Sexual Health and Identity

Women’s Reproductive Rights in the USA

The future may be bright, as long as we fight for it.

Ireland’s recent breakthrough regarding their stringent abortion laws most definitely warrants celebration. However, rejoicing in the barriers broken down overseas spurred my reflection upon the obstacles still existing in America.

State Variations

Women’s reproductive rights create tensions in both political and social realms. Currently, individual states dictate most laws regarding women’s bodies. Therefore, typically more conservative states have conservative laws and liberal-leaning states have liberal-leaning laws. Use this map to see the laws in your state.

Although, according to Pro-Choice America, there are currently no states that provide complete access to reproductive healthcare. Seven states even have only one clinic due to legislative environments.

The states with the most access are California, Connecticut, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. States with severely restricted access include an overwhelming 29 states.

To find further details on anti-choice and pro-choice state legislatures, government officials, measures passed look at Pro-Choice America’s annual “Who Decides? The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States” for 2018.

While victories have been made for women’s access to reproductive health clinics and services, setbacks seem imminent with the current administration.

Restriction Overseas

When one of Donald Trump’s first actions as president was to restrict women’s access to safe abortions worldwide through the Global Gag Rule or the Mexico City Policy. This ensures that the U.S. doesn’t fund foreign non-government agencies that offer abortion services or information.

The current administration’s restrictions on women’s liberty to govern their own bodies affects women not only internationally but also domestically.

reproductive rights

Image via Planned Parenthood

Problems at Home

Next, Trump modified the portion of the Affordable Care Act addressing birth control. Employers now aren’t required to cover the cost of birth control if they object to it for moral or religious reasons.

Beyond contraception, childbirth is more dangerous in the United States than any other developed country. According to Vox, over the past 30 years the maternal mortality rate has grown. One in three pregnancy-related deaths are even preventable.

reproductive rights

Image via Vox

On a different note, in January Senate blocked a proposed bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks nationwide.

Then, the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report didn’t include reproductive rights. According to Rewire News, these sections were replaced with portions on “coercion in population control.”

In April, an executive order was signed to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood. As a result four clinics closed in Iowa.

The Administration Isn’t Promising

Furthermore, Trump filled his administration with anti-choice officials. Scott Lloyd, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement didn’t allow a pregnant immigrant teen who had been the victim of rape to have an abortion because he personally opposed it.

Then there’s the worst of all, Mike Pence. Pence has been leading the war against reproductive rights for the GOP for nearly a decade.

Pence wrote the first bill suggesting taking all federal money from Planned Parenthood and consequently threatened a government shutdown over the matter.

Disturbingly, in 2011, Pence involved himself in the Ultrasound Informed Consent Act. This bill required all women to have ultrasounds prior to an abortion, even if unnecessary, and then the doctor would have to describe the embryo to her in detail. Read more of his abhorrent actions here.

Trump’s administration and voiced plans regarding women’s reproductive rights do not look promising. But with great resistance from pro-choice government officials and the American people, through movements such as the Women’s March, the future may be bright, as long as we fight for it.

Cover image via Vogue


Also published on Medium.

Sarah is a sophomore studying journalism at the University of Miami. She...