After the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe V. Wade ruling, ending federal protection for women’s access to abortion, the conservative justices said the issue would now be in the hands of state governments. But it’s clear that many Republican politicians at both the state and federal level are now making a concerted effort to outlaw abortion in all 50 states, imposing minority rule. Twenty-one GOP-controlled states recently threatened pharmacies with expensive lawsuits if they sell abortion medications in their states, which is the method used for more than half of the nation’s abortions.
The Walgreens pharmacy chain appeared to cave in to these threats and announced they would refuse to sell abortion pills in those 21 states, even states where these abortion drugs remain legal. At the same time, a right-wing federal judge in Texas will hear arguments from a conservative legal organization on March 15 challenging the FDA’s decades-old approval of the drug mifepristone, one of two medications used to terminate early pregnancies and treat miscarriages. If the judge rules in the plaintiff’s favor and issues a preliminary injunction, access to abortion medication could be disrupted nationwide.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke Steph Black, a feminist, abortion activist and Washington, D.C.-based writer, who discusses the Republican party’s legislative and legal effort to end access to abortion medications in all 50 states.
STEPH BLACK: Yes. My goodness. It’s coming at us from all sides here. There’s judicial assaults on abortion medication. And I think it really speaks to the original hypocrisy of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe. You know, Republicans said, it needs to be up to the states to decide themselves about abortion, which, of course, was not true, as we’re seeing.
It’s really about the systematic overturning of legal abortion in all 50 states, D.C. and U.S. territories and really by any means necessary.
This next phase are key politicians and key lawmakers pressuring private companies such as Walgreens to not dispense those kinds of medications. And then we have the continued judicial assault on abortion access with this Texas case.
The information about these things have not really been publicly available, and especially when it comes to the case in Texas that’s looking to overturn the very foundation of the legality of being able to dispense mifepristone at all.
It was a really underhanded move to schedule and sneak in this hearing. We’ve been waiting for weeks to see if they were going to overturn the availability of mifepristone. Walgreens, especially, a lot of these conversations that have sprung from this have happened because, for example, Gov. Newsom of California publicly said, “Our contract is up with Walgreens in May and we’re just not renewing the contract.” And Walgreens had all these hush hush conversations. There were internal policy memos released by the CEO, all these conversations are really happening behind closed doors.
Finally, I think the public is starting to understand really what’s at stake here and the loss of mifepristone and what that would mean for people who are seeking abortion care.
SCOTT HARRIS: In your recent article, Steph, “The Other Front Line,” you talk about how the fight, the real battle lines about abortion and reproductive rights is really focused on these particular Republican-controlled states where there’s all manner of restrictive laws in place.
Just tell our listeners a bit about what is happening in these states in terms of resistance, the organizing of underground or clandestine treatment harkening back to the pre-Roe versus Wade era. What’s happening now?
STEPH BLACK: Yeah, in terms of resistance, in some ways it’s the resistance that we’ve been doing for the last 50 years anyway. Parts of the South and in rural areas, they’ve always been post-Roe. People of color, black women especially, undocumented folks, minors, you know, youth. They’ve been post-Roe in many ways. They’ve been unable to access abortion care since the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal dollars from being spent on abortion care, for example.
Those are really discriminatory practices and it’s a discriminatory law. You know, it’s heartening to see so many people step up to the plate this year with the since last summer, since the decision. But there have been collectives that have been really working on the frontlines to make abortion accessible, from opening their homes to patients who are traveling from out of state, to driving patients. I’m one of those practical support volunteers. I drive patients that come from literally all over the country to D.C. to access abortion care.
And then you have the people who are entering into the legally gray areas of support, making sure people know how to access information about self-managed abortion and where to source abortion medications online and how to pay for them.
It’s a dangerous, you know, unprecedented area that those activists are walking into, not knowing who is litigious and who’s not. You know, depending on the state, depending on who’s in a certain office in a state, who’s going to press charges, who’s going to investigate — states that have implemented citizen bounty hunters. Right?
So there’s some really amazing work that does feel like the Jane Collective, like in Chicago that really are connecting people through underground, questionably legal means to get the care that they need.
But the people who are able to access an abortion wind up having to travel thousands of miles round trip, are taking more time off work, are not able to care for the children that they already have in order to obtain care and really trusting strangers to make sure that they can get the abortion that they want and that they need.
So it’s this really amazing chain of folks from the case managers at abortion funding, to the drivers of patients, to the people who are donating to these places, to the clinic escorts who are getting patients through crowds of protesters and really to the providers who have to check legal books before they can check their medical books, before they can provide necessary life-saving services to their own patients.
It’s been it’s been really wonderful to see folks step up.
For more information, visit Steph Black’s Progressive Magazine authors page at progressive.org/
Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Steph Black (18:45) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.
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