A rally for women's rights at the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: Adam Fagen

'The threat level is very high': Women worried about abortion rights

“Dirty Little Secrets”
Abortion in America: Re-enforcing the stigma
By Kimberly Greager
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

Abortion. Few words incite so much emotion, or conflict. Though abortion has been legal in the United States for nearly fifty years, there is still much debate about it, and much shame associated with it. But just because it is legal, doesn’t mean it is easily accessible to everyone. And just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it will stay that way.

There has been a lot of news about reproductive rights and abortion lately, even more so now that Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been chosen to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Kennedy. Many people see this change as a direct threat to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case which essentially legalized abortion in the United States.

If Roe v. Wade were overturned, it wouldn’t automatically make abortion illegal (except in the four states that have “trigger laws” in effect -- Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota), but would give each state the power to change their own abortion laws, including making it illegal. The staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights was quoted this month saying "The threat level is very high now."

Native Sun News Today talked to some women who have had an abortion (fictitious names will be used to protect their identities). In 2007, Daisy traveled from western South Dakota to Sioux Falls for her abortion. As Daisy sat outside and talked to her ex-boyfriend after her visit, she remembers seeing a young girl, perhaps 14, that had also been there that day, exiting the clinic.

“The young girl and her mom emerged. The young, nervous girl we had watched talk animatedly to her mom all day came out looking like a different person, older, more tired. It broke my heart because after working with young people, [I know] there are all kinds of terrible reasons as to how such a young person can end up in a place like this." Daisy said. "I will always have her face imprinted on my mind. She, and all the other women sitting in that lobby with me that day, is the reason I fight so hard to protect a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions.”

When asked about the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned, Rose said, “The impact of Roe v. Wade being overturned would be disastrous. We argue that some women shouldn’t be having babies. Notice how we always put all the blame on the woman in that argument. Women who have less of an ability to decide their family planning options will lead to more babies being born to women who aren’t ready; who already feel overburdened; who are desperately wanting a baby but knowing that the baby would suffer it’s entire life or put the life of the mother in jeopardy; or a multitude of reasons that women are having abortions for currently. Also, it won’t stop abortions, just like it didn’t stop them before they were legal. I’m terrified to think of young, scared girls finding some monster hidden under the cloak of an abortion provider, with no recourse for the girl to turn to because what she was seeking was illegal. With access to the internet, this is bound to be an issue.”

Daisy went on to say, “I have friends who work with the Department of Social Services in Child Protection who already say they are over-worked, with massive caseloads. Those are certainly not going to shrink in this situation. The number of the families requiring social services assistance would go up. Conservatives who argue that we need to protect the fetus are also the loudest to argue to cut social assistance. All of this will become an issue.”

The March for Life, a pro-life event, reaches the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: American Life League

Even if Roe v. Wade is not overturned, many think the conservative direction of the current administration will embolden states to continue implementing restrictive measures that make it harder for women to get an abortion. During a March 30, 2016, town hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Donald Trump was asked if he thought women who have abortions should be punished. Though it took him some time to give a direct answer, Trump finally did say, “The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment [for the women].”

Since Roe v. Wade, abortion has been under attack on a state level. States have enacted 1,142 abortion restrictions, with 338 of those passed between 2010 and 2016. Many states already have measures in place that create an undue burden for women seeking abortions, including South Dakota. As of May 1, 2018, the South Dakota abortion restrictions are as follows:

1) Abortion would be banned immediately if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. 2) A woman must receive state-directed, face-to-face counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion, and then wait 72 hours before the procedure is provided, thereby necessitating two trips to the facility. The counseling appointments are only offered one day a week, and the 72 hour waiting period does not include weekends or annual holidays. 3) Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act can only cover abortion if the woman's life is endangered or her health is severely compromised. 4) The use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion is prohibited. 5) The parent of a minor must be notified before an abortion is provided. 6) Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment. 7) The state prohibits abortions performed for the purpose of sex selection.

A Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota & South Dakota employee said that the mandatory counseling and waiting period are designed to deter women from going through with an abortion, and that the crisis-pregnancy centers that women are sent to for the counseling are not licensed healthcare facilities but that their main function is to dissuade women, usually with religion-based, pro-life propaganda. Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota & South Dakota is currently in litigation over these laws. For more than 100 years, Planned Parenthood has fought for reproductive rights. Most people associate Planned Parenthood solely with abortions, but the organization offers much more, including a full range of services like birth control, vasectomies, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, education, resources, and support.

In 2012, Jasmine was traumatized after her abusive boyfriend raped her and she found out she had become pregnant as a result. She recalls mustering all her courage to simply pick up the phone to make a call for help, any help: resources, financial assistance, or just somebody to talk to. Jasmine said the first several places she called - all touted as hotlines or crisis-pregnancy support centers - were all the same, shaming her for considering abortion and urging her to choose adoption.

Jasmine then turned to the internet, to see if she could find a way to terminate her pregnancy at home. She did try at least three different at-home methods, and while any of these methods can be extremely dangerous, she was not hurt. But, the pregnancy was not terminated.

Finally, Jasmine contacted the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls, and after undergoing a mandatory counseling session over the phone, an appointment for an abortion was scheduled. She opted for the clinical method, which is a series of pills with the termination happening later at home, rather than the surgical method done in the clinic. She recounted the painful experience and the trauma she endured in her relationship afterwards, which includes living in her car after trying to leave her abuser.

It was about a month after her appointment, while she was homeless, that Jasmine says she “felt something,” so she went into the bathroom of a coffee shop.

“That’s when a baseball-sized clot passed- in this bathroom. And it was really hard for me, because I truly believe that I should have taken the time to make that moment a very sacred and special time for me to part and say goodbye, and take the next step forward in my journey," Jasmine said. "But, I just flushed it down in some random public bathroom. It was just so…weird.”

At her lowest point then, she says she returned to her abusive ex-boyfriend before ultimately leaving him for good. She said it wasn’t until she left the abusive relationship and went to therapy that she realized just how bad things were. Today, Jasmine is adjusting well to a new town, a new life, and a new future.

“If none of this had ever happened, I would have never enrolled in college. I would never have pursued actual goals or dreams, or gotten therapy, or addressed my issues about abuse… Nobody wants to have an abortion," she said. "It’s when all else has failed, whether it’s me failing myself, getting into an abusive relationship and not loving myself. Or whether it’s society or our communities not supporting us when we’re in abusive situations, or when we need birth control but don’t have access to it…It’s a very traumatic experience, and it’s not necessarily because of the abortion, it’s because of all of the stigma and treatment -- or ill treatment -- and perspective that we hold as a society.”


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Read the rest of the story on Native Sun News Today: "Dirty Little Secrets"

Kimberly Greager can be reached at kim@kimlathe.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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