Seaman published a book calledThe Doctors Case Against the Pill. The book drew attention to the fact that some women were suffering from side effects from the Pill. It also led to Congressional hearings about oral contraceptives, at which only men testified. (So clearly this is issue of letting men decide things about women’s bodies is nothing new.)

Pissed off about the fact that no women were being heard at a hearing that was directly about women’s health, feminist Alice Wolfson jumped up and asked why there were no women testifying.

“Why had you assured the drug companies that they could testify?” Woflson asked. “Why have you told them that they could get top priority? They’re not taking the pills, we are!”

In a scene that’s all too similar to Mitch McConnell censoring Senator Elizabeth Warren, Wolfson was told to stand down. However, her boldness and the subsequent protests by her fellow feminists led to significant changes in hormone levels in the Pill and a patient insert about possible side effects included with every prescription.

Feminists testified about the safety of the Pill, particularly hormone levels and side effects, leading to changes in hormone levels of the contraception.

71972: Eisenstadt v. Baird


In 1967, Professor William Baird gave vaginal foam and a condom to a woman after giving a lecture at Boston College about birth control and population. He was then arrested and convicted for violating Massachusetts state law, which said that contraception couldn’t be distributed to unmarried people and could only be distributed by a registered health care professional. He appealed and the case was resolved in his — and all single people’s — favor by the Supreme Court in 1972.

81973: Roe v. Wade


Y’all know about Roe, right? The 1973 Supreme Court case made it illegal for states to interfere with first trimester abortions. The case overturned Texas state law and has stood at the front lines of abortion rights every since.

91998: Emergency Contraception Approved


In 1998, emergency contraception — or “morning after pill” — was approved by the FDA, making it that much easier to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

102010: The Affordable Care Act Makes Contraception Available Without A Copay

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Affordable Care Act was signed on March 23, 2010. The ACA declared that contraception is a form of preventive care and that it would be available without a copay. For the first time in history, most forms of contraception were available for free to any woman with health insurance.

112016: Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstadt


Texas has a long history of restricting access to abortion (see Roe v. Wade, above) but a year ago, on June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court ruled against Texas and for reproductive rights in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstadt. In this case, the court decided that it was unconstitutional for states to place “undue burden” via TRAP laws on women seeking abortion. TRAP stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers and includes laws that require abortion clinics to be ambulatory surgical centers, among others.

This history is by no means exhaustive — there have been big and small moments throughout the reproductive rights movement. But it’s a good reminder that this is fight is long and that the arch of history is on our side.

Pro-choice and anti-choice groups have spent almost $1 million on the race.1783

Abortion access and reproductive health are being used to target voters in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, located in Atlanta’s conservative-leaning northwest suburbs, in the hopes of driving voter turnout ahead of the June 20 special election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

The race has seen record-breaking sums of money raised and spent with most recent totals reportedly at roughly $40 million. Early voting turnout for the runoff has already exceeded 100,000 ballots, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, nearly double the advance votes in the April 18 special election.

Just under $1 million has been spent on the race by pro-choice and anti-choice groups, according to campaign finance filings available through the Federal Election Committee as of June 13. More than $620,000 of those dollars have been spent by Planned Parenthood Action Fund Inc. in support of Ossoff, while another $240,000 has been spent by Planned Parenthood Action Fund Inc. and NARAL Pro-Choice America in opposition to Handel. The anti-choice groups involved in the race have spent a combined $66,000 supporting Handel, and just $16,000 opposing Ossoff.

James Owens, states communications director for NARAL, told Rewire in an interview that the organization decided to target a small universe of pro-choice voters who cast ballots in the April 18 election and urge them to vote again in the June 20 runoff.

“What NARAL sees as our mission is to specifically talk to those people who are pro-choice, who vote their values, and who might otherwise drop off and, for one reason or another, not be able to cast that ballot in the run-off election, and making sure that they do show up,” Owens said.

So far, NARAL has targeted these voters with an online video, three mailers, and regular calls from NARAL and their members.

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s political arm has spent about a tenth of what Planned Parenthood’s PAC has, just over $79,000. All of NARAL’s funds have been spent in opposition to Handel. Planned Parenthood has by far been the biggest spender among all the pro-choice and anti-choice groups with registered PACs. Planned Parenthood Action Fund Inc. has spent $784,000 in the district, nearly 80 percent of that spent in support of Ossoff’s candidacy.

Ossoff has said he is committed to defending reproductive rights, and his campaign site includes a promise to “defend women’s access to contraception and a woman’s right to choose and fight any legislation or executive action that would allow insurance companies to discriminate against women.”

The online video produced by NARAL focuses on Handel’s attempt to strip funds from Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings and mammogram referrals during her tenure at the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The 30-second spot asks why Handel “decide[d] to focus on her personal opposition to abortion [at Komen], even when it meant our mothers, sisters, and daughters might die of breast cancer.”

Handel’s time at the Komen Foundation has received a great deal of attention during the race, surfacing again during the most recent debate between the candidates. When asked directly about her involvement in the Komen Foundation’s decision to strip funding from Planned Parenthood, Handel defended the move.

Owens said Ossoff’s stance as a pro-choice candidate is clear, and the organization wanted to make sure the voters they are targeting were reminded of Handel’s anti-choice positions.

“Elections are yes, about our values and they’re about our plans for the future, and they are also as much about contrast,” Owens explained. “And in this case, painting that contrast has not only been very important for voters, because they already know that Jon Ossoff is a pro-choice candidate, it’s also been very effective.”

That contrast was noted by Emily Matson, chair of Georgia Life Alliance Action Fund, an anti-choice super PAC, and former executive director of its anchor organization, Georgia Life Alliance (GLA), in a Thursday interview with Rewire. “I think the issue of life is a very clear differential between the candidates, and everybody’s talking about it being one of the most clear distinctions between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff,” Matson said.

The Georgia Life Alliance Action Fund has spent about $17,500 on the race so far, according to the most recent filings. Georgia Life Alliance is the state affiliate of National Right to Life. The National Right to Life Victory Fund has spent a little over $6,000 in support of Handel, while the Susan B. Anthony List has spent just under $58,000 so far, with about 75 percent of that going to support Handel.

Matson shared her belief that abortion is an issue that drives voter turnout.

“I think the issue of whether or not abortion on demand is something that our laws and our taxes should support, I think studies show that that has the ability to affect [election outcomes],” Matson said. (The Hyde Amendment already bans federal funding for abortion.) “I do think it’s probably one of the two main issues in this race.”

The ad spot produced by GLA Action Fund portrays Planned Parenthood and Ossoff as offering women “only one choice” when it comes to pregnancy outcomes. The video is primarily being shared with voters through online platforms.

GLA has certified Handel as a “pro-life” candidate. The organization’s criteria, Matson explained, includes multiple factors, not the least of which is a questionnaire that gets sent to all candidates.

“It’s more the overall value of humanity as being a priority that should be advanced legislatively,” Matson said. “When we pick someone to target our efforts toward, it has to do with the questionnaire, it has to do with their reputation, their public statements, it also has to do with just with their overall values. And that’s what’s going to play out, I think, when they are given legislation.”

On the GLA questionnaire, Handel agreed that abortion should be criminalized, noting she supports exceptions for cases of “reported” rape, “reported” incest, or life endangerment.

Handel answered the last question—“Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe that abortion should be legal?”—by saying, “Life begins at conception, and I believe that abortion under any circumstances is morally wrong. An America where all abortions are viewed as abhorrent and unthinkable in any situation is one we must all aspire to and work towards.”

“As we do this, legislation that includes these exceptions has a much better chance of passage, and I support efforts to create a more pro-life culture, even if we are doing so incrementally—because saving one baby is better than saving none,” Handel added.

“I think it’s clear that National Right to Life Victory Fund and Georgia Life Alliance Action Fund, you know, are aligned on hoping to get Karen Handel elected,” Matson said.

“This race highlights, I think, the duty and the opportunity that both National Right to Life Victory Fund and GLA Action Fund have. There’s a completely symbiotic relationship as far as the benefit in having a pro-lifer elected to the Sixth District,” she added.

“It’s a very clear difference between the candidates, and it’s something that has the potential to affect the ultimate outcome of the race,” Matson said.

Whichever candidate is sent to Washington, issues of abortion access and family planning are sure to surface again and again under the leadership of a decidedly anti-choice administration . The Trump administration has already reinstated the “global gag rule,” which prevents international organizations from receiving aid if they provide referrals or counseling about abortion, and is seeking to roll back the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. Meanwhile, House Republicans sought to use their health care bill to defund Planned Parenthood for one year through their wildly unpopular health care repeal bill.

National Right to Life and Susan B. Anthony did not respond to requests for comment from Rewire. Planned Parenthood was unable to respond by publication time.