Top 10 Things to Do to Save Reproductive Freedom In America

FURY AND STRATEGY: Our prochoice nation must claim its majority.

Well, hello there, angry person. I see you.

Horror and outrage over the recent Alabama abortion ban and Georgia six week ban is a curious thing. Certainly, there is much to be furious about. But, frankly, what infuriates me more are my “progressive” colleagues and friends asking me whether I am “okay” and then wringing their hands wondering what they can do for the women of Alabama.

Let me level set reality for you, here. Where have you been?

These bans are absolutely nothing new. Nothing new at all.

Read these articles:

“Our Fury Over Abortion Was Dismissed for Decades As Hysterical.” By Rebecca Traister”

“The Criminalization of Women’s Bodies Is All About Conservative Male Power: The goal of the wave of anti-abortion laws in America is to put female sexuality under strict and brutal state control.” By Laurie Penny

Nothing new at all.

Technically unconstitutional bans like those passed in Georgia and Alabama have been introduced for nearly three decades. Now, post Trump, more egregious legislation is being signed in law at a breathtakingly accelerated pace. Horror and outrage are appropriate feelings, but this is long evolving trend.

Currently, in the United States of America:

  • 9 states retain their unenforced, pre-Roe abortion bans
  • 6 states have post-Roe laws to ban abortions that would be triggered if Roe v Wade was overturned
  • 5 states have unconstitutional post-Roe restrictions that are currently blocked by courts but could be brought back into effect with a court order in Roe’s absence
  • 7 states have laws that express the intent to restrict the right to legal abortion to the maximum extent permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the absence of Roe v Wade — Source: Guttmacher Institute
  • Women in the U.S. are currently serving time in jail for inducing miscarriages. (courtesy of Gov. Mike Pence).

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 57% of the country currently lives in a state hostile or not supportive of reproductive freedom.

Roe v Wade — more specifically, access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive health care — has not been protecting people of color, immigrants, low-income folks in most of this country for many years. Transgender people particularly. Nebraska, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, etc. watch these new bans and say — “Yeah. We know. Where have you been?

As for righteous outrage, thank you. But remember: these extreme bans will not be implemented in Georgia, Alabama, and other states. The legislation was not designed to be implemented. It was designed to overturn Roe v Wade.

Like other similar laws passed in the last few years, these bans will be challenged by fearless, overworked lawyers at the Center for Reproductive Rights, ACLU and others. The cases will journey through the court system and a phalanx of conservative antichoice judges — judges appointed under Reagan, Bush, Obama and now Trump— ultimately landing at the Supreme Court where they will join roughly 20 or so others cases waiting to be considered. Our newly conservative anti-choice Supreme Court — featuring political operative Justice Brett Kavanaugh — is now free to select the case most likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.

For historical context, listen to NYTimes Daily Podcast: A Direct Challenge to Roe v. Wade in Alabama.

Roe v Wade: not gone yet (but it will be gone soon)

Please expect Roe v Wade to be overturned by next June, if not sooner. If you read the previous sentence and think “Nah” or “That’s overly dramatic…” or “John Roberts would never do that” or “they will wait until 2020” re-read Rebecca Traister’s article and immediately restructure your thinking. It is happening. And Chief Justice John Roberts is going to do it.

The foundation was laid last week when the Supreme Court overturned Nevada v Hall, a 40 year precedent establishing interstate sovereign immunity.

Read: NYTimes “Supreme Court Liberals Raise Alarm Bells About Roe v. Wade”

Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative antichoice majority signaled quite clearly that the Supreme Court is willing to abandon the foundational principle of stare decisis —judges are bound by precedent. In summary, our 229-year-old Constitution went into cardiac arrest. Roe v Wade is easily the next victim.

More alarmingly, overturning interstate sovereign immunity in the context of abortion means that a man could charge a pregnant partner who seeks an abortion in a different state under the laws of another state. For example, a woman who travels across state lines to get an abortion in California could be charged with murder under Alabama law if the man who got her pregnant lives there. Terrifying.

This is why we fought so hard to #StopKavanaugh.

Welcome to the fight.

And, thus, we welcome you all to the fight for reproductive freedom. We’ve been waiting for many of you to join us for a very long time.

I’ve been fighting to protect reproductive freedom for 30 years. The pot has been on slow boil for that long. In 1992, I was sitting on the floor of the Nebraska State Unicameral when the very first partial-birth abortion ban was introduced. As I listened to the State Senator (a white, Catholic, Republican woman) tell graphic, dramatic stories about situations and medical procedures that didn’t exist, I was thinking “None of this is true!” Turns out, it was the beginning of the anti-choice minority’s extreme messaging strategy, launched under Reagan, to keep evangelicals in the Republican Party. The anti-choice extremists have been honing their approach ever since.

Fast forward to 2012 when I was working on Ohio, the very first “heartbeat” bills were introduced. These bills were designed to shorten the legal frame of fetal viability defined by both Roe v Wade and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v Casey decision, essentially banning abortion from that approach. The week after Obama was re-elected, the Ohio State legislature called a special session for the sole purpose of considering a 6 week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood. I couldn’t believe I was back in a state capitol, 20 years later, listening to the same misleading, extremist nonsense— and it was worse.

I’ve also watched many of you, colleagues and friends, for all these decades. Frankly, I’m more than often less than thrilled by what I’ve seen from you. In 2009, I watched Speaker Nancy Pelosi secure her last vote for the Affordable Care Act by reaffirming restrictions on abortion. I’ve watched the Democratic Party, progressive organizations, people of privilege, include women in the repro movement itself, and endless candidates diminish, ignore or stigmatize the “abortion issue.” We’ve been marginalized as “single issue” people or, even worse, abortion is cast in a general bucket of “women’s issues” which is absurd. Women are over half the population, 54% of voters, we make 80% of all economic decisions in households and create ALL the humans. Now we bear witness to the fruit of this terrible strategy — a perspective rooted in misunderstanding and shame.

Now you’re wondering what to do? Well. We certainly cannot do the same things we have been doing. It’s time to admit that we have failed miserably and restructure our approach. People of privilege (particularly white people) benefit from reproductive freedom without having to fight for it. We, the political class and also the reproductive rights community, are complicit in the dire nature of our situation. We have not structured strategies and coalitions to address the reality of the threat. We have not been sufficiently collaborative or inclusive. We have not been fierce and clear enough in our messaging.

Abortion is about economic justice. 
Abortion is about human rights. 
Abortion is about treating women and transpeople like human beings.
Abortion is about FREEDOM.

We need absolutely everyone on board with a bolder, more expansive approach RIGHT NOW, looking toward a future state that likely will not include constitutional protection. The primary orientating principle of “What do we do now?” must be “What do we need in place when Roe is overturned?”

TOP 10 WAYS TO SAVE REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM

1) PROGRESSIVE = PROCHOICE. PERIOD.

Every organization, union, agency, consultant, campaign or candidate on the Democratic Party/Progressive/Green/Independent side of our political continuum must now consider themselves a reproductive rights champion. Reproductive rights must now appear in all endorsement guidelines, platforms, speeches, frameworks, and strategic plans immediately — not as “women’s issues” but as “reproductive freedom” and “reproductive justice” (see definitions below).

I can’t even count how many Democratic politicians have refused to put reproductive freedom on their websites and platforms for fear of “alienating voters.” That’s total crap by the way. We are a prochoice nation. Candidates GAIN voters by being clearly prochoice. You do not lose races by being honest and supportive of reproductive freedom. ALL DATA CONFIRMS THIS. Only 18% of America is truly anti-choice and those voices are the overly funded, loud, organized folks who bully and attack and make it seem like they are more representative of the electorate than they are. We are not divided.

Look at the red circle — that’s the anti-choice “movement.” Everyone else is the prochoice nation. Sure some of these folks might want some restrictions in some form. We have to be willing to have conversations with those people because they they are 100% moveable — conversations that are entirely possible using certified techniques of deep canvassing. But what is very clear is that they do not want to overturn Roe. We do not need to sell out for those votes. Progressives. Democrats. Organizers. Politicians. Consultants. Strategists. Communications “experts.” Cut it out. Do better.

If politicians are unwilling to support full access to abortion and reproductive freedom or are unwilling talk about the issue openly, then they need to step aside and forego support or resources. No exceptions. (I am looking at you Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Chair Congresswoman Cheri Bustos). Enough.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party Platform has a wonderful plank outlining a comprehensive reproductive health, rights and justice agenda. This is the kind of litmus test we should be using.

2) GET BACK ON THE PHONES TO CONGRESS + FEDERAL LEGISLATION

The House of Representatives needs to pass federal legislation supporting reproductive freedom as quickly as possible. A good start is the EACH Woman Act is in process and Liz Warren has a plan (per usual). We also have to do what we can to block anti-choice judges because the Senate is confirming them faster than ever. The Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats need to shut these confirmations down right now. Get back on the phones with your Congresspeople. Tell them what to do.

3) RUN PROCHOICE CAMPION CANDIDATES EVERYWHERE

Focus all electoral strategies on taking back all state-level offices in every states. State government has been the source of the problem, and the target of years of anti-choice investment. State governments will also be the first line of defense if/when Roe falls. Total obsession required. The candidate recruiting organization Run for Something reported that 40% of the Republicans in state legislative races ran uncontested. ContestEveryRace.com reports 75% uncontested races across the board. That ends now. Let’s pressure the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee to require a prochoice litmus test for their candidate support or they don’t get our money. On that note…

4) WHERE TO GIVE YOUR MONEY

Give everything you have to the National Network Abortion Funds and associated local funds. These funds help pregnant people in all the areas of the country without access to abortion — covering travel, lodging and cost of the procedure. Give to all the local reproductive justice groups in the states with the worst legislative environments. Give more than you ever have before.

This article is a good resource. Some of my particular favorites also:

Feminist Health Care Center — provides reproductive healthcare that is safe and welcoming to the LGBTQIA+ community.

SisterLove — eradicates the adverse impact of HIV/AIDS and other reproductive justice health challenges through education, prevention, support, and human rights advocacy in the United States and around the world.

SisterSong — Southern-based, national membership organization; to build an effective network of individuals and organizations to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities.

SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW — builds new leadership, change culture, and advance knowledge in Georgia and the South to ensure individuals and communities have resources and power to make sustainable and liberatory decisions about our bodies, gender, sexualities, and lives.

5) MEN NEED TO STEP UP RIGHT NOW

Men are responsible for 100% of all unintended pregnancies and have taken very little responsibility for abortion access. Men4Choice is an incredible coalition raising money to expand nationally. They have the best toolkit for men I’ve ever seen. While we should prioritize our giving to local reproductive justice and abortion funds, Men4Choice is a worthy option. Here’s your chance for redemption, fellas. We need you standing with us.

6) WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE, TELL YOUR STORY

Never use the phrase “pro-life” ever again. This overly-funded, infrastructure of a small number of extremists should always be called “anti-choice” or “ forced birth.” Use the term “reproductive freedom” instead of “choice.” Meanwhile, study the differences between the concepts of reproductive rights, reproductive health, and reproductive justice — not interchangeable terms. Follow NARAL Prochoice America for messaging guidance. The elaborate anti-choice propaganda machine is winning the messaging battle, so let’s hit digital in full force. Be authentic and totally shameless in your support for abortion. There is nothing to be ashamed about. Tell abortion stories — particularly men, nearly all of whom have benefited greatly from abortion access and reproductive freedom. Get on the internets and talk to your people all the time. Loud and proud #ShoutYourAbortion

7) LOCAL REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM SANCTUARIES

A new approach to reproductive freedom policy can evolved at the local level. Cities and counties can do a myriad of things to create Reproductive Freedom Sanctuary Ordinances that includes economic sanctions, insurance coverage, travel support and information protection. District attorneys can take pledges to not prosecute. Sheriffs, public defenders, coroners, elected judges and other local offices all have a role in protecting reproductive freedom and need to be prochoice. New York and San Francisco are starting to explore some of these ideas now. The National Institute for Reproductive Health has the Local Repro Index for some more background. From school board to Senate, PTA to President, reproductive freedom is always on the ballot, which means we must…

8) #VOTEPROCHOICE IN EVERY ELECTION. EVERYWHERE.

Hundreds of state legislative races are happening in 2019 and we can make some headway to prepare for a world without Roe. #VOTEPROCHOICE — the nationwide organizing project and technology platform I founded with Democrats.com LLC in March 2016 — will release comprehensive 2019 voter guides in state primaries for Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi and Kentucky. We are investing massive research in school boards, prosecutors and judges so folks can #VOTEPROCHOICE in those elections. If you endorse candidates, we need you as a partner. We also need every prochoice voter in America to sign up to receive the voter guide and share it with everyone. Sign up at voteprochoice.us

9) WIN 2020.

Whatever it f*&@ing takes. We have to win it and win it ALL.

And finally….

10) TO THE STREETS. AGAIN.

NARAL Prochoice America, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, #VOTEPROCHOICE, Women’s March, March On, and a host of other partners are out in the streets on Tuesday, May 21 at NOON everywhere.

And then we have to keep marching.

THERE IS GOOD NEWS.

Remember.
We are the majority. 
7 in 10 Americans do not want Roe overturned. 
1 in 4 pregnant people will have an abortion before the age of 45. 
Two-thirds of those people are already mothers. 
This is not controversial. 
We are NOT divided on this issue. 
Never forget this.

We are a prochoice nation. It’s time to reclaim our majority.

Heidi L. Sieck
co-founder/Chief Empowerment Officer
#VOTEPROCHOICE, a project of Democrats.com LLC

Heidi L. Sieck is a civic entrepreneur, fierce feminist, overthinker, perplexed GenXer who has benefited greatly from white privilege, and a person who has had an abortion without any regret whatsoever.