National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Op-ed notes ongoing attacks on abortion rights, calls for ensuring safe access

"Women and reproductive rights organizations should be doing all they can to steel themselves for the battles to come," columnist Jessica Valenti writes in an opinion piece for The Guardian.

Valenti cites several recent instances of women in the United States "being punished for abortion." For example, she describes a scenario involving a Tennessee woman who was arrested last year after she sought medical help following an attempted self-induced abortion. According to Valenti, one week after the presidential election, the woman was "charged by a grand jury with aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted procurement of a miscarriage, and attempted criminal abortion." She quotes Jessica González-Rojas, executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, who called the charges "'an affront to justice and basic human dignity.'"

"This is not an isolated case," Valenti writes, citing the experiences of two Indiana women, Purvi Patel and Bei Bei Shuai. Patel, prior to her conviction being overturned, "was sentenced to 20 years in prison for inducing an abortion," Valenti writes, while Shuai "was charged with murder after a suicide attempt resulted in her pregnancy ending."

According to Valenti, this "nightmare will only get worse" following the elections earlier this month. She explains that President-elect Donald Trump "has vowed to appoint supreme court justices [who] will overturn Roe v Wade" and has suggested that "women who live in states where abortion is illegal could just travel to a different state." Meanwhile, Vice President-elect Mike Pence "signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws [HEA 1337] in the country as governor of Indiana, and has said he wants to see Roe" overturned, Valenti writes.

According to Valenti, there are "countless American women who try to self-abort." She writes that while "we literally do not know the number of people who attempt their own abortions," at least one study projects "that in Texas alone, more than 100,000 women had tried to end their own pregnancies." She adds, "You will not be shocked to find out that abortion is extremely difficult to access in Texas." She also points out that "[t]he same is true in Tennessee, where 96% of counties have no abortion provider."

Valenti explains that "[n]ot all women induce their own abortion because of a lack of access." Some woman, she writes, "simply want to forgo seeing a doctor, and would prefer home abortions." She continues, "If reproductive rights were not in such imminent danger, now might have been a good time to start expanding options for women who don't want clinic care but instead want to end their pregnancies at home."

However, given the circumstances, Valenti writes, "The defensive crouch right now is a smart strategy." She adds, "Women and reproductive rights organizations should be doing all they can to steel themselves for the battles to come -- not just on a policy level, but in terms of everyday needs," such as by stockpiling emergency contraception.

Valenti concludes, "Someone who wants an abortion will find a way to get one, no matter what the law is. So let's make sure they can do that safely, no matter who the president is" (Valenti, The Guardian, 11/22).