In the mid-1980s I became the president of the San Diego Coalition for Reproductive Choice (SDRC). I was in my early 30s and married. Abortion was not an issue that touched me personally. What was important to me was the fundamental truth that women should have the choice to decide what to do with our bodies, specifically when it came to making our own decisions about our health care. This included the right to terminate a pregnancy without guilt or discussion.
Last night the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene and allowed an appalling Texas law to take effect. The law bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, often before a woman is aware she is pregnant. There are no exceptions for pregnancies due to rape or incest, which unfortunately are not isolated or rare circumstances. While I served as president of the SDRC I reviewed the cases of many women who were pregnant due to a horrific rape, or of girls impregnated at the age of 12 or younger by their father, uncle, brother or other relatives.
While there are several states that have instituted “heartbeat bills,” the Texas Tribune notes what makes this law unique is that “Instead of having the government enforce the law, the bill turns the reins over to private citizens — who are newly empowered to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The person would not have to be connected to someone who had an abortion or to a provider to sue.”
So any person, anywhere in the U.S., can sue someone who assists a woman in making her own decisions about her body. This, in the state where anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers have shanghaied the feminist slogan of the ‘70s: My Body, My Choice.
Staying silent is not an option, so what can we do?
- Expand the Court. There is no constitutionally fixed number of Supreme Court justices. Call your Senate and House representatives and let them know that you support increasing the number of justices in order to have a more balanced, less politically motivated court. If you don’t have their phone numbers it’s easy to contact the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
- “Money talks.” We don’t need anyone to declare a formal boycott to let Texas-based businesses know that we will be spending our money elsewhere unless they get their politicians to overturn this terrible law.
- Sports and entertainment. Let major sports leagues and colleges know that you insist they move any tournaments and championships out of Texas. Tell movie and TV studios to relocate their productions out of the state.
- Conventions. Here is a list of conventions being held in Texas over the next few months. Let the organizers know that you will not attend or use the products exhibited unless the conventions move out of Texas.
- Speak up. Contact your senators and congresspeople and let them know that your vote is dependent on them acting to, in the words of President Bill Clinton, “make abortion safe, legal and rare.” Legislating that family planning education and birth control be easily accessible and affordable throughout the country would be a giant step towards achieving that goal.
Please, please keep in mind that no matter what the anti-choice proponents say, this hateful law is not about abortion. It is about allowing 51% of the population to control our own bodies. This issue affects every one of us, from childhood to our golden years.
Now is the time for each and every woman, and every ally, to stand up for our rights. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “I don’t say women’s rights—I say the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.” The Texas law specifically targets abortion, but it also clearly says that women are second-class citizens. We must stand up against this stark injustice.
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