News You May Have Missed returns from haitus to devastating news from the Supreme Court. This week we focus on the end to the constitutional right to abortion, mapping some of the world-changing implications and suggesting a few strategies. For comprehensive information on the consequences of the decision, see the Guttmacher Institute’s page. The Washington Post has an updated map about which states have made what changes since the decision. Ms. Magazine maps a strategy forward. Please see our Resources section for concrete help and action.
Going forward, other constitutional protections are also at risk. Clarence Thomas stated that other decisions resting on the same principle were “erroneous”–among them those decisions that legalize sexual activities among LGBTQ people, marriage equality and the right for married couples to use birth control, Mother Jones points out. Alabama is already using the Supreme Court case to try to block gender-affirming health care for minors, according to NPR.
1. Supreme Court puts women’s health at risk
You won’t have missed the news about Roe v. Wade. How do we begin to think about it all? First, some of the ramifications for women’s health:
◉ A predictable rise in unsafe abortions: Uterine perforation, poisoning (from drinking toxic substances), sepsis (from infection) and hemorrhage are all documented consequences of unsafe abortions, according to Doctors without Borders. Infertility and death can result.
◉ A rise in pregnancy-related deaths: A carefully wrought study in Demography estimates that if all abortions were banned, pregnancy-related deaths (including deaths in childbirth) would increase by 21 per cent.
◉ The impact on BIPOC communities and teenagers: Black women are three times as likely to die from complications of pregnancy as white women, the San Francisco Chronicle reminds us. The Hill summarizes The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warning on the “grave consequences” for teenagers carrying an unwanted pregnancy, including delayed medical care and unsafe abortions.
◉ Threats to women’s health: Some of the deaths might result from physicians delaying or refusing to treat conditions like tubal pregnancies, which will never be viable but which threaten the lives (and fertility) of women, as WebMD points out.
◉ Genetic screening and unviable pregnancies: The earliest genetic screening results are available is at 11 weeks of pregnancy; often they come much later, well past the deadline for abortion in many states, according to Kaiser Health News. Women in those states will be forced to carry pregnancies they know will end in death for the baby, sometimes after much suffering.
◉ Reduced physical and mental health among women who were denied abortions: These costs are vividly documented in the Turnaway Study, a ten-year study of the consequences for women of having or being denied abortions. RLS
2. Women’s economic and psychological health imperiled by the end of Roe
Beyond the danger to women medically is the high cost to women’s lives, along with those of their children. As the Nation points out in a comprehensive article, laws against abortion increase poverty among women. Not only is the lack of affordable childcare a barrier to work, but employers may stop investing in women, not trusting that they can make long-term commitments. Without viable options, women will be more likely to stay in abusive relationships, forced to bear the children of their abusers. In addition, we can anticipate:
◉ Higher levels of poverty and delayed developmental milestones among children whose mothers are denied abortions: As the Turnaway Fact Sheet demonstrates, the children a woman already has at the time she is denied an abortion can falter developmentally, while the child born as a result of the denial is more likely to grow up under the federal poverty line.
◉ Psychological costs to birth parents of relinquishing their children: Guilt, grief and shame among parents–especially birth mothers–who relinquish their children for adoption are well-documented in the research literature. Closed-record adoptions exacerbate these responses. Karen March’s 2014 article in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry documents this phenomenon fully, if you are interested. Salon sketches the larger politics of these issues as well.
◉ Lack of exceptions for cases of sexual assault and sexual abuse: Many of the state abortion bans do not include these exceptions, the New York Times notes; even when they do, some require the woman to report to police. And as Politico points out, clinics are not likely to be able to stay in operation to serve only women who qualify for an abortion under these exceptions. Recovering from assault or abuse is much more difficult when the victim is required to carry the pregnancy to term, Kaiser Health News explains; among these victims are children impregnated by family members. Three million women a year in the US become pregnant as a result of rape, according to the CDC. 30% of women raped by an intimate partner were also likely to be victims of reproductive coercion, when the partner refuses to allow them to use birth control or allow them to do so, the CDC says. RLS
3. Proposal to improve SSI benefits
How much does it cost to rent a studio apartment where you are? Single disabled people who get SSI–federal disability payments–receive $841 per month, (the base rate without spouses or children). The SSI Restoration Act of 2021 would begin to address this situation. It is comprised of three pieces of legislation: S.2065, H.R.3763, and H.R.3824. This legislation would raise the monthly disability income to the poverty level, a ~30% increase; change the amount recipients can have saved from $2,000 to $10,000, the first update in over 30 years; raise outside income restrictions to $399/month without benefit reductions; remove the marriage ban and promote marriage equality; and remove penalty for receiving help from friends and family. The Senate version of the SSI Restoration Act of 2021 (S.2065) is with the Senate Finance Committee. The House versions of the SSI Restoration Act of 2021 (H.R.3763 and H.R.3824) are with the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. S-HP
If you are inclined to support disabled people on SSI, you can urge swift, positive action on S.2065, H.R. 3763 and H.R. 3824. Addresses are here.
4. Accurate hate-crime reporting urgently needed
This spring, in response to Axios reporting, the Congress on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a call to make all forms of federal funding of state and local law enforcement agencies contingent upon accurate hate crime reporting by those agencies. At present, reporting to the FBI hate crimes database is voluntary. Some cities, such as Los Angeles and New York, provide hate crimes data, but 88% of cities don’t. 12,000+ agencies that did report in 2020 reported zero hate crimes—and those cities include Miami and Little Rock, for example, not sites where one would expect a complete absence of hate crimes. Almost no cities in Florida, Arkansas, and Alabama bothered to report hate crimes in 2020. Yet we’re living in a time when anti-Asian violence (purportedly in response to the COVID pandemic) and violence against LGBTQ+ individuals is rising. S-HP
Consider joining CAIR in urging your Congressmembers to make reporting accurate hate crimes data a requirement for state and local law enforcement agencies to receive federal funding. Find your Senators here. Find your Representative here.
5. Biden visits Saudi Arabia, despite human rights record
In July, President Biden will be paying an office visit to Saudi Arabia, a visit condemned by international human rights activists. Reporting on this issue in the Guardian quotes Abdullah Alaoudh, of the thinktank Democracy for the Arab World Now and son of jailed cleric Salman al-Odah, saying: “Right before inauguration, he [Biden] said he will be sure to protect Saudi dissidents–those were his words. We’re not protected by someone shaking hands with the same person who is threatening us every day and taking our families hostage due to our activism here in the US.” The same piece in the Guardian, quotes the statement by Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, that Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia will be a “betrayal for Jamal Khashoggi, for Yemen, and a betrayal of what the Democratic party stood for over the last three years.” Biden will be meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite a U.S. intelligence report that determine bin Salman approved the murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post reporter Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018 and despite Biden’s pledge to make Saudi Arabia “a pariah” for that murder. S-HP
You can express your disappointment about the President’s decision to reverse course on Saudi Arabia and to pay an official visit to that nation despite its internal and global attacks on human rights: President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111
SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
6. Saving moms’ lives
Mothers in the US are much more likely to die in or directly following childbirth than mothers in any other industrialized country, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Black mothers die at 2.5 times the rate of white mothers. As one approach to this issue, the Senate has passed the Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act, S.198. Currently the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maintains a broadband health mapping tool that allows users to visualize, overlay, and analyze broadband and health data at national, state, and county levels. S.198 would add maternal health outcomes to the list of health data being mapped. This legislation has now been sent to the House, where it has not yet been assigned to a committee or acted upon. S-HP
If this issue concerns you, you could urge House leadership to move quickly in seeing S. 198 through the legislative process:
• Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House, 1236 Longworthouse Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-4965. @SpeakerPelosi
• Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Majority Leader, 1705 Longworth House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3141. @LeaderHoyer
11. Bears Ears to be co-managed by Feds and Indigenous peoiple
The New York Times reports that Bears Ears National Monument “will be managed jointly by the federal government and Native American nations in what administration officials said represents a “one-of-a -kind” model of cooperation…. The agreement requires the Bureau of Land Management to ‘meaningfully engage’ with the [Bears Ears Inter-Tribal] commission on areas including land planning, management and conservation while working to protect traditions ‘that are part of the tribal nations’ way of life on these lands.’ The goal of the arrangement, according to the agreement, is to ensure ‘that management decisions affecting the monument reflect the expertise and traditional and historical knowledge of interested tribal nations and people.’” S-HP
Celebrate the creation of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Commission by contacting its members, as well as the Secretary of the Interior and the director of the Bureau of Land Management. Addresses are here.
The Guttmacher Institute has a list–current as of June 30, 2022–of the legal status of abortion in every state.
Abortion Finder has a state-by-state list of where to get an abortion.
We Won’t Go Back has a nationwide list of protests, updated regularly.
The New York Times has a guide to birth control options.
Ultraviolet is proposing that we ask companies to stop funding anti-choice politicians.
NARAL has a database identifying where your representatives stand on choice.
RAINN is the national hotline for sexual abuse and sexual assault.
The Americans of Conscience Checklist has a number of actions you can take to advocate for abortion access.