“Every indignity that comes from the denial of reproductive autonomy,” Dorothy Roberts writes, “can be found in slave women’s lives – the harms of treating women’s wombs as procreative vessels, of policies that pit a mother’s welfare against that of her unborn child, and of government attempts to manipulate women’s childbearing decisions through threats and bribes.”
Action #1: Tell your legislators to invoke the 13th Amendment against abortion bans.
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Sen./Rep. [___] to create and pass legislation protecting Black people against any and all forced-birth regulations, as required under the 13th Amendment. This amendment didn’t just establish freedom for those enslaved but also charged Congress with the removal of all traces of the “badges and incidents,” such as reproductive coercion, a form of violence which was foundational to the slave trade. The bill should then extend the same rights to non-Black people under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection guarantee as a matter of racial equality. This legislation should also contain language that forcing a child under the legal age of consent to give birth is child abuse and illegal in the United States.
- Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26): email, DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
- or Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24): email. DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
- Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
- and Senator Padilla: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (310) 231-4494, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 981-9369, SD (619) 239-3884
- Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com
Action #2: Chat with Joe – (2) letters
UPDATE: Send a letter to Beccera
Update: Yesterday (Wednesday, 7.13): Lots of news on how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) just issued a directive. Pharmacies receiving federal financial assistance (Medicare/Medicaid) can’t stop giving the public their prescribed medications that MIGHT be used as an abortifascient, due to prohibitions against sex discrimination. Hmmm…how is this all going to work in real life when employees can be threatened with felony charges from local prosecutors?
Sample script: Dear Secretary Beccera,
Thank you for issuing a directive that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires pharmacies receiving federal financial assistance (Medicare/Medicaid) give the public their prescribed medications, even those that MIGHT be used as an abortifacient, due to prohibitions against sex discrimination under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
However, the directive also states: “…OCR (Office of Civil Rights) also enforces the Church Amendments,…which protect health care personnel from discrimination related to their employment because they refused to perform or assist in the performance of abortion or sterilization because of their religious beliefs or moral convictions…OCR will evaluate and apply the Church Amendments on a case-by-case basis.”
Game over right there. Pharmacists, doctors and other professionals in forced-birther states may have to decide whether they will undergo a sudden religious conversion to legally refuse to put their careers and freedom at risk, or face possible criminal arrest from over-zealous DAs trolling for test cases to lay before this new extremist SCOTUS.
Even where prosecutors advertise that they won’t prosecute their state’s new draconian laws, they can’t stop state licensing boards from stripping professional licenses, third parties filing bounty-hunter lawsuits, police from arresting people, or undo the legal and human costs of this quagmire. Arrests by themselves are a potent weapon of control. Even for those not charged, they can remain on the person’s record, interfering with any activity that has a background check and can’t be expunged until the statute of limitations has expired. For the charges patients and doctors are most likely to face in forced-birther states—manslaughter and murder—there is no statute of limitations.
The pro-bono legal services promised in Biden’s White House briefing hint at the risk that people face for doing their jobs under the supposed protection of under the ACA and EMTALA. Please risk an unequivocal statement in return – that there is a defined consequence for those arrested or sued – which could include “steps to terminate Federal financial assistance to the covered entity; or other actions.”
And in the interests of patients who may suffer irreversable physical damage from refusals and delays, please add that every pharmacy receiving federal funding should have at least one employee on duty willing to dispense all legally-prescribed medications. No one’s health should be damaged or dignity assaulted due to the religious prejudices of some random employee, nor by the assumption that everyone has the resources necessary to travel miles to another pharmacy.
Sample script: Dear Joe,
Thank you for your administration’s letter reaffirming that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) protects providers when offering legally-mandated, life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations, such as ectopic pregnancy, complications of miscarriage or severe preeclampsia, even in states that have banned such procedures. This reassurance for medical professionals will save the lives, and prevent needless suffering for many persons with pregnancy-related issues.
But doctors and hospitals are not the only ones fearing prosecution under these draconian new laws. Pharmacists worried about falling afoul of laws criminalizing the dispensing of drugs that could cause a miscarriage, are refusing to fill prescriptions for “gold standard” medications like Methotrexate for female patients with rheumatic illnesses, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, psoriasis or cancer, due due to its off-label use for ectopic pregnancies.
Even if they are not prosecuted, they could still be arrested, with huge ramifications for their lives and careers. Please issue an executive order that protects pharmacists from prosecution for filling prescriptions from physicians, before more patients suffer irreversable physical damage from refusals and delays.
And in the interests of patients, please add that every pharmacy should have at least one employee on duty willing to dispense all legally-prescribed medications. No one’s health should be damaged or dignity assaulted due to the religious prejudices of some random employee, nor by the assumption that everyone has the resources necessary to travel miles to another pharmacy.
Sample script: Dear Joe,
We need places to provide safe abortions for children and an executive order declaring that forcing under-age girls to give birth, a traumatic, damaging and possible lethal process that taxes the cardiovascular system and leaches calcium from growing bones, is a barbaric form of child abuse. GOP governors may complain, but the 10-year-old forced to travel for an abortion is a PR nightmare – they will welcome this escape route from the abject cruelty of their shiny new laws.
GOP legislators are huge fans of religious freedom! Therefore, they should also approve of clinics to provide reproductive care to those who refuse, on 1st Amendment religious grounds, to submit to bans based on Christian extremism.
Victims of rape who are not free to leave a place to terminate an unwanted pregnancy – such as prisoners, or members of the armed services living in forced-birther states, should qualify for federal clinic services under the 8th Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, especially under Justice Gorsuch new “super added” definition, where “terror, pain, or disgrace” were attached to a punishment by circumstances.
Lastly, clinics on federal lands should serve Black persons seeking protection of the 13th Amendment against states that are once again enforcing coersive reproduction. This amendment prohibits involuntary servitude and protects bodily autonomy, putting Black citizens, those most endangered by the removal of Roe and the Hyde Amendment, at the center of legislative efforts in ways that Roe’s 14th Amendment privacy-based right did not.
All of these objections will circulate through every level of the judicial system, but in the meantime, lives are in danger, and we need a solution now.
Deeper Dive – it’s all about constitutional amendments
It’s all connected: It’s no coincidence that accurate American history, demonized by a GOP operative’s fake branding of “Critical Race Theory,” is being systematically snuffed out in school districts across the country. The less we know about our constitutional amendments, the less we understand about how our rights are being stripped away in favor of Christian nationalism and White Supremacy.
Those who believe that the 13th Amendment is just a historical artifact marking the end of slavery, would be surprised to learn that its prohibitions against the institution’s “burdens and disabilities” were referenced in a Supreme Court decision in 1968, when a Black man was denied the right to buy a home. Although neither the court nor Congress has ever created an exhaustive list of the “badges and incidents” of enslavement, law professor Michele Goodwin states that what’s happening now in states banning abortion meets the requirements. “Black women’s sexual subordination and forced pregnancies were foundational to slavery. If cotton was euphemistically king, Black women’s wealth-maximizing forced reproduction was queen.”
The SCOTUS majority, now an openly partisan front for Christian supremacism, and white supremacism movements that seek to assert their dominant status or their personal beliefs over other people, used Alito’s breathtakingly false “historical analysis” to return women to conditions of the 1860’s, before they could vote, before they could legally use contraceptives, and when Black women were enslaved and forced to carry children for profit.
- The National Right to Life Committee is busy writing bills to criminalize medical abortion access. Their proposed model law:
- will violate 1st amendment rights by extending criminal penalties all who “aid or abet illegal abortions” by giving instructions about self-administered abortions or means of obtaining an “illegal abortion” over the phone, the internet or another form of communication.
- suggests criminal penalties should also include hosting or maintaining a website that “encourages or facilitates efforts to obtain an illegal abortion,” offering or providing “abortion doula” services and making referrals to an abortion provider.”
- recommends states allow civil action to be brought by state or local officials or relatives of the pregnant woman against a person or entity that violates the abortion law.
- encourages states to require physicians to report to state agencies when abortion was necessary to prevent the deaths of pregnant women or face misdemeanors.
- “It’s not a free abortion card when you drive across the state line.” (Wapo) States are already working on laws to prohibiting women from leaving the state to get abortions, making women property and the state the owner of their fetus.
- The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal organization, is drafting model legislation for state lawmakers that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a resident of a state that has banned abortion from terminating a pregnancy outside of that state.
- The National Association of Christian Lawmakers, an antiabortion organization led by Republican state legislators, has begun working with the authors of the Texas abortion ban to explore model legislation that would restrict people from crossing state lines for abortions, said Texas state representative Tom Oliverson (R), the charter chair of the group’s national legislative council.
- Just because you jump across a state line doesn’t mean your home state doesn’t have jurisdiction,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society. “It’s not a free abortion card when you drive across the state line.”
- Religious extremists are working on fetal “personhood” laws next.
- By removing the federal constitutional protection of abortion rights, the Court will lay a pathway for anti-abortion state officials to be as extreme as they can in limiting abortion access, including equating the life of a pregnant person with that of their fetus. States like Oklahoma have already been working to pass just such a fetal “personhood” law.
- Personhood” bills are modeled on the “Human Life Amendment” and have been introduced into Congress and state legislatures hundreds of times since Roe became the law in 1973. The bill seeks to amend the Constitution to consider a fertilized egg to be the equivalent of a human being from the moment of conception, entitling it to full protection of the law. There has been an increase in attempts to introduce such fetal “personhood” laws at the state level, with five states introducing these bills this year.
- Additional states have attempted to use or widen the definition of existing laws‚ such as those of homicide or child abuse, to include an embryo in their scope. The result is to place any pregnant person in an adversarial relationship with their own body and to make their health care providers law enforcement agents.
- Women who a month ago could get safe and legal abortions could now be facing charges for kidnapping and murder.
- The 14th Amendment defines that a person is a citizen when they are born.”Before the Civil War, states had different definitions of when a Black person was a person and when a Black person had citizenship rights, human rights – any rights. And it varied state by state. We fight a whole civil war about it. Fourteenth Amendment passes, says everyone born in the U.S. is a citizen, essentially says every human being is a person, a legal person with legal rights and due process rights. So in theory, we shouldn’t be able to allow states to define when personhood begins if we’ve got the 14th Amendment in place.”
- A federal judge on Monday (July 9) blocked a 2021 Arizona law recognizing the personhood of a fetus from the moment of fertilization, siding with abortion providers who said the measure was too vague and exposed them to prosecution.”
Involuntary servitude: When women are compelled to carry and bear children, they are subjected to “involuntary servitude” in violation of the amendment. Abortion prohibitions violate the 13th Amendment’s guarantee of personal liberty, …by compelling the woman to serve the fetus, creates “that control by which the personal service of one man [sic] is disposed of or coerced for another’s benefit which is the essence of involuntary servitude.” (It is also pertinent that abortion restrictions disproportionately burden Black women.)”
“Pregnancy takes over the entire body, affecting the cardiovascular system, kidneys, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, skin, hormones, liver and metabolism. It increases blood volume by about 50 percent and depletes calcium from the bones, decreasing bone density. Risks of pregnancy include high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, anemia, depression, infection and death.
These risks are particularly acute for women of color and low-income women in the United States, which has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world. Labor and childbirth are extremely painful and bloody experiences, even with pain medications.
To force these experiences on an unwilling person is a form of involuntary servitude.
Even though largely uncompensated in the United States, pregnancy, labor and childbirth are still work. Surrogates receive tens of thousands of dollars for this work. Regardless of compensation or not, the work of gestating and birthing a child is an intimate, invasive, grueling form of labor. When undertaken willingly, childbearing can be a labor of love. But when states force this labor on a woman, the government is imposing a form of involuntary servitude prohibited by the 13th Amendment.”
No crime has been committed: “Forced birth involves the state commandeering a person’s womb for up to nine months, against their will, for no compensation, for having unprotected sex, whether consensual or not. Having consensual unprotected sex is not a crime, and in nonconsensual unprotected sex the person committing the crime isn’t the person being punished with pregnancy, So, either way, the 13th Amendment should apply.”
Consequences of early childbearing: “No 10-year-old anywhere in the world should be having a baby,” Lewis Wall, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told LiveScience.” Compared to women between the ages of 20-35, pregnant women under 20 are at a greater risk for death and disease including bleeding during pregnancy, toxemia, hemorrhage, prolonged and difficult labor, severe anemia, and disability. Life-long social and economic disadvantages may be a consequence of teenage birth.”
“The placenta preferentially will take nutrition from the mother, who really is a child,” said Sherry Thomas, an ob/gyn at Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City, Calif. That means that the developing fetus will leach calcium and other nutrients from a child who should still be growing herself. Likewise, pregnancy puts a major strain on the cardiovascular system, according to Wall. Pregnant women have about 50 percent more blood circulating through their bodies compared with non-pregnant women. [8 Odd Bodily Changes During Pregnancy]
Columbus Dispatch reported that in 2020, 52 people under the age of 15 received an abortion in Ohio and the news a 10-year-old girl missing Ohio’s new cutoff of 6 weeks has also brought up the issue that forcing children under the age of consent to give birth, a procedure
A personal viewpoint: (MSNBC) As a Black mom and diversity expert, I will not agree to disagree on Roe
The truth behind the Supreme Court decision handed out on Friday is that abortion bans are about control. Controlled bodies are easier to abuse and manipulate. And a birthing-person (a more inclusive term to describe people who give birth: women, men, gender non-binary people) can never be equal or free if they are denied the basic right to make decisions for themselves and their family. The most marginalized will be Black birthing-people and other people of color who have historically been up against crushing costs and obstacles in obtaining reproductive healthcare.
For example, several of the new laws rolling back abortion rights are in the south, where 56 percent of Black Americans live. Black maternal mortality rates are of great concern as Black people are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white people. And according to some studies, the ban could result in a 33 percent increase in pregnancy-related deaths among Black people, and according to 91 percent of Black people who know all too well that an unplanned pregnancy is a persistent contributor to poverty for Black people.
Black women, like me, have toiled and died across generations for the right and freedom to control our bodies – from slavery, to segregation, to the Supreme Court. In the not-too-distant past, our bodies were regarded as property, we were violently treated as less than human, and we were told that we weren’t to be trusted with freedom of any kind.
- (NYTimes) No, Justice Alito, Reproductive Justice Is in the Constitution
- (Nation) 3 Test Cases Progressives Should Bring in a Post-Roe World – It’s time to take a page from the conservative playbook and bring a torrent of lawsuits against every state that passes a forced-birth mandate.
- (theHill) Abortion and the 13th Amendment
- (scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu) Forced Labor, Revistied, The 13th Amendment and Abortion.
- (livescience) Doctors Appalled By 10-Year-Old Giving Birth
- (nbc) The amendment ending slavery could be the key to securing abortion rights – Denying the rights of reproductive health and choice, bodily integrity and personal autonomy was essential to U.S. slavery.
- (guardian) The brutal US abortion ruling is a potential death sentence for all pregnant women.
- (acep.org) EMTALA Fact Sheet
- (LATimes) Column: What kind of monsters would force a child to have a baby? The unspeakable cruelty of Republican states without rape and incest exceptions for abortion.
- (LATimes) Post-Roe, many autoimmune patients lose access to ‘gold standard’ drug
- (msmagazine) Forced Pregnancy Is Involuntary Servitude, Violates the 13th Amendment
- (cnn) National Right to Life eyes medication abortion restriction as next step in post-Roe fight.
- (rewire newsgroup) Why So-Called Personhood Laws Are the Next Big Threat After ‘Roe’ Falls – In a post-Roe world, anti-abortion lawmakers will seek to give fetuses the same legal rights as pregnant people.
- (historynewsnetwork.org) Originalism, History, and Religiosity are the Faults of Alito’s Reasoning in Dobbs
- (dailyprincetonian.com) On the absurdity of ‘deeply rooted’ tradition
- (slate) Why Even Progressive Prosecutors Won’t Be Able to Keep Women Who Have Abortions Out of Jail