Rolling back women’s rights

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Amanda Marcotte has a must-read roundup of the growing assault on women’s rights around the country. There’s more than enough evidence here to make for a disturbing trend. In Ohio, anti-gay marriage laws have been interpreted to leave unmarried women vulnerable to domestic violence. The Education Department is easing up on sex discrimination in athletics. Pharmacists are flatly refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control pills. And so on.

Amanda’s links on abortion are particularly noteworthy. There’s a lot of hand-wringing in certain Democratic circles right now about how best to compromise on abortion rhetoric so as to appeal to the largest number of voters on the issue. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that, and the proposed solutions—like using sex education and better birth control to reduce the total number of abortions—are perfectly laudable. At the same time, it’s worth paying attention to the concerted attack on abortion rights over the past decade, as Jodi Enda’s cover story in this month’s American Prospect describes:

As a result of restrictive laws, violence, and the stigma that has become attached to abortion, fewer doctors and other health-care professionals are providing them. The number of abortion providers declined from a high of 2,908 in 1982 to 1,819 in 2000, a 37-percent drop, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Almost no nonmetropolitan area had an abortion provider in 2000, the institute reported, which might explain why the abortion rate among women in small towns and rural areas is half that of women in metropolitan areas.

State restrictions almost certainly have caused some women, perhaps thousands a year, to forgo abortions. Research suggests that Wisconsin’s two-day waiting period might have contributed to a 21-percent decline in abortions there. Shawn Towey, spokeswoman for the National Network of Abortion Funds, a group comprising 102 organizations that provides money and support for low-income women seeking abortions, estimates that 60,000 women a year find the restrictions so onerous that they carry their babies to term. The Guttmacher Institute stated in a 2001 report that between 18 percent and 35 percent of Medicaid-eligible women who want to have abortions continue their pregnancies if public funding isn’t available.

Indeed, it doesn’t seem to get enough attention these days, but in a number of crucial respects the anti-choice movement in this country has been winning of late; many women—especially many low-income women—don’t have a choice on abortion. Bill Clinton’s oft-cited middle ground on abortion—”safe, legal, and rare”—seems like a good compromise, but too often the emphasis seems to be on the “rare” aspect. It’s important, though, not to lose sight of the “safe” and “legal” parts, or the part about making reproductive choice available to all women, regardless of income or status.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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