The State of Reproductive Freedom in the US

Aarti Lamberg ’24

Contributing Writer

“A threat to reproductive freedom anywhere is a threat to reproductive freedom everywhere.” – Liz Gustafson, State Director of NARAL Pro-Choice CT.

I am an intern with NARAL Pro-Choice CT, a reproductive rights organization based in Hartford, Connecticut. During a recent call with my boss, she said “a threat to reproductive freedom anywhere is a threat to reproductive freedom everywhere.” I want to unpack that statement and shout from the rooftops that the United States is in desperate need of the next generation of storytellers to stand up to the injustices occurring against the movement for reproductive freedom.

One of the most current injustices is the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which will most likely overturn Roe v. Wade. It is my goal to challenge my peers, the next generation of storytellers, to become the face of a movement that has been previously dominated by white, cis, heterosexual women.

We must feel comfortable discussing topics that have been formerly controlled by those older and seemingly more “professional” than we are. “Professionalism” is a tactic rooted in white supremacy and used to exclude those who have been historically marginalized. We must normalize the discussion of difficult topics until they are no longer “difficult.” Let’s talk about abortion. In order to solve the world’s problems, we must dismantle the barriers, myths, and stigmas that attempt to silence us and our passions.

Today, we are witnessing the long history of an anti-choice, anti-woman, white supremacist movement that stigmatizes abortion and wages war on our bodies.

I want to boldly and unapologetically talk about abortion because we can’t be in the fight for abortion access if we can’t talk about it. Abortion is normal: it is essential health care to which any pregnant person should have affordable and safe access. Let’s talk about abortion in the life-changing, life-saving, positive, normal, and healthy manner that it deserves.

Reproductive justice advocates across the nation have shown me that abortion rights are intersectional. Why do we continue to have conversations for people instead of with them? Abortion injustices most deeply impact Black, Indigenous, People of Color, people of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrant communities, impoverished and medically underserved communities, and those who are homeless. Yet there is still a lack of visibility for their narratives. I’ve entered the fight for reproductive freedom as a woman of color and it is my goal to make space for those who are most heavily impacted by abortion injustice and whose voices have been silenced. In order to make those who advocate for the movement be those who benefit from the movement, we must uplift their stories and their family’s stories. Only then can we stand up against the oppressive structures.

So how should we talk about abortion? Even reproductive justice advocates sometimes dance around the subject of abortion, further perpetuating the stigma that anti-choice advocates use to scare people into thinking abortion is dangerous.

When talking about reproductive health care for all do not say women’s rights or pregnant women. Not all people who can get pregnant are women. Instead, say pregnant people or people who can get pregnant. Not all people who get abortions or need access to abortions are women so there is no need to talk about abortion as a gendered topic.

Speak with intention, clarity, and power.

If you’re talking about abortion, say the word loud and proud. Avoid saying “women’s rights,” “reproductive health,” and “pro-choice,” if what you’re really talking about is abortion or being pro-abortion. If you’re pro-choice, you’re pro-abortion because you advocate for people to choose the reproductive care that’s best for them, their mental health, their dreams, and their needs. Abortion is a common, safe, and natural medical procedure that the majority of people in the US support. This is a fact that is ignored and therefore not reflected in the abortion rights policies many US elected officials push for.

We Testify is a non-profit organization that empowers people who have had abortions. We Testify says “people who have abortions are our future” and therefore we must make abortion accessible to all. People who are able to have abortions take their future and wellbeing into their own hands. For most people, an abortion provides them freedom. Freedom to continue their education or career path, freedom to escape abuse, freedom to prioritize their mental and physical health, and the freedom to have agency over their own reproductive path and bodily autonomy.

Our reproductive freedom rights are being threatened. We need to act now in order to prevent further anti-abortion action across the nation.

Texas’ Senate Bill Eight went into effect on September 1st 2021 and it denies people in Texas access to abortion after six weeks–which is before most people know they are pregnant. Additionally, it grants anyone the ability to sue someone for at least $10,000 if they’ve helped someone get an abortion after the first six weeks including an abortion provider. This ban disproportionately affects young people, people of color, and people of the LGBTQ+ community who may not have the resources or support in order to get an abortion before the six weeks. This ban essentially outlaws abortion. This is not the first, nor the last of bills like this. Given that Roe v. Wade will most likely be overturned–undoing almost fifty years of bare minimum rights to abortion access–we must demand that the support for abortion across the nation is correctly reflected in the policies that politicians enact.

In Connecticut, Roe was codified into law in 1990. To this day, abortion here is legal and protected until viability unless the pregnant person’s life or health is in danger. Additionally, parental consent or notification is not required to receive abortion care, and people under sixteen can access abortion after undergoing fact-based counseling. Even people out of state can come to access abortion in Connecticut. Connecticut’s state of abortion access is comprehensive and should be a model other states strive for. However, legality does not guarantee accessibility; in other states, we are fighting every day to keep these abortion laws protected and more accessible.

Be a leader in your communities by breaking the barriers in conversation and arming yourself with knowledge on the topics we’ve previously been told not to discuss. Break free from the blockade of professionalism which enables white supremacy. Work to inclusively talk about the issues your communities struggle with and identify how they may intersect with abortion access. Discover how you can fight locally, (through grassroots organizations), and nationally to put an end to the discrimination and unlawful targeting of people who get abortions and abortion itself. Join me in the fight for safe and accessible abortion. Talk about abortion in the classroom, with friends, and family members and challenge those who promote stigma and shame surrounding abortion. Ask the questions others will not and identify the world’s problems. Do not run away from the fact that we do not have all the answers. I urge you to tell you and your family’s abortion stories so that we have conversations with people instead of for them. So that those who advocate for the movement become those who benefit from the movement.

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