Last night, I performed at a comedy benefit for Planned Parenthood in a gay bar in Los Angeles and couldn’t help but be inspired by the willingness of a bunch of gay folks to speak out in support for access to abortion. It's one of the medical procedures we queer kids need least—anyone who tells you that abstinence is the most effective form of birth control is lying. Homosexuality is way less likely to get you pregnant.
Still, with promises to defund Planned Parenthood abounding from the Trump Administration, and a global gag order already in place internationally, the time to band together and fight is now.
Despite contradictory promises on the campaign trail, in his first day in office President Donald J. Trump signed a ban on federal money going to international groups that preform or provide information about abortions. Let it be known that none of the funding these organizations received was going towards actually performing abortion procedures—The Helms Amendment has prevented that since 1973. This particular executive action pulled somewhere in the ballpark of $600 million in international funding from family planning services, such as basic education and access to contraception such as birth control and condoms.
Eliminating $600 million in funding towards contraception is perhaps the least effective way to keep abortions low, because as her-story has shown, the best way to minimize abortions is to maximize access to other forms of family planning.
The bill was signed in a room of all white men, which caused the internet to lash out at what clearly felt like a bunch of men passing radical legislation that effected everyone but them.
Let it also be known that abortions account for around 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood, so most of what these white dudes are attacking is a woman’s right to basic healthcare.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Politics suck right now, but what does that mean for me and my right to an abortion? Great question. We called up OB/GUYN Dr. Jennifer Gunter to help us out, so without further ado, let’s talk about what access to abortion is going to look like under Trump.
Why Are Abortions Currently Legal?
Dr. Gunter said it best when she said abortions are “a medical procedure that is between a woman and her provider. It has no place in the legal system,” because according to The Supreme Court, that’s exactly what an abortion is: a medical procedre. We don’t talk about the legality of fixing someone’s prostate, and we don’t really need to talk about the legality of this medical procedure, either. That's exactly what The Supreme Court thought, too, during Roe v. Wade. It’s part of the bodily integrity and autonomy protected by the 5th and 14th amendments. Until a fetus is able to live on its own outside of a mother’s womb (usually somewhere around 24 weeks into a pregnancy) an abortion is a medical procedure like any other.
What Would Have To Happen To Make Abortions Illegal?
First of all, The Supreme Court would have to swing conservative enough that they would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, and right now, the only spot open on the court is replacing Antonin Scalia, who was already as conservative as they come. It is likely that one or more seats will open up over the course of Trump’s presidency, however, so an extremely conservative court isn’t out of the question.
That said Roe V. Wade celebrated 44 years of president this January, and overturning that much of history would seriously call into question the legitimacy of the court. Even Jeff Sessions admitted that Roe v. Wade is settled as law.
Still, What If Roe V. Wade Falls?
That’s bad, but it still wouldn’t make abortions illegal. If Roe v. Wade falls, access to abortions goes to states rights, which is a mixed bag. According to Dr. Gunter, “Roe falling doesn't mean] illegal, just no federal protection. So women will have to fly to those states for procedures or they will do them in unsafe circumstances and we will see the return of women hospitalized with complications of unsafe abortion.” Overturning constitutional protections for abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood doesn't make reproductive healthcare impossible, it will just make it an uphill battle for anyone who doesn’t have extra money to spend.
Should I Stock Up On Plan B?
According to Dr. Gunter, “I don't see Plan B going away. I don't have a crystal ball obviously, but getting it off the shelves is harder than getting it on. I would say to any woman who is thinking about stocking up on Plan B, if you think you are going to need so much Plan B then you should be thinking about a more effective method of contraception.” That said, if The Affordable Care Act gets repealed, access to subsidized birth control will also go away for those who need it most, so hedge your bets and call your Senators whenever possible to tell them to fight for ObamaCare.
What Other Ways Can Access To Abortion Be Limited?
Great question. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, another Supreme Court decision, ruled that though states cannot eliminate a woman’s right to an abortion, they can regulate it. They can’t “unduly burden” a patient seeking to end her pregnancy, but that’s where legislation can get a bit blurry. Some states require a waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion. Oklahoma just advanced a bill requiring a woman to have written consent from her male sexual partner in order to obtain the procedure, which feels like an “undue burden” to me.
The other way this insidious legislation can get in our pants is through the power of the purse. Trump has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, which operates nearly 650 health centers throughout The United States.
What Happens If We Lose Planned Parenthood?
Without Planned Parenthood, access to reproductive health services plummets across the board. Around 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services go towards preventing unplanned pregnancies (thus Planned Parenthood) through contraception, so defunding it is likely to cause an uptick in women seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Planned Parenthood is HUGE when it comes to providing subsidized birth control to women in need, so defunding it sucks the most for those who have the fewest alternatives.
Follow Dr. Jen Gunter on Twitter at @DrJenGunter or visit her website www.drjengunter.com