Today marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision, a landmark reproductive rights case which pro-choice advocates believe reaffirmed women’s rights to a safe and legal abortion. But instead of being in a celebratory mood, we have to admit that the possibility of losing our abortion rights in the Trump era is looking higher and higher.
Anti-choice politicians across the country are passing laws restricting abortion left and right, with little regard for women’s autonomy. And so-called “pro-life” advocates sure aren’t backing down, employing new strategies that include a softer lens on their beliefs and a batch of fresh millennial faces.
If the abortion apocalypse is nigh, what can we do to stop it? Well, there’s plenty: You can make donations and volunteer with pro-choice organizations; you can go out and protest; and you can cast your vote for pro-choice politicians the next time a local or national election comes around.
But there’s also a small action you can take every day to remind lawmakers that women’s rights are human rights: contact your representatives.
Ahead, we break down exactly how to do that and list the elected officials you should be calling. The time to fight for our reproductive rights is now.

First, find your representatives and their contact info

If you don’t know your elected officials at the state level, this is the time to find out. Go to this guide, which will direct you to your state assembly or legislature’s website. From there, you can navigate the page to identify your representatives. And if you want the contact information for your governor, check this website.
To find out who represents you in Congress, you can input your zip code below.
You can also go to the House and Senate’s official websites to input your zip code or state and find out who represents you. Once you have the names of your elected officials, you can find their contact information in this House directory and this Senate directory.
If for some reason you lose their numbers, make sure to remember two crucial things: Their names and this phone number, 202-224-3121. That line will direct you to the Capitol’s switchboard. Once you speak with an operator, you can ask them to connect you with the office of your representative.

Time to pick up the phone

Look, we know there are plenty of alternatives to contact your representatives. You can always send them an email, a tweet, or even an old-school letter. But the truth is that they respond better to pressure from phone calls; it’s a quicker way to tally up support, and it’s the most difficult to ignore. Plain and simple, they can overlook the build-up of tweets, emails, and letters, but they can’t ignore a barrage of phones ringing without losing their mind a little bit.
It’s very likely that a legislative assistant will be the one to answer the phone. They’ll ask you whether you need a response, but it’s better to say you don’t. It will save everyone time, because they won’t need to add you to a response database.
Make sure you’re clear about what issue you’re calling about. The reasons why you support or oppose certain topics are, frankly, irrelevant. Getting straight to the point makes things better for everyone involved, including those who are waiting in line for their calls to be picked up.

So, what do I say?

My dear friend, we’re here to make your life much easier. Below, we have two scripts you can modify and follow.
First, let’s say you’re in a place like Missouri, where the state House passed sweeping legislation restricting abortion access. The Senate is currently working on the bill’s revisions, so this is the perfect time to call. Here’s what you could say:
“Hello, my name is Mary Williams. I’m a constituent from St. Louis County, zip code 63001. I don’t need a response. I am opposed to the Senate Bill 5 and I strongly encourage the senator to please oppose this devastating bill. Thank you!”
If you’re calling Congress, you can follow a similar guide. For example, if you’re opposed to the Senate’s current healthcare bill, which withholds funds from Planned Parenthood and tax credits from insurance plans which cover abortion, here’s something you could say:
“Hello, my name is Jane Smith. I’m a constituent from New York, zip code 10001. I don’t need a response. I am opposed to the Better Care Reconciliation Act and the defunding of Planned Parenthood. I strongly encourage the senator to please vote ‘no’ on this bill. Thank you!”
You can modify these scripts when calling everyone from your mayor to your senators about any issue.

Who should I prioritize?

Congress can do plenty to restrict abortion access, especially now that the Republican Party controls both chambers, but the reality is that the real damage is being done at the state level. As long as Roe v. Wade is in place, anti-choice state lawmakers can keep pushing restrictions and trying to regulate abortion before the point of fetal viability.
Bills that could either help or hurt abortion access are being discussed in the following states at the moment: Missouri, Rhode Island, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. If you live there, you should call your state representatives. For a complete database of pending abortion legislation, click here.
And if you oppose the Senate healthcare bill, there are certain GOP senators you should prioritize, as they’re on the fence about the legislation. If you live in their state, call: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Dean Heller (Nev.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Rand Paul (Ky). But if your representative isn’t listed, it doesn’t hurt to call your senators and tell them to oppose the bill.
Whether you contact your elected officials about local abortion laws or national legislation, it’s important to remind them there’s plenty of data proving most Americans support abortion access in some capacity. It’s time to get with the times and let women decide what’s best for them, full stop.

Move’s proponents argued decision is a medical one, not criminal – but opponents said decriminalisation may put vulnerable women at risk


abortion-protesters.jpgProtesters march in support of legal abortion in Northern Ireland, and against a Tory coalition with the DUP, earlier this month Reuters

Abortion should be decriminalised, medics at the British Medical Association (BMA) have said.

Delegates at the BMA’s annual meeting in Bournemouth voted in favour of a motion calling for a change in the law.

This means the BMA will adopt this stance as formal policy and lobby ministers for a change in legislation.

At present the law permits abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. But if there is a substantial risk to the woman’s life or foetal abnormalities, there is no time limit.

Two doctors must ensure that the requirements of the Abortion Act are met before an abortion can take place.

The topic received heated debate among the 500 medics at the meeting.

Some medics said that abortion is a medical decision and not a criminal one. They said a change in policy supports the rights of women.

But others raised concerns about decriminalisation putting vulnerable women at risk, sex-selective abortion and professional regulation.

Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA’s medical ethic s committee, said that the motion was not about time limits, saying that the BMA supports current time limits on abortion.

The BMA said criminal sanctions for abortion should be abandoned but it should be regulated in the same way as other health procedures.

One delegate, Sarah Johnson, questioned whether it would be regulated in the same way as hip replacement or lip fillers – a cosmetic procedure not subject to stringent medical regulation.

 The BMA said limits could still be set, but subject to professional and regulatory sanctions.

Other criminal laws which apply to other aspects of care would continue to apply to abortion – for instance supplying abortion drugs without a prescription would be a criminal offence under the UK-wide Human Medicines Regulation 2012.

Dr Chisholm added: “Abortion is currently a crime, with exceptions, throughout the UK. Following the debate the majority of doctors were clear that abortion should be treated as a medical issue rather than a criminal one.

“What must be clear is that decriminalisation does not mean deregulation. The debate today and the BMA’s new policy only relate to whether abortion should or should not be a criminal offence; the policy does not address the broader issue of when and how abortion should be available.¸

Speaking after the debate, Dr Clare Gerada, former chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs who is also a trustee of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas), said: “Abortion is never an easy thing to do for any woman or for any man. But for abortion to be governed by criminal law rather than governed by healthcare regulation is nonsense.

“I think this is as powerful and as important as the 1967 Abortion Act. This will start now putting abortion where it really should be, which is regulated by healthcare and then improving women’s access to it, improving contraception and removing sanctions for women who might or might not buy their medicines online.

“BMA doesn’t make law but the BMA is a very powerful voice for doctors and it’s a very powerful voice for people of this country.

“And to be able to say that the BMA fully supports the decriminalisation of abortion I think is a very, very, very powerful voice to have.

“For the BMA to be coming out absolutely overwhelmingly for the decriminalisation of abortion, I think now politicians will have to stand up and listen and actually take action.”

She said she suspects that following the vote there would be a Private Member’s Bill put to the House of Commons.

In March, a Bill was introduced at the Commons calling for abortion to be decriminalised up to 24 weeks.

Former shadow health minister Diana Johnson introduced the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill in a bid to get rid of “Victorian” abortion laws which contain criminal sanctions for both women and doctors if they do not meet certain requirements.

The Bill, which called to remove criminal sanctions in England and Wales and place regulation with professional bodies, received its first reading in March.

After gaining traction among MPs, it was scheduled for a second reading in May but Parliament was dissolved ahead of the General Election so the Bill fell.

Last year the Royal College of Midwives came out in favour of abortion being removed from criminal law.

“By gutting Medicaid, repealing significant insurance protections, defunding Planned Parenthood, and expanding harmful abortion coverage restrictions, it would devastate women and families,” said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Republicans in the U.S. Senate have proposed an alternative to the Affordable Care Act that they claim would result in “better care”—the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act.

But their plan would result in 22 million more people uninsured than under Obamacare over ten years, starting with 15 million people without coverage by next year, according to a hotly anticipated Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoreout Monday afternoon. In their bill, Senate Republicans doubled down on anti-choice provisions that will prevent Medicaid patients from accessing potentially life-saving care at Planned Parenthood affiliates, including cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection testing, and contraceptive services. And people with private insurance will face abortion restrictions that their counterparts on Medicaid have long experienced under the discriminatory Hyde Amendment.

The consequences of the Senate bill mirror those of the U.S. House of Representatives’ American Health Care Act, which would leave 23 million more people than under Obamacare uninsured over the same ten-year period.
CBO determined that just like the House version, the Senate’s bill “defunds” Planned Parenthood, and only Planned Parenthood, at the expense of poor and rural people who disproportionately rely on the health-care organization. That finding could provide more justification for the Senate parliamentarian, the arbiter of the chamber’s rules and procedures, to rule that targeting Planned Parenthood alone represents a partisan vendetta and violates the fast-track process Republicans are using to pass repeal with only a simple majority.

As the report notes:

To the extent that access to care would be reduced under this legislation, services that help women avoid becoming pregnant would be affected. The people most likely to experience reduced access to care would probably reside in areas without other health care clinics or medical practitioners who serve low-income populations. CBO projects that about 15 percent of those people would lose access to care.

Beyond reproductive health care, the ability of Medicaid patients to access any health-care services in general will suffer. The largest portion of the Senate bill’s $320.9 billion in savings over ten years would come from cuts to the joint federal and state program for people with low incomes; in fact, spending for Medicaid would decrease by $772 billion in that period. This represents a 26 percent decrease from under Obamacare. The House bill, by comparison, saves $119 billion—again, through Medicaid cuts that limit access to life-saving care.

CBO’s score of the “heartless” Senate repeal effort “offers no surprises,” Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said in a statement.

“By gutting Medicaid, repealing significant insurance protections, defunding Planned Parenthood, and expanding harmful abortion coverage restrictions, it would devastate women and families,” Ness continued.

Advocating for access to safe abortions, Willie Parker decided to attack the root of the problem.

Willie ParkerBrynn Anderson / AP
Willie Parker became a Christian at age 15. Well into his career as an obstetrician-gynecologist, he refused, on religious grounds, to perform abortions.

Over the years, he saw more and more patients who were victims of sexual assault and intimate-partner violence. He was forced to confront his idea of what it meant to “be a man.” Parker eventually started performing abortions—largely in the southern United States—and he is now an outspoken advocate for access to safe abortions. In his new book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, Parker traces his anti-abortion-access stance to Biblical literalism and obliviousness to societal power structures. Over decades, as he realized that health equity required dismantling of the patriarchy, he worked to understand how he could be effective in that as a man.

Christianity is still a major part of Parker’s identity. When we met, it was one of four self-identifiers he listed on four fingers: Christian, heterosexual, black, and male. Though he isn’t the first person to attempt patriarchal dismantling, he would be among the few who match these identifiers. Parker is broad-shouldered and bearded and deep-voiced. His physical presentation makes no departure from gender norms. Parker does not challenge that gender is rooted in biology, and he doesn’t renounce masculinity. His mission is to reform it into something productive, or at least not oppressive, from within.

During the Spotlight Health conference in Aspen on Friday—part of the Aspen Ideas Festival—Parker was invited to pose a “big idea” to everyone in attendance. It was big: “divesting of what I feel to be the cornerstone of most structural oppression in the world.”

Parker argued that dismantling patriarchy would “cause many injustices to crumble: racial and ethnic tension, class wars, sexual identity oppression, Islamophobia. Imagine if men could see reproductive justice as their battle to fight—not from a place of chivalry, but from a duty to humanity.”

He also told the story of how he met his hero Gloria Steinem a year and a half ago, and she gave him a bracelet. It was inscribed, “Imagine if we were all linked, and not ranked.” That has become his personal mantra. The audience was into this, and even more into his culminating challenge: “I will continue to divest of the patriarchy, and I call upon all patriarchs—both male and female—to join me. Then and only then can we be linked and not ranked. Imagine that.”

I wanted to know more about how a person might divest, in practical terms. So we talked the next afternoon. A condensed version of our conversation follows, lightly edited for clarity.

James Hamblin: If I’m aware of problems with conceptions of masculinity and want to not be part of the problem, what do I do?

Willie Parker: The first thing is to become responsible. Acknowledge that life chances in this country aren’t uniformly equal, and that there is such a thing as privilege. There’s such a thing as male privilege, and that is institutionalized as patriarchy. That’s heavily influenced by religion, and it influences government, and business, and everything else.

So the first step is to recognize that we live in a patriarchal world. You’re born into that from the very moment that the birth attendant says “It’s a boy.”

Once you realize that, you have to recognize, okay, what about that feels right or wrong to you? If you start with the premise that we’re all humans, then you start to question, what are the real differences between men and women? There are certainly biological differences, but that doesn’t mean there should be differences in people’s access to opportunity.

So when you get all of that, then you have to figure out what is my role?

That requires you to be self-aware. In what ways am I privileged? A racial system in a society that values white privilege puts me at a disadvantage. But being male in a patriarchal society puts me at an advantage. And in both cases, I conclude that isn’t fair. Privilege—in ways that you haven’t worked for—isn’t fair.

Hamblin: So then the only moral option is to divest of that privilege? And this doesn’t just mean saying I value all people equally and wearing a t-shirt that says “Male Feminist.”

Parker: Even if you’re at that point, there are still probably biases you’re not seeing. Do you balk at taking directions from female bosses more than male bosses? Think back. Or if they’re gay when you’re straight? They’re black and you’re white?  If so, then you’ve got to work harder to recognize and divest of that sense—any sense that’s still somewhere in there, of “I should be the boss because I’m white, and I’m male, and I’m straight.”

Apply that lens, to every aspect of your life. Do you perceive assertiveness by female colleagues as “bitchiness” versus, “Wow, Rob’s a go-getter”?

Everybody has the power to divest of the privilege that they hold. It’s like holding a stock. And that stock rises in value, and the stock certificate is in your name just for being born with a certain skin color or of a certain gender. The benefits accrue the same way.

Hamblin: So I give that stock away? Is that possible?

Parker: All analogies break down at some point. If you decide that the way you acquired the stock was at the expense of someone else, you don’t have to take a vow of poverty, but you have to accept the responsibility that comes with that wealth. If you hold a lot of power, it’s incumbent on you to work for a society that’s more equitable.

We live in a rape culture, meaning there are ways in which society facilitates men being able to rape. I personally do not rape people, and I don’t make sexist remarks. But that’s not enough. I have to actively be anti-rape, anti-sexism and work to dismantle these structures. If we each individually divest of the privilege we’re born into, then we can be in a position to demand that the world becomes fair, and to make it so.

That evening I went to Parker’s book-reading event in town. There were about 30 people there. Five were men, including Parker and me. One in the audience asked a question, a very long question which turned out to be a statement about how he’s against access to abortion, and how now-a-days a lot of women and minorities have impressive jobs, and so he doesn’t really see the big problem.

AUSTIN, Tex. — She was a state senator Tuesday morning. By Wednesday, she was a political celebrity known across the nation. But also hoarse, hungry and thirsty.

The leg-numbing filibuster by Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat — in which she stood and talked for more than 11 hours at the Capitol here, never sitting, eating, drinking or even using the bathroom to help block passage of an anti-abortion bill supported by the state’s top Republicans — was not the longest such marathon, by Texas standards.

But it didn’t matter.

Her feat of stamina and conviction gained thousands of Twitter followers in a matter of hours. Pictures of the sneakers she wore beneath her dress zoomed across computer and television screens. The press corps demanded to know her shoe brand. (Mizuno, it turned out.) Hundreds of men, women and children waited for hours at the Capitol to sit in an upstairs gallery and watch her in action, standing in lines that snaked around the rotunda. Even President Obama noticed, posting a Twitter message on Tuesday that read, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight.”

Ms. Davis, 50, has known long odds and, for Democrats, was the perfect symbol in a fight over what a woman can do. She was a teenager when her first child was born, but managed as a single mother to pull herself from a trailer park to Harvard Law School to a hard-fought seat in the Texas Senate, a rare liberal representing conservative Tarrant County. According to Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston, she had the second-most liberal voting record in the Senate in 2011.


State Senator Wendy Davis of Texas, was flanked by her father, left, and her two daughters while giving her victory speech on Nov. 6. Senator Davis, a Democrat, was first elected in 2008. CreditRobert W. Hart for The Texas Tribune

“We have a State Capitol that is made up of people, for the most part, who are elected by Anglo communities, suburban and rural, and they are the majority voice in the Capitol, although they aren’t reflective of the majority of the state of Texas,” she said in a previous interview.

I would like to thank Wendy for showing the country what a true Texan woman looks like. She stood up for her beliefs and didn’t back down. …

On Tuesday night, as she stood in her salmon-colored running shoes on the green carpeted floor of the Senate chamber and spoke about the bill from 11:18 a.m. to about 10 p.m., Republicans monitored virtually her every move and word, waiting to catch her violating Texas’ obscure filibuster rules, which prohibited her from leaning on her desk or straying off topic. At one point they objected when a fellow Democrat tried to help put a back brace around Ms. Davis, who at that point had been standing for about seven hours straight.

“I’m tired, but really happy,” Ms. Davis told reporters in the Senate chamber at 3:20 a.m. Wednesday as she finally made her way out of the building. “I’m pleased to know that a spotlight is shining on Texas, a spotlight is shining on the failure of our current leadership.” She was congratulated by lawmakers and women’s rights advocates. But the celebration was short-lived. Hours later, Gov. Rick Perry announced that a second special session would begin Monday so lawmakers could take up the abortion bill once more. Analysts said the bill would probably pass this time because Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate would be unable to delay for an entire 30-day session.

As a lawmaker elected to the Senate in 2008, Ms. Davis has shown charisma and guts, and her life story has moved voters. At the age of 14, she worked after-school jobs to help support her mother and three siblings.


State Senator Wendy Davis at her Harvard Law School graduation in 1993, with her daughter, Amber. CreditDavis Family

“My mother only had a sixth-grade education, and it was really a struggle for us,” she said in a 2011 video for Generation TX. She said she fell through the cracks in high school, and shortly after she graduated, she got married and divorced, and was a single mother by age 19.

“I was living in a mobile home in southeast Fort Worth, and I was destined to live the life that I watched my mother live,” she said in the video. A co-worker showed her a brochure for Tarrant County College, and she took classes to become a paralegal, working two jobs at the same time. From there she received a scholarship to attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth — becoming the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree — and then went on to Harvard. “When I was accepted into Harvard Law School, I remember thinking about who I am, and where I came from, and where I had been only a few years before,” she said.

These days, she said, her life outside the Capitol is nice and boring — she has two daughters, ages 24 and 30, and tries to run regularly. She has been dating a former mayor of Austin, Will Wynn, who put his arm around her shoulder early Wednesday as they walked out of the Senate chamber together.

It was an exhausting filibuster, but it did not break the record. The longest filibuster in American history took place 36 years earlier in the same place when Senator Bill Meier filibustered a bill for 43 hours in 1977.


Ms. Davis in elementary school in the 1970s.  CreditDavis Family

Ms. Davis pushed her Republican rivals to make an embarrassing and rare public reversal. Their attempts to derail her filibuster as the midnight deadline neared caused the gallery to erupt in screams, throwing the results of the vote on the bill into disarray. Hours after saying that they had passed the bill, Republican leaders reversed course and said the vote did not follow legislative procedures, rendering the vote moot and killing the bill.

It was Ms. Davis’s second star turn: In 2011, she filibustered a budget bill that included huge cuts to public education, forcing Governor Perry to call a special session in order for it to pass. And it cemented her reputation as a Democrat in a Republican-dominated state who many hope will run for statewide office.

“She’s carrying every woman in the state of Texas, if you will, on her shoulders,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a daughter of Ann Richards, a former governor.

The bill seeks to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers and mandate that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Opponents say it could lead to the closing of most of Texas’s 42 abortion clinics.

Rocking back and forth in her sneakers — to ease the pain in her lower back, she said — Ms. Davis read from letters sent to her office, testimony submitted to committees and an article published in The Austin Chronicle. At 10 p.m., the Senate’s presiding officer, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, sustained a violation for straying off the topic, which Democrats disputed. She had been talking about a law that prohibited abortions without the mother first undergoing a sonogram.

As the clock neared midnight, Republicans tried to end the debate and to vote, causing the crowd to erupt. At midnight, another senator stood at Ms. Davis’s paper-cluttered desk and raised her arm in victory. The crowd roared. Ms. Davis smiled. It was not until about 1 a.m. — about 14 hours after she first rose at 11:18 a.m. — that she quickly walked to the Senate lounge and, for the first time, sat down.

Clinic director Calla Hales was a victim of the extreme violence abortion providers face simply for doing their jobs and helping women.

The guy wanted to know if she worked at an abortion clinic.

On their first date, a day or two earlier, she’d told him she worked in “women’s health.” Now, he was texting her about specifics. She answered yes and asked if that was a problem. He said no.

But from the start of their second date, she knew something was wrong.

“He acted really weird the whole time,” Calla Hales said. “Really standoffish. Closed off. Downright rude at times.”

About halfway through the meal, when he got up to go to the bathroom, Hales asked for the check. Her date got angry but still asked her to go home with him. When she declined, he walked her to her parking spot, and as she was getting into her car, she says, he came up behind her, pulled her into the backseat, and raped her.

“He had me in between the seats, wrapped the seat belt around my neck, and at some point, bit me on my chest,” Hales said. “He said things like I should have expected this and that I deserved it. He asked how I could live with myself and said I should repent. That I was a jezebel. That I was a murderer. That he was doing no worse to me than I had done to women. He said he would make me remember him.”

After about 15 minutes, a noise spooked her attacker and he left. Terrified and stunned, Hales drove to her friends’ house and showed them the bruises. They wanted to call the police, but Hales said no, she wanted to get herself together and go home. She went back to work the next day.

“I worked all weekend and didn’t say anything to anybody,” Hales said. “But the whole time I was bleeding.”

Hales is the director of A Preferred Women’s Health Center (APWHC), which operates four abortion clinics across North Carolina and Georgia. At 27, she oversees a staff of 60 and the administration of the clinics, which collectively provide care for more than 20,000 patients a year. Her mother and stepfather opened the first APWHC in Raleigh in 1998, when Hales was 8. Her mother was the director of the clinics and her stepfather was the doctor. Like her three older sisters, Hales began working in the Raleigh clinic as soon as she was old enough to be helpful. After getting a bachelor’s degree and MBA at Hofstra University in New York, she moved back and became the communication and budget coordinator before taking over the director role in January 2017.

 Hales and her mother outside A Preferred Women’s Health Center (APWHC) in Charlotte.

“What my parents did has always been in the air, and we never thought it was weird or frowned upon,” Hales said. “But growing up, my parents were always telling us to be careful who we talked to and mindful of what we said.”

Hales was schooled on how to answer the phone and what to say when asked what their parents did. Both parents own bulletproof vests, as does Hales, and have a license to carry.

“I’m a gun-toting Democrat,” her mother said from her perch on the desk in the clinic’s front office, her 40-caliber handgun tucked away in her purse. “It’s always scary because you never know what’s going to happen and, oh my god, I have always worried about my daughters’ safety. We are always a target.”

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade in 1973 that women have a constitutional right to an abortion, extreme opponents of abortion have subjected providers and patients to disruption, harassment, and violence, including murder, arson, and bombings. Clinics have had acid poured through their mail slots and received anthrax through the mail. In its 2016 report, the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which monitors clinic harassment and violence, found that picketing, vandalism, obstruction, invasion, trespassing, burglary, stalking, assault and battery, and bomb threats are all on the rise. Clinics reported 60,000 incidents of picketing that year, an all-time high since the NAF began tracking these statistics in 1977. The report also documented a five-fold increase in hate speech and internet harassment, which escalated after the election. The 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey, published by the Feminist Majority Foundation, found that the percentage of clinics reporting the most severe types of anti-abortion violence and threats of violence has dramatically increased from the first six months of 2014 to the first six months of 2016 — from 19.7 percent to 34.2 percent. Hales was raped in November 2015.

Now abortion rights advocates fear the violence and harassment may get even worse. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, passed in 1994, made it a federal crime to use force, threat of force, or physical obstruction to interfere with a person’s right to obtain or provide reproductive health services, but it’s only effective if enforced.

Pro-choice volunteers engage with anti-abortion protestors across the street from APWHC in Charlotte.


“Sometimes I get the sense that the police officers here are just winding down the clock,” said Alixandra Taylor, who volunteers as a clinic escort at APWHC in Charlotte. “Like it’s not going to be an issue for much longer, so why uphold the law now? Clearly no one has said that to me, but when things are getting heightened and the officers are leaning up against their cars on their phones, it’s a pretty clear indication.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a legacy of voting against measures that would protect clinics and abortion opponents have expressed delight over his appointment. Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of NAF, says she is concerned that the current Department of Justice will not enforce laws that protect abortion clinics with the same vigor as previous administrations and this will take pressure off local law enforcement. Without that layer of accountability, threats and violence will continue to escalate.

“Trump has encouraged people to express their basest emotions and to threaten people — he has given the anti-abortion movement license to increase their vitriol, if not their criminal activities,” Saporta said. “We’ve seen time and time again that if anti-abortion extremists are allowed to get away with lower-level criminal activities, those escalate into [extreme violence].”

On the Monday after the rape, Hales went to a Planned Parenthood. They gave her a blood test but recommended she go to an emergency room for stitches. Hales went to a hospital where she was least likely to encounter someone who knew her or her family, but, she says, the nurses told her to come back the next day to be evaluated by an ob-gyn to determine if she needed stitches. When she returned, the hospital staff had no record of her previous visit.

“When they couldn’t find me in the system, I opened the paperwork they gave me the day before and realized it was for a 56-year-old man with angina,” Hales said. “Finally I was like, ‘Fuck it. I don’t care about anonymity anymore. I need to get seen.’”

 Hales at her desk at APWHC in Charlotte.

At UNC Medical Center, Hales received a series of blood tests, took prophylactic antibiotics, and went through the process of completing a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) report that documented her physical injuries. She decided to file a blind, or anonymous, report with the Raleigh Police Department.

“I did not want to press charges for a few reasons,” Hales says. “The idea of retribution on my parents, my friends, my business, and my staff. I didn’t know if I could survive the mental and emotional trauma of a court case at the time. There also was, and still is, a large amount of embarrassment and misplaced guilt — feeling like I should have done something to fight back, like I should have worn different clothes, that I missed a warning sign.”

The next morning, after calling her parents to tell them what happened, Hales went to the clinic where she worked.

“It was a conscious choice to not do anything different,” Hales said. “I think I thought that if everything was normal, it would be OK.”

Within weeks, though, Hales began to see her attacker’s face in the crowd of protesters outside the Raleigh clinic. At first, she thought she was being paranoid. But then, she says, the protesters began to yell things they hadn’t yelled before, echoing words said to her during the assault.

“The protesters outside started calling me a jezebel a lot more,” Hales said. “And I got letters in the mail saying that I deserved it.”

Hales seen through the reception window at APWHC in Charlotte.


They also said things they could have known only from talking to her attacker or seeing her rape kit. Hales has a tattoo of a serotonin molecule on her left rib and one day, a protester asked what molecule her tattoo was of.

Hales received a barrage of anonymous text messages, phone calls, and voicemails. She’d pick up the phone and hear someone breathing heavily. She’d get voicemails that said, “Do you remember it?” Some days, she received hundreds of blank text messages. One night while at dinner with friends, she got a text from an unknown number that said, “That shirt looks pretty on you.”

“I lost it,” Hales said. “I had a layer of panic everywhere I went. I’d get to the clinic at 6 in the morning and not leave until 4 p.m. I wouldn’t walk outside. I’d refuse to leave until I knew there were no protesters.”

In early January 2016, Hales left her own birthday party early because she thought she saw her attacker in the crowd. She was feeling increasingly fearful, paranoid, and alone, so she picked up and moved to Charlotte. It’s where the APWHC’s main office is located – and 170 miles away from the man who sexually assaulted her because she worked at an abortion clinic.

The protests at the Charlotte clinic are among the most intense in the country.

On a recent May morning, about 150 demonstrators had gathered outside by 10 a.m. A clinic volunteer had gotten into a yelling match with protesters who were leaning on her car and Hales walked past the police barricade to talk to the cops.

“They murder innocent babies in there,” a man yelled, his voice amplified by a speaker system.

 Catholic anti-abortion protesters pray outside APWHC in Charlotte.

On the other side of the road, a swarm of people in matching teal T-shirts raised their hands in supplication toward the sky as another man with a microphone expounded on the evil unfurling inside the brick building. A cluster of children near the front of the group clutched baby dolls. Another group waved gruesome signs that purported to show images of aborted fetuses and approached every car that drove up with pamphlets. Down the road, a group of Catholics bowed their heads in prayer.

After a short conversation with one of the officers, Hales returned to her office.

“So this is Saturday,” she said wryly. Saturdays are the biggest protest days at the clinic, and crowds, microphones, grisly signs, ultrasound buses, praying, and shouting have become the norm.

More recently, on June 10, a group called Love Life Charlotte called for 1,000 men to join them at their Men for Life prayer walk at the clinic. “The truth is that this is more of a man’s issue than it is a woman’s issue,” founder Justin Reeder said in a video posted on the organization’s website.

 An ultrasound machine inside an RV run by anti-abortion activists parked across the street from APWHC in Charlotte.

The regular protests are nothing new. In the early 2000s, Operation Rescue, a group known for blockading entrances to clinics during the 1980s and early 1990s, moved to Concord, North Carolina, about a 40-minute drive from Charlotte. One of the leaders was the Rev. Philip L. “Flip” Benham, and when internal feuding split Operation Rescue in two, Benham became the head of his faction, Operation Save America — still one of the most extreme anti-abortion groups in the country. In 2011, Benham was found guilty of stalking after following abortion doctors to their homes and creating “WANTED” posters with their names and home addresses. A judge ordered a new trial on appeal due to a procedural error but the district attorney ultimately dropped the charges.

In 2010, Benham’s sons founded Cities4Life, a group that deploys protesters outside the Charlotte clinic six days a week. Daniel Parks, the director of Cities4Life, says he’s been there every Saturday for the past 12 years and his wife, Courtney, a registered nurse, mans one of the two “mobile ultrasound” buses outside the clinic. “We know that we can’t force anyone to do anything,” Daniel Parks says. “If a mom goes on the mobile unit and still decides to go through with an abortion, all we can do is pray for her.”

Another group, Reformation Charlotte, is not only there to protest abortion, but also to try to convert the Catholics. “There are people out here from all walks of life who we believe are dying in their sin and it’s not just people that are going here to have abortions,” Jeff Maples, Reformation Charlotte’s director, told me when I visited. “There are Roman Catholics over there who are pro-life but don’t believe the gospel.”

 Anti-abortion protestors affiliated with Love Life Charlotte stand across the street from APWHC in Charlotte.

Protesters told me their goal is to help women, but according to the office manager of the Charlotte clinic, their presence can be harrowing.

“We see it a lot on patients’ surveys, about how mad the protesters are, about how they yell slurs,” she says. “We just had a patient get called a ‘filthy whore.’ The protesters say things about doctors too and that gets the patients scared.”

Hales, meanwhile, moved from Raleigh to feel safer but entered an environment that is even more virulent.

“It’s like trading one evil for another,” Hales said.

A year and a half after the attack, Hales avoids crowds when she can and changes her appearance (sweats one day, a dress another; contacts one day, glasses another), so she is not easily recognizable. She lives in a secure apartment building, but even though one of the local anti-abortion groups posted her address online, she says she’s more concerned about potential harm to her cats than to herself.

Hales said it’s hard to tell whether the protests have gotten worse since Trump was elected because the protest climate around APWHC in Charlotte was already so hostile, and city officials and law enforcement already didn’t provide much in the way of support. However, like one of the clinic volunteers, she has a sense that the people standing outside the clinic feel emboldened, as if it’s just a matter of time before legal abortion is gone for good. Hales is also concerned about how policies — like the Republican health care plan and new state abortion restrictions — could affect her patients, the clinics, and people, like her, who have been sexually assaulted.

 Hales speaks to new volunteers during a training for clinic escorts inside APWHC in Charlotte.

The silver lining to the election, she says, is the clinic has seen an outpouring of support from local supporters of reproductive rights. The number of people volunteering as clinic escorts and defenders has surged since November, providing a critical support system that helps patients get into the clinic safely.

If anything, the rancor of the protesters has strengthened Hales’s resolve. “There is a certain level of therapy in doing it,” she said of her work at the clinic. “I wanted to prove that I could because it’s like an angry ‘fuck you’ to the people outside.”

That Saturday, she wore a black Planned Parenthood T-shirt with the words “Wicked Jezebel Feminist” scrawled across the front, a nod to the words used to describe her during and after the attack.

“They haven’t kept me from doing my job and from wanting to be a human,” Hales said. “The best thing I can do to prove them wrong is to continue to live and be a loudmouth. I mean, what could happen that’s worse than what’s already happened?”

Are you surprised? A recent Guttmacher Institute report systematically documents anti-choice laws and the research that debunks their claims.

A recently released Guttmacher Institute report finds that at least ten common categories of state laws and policies restricting abortion run contrary to science.

These anti-evidence laws are prevalent across the country, leaving almost a third of all U.S. women of reproductive age (ages 15-44) living in a state with at least five such restrictions.

This conclusion may sound obvious to those familiar with the hostile legislative landscape regarding reproductive rights and health. But “Flouting the Facts: State Abortion Restrictions Flying in the Face of Science” systematically documents the sheer scope of policies that ignore public health and social science research about the safety of abortion, among other issues. In this political environment—where anti-science attitudes at the state level are increasingly echoed by the Trump administration—researchers must keep reiterating there are such things as evidence and actual facts.

Rachel Benson Gold, Guttmacher vice president for public policy, and Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager, co-wrote the report, which was released in May. They note that “much of the anti-abortion universe has long been an evidence-free zone.”

This analysis comes just a year after the U.S. Supreme Court used research to declare some Texas abortion restrictions unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In its 5-3 decision, the Court clearly was convinced that there were no public health reasons undergirding Texas’ admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center provisions, which required abortion providers to obtain rights to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of their practice and forced clinics to have hospital-like facilities. The Court decided that the provisions did not improve women’s health, but actually worked to impede access to abortion.

The data-driven decision apparently didn’t sway many state legislators. According to Guttmacher datareleased in June, 1,257 reproductive health-related provisions were introduced in statehouses across the country in 2017; more than 40 that restrict abortion were enacted.

Those provisions join a deluge of pre-existing anti-choice legislation, which the May report categorized into three broad areas: those that target abortion providers, require various types of counseling or waiting periods, or use fetal pain as a pretext for restricting abortion access.

For each policy identified, scientific evidence or consensus contradicts the legislation’s claims or purpose:

  • Ambulatory surgical center and hospital admitting privileges requirements: These two restrictions at the center of the Whole Women’s Health case have been shown to restrict care without improving safety. While some states have blocked these restrictions by court order, some before and others after the Whole Woman’s Health decision, 18 states still have ambulatory surgical center requirements in place, and three still have admitting privileges laws. Both provisions place onerous facility requirements on providers and contributed to the closing of 16 of Texas’ 41 abortion clinics.
  • Telemedicine bans for abortion: Despite a 2014 joint American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Society of Family Planning practice bulletin and recent studies asserting the safety and effectiveness of using telemedicine in abortion provision, 18 states still ban the use of telemedicine for abortion care.
  • Restrictions on medical staff who can perform abortions: In 38 states, equipped health-care providers—such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives—are prohibited from performing abortions in the absence of a doctor. The World Health Organization’s 2012 guidelines disagree with such restrictions, and studies in various states have concluded that these health-care professionals can equally and safely provide abortion care.
  • “20-week bans” and fetal pain bills: The two most common pieces of legislation built on the fetal pain pretext are “20-week bans,” which exist in 17 states, and policies that require a woman to be informed that a fetus can feel pain, which are on the books in 13 states. Bans at 20 weeks are unconstitutional, arbitrary, and counter to statements and recommendations published by leading U.S. and international OB-GYN groups.
  • Mandatory waiting periods: These laws exist in 27 states and require people to wait between 18 and 72 hours after receiving counseling to have an abortion. Framed as a way to provide possible patients with time to consider whether they want to have an abortion, research has disproven this narrative. A 2008 survey found that 92 percent of women were confident about their choice to have an abortion when they made the initial appointment. A subsequent 2017 study found the majority of patients’ decisions to be unaffected by waiting period laws, and in some cases the laws only increased rates of confidence in decisions to have an abortion.
  • Mandatory counseling: Three of the remaining policies require a doctor to counsel their patients about the effects that abortion can have on their mental health, breast cancer risk, or future fertility—all claims that have been roundly contradicted by research. A 2015 statement of facts from ACOG affirmed there is no link between abortion and breast cancer or future fertility; nor is there an increased risk of mental health conditions. The National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and other medical organizations have all come to the same conclusions about the connection between having an abortion and one’s increased risk of breast cancer: There isn’t one.

Overall, 28 states have at least two of these restrictions in place. These restrictions are harmful: intervening in the patient-provider relationship, greatly limiting access to abortion care, or spreading misinformation. Individually or en masse, such restrictions amount to an unnecessary mountain of barriers for people seeking abortion care.

Nikki Madsen, executive director of Abortion Care Network, said in a press release:

Since 2010, state lawmakers have been engaged in a relentless crusade to push abortion out of reach: They’ve quietly passed more than 334 new restrictions on abortion. It doesn’t come as a surprise to abortion care providers or the women who seek their services that these laws aren’t based on science—but it should be a shocking wake-up call to lawmakers. We see what you’re doing, and it has nothing to do with women’s health and safety. This study shows that there’s no claim too specious for an anti-abortion lawmaker to use to justify taking away a woman’s health care.

While the Guttmacher report focuses on state level restrictions, it acknowledges that changes at the federal level are also of concern—and essentially create a compounding anti-abortion effect.

Various administration appointments and federal policy efforts are promoting anti-science rhetoric and action. In particular, the Trump administration has appointed individuals who subscribe to anti-choice, anti-science beliefs and whose track records show a commitment to restricting abortion access. President Donald Trump is packing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with a science-denying cast; HHS Secretary Tom Price has previously that stated “there’s not one” woman who can’t afford birth control, and Charmaine Yoest was appointed as HHS assistant secretary for public affairs. Yoest previously worked as president and CEO for Americans United for Life, a prominent anti-choice organization that, as Rewire’s Ally Boguhn detailed last month, has been the architect of some of the legislation outlined in the Guttmacher report.

Combined with these federal appointments, the state-level policies outlined by Guttmacher paint a clear picture of an ever-present and overarching anti-choice agenda. Guttmacher’s sobering report illustrates that each law, policy, or court case is not an isolated example of “alternative facts.”