Becca Andrews is a journalist at Mother Jones, where she writes about reproductive rights and gender. Her work has also appeared in Wired, Jezebel, and The New Republic, among others. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism.
On Friday 24 June 2022, women’s rights suffered an extraordinary and unprecedented blow. Five US Supreme Court justices made a decision that will impact millions of lives for years to come.
Taking us to the frontlines – to clinics, courtrooms, local communities, charities – Andrews tells the deeply moving stories of those who have had abortions, and those who have fought – and are fighting – for the right to abortion.
NO CHOICE introduces the origin of abortion and its practice in global cultures, before focusing its gaze on the battle that has been waged for the past century across America, shining a light on the eerie ways in which life before Roe will be mirrored in life after. The wealthy and privileged will still have access, low-income people will suffer disproportionately, and pregnancy will be heavily policed.
There is a glimmer of faint hope, though. As the battle moves to state legislatures around the country, the book profiles the people who are doing ground-breaking, inspiring work to ensure safe, legal access to this fundamental part of healthcare.
Excerpt from No Choice: The Fall of Roe v. Wade and the Fight to Protect the Right to Abortion
THE MAZE| pages 131 -133
For women of color, there is a specific element of white supremacist control to the policies that regulate their bodies. It’s hard to hear a story like Tamika’s and think anything more optimistic than that all the doctors who saw her simply didn’t care about her. They could not be bothered with her pain, her fertility, her aspirations, her autonomy. She did not have money, nor insurance, nor light skin, nor any advocate beyond herself. Reproductive care is racialized. Thepoliticization of abortion affects all people with uteruses, but we cannot ignore the different degrees and nuances to whogets what sort of care and how. Black women who seek abortion care are also accused of committing genocide against their own people. Predominantly white antiabortion organizations have installed billboards in Black neighborhoods with twisted versions of antiracism slogans: “Black Babies Matter” and the like.
When she was walking into West Alabama Women’s Center for her first appointment, Tamika was subjected to the opinions of “two gentlemen,” as she generously calls them. They shouted at her about her baby’s heartbeat, and she suppressed her rage, but let an eye roll through her composure. “That’s fine and dandy. I know that my baby has a heartbeat,” she says, sarcasm coating her words. “I have a heartbeat. The Black men that are being slaughtered in thestreets have heartbeats, too. And nobody seems to care about that.” These issues are related, whether the (most often white) people who stand outside of clinics want to acknowledge it or not. Political activist Angela Davis wrote: “When Black and Latina women resort to abortions in such large numbers, the stories they tell are not so much about their desire to be free of their pregnancy, but rather about the miserable social conditions which dissuade them from bringing new lives into the world.”
Latinx pregnant people experience their own barriers to abortion care. I am not, however, here to perpetuate the myth that Latinx folks are somehow more antichoice than everyone else because they are often Catholic. In her book De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century, Elizabeth Sutherland Martínez writes that “Latinas’ views on reproductive rights are often more radical than Anglo women’s views and not ‘conservative,’ as some peoplesay, because their definition of choice requires more profound social change than just abortion rights or preventing pregnancy.” Assumptions to the contrary are rooted in “a racist arrogance,” Martínez points out, a white feminist paternalism that uses general knowledge of Catholicism as a “guise of understanding our culture,” whileshoving off any real responsibility to engage with Latinx rights. Latinx pregnant people in the United States are also subject to a medical system that has long disregarded their needs and historically seen their bodies as more appropriate for medical testing than genuine care. For undocumented folks, medical care poses a threat to their safety, their families, their home: they fear medical staff will expose their status and they will be deported, and of course, having federally subsidized medical insurance is out of the question. If they live in a border state like Texas, perhaps they must pass through immigration checkpoints to get to a place that offers care, risking deportation in a different way. In this country, we care so much less about the humanity of nonwhite people than we do about upholding whitesupremacy, no matter how “pro-life” we may claim to be.
Abortion stigma infects prenatal care when the life of a fetus— no matter how wanted, that’s not part of this conversation—becomes more important to the medical decision makers than that of the mother. In postnatal care, after the baby is born, the shadow of abortion stigma appears in the casual it’s-just-the-blues dismissal ofpostpartum depression and in our culture’s saintly, shiny portrayal of new motherhood as a state of heightened being, rather than of someone who needs support—from a partner, from the government, from a medical team. The baby has been born; pro-life mission accomplished. All done.
There are also immediate barriers to abortion care. Before Roe was overturned, a young Black woman I met in Huntsville named Jazmin told me that when her gynecologist confirmed her pregnancy the week prior, she claimed that abortion in Alabama was illegal. That was not true, and it’s difficult to believe anyone who practices medicine could be honestly mistaken about such a thing. As a reporter who has covered reproductive health for more than six years, I’ve heard from people of all backgrounds about what has made it difficult or impossible for them to access abortion care when they needed it. Money has consistently been the biggest barrier, especially when travel is necessary. Among the many other obstacles are: inability to get paid time off for the procedure and to accommodate any extra appointments required by the state due to waiting periods; transportation challenges because the patient shares a car with several other members of their family or the bus routes in their city are unreliable or they can’t afford gas or they have to travel toanother state entirely to get help; and difficulty getting childcare (at least 60 percent of abortion patients already have at least one child). Appointments are frequently cancelled or missed because of unexpected bad weather; cancellation of the fly-in abortion provider’s flight, rendering the provider unable to get to the clinic; or a mix-up because the patient accidentally went into the crisis pregnancy centernext door to the clinic and was kept there so long that they missed their appointment.
Interior barriers may also exist, and those cannot be discounted: An abusive partner who intentionally impregnated them so they couldn’t leave once and for all. PTSD. The crushing weight of what it means to be a person seeking abortion care in a hostile state.
That night after I met Tamika, the clock inched closer to midnight. Time was running out for the Supreme Court to weigh in on a new Texas law, set to go into effect on September 1, that would ban abortion after about six weeks’ gestation. The law also encouraged vigilantism among antiabortion citizens by including a clause that promised a $10,000 bounty to any citizen—not necessarily a resident of Texas—who reports an instance of someone “aiding and abetting” abortion past six weeks that checks out and results in prosecution.
That afternoon, I was confident that the Court would intervene.
The law was clearly unconstitutional, violating the trimester framework established in Roe and the undue burden standard of Casey. Besides, they’ve always intervened in state measures that so blatantly disregarded precedent. Alone in a featureless hotel room in Tuscaloosa, I lay in bed, refreshing Twitter over and over, feeling increasingly anxious. Midnight came and went. The law stood.
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