Many experiences are like mine: unexceptional, not ‘deserving’ or ‘worthy’. The more of those testimonies we hear, the stronger we are in our fight to protect women’s rights

 A protester in Warsaw after the Polish constitutional tribunal imposed even stricter regulations on abortion. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

One of the last things I did before lockdown was attend a rally supporting the protests against Poland’s constitutional court ruling that introduced a near-total ban on abortion. Hardening the country’s already terrifyingly restrictive current law, it would, if enforced, remove one of the few narrow exceptions still permitted: termination in the event of congenital birth defects.

The scale of protests in Poland has been extraordinary – and hopeful. With up to 100,000 people gathering nightly in Warsaw, they seem to have forced a pause in implementation of this appalling ruling. My damp, local version was less impressive – there were fewer than 100 of us (including dogs and babies), carefully distanced, in cagoules and masks – but no less moving, hearing young Polish women and men stand up and denounce a sclerotic, repressive ancien regime I’m desperate to see them sweep away.

Protests, particularly in defence of reproductive rights, are my John Lewis Christmas ad: one chant of “my body, my choice” and I’m gone, in floods of tears. They make me emotional because I have needed this activism. Decades of work by indefatigably courageous women (and more than a few men) made my abortions possible.

We shouldn’t need a personal stake in abortion to support access to it, but this is a movement deeply rooted in the personal as political. Next April will mark the 50th anniversary of the Manifesto of the 343, the seismic document in which 343 French women, including Simone de Beauvoir, Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Sagan declared in Le Nouvel Observateurmagazine that they had had abortions. To mark the occasion, a film project is seeking funding to tell the story of the women behind it: the journalist Nicole Muchnik and the activist Anne Zelensky. I’ve chipped in; this story needs to be told and retold.

The Manifesto spawned numerous emulators. In the US, signatories of the We Have Had Abortions declaration in Ms Magazine included Anaïs Nin and Susan Sontag. The ripples it created are still felt now. In 2019, as multiple US states restricted access to abortion alarmingly, a fresh wave of “me too” abortion stories hit social media, with celebrities including the actors Jameela Jamil and Ashley Judd and the model Tess Holliday sharing theirs.

I occasionally wonder about the value of these “me too” statements now, including my own. I feel uncomfortable discussing it; not because I am ashamed, but because it seems inappropriately self-centred. Isn’t it classic contemporary slacktivism for a celebrity (or indeed anyone) to post an artful Instagram shot with an impassioned defence of reproductive rights and cagily worded personal reference? It is certainly miles away from the genuine risk-taking of the original declarations, which were, at the time, admitting to a criminal act.

Even so, I think personal testimony is still vital. A recent example: in the wake of Donald Trump’s inflammatory and factually incorrect statements about late abortion, women’s stories of the unbearable circumstances that led to their decision provided a powerful corrective to the grotesque prevailing narrative.

More broadly, humans are hardwired to respond to stories. We engage more easily with what touches us personally – you are more likely to donate to Macmillan if you have seen a family member grapple with cancer. The more abortion stories we hear, the easier it is to find that connection.

I think, too, that personal testimony can help push back against the idea that only certain abortion stories are acceptable – exceptional ones, with an obvious human tragedy at their heart. Abortion is a public health good and a necessity, full stop; too many places and people do not accept that.

So: I had two abortions. In neither case was my life in danger; there were no foetal abnormalities; I could have supported another child. It was simply the right thing to do for me both times and I’m eternally grateful it was possible. They were not “good” abortions; they should not need to be. Many abortion stories are like mine: unexceptional, not “deserving” or “worthy”. The more of those we hear, the closer we come to drowning out an opposing rhetoric that is eroding rights that women took – and still take – real personal risks to fight for.


On #ThxBirthControl Day, we’re thanking birth control for letting people have the sex they want, the family they want, and the quality of life they want.

Did you know that the rules governing single people’s access to birth control used to be different than the rules for married couples?

Today is “Thanks, Birth Control” Day. It’s like Thanksgiving, but instead of celebrating genocide and forced assimilation, we celebrate the medical marvel that is birth control: a life-changing and lifesaving drug that lets people control when and whether to become parents, while helping many manage the symptoms of painful conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Finding and choosing a birth control that works for your body is a personal and often difficult process: Maybe you swear by the pill, or maybe you’re a Mirena evangelist. Maybe added hormones aren’t your thing and you’re into the copper IUD. And while there are other ways to prevent pregnancy—like condoms and other barrier methods—statistics show that if you are sexually active, chances are you have at one point used birth control.

There are a lot of people to thank for birth control: the scientists and researchers who created it; the advocates and lawmakers who continue to fight for access; the providers who walk patients through the process of finding the right option for them. But what would be the point of birth control if it were illegal to use it? That’s where the landmark court cases that cemented birth control as a fundamental right come in.

Did you know that the rules governing single people’s access to birth control used to be different than the rules for married couples?

Griswold v. Connecticut is widely understood as the landmark birth control case that legalized birth control. And it did—but only for some people.

In 1965, the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that the constitutional right to marital privacy meant doctors could not be criminalized for providing contraception to married couples. You might be thinking: wait—just married couples? Yup! Just married couples. For single people, the right to birth control did not become a reality until seven years later, in 1972.

Enter Eisenstadt v. Baird. After a Boston pro-choice activist was arrested and convicted of a felony for handing out foam spermicide to an unmarried woman, he challenged the Massachusetts law prohibiting distributing birth control to single people. The case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled that the law violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment because it treated single people differently from married couples.

When it comes to birth control, the Court ruled that the distinction between married and single people didn’t pass the “rational basis test”—one of the standards of review that courts apply to determine whether a law is constitutional. The test asks whether the law in question is reasonably tied to a government interest. In Eisenstadt, the Court determined it was not. (For a deep dive into the levels of judicial scrutiny, you can check out this Boom! Lawyered explainer by my colleague, Imani Gandy.)

Essentially the Court said: Hey, if we’re letting married people get it on without us inserting ourselves—pun intended—into what they do in the bedroom (or the kitchen or the living room or the car), we don’t really have a good reason to keep single people from doing the same thing. And thus access to birth control for single people was born. (Again, pun intended.)

In the decades since Griswold and Eisenstadt, we’ve seen birth control access expanded and attacked. We’ve seen the Affordable Care Act cover contraception for millions, and we’ve seen conservatives lose their collective minds over this basic and fundamental part of health care being accessible for all.

But one thing has never changed: the importance of birth control for all who want and need it—to have the sex they want, the family they want, and the quality of life they want. And for that we say: Thanks, birth control!


Rights advocates hope a Biden administration will be able to pass the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act, that would repeal the rule permanently. Photograph: Jim Bourg/Reuters

Next US president expected to rescind rule that blocks aid for groups providing abortion services

One of Joe Biden’s first acts as president is expected to be the rescinding of a rule on US foreign aid, which rights campaigners say has prevented millions of women across the globe from getting access to proper reproductive and sexual healthcare over the past four years.

Trump reinstated the so-called “global gag rule”, also known as the Mexico City policy, on his first Monday morning in office in January 2017. The rule, first introduced by president Ronald Reagan in 1984, means that if an organisation receives US government funding it cannot engage in providing abortion services, counselling or even advocacy over abortion law, even if it does so using other, non-US funds.

Reinstating the rule was an expected move for a Republican administration, but in the months afterwards, it was expanded to make it unprecedentedly broad. Previously, the rule only applied to reproductive health funding, but it now applies to all public health funds, affecting nearly $9bn (£6.8bn) a year in foreign aid. The new rule means that NGOs cannot receive money for sanitation, access to clean water or HIV/Aids programmes if they also run programmes that offer abortion services or counselling.

“It’s important we don’t underestimate the harm that has been done. This wasn’t the typical Republican administration, where some bad policies came back and now they’re going to be rescinded again,” said Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity in Washington DC.

The US vice-president, Mike Pence, who has a long history of ultra-conservative positions on abortion, has driven the agenda. “Denying women access to contraception and abortion is core to who he is and the world he wants to create,” said Sippel.

Numerous reports have found that implementing the global gag rule leads to an increase in the number of unsafe abortions and endangers the health of women. “Girls have been losing lives just because of lack of access to services,” said Melvine Ouyo, a former clinic manager at Family Health Options Kenya, an organisation that had to close five clinics after declining to accept the new US aid conditions. “The impact of the global gag rule has been really devastating, and has been felt by most of the organisation in Kenya,” she said.

Keifer Buckingham, a senior policy adviser at the Open Society Foundations, said the rule left thousands of organisations with a “horrible” decision to make: “Do we reject very lucrative US government money in order to continue providing life-saving care, or do we take the money and compromise on our values and on the provision of reproductive healthcare?”

The organisation Marie Stopes International, which works in 37 countries across the globe, refused to sign up to the global gag rule in 2017, and thus had to decline $30m a year in US funding. The organisation estimates that over Trump’s full term, these funds would have allowed it to serve 8 million women with family planning help, preventing 6 million unintended pregnancies, 1.8 million unsafe abortions and 20,000 maternal deaths.

Dr Carole Sekimpi, who runs the organisation’s Uganda programme, said it had to cut back on five mobile outreach teams in the wake of Trump’s 2017 order, until donors from different countries stepped in to fill the funding gap. But the bigger problem was that other local organisations shied away from joint projects, fearful of losing their own funding.

“Because the regulation is so complicated, and often the interpretation by the US government is pretty blanket, everybody wants to be on the safe side,” she said.

Rights advocates hope that a Biden administration would be able to pass a piece of legislation introduced to Congress last year, known as the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act, that would repeal the rule permanently.

The vice-president elect, Kamala Harris, came out in support of the act last year. “The United States should never force non-government organisations to choose between receiving American aid and providing comprehensive reproductive healthcare to women across the world,” she said. It is not yet clear, though, whether the next administration will have the numbers to get the act through Congress.

As well as the global gag rule, the Trump administration has also sought to lead a global push to promote so-called “family values” and curtail access to abortion along with LGBT rights. In some cases, this rhetorical support may have been as damaging to the cause of women’s rights globally as the financial penalties.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, the United States has defended the dignity of human life everywhere and always,” the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said last month at the signing ceremony of an anti-abortion document known as the Geneva consensus declaration. “He has done it like no other president in history. We have mounted an unprecedented defence of the unborn abroad.”

Nearly 30 governments, mainly from authoritarian states, signed up to the document, in which the signatories “reaffirm that there is no international right to abortion”. Hungary and Poland were the only two EU members to sign. There have recently been huge protests in Poland over a constitutional ruling that would outlaw almost all abortion in the country.

“There are plenty of governments out there that are emboldened and empowered by the last four years of the Trump administration pushing this rhetoric and will continue to push it globally,” said Buckingham.

However, along with acknowledgement of the damage done, there is also impatience for a new era to start, and for a change of tone in the White House.

“We did so much during the Obama administration, and I am expecting that Biden should really do this in his first days so we can get these things back. I am just so expectant and excited that things will change quickly for the better,” said Ouyo.


A pro-choice protest sign reading "keep your laws off my body." In this q&a, Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller explains what a Biden presidency means for reproductive rights.

Just months after the landmark abortion rights ruling Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Donald Trump was elected president, emboldening anti-abortion lawmakers to keep fighting the right to choose. Since that 2016 decision, the Senate cemented a 6-3 conservative SCOTUS majority that’s all but guaranteed to find a way to overturn Roe v. Wade.

That’s why Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, says that Joe Biden’s election isn’t necessarily an effortless victory lap for reproductive rights. Here, she explains why she’s concerned about the anti-abortion movement’s latest strategy and how there’s no way to be an abortion provider in the South without maintaining a constant level of optimism. “I’ve heard, ‘Roe is going to fall’ my whole life,” she tells Bustle, “and it hasn’t been the case yet.”

Tell me about how you were feeling on Election Night versus when the race was finally called on Saturday.

My head told me to be patient, but I was worried. I went to bed on Tuesday with the same numb feeling I’ve had all 2020. Then, on Saturday, I was having a late breakfast and coffee on my patio when I heard my next door neighbor literally shout, “It’s over!” from his rooftop at 11:30 a.m. We popped bubbly and didn’t stop until 7 p.m. It was the most carefree, happy, and relaxed I have felt in ages.

Given how this election shook out, how are you feeling about abortion access in America?

It’s not lost on me that the actual procedure of abortion is exactly the same no matter where you live. But what you have to go through to obtain that care is night and day depending on where you live. In Texas, we have already been living in a post-Roe U.S. We really do have two different Americas.

Even though a lot of white people voted for Trump, the level of engagement for Biden-Harris tells us so many people don’t believe that elected officials like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell represent the majority of Americans. It will take us some time to get a Senate and Supreme Court that represent what the majority of Americans believe — namely, that support access to safe abortion.

The chipping away at Roe is very real. For most people, abortion is legal on paper, but access is a real challenge. I’m hopeful this new administration will have the power to secure people’s rights through issuing executive orders and developing policies, without being wholly reliant on the Supreme Court. I dream of a few things — lifting restrictions on telemedicine for abortion care, letting providers bill Medicaid and insurance companies, continuing to allow providers to mail medication abortion pills to patients. We should block two-visit requirements and waiting periods for abortion care, and while we’re at it, get rid of forced ultrasounds and fake “state mandated counseling” scripts.

I would also want to see the new administration define abortion care as essential medical care — care that can’t be delayed in a pandemic.

Can you say more about how there’s “two Americas” when it comes to abortion access?

The stigma associated with abortion, which is manufactured by the religious right, is something that really has struck in the places where people think abortion care exists outside the medical mainstream. People think it’s normal to go through mandatory waiting periods to second-guess their decision or have bans on their insurance covering abortion. An entire generation of people has been told they’re not the kind of person who has an abortion.

Our strategy is to deliver abortion care like any other kind of care. In my clinic in Virginia, we have nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and doctors integrated into providing primary care services, including abortion. But we can’t do that in Texas. Lawmakers allow people’s feelings and beliefs to determine what everybody has access to, without paying attention to what science actually says. As a result, people have come to expect that abortion is a healthcare experience outside of the norm, which it isn’t.

Voters in Colorado rejected their state’s anti-abortion ballot proposal, but voters in Louisiana approved a constitutional amendment saying there is no right to abortion in that state. What does that mean for what’s to come nationally?

A longtime strategy of the anti-abortion movement is to elevate the fetus to full personhood, the same as the person carrying the fetus. People say things like, “These are future voters and we need to protect these voters’ rights.” What Louisiana just did was add language to their state constitution denying “the right to abortion or to require the funding of abortion” as a means of “protecting human life.”

Post-Whole Woman’s Health, the anti-abortion movement’s strategy has moved away from alleged concerns for the health and safety of the woman to focusing on the health and safety of the fetus, like what you can read between the lines of the Louisiana amendment. That’s why you see so-called heartbeat bansD&E banspersonhood amendments, and fetal tissue disposal and handling regulations. It hasn’t been proven yet whether these new strategies are working — there hasn’t been a successful D&E ban, and they’ve tried this in multiple states. But they had to come up with this new strategy because we won in Whole Woman’s Health. The Whole Woman’s Health standard has been used in at least 12 states to repeal bad laws or block them from going into effect. That’s a huge victory.

What does a Biden win tell you about the future of reproductive rights?

Biden-Harris can block a lot of bad things from a Republican Senate from going into effect through the veto. But because of this turn of the Supreme Court, I think we’ll seek justice through legislation. My hope is if we end up with a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate, we could advance the Women’s Health Protection Act or other federal legislation to codify Roe. But a Republican majority Senate will block what Biden tries to advance, just as they did with Obama, so doing that will be complex at this point.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


Breaking down the president-elect’s stance and plans for reproductive rights.


The year has been a fraught one for reproductive rights, between restricted abortion access amid the coronavirus pandemic, fights for birth control access, and potential threats to Roe v. Wade. Now, with the election of Joe Biden to the White House, the future of reproductive health and abortion rights may be pushed to the forefront of the next administration’s agenda.

Though his views on a woman’s right to choose have evolved over the years, Biden recently said, “Reproductive rights are a constitutional right. And, in fact, every woman should have that right.”

Here’s where the president-elect stands on abortion and what he has planned.

His public option for the Affordable Care Act will cover abortion.

In his plan for health care, Biden said that he wants to build on the progress made by the Affordable Care Act, which covers access to preventive care and contraceptives. He proposes that “the public option will cover contraception and a woman’s constitutional right to choose.”

However, since 1977, the Hyde Amendment has blocked public funding of abortion under Medicaid, except in cases of incest or rape, or if the pregnancy is a danger to the mother’s life, according to the Keiser Family Foundation. It’s not a federal law, but rather a rule added to the annual Congress spending bill, which is approved every year. According to his plan, Biden supports repealing the amendment.

He used to be a longtime supporter of the Hyde Amendment.

Biden made headlines for dropping his support of the Hyde Amendment last year amid criticism from his Democratic rivals in the primary race. “If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code,” he said in June 2019, when he made the change. He added that he had “no apologies” for his previous stance.

And that’s not the first time Biden’s stance on abortion has changed over the years—especially during his time in the Senate. TIME pointed out, “In 1981, he supported a constitutional amendment that would enable states to overturn Roe v. Wade. In his 2007 book, Promises to Keep, he wrote that while he is ‘personally opposed to abortion,’ he didn’t feel he had the ‘right to impose [his] view on the rest of society.'”

In 2006, Biden called himself the “odd man out” of his party, because he did not support federal funding for abortion and voted for bans on the procedure later in pregnancy, CNN revealed in a resurfaced video last year.

“I do not vote for funding for abortion,” he said, per CNN. “I voted against partial birth abortion—to limit it—and I vote for no restrictions on a woman’s right to be able to have an abortion under Roe v. Wade. And, so I am—I made everybody angry. I made the right-to-life people angry because I won’t support a constitutional amendment or limitations on a woman’s right to exercise her constitutional right as defined by Roe v. Wade. And I’ve made the groups—the women’s groups and others—very angry because I won’t support public funding and I won’t support partial birth abortion.”

He wants to protect Roe v. Wade and stop state restrictions on abortion access.

“As president, Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion, such as so-called TRAP laws [or targeted restrictions on abortion providers], parental notification requirements, mandatory waiting periods, and ultrasound requirements,” Biden’s plan states.

The Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973 made abortion legal in the United States, but states were still able to place restrictions on the procedure. At this stage, more than 20 states are poised to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Just this year, states like Florida and Mississippi have implemented abortion limitations.

The former vice president said that he wants to “codify” Roe v. Wade, as it isn’t included in the Constitution.

In an NBC town hall, Biden addressed the possibility of Judge Amy Coney Barrett overturning Roe v. Wade if she is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. “Number one, we don’t know exactly what she will do, although expectation is that she may very well move to [overrule] Roe,” he said. “And the only thing, the only responsible response to that would be to pass legislation making Roe the law of the land. That’s what I would do.”This content is imported from Twitter. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

He wants to reverse the Trump-era attacks on abortion rights.

Biden plans to rescind Trump’s “global gag rule,” which restricts health organizations around the world from receiving U.S. assistance if they perform abortions or provide information about the procedure as a form of family planning.

He also wants to reverse the administration’s domestic gag rule, which restricts providers that offer abortion referrals from receiving Title X family planning funds. In 2019, Planned Parenthood opted out of the Title X program over complying with the rule. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that Trump can enforce this rule, but the restriction has been blocked in Maryland.

He plans to restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The former VP made this announcement in his health care plan, citing how the Obama–Biden administration repeatedly “fought Republican attacks” on the organization. For example, during Obama’s final months in the White House before Trump’s swearing in, his administration passed a regulation saying that states with federal funding for family planning can’t discriminate against Planned Parenthood and providers like it.

Biden said he will release guidance to keep states from blocking Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, as well as reverse Trump’s domestic gag rule.

He’s endorsed by Planned Parenthood.

The organization announced its official endorsement of Biden for president in June.

“Joe Biden is the only candidate in this race who will stand up for our health and our rights,” acting president Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement. “He was instrumental in the creation of the Affordable Care Act, which expanded birth control with no co-pay to 63 million women, and in helping to ensure that sexual and reproductive health care was accessible across the country. He has spoken out for LGBTQ+ rights, and against the systemic racism in this country that is costing Black people their lives. Biden has committed to champion access to sexual and reproductive health care — including access to abortion — and to fight for our communities. When he left the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden had a 100% voting record from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and has been clear he is ‘100% for sexual and reproductive health.’ And we are going to hold him to that.”

How does Biden compare to Trump?

According to The New York Times, President Trump opposes Roe v. Wade and supports the Hyde Amendment, directly countering his opponent on these issues. The president also wants to restrict access to mifepristone and misoprostol, medications that induce abortions without surgery up to 10 weeks into pregnancy. Biden doesn’t explicitly address medication abortion, but has called the general procedure an “essential health service,” per NYT.

President-elect Biden also opposes—and plans to reverse—Trump’s gag rules that withhold federal funding for family planning for organizations that give abortion referrals.

Planned Parenthood supports Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential race.

“As we celebrate today, we are beginning a new chapter: one where we take full control of our bodies, our rights, our democracy, and our futures,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement. “The work does not end, because our fight to protect and expand health care for millions of Planned Parenthood supporters, patients, and global partners cannot let up for even a moment. Voters’ voices were loud and clear, and they elected a new president, who is fully committed to protecting access to sexual and reproductive health care—including access to abortion.”


BOSTON MA. – MAY 21: Jane Marcus of Medford joins demonstrators as they rally in support of the right to abortions outside the State House on May 21, 2019 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Expansion of abortion access in Massachusetts took a first step forward on Thursday when House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their proposed state budget.

“In the wake of the threat to reproductive rights for women on the national level, I’m proud of the House vote to remove barriers to women’s reproductive health options and protect the concepts enshrined in Roe v. Wade,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement after the vote.

Members passed the amendment 108 to 49 — a hair above the two-thirds majority the Legislature would need to override a likely veto by Gov. Charlie Baker.

The move comes 47 years after the Supreme Court ruled women have a constitutional right to safe, legal abortions without excessive government interference in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and after state legislative leaders voiced a new sense of urgency following the confirmation of President Trump appointee Amy Coney Barrett.

Fears the conservative-leaning Supreme Court could overturn the long-standing Roe v. Wade ruling have spurred a flurry of legislation in states seeking to protect abortion access.

If successful, the amendment would enshrine the right to abortion in state law as well as expand access to abortions after 24 weeks in cases of fatal fetal anomalies — not just when necessary to save a woman’s life. It would also no longer require women under age 18 to gain permission from a parent or judge to get an abortion.

The ROE Act Coalition, which includes the ACLU of Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, called the move a “critical first step in removing medically unnecessary barriers to abortion.”

The amendment mirrors a bill — “An Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access” — that has been stalled in the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary since spring of 2019.

The amendment was submitted by Committee on the Judiciary Chairwoman Claire Cronin who called on lawmakers to “act on something that may be contrary to the teachings of… faith.”

Bellingham Republican Rep. Michael Soter shared personal stories and spoke in opposition of removing parental consent saying, “Yes, I am pro-life, but that’s not why I’m speaking to you tonight.”

It’s the first in a series of positive votes the measure must earn to become law before the current legislative session ends on Dec. 31.


Mass demonstrations have exposed underlying anger at political and religious interference in people’s everyday lives

Protesters holding signs during a rally in Warsaw on 27 October. Photograph: Kasia Strek

For 14 nights they have marched, enraged by a near-total ban on abortion that has stirred a generation to stage the largest mass demonstrations that Poland has seen since Solidarność toppled the communist regime in the 1980s.

Until soaring coronavirus numbers and a looming national lockdown made it almost impossible, up to a million people nightly defied a government ban on protests, taking to the streets from Warsaw to Łódź, Poznań to Wrocław, Gdańsk to Kraków.

The protests, led by the grassroots women’s movement Ogólnopolski Strajk Kobiet (OSK, or All-Polish Women’s Strike), have shocked the ruling conservatives and created a new political faultline that, analysts say, could spell more serious problems for the party.

“I think it is a whole backlash against a patriarchal culture, against the patriarchal state, against the fundamentalist religious state, against the state that treats women really badly,” said Marta Lempart, a 41-year-old lawyer and one of OSK’s leaders.

Marta Lempart calls for the liberalisation of abortion, establishment of sex education classes and universal access to contraception during a rally in front of parliament in Warsaw on 27 October.
 Marta Lempart calls for the liberalisation of abortion, establishment of sex education classes and universal access to contraception during a rally in front of parliament in Warsaw on 27 October. Photograph: Kasia Strek

The group has outlined areas extending far beyond abortion rights where it says urgent change is needed: stronger and wider women’s and LGBTQ+ rights in general; the separation of church and state; more support for healthcare, small businesses and education; full judicial independence.

Artists and dancers protesting in Warsaw on 30 October.
 Artists and dancers protesting in Warsaw on 30 October. Photograph: Kasia Strek

Predominantly Catholic Poland already had one of Europe’s strictest abortion laws when, on 22 October, its constitutional tribunal ruled that terminations in instances of severe foetal anomalies, which accounted for all but about 30 of the 1,110 abortions performed legally in Poland last year, were “incompatible” with the constitution.

The decision by the court’s 15 pro-PiS judges, many of them appointed unlawfully, would allow terminations only in instances of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at risk – a tiny fraction of cases. Women’s groups estimate an additional 200,000 Polish women have abortions either illegally or abroad each year.

The ruling sparked an immediate reaction. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, mainly women and young people, took to the streets with banners proclaiming “I wish I could abort my government”, “This is war” and “Women’s hell”.

Protesters holding anti-PiS signs.
 Protesters holding anti-PiS signs. Photograph: Kasia Strek

On Tuesday – apparently in response to the protests – the government indefinitely postponed publishing the court’s decision in the official journal, preventing it from coming into effect (and raising major constitutional questions if it tries to do so later).

But the genie may be out of the bottle.

While surveys show more than 60% of Poles support the status quo on abortion, barely 15% back the proposed changes. This has mobilised a generation not previously engaged with politics and stoked existing, wider anger at what many see as the steady erosion of democratic norms since PiS came to power in 2015.

Maria Kowalczyk, 38, a beauty journalist, said at a protest in Warsaw that Poland was “years behind. In this country, because of the politics and doctrine of the government and the religious fanatics, someone who is different is worse. The way they treat LGBT people, migrants, all minorities – and now women … Society has had enough.”

Maria Kowalczyk,who has two children and lost two through stillbirth and miscarriage, says: ‘Forcing a mother to give birth to a baby without an organ is simply insane’.
 Maria Kowalczyk,who has two children and lost two through stillbirth and miscarriage, says: ‘Forcing a mother to give birth to a baby without an organ is simply insane’. Photograph: Kasia Strek

Julia Estera, 30, a performance and makeup artist from Łódź, said Poland was no longer a free country. “We are a religious state where we are all demanded to think in one possible way.” Bianka, 15, and Maja, 16, said Poland’s youth would not back down. “We don’t want to live in a country where we don’t have a choice, where everything is decided for us.”

Julia Estera at a protest in Warsaw on 30 October.
 Julia Estera at a protest in Warsaw on 30 October. Photograph: Kasia Strek

Andrzej Kompa, a historian and university researcher, said on another march in the capital that he was protesting “not just against this hell for women, decided by this so-called constitutional court, but against this government, against church involvement in political affairs, for minority rights. Simply for freedom.”

Support for the PiS, who were re-elected last year, and its founder, Jarosław Kaczyński, 71, has plunged by almost 10 points to 30.9% in a month, according to one poll. Another showed 70% of Poles would like Kaczyński – widely seen as the country’s true powerbroker – to step down as PiS leader.

Breaking long-held taboos, the protests have also challenged the Catholic church and its influence on Polish policy, education and culture, with some demonstrators disrupting services and defacing churches. Support for the church has fallen eight points to 49% since March, one poll showed.

A woman covering her ears as she passes the Church of the Holy Cross, in Warsaw, where Catholic fundamentalists, flanked by nationalist militias and separated from protesters by police and military officers, were playing the cries of newborns through loudspeakers.
 A woman covering her ears as she passes the Church of the Holy Cross, in Warsaw, where Catholic fundamentalists, flanked by nationalist militias and separated from protesters by police and military officers, were playing the cries of newborns through loudspeakers. Photograph: Kasia Strek

Kaczyński last week urged the party faithful to call for a defence of the Catholic church “at all costs”. He also said the protests were “intended to destroy Poland”, and urged his supporters to fight for “Poland and patriotism” in order to avert “the end of … the Polish nation as we know it”.

The protests could hardly have come at a worse time for PiS. As Covid-19 infections and death tolls break new records, the government – which warned this week of a new national lockdown within 10 days unless things improve – is coming under increasingly heavy fire for its handling of the pandemic.

It now appears to have few easy ways out. Many Poles view the court ruling as a tactical play by Kaczyński to bolster support on the traditionalist right while bypassing parliament, where the ruling coalition has only a slender majority. It has sparked an explosion of popular fury unlike any PiS has seen.

A protester holding a banner saying: ‘This is war’.
 A protester holding a banner saying: ‘This is war’. Photograph: Kasia Strek

“It certainly feels different,” said Adam Mrozowicki, a sociologist at the University of Wrocław. “We need to study it properly, but the heart of this does seem to be young people. Anecdotally, I’ve never seen this level of engagement among my students – in my faculty, maybe 70-80% of students have taken part in some kind of protest.”

The scale and nature of the protests was new, Mrozowicki said: “They are led by young women. This is decentralised, locally based, grassroots. And personally, in 20 years, I’ve never seen anything like these numbers. To have 65,000 people on the streets of Wrocław …”

Ben Stanley, a political scientist at the SWPS university in Warsaw, said the protests felt “qualitatively different”. Previous anti-PiS demonstrations over the rule of law mainly drew “Solidarność-era protesters, people in their 50s and 60s. It wasn’t an issue that resonated so much with young people.”

Artists and dancers protesting in Warsaw on 30 October.
 Artists and dancers protesting in Warsaw on 30 October. Photograph: Kasia Strek

Women’s rights are “a lot more tangible for 25-year-olds; they really mean something concrete. This ruling has animated many more people by personalising the culture war PiS has declared: its chosen narrative of a Poland whose authentic identity and traditions are at threat from rootless cosmopolitanism.”

The protests had “blown a hole in the idea that Kaczyński is always three steps ahead, that PiS always has its finger on the pulse of what Poland really feels”, Stanley said, “at the same time as Covid has blown a hole in their reputation for competence”.

The party could salvage the situation in the short term, he said, but “processes are accelerating that will make the nationalist, clericalist PiS narrative more difficult to sustain longer term. All this may not bring PiS down immediately, but it could make things a lot more difficult in future.”

Mrozowicki said it was unclear how the protests would immediately affect Poland’s politics because the protesters had no clear links to parliamentary politics, and their leaders have said they do not want to become a political movement. “But it feels like something, definitely, is shifting,” he said.


Photo: Getty Images

Kamala Harris has made history as the first female, first Black, and first person of Asian descent to become vice president-elect. As the turbulent and trying Trump presidency comes to a close, and Harris prepares to assume her powerful post, this marks a moment of relief and hope for many women; an opportunity to gain back what’s been lost over the past four years, as well as push women’s health care forward for all.

“Time and time again, we’ve seen that women who fight power, who move into leadership positions, who challenge the system, are knocked back down, told to wait, told to be quieter and be nicer—this is especially true for women of color,” says Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “So when I watched Kamala walking onto the stage in Wilmington, Delaware, I felt like I was walking right alongside her. I felt like my daughters were walking with her, and my grandmothers and my aunties and my girlfriends across the country. She refused to back down no matter what adversity she faced, and now she is going to the White House. In claiming her own power, Kamala empowers us all.”

As the country readies for a new chapter, here we take a look back at the efforts Harris has made to impact pressing women’s health issues—from increasing access to abortion to improving maternal health and fighting against racial disparities—and consider how this momentum is primed to continue during the Biden-Harris administration. As Johnson puts it, “We are finally beginning a new chapter: one where we take full control of our bodies, our rights, our democracy, and our futures.”

Expanding Affordable Health Care

In 2018, Kamala Harris penned a New York Times piece about losing her mother to colon cancer in 2009, and what it revealed about the fractured U.S. health system. She also explained why cosponsoring 2017’s Medicare for All Bill with Senator Bernie Sanders was so important to her. “One of the biggest issues on the Biden-Harris ticket was health care—providing access to everyone, and ensuring the American population that they didn’t want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare because there’s so many people that rely on it as their form of health care,” explains Dallas-based ob-gyn Jessica Shepherd. “So one of their strong pillars was to restore that and make sure that that was not taken away. For a lot of people, that was one of their reasons for voting for that ticket. They were frustrated, powerless, and they felt that they very well could have lost their health care.” Though Biden and Harris have held different views on health care reform in the past, their shared goal of expanding health insurance will surely increase the number of insured, and reduce costs for many more American women, especially those from disadvantaged populations. Plus, the pair will be giving the U.S.’s global pandemic response a long overdue overhaul with their newly formed COVID-19 task force, comprised of leading scientists and public health experts.

Supporting Abortion Rights

Since entering politics, Harris has been a steadfast champion for reproductive rights. “As a presidential candidate, she offered an inspiring vision for making abortion more accessible and expanding reproductive health care across the country,” says Johnson. She also notes that in Congress, the vice president-elect was a lead cosponsor of the EACH Woman Act to boldly repeal the Hyde Amendment, a ban on abortion coverage in federal health insurance programs, most notably Medicaid for people with low incomes, and ensure abortion coverage for all people, no matter how they get their insurance. In addition to consistently opposing judicial nominees who are hostile to reproductive health and rights, Harris also cosponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, a federal bill that protects the right to abortion care by creating a safeguard against bans and medically unnecessary restrictions, as well as enshrines into law that a person’s constitutional rights should not depend on their zip code, highlights Johnson.

Broadening Birth Control Access

Since childhood, Harris has understood the importance of contraception, having spent time in India with her progressive grandmother, Rajam Gopalan, who was known for educating impoverished communities in the country on how to get birth control. Throughout her career, Harris has been committed to improving access to birth control. Most recently, in July, when the Supreme Court announced it would allow employers to drop the Affordable Care Act’s no-cost birth control policy if they object to it on religious grounds, Harris released a statement calling on Congress to take action to protect and expand access to contraception.

In choosing Harris as his vice president, president-elect Biden is committed to protecting and expanding access to birth control at a critical time. “The loss of RBG and the new seat that’s been filled in the Supreme Court by Amy Coney Barrett will have a long-term impact on women’s health and reproductive justice, and we have some work to do in order to [undo] steps that we’ve made backwards to make sure that we don’t go back to where we were prior to Roe v. Wade,” explains Shepherd. “Harris understands the importance of women’s reproductive health and how we need to allow for women to have access, whether that is abortion, contraceptive care, or family planning. All of those really kind of run together when taking the stance that we should support women in their choices, rather than alienating and ostracizing them.”

Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis

In the words of Johnson, vice president-elect Harris’s work on the maternal health crisis and its disproportionate impact on Black women is “nearly unparalleled.” According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. “These outcomes are the result of bias of medical providers, structural racism, and economic inequality—leading to limited access to health care and a heightened risk of health complications,” explains Johnson.

In 2019, Harris introduced the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies Act (the Maternal CARE Act), a bill seeking to eliminate racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality. “It specifically aimed to address how we train our providers, the access to care that that women can get, and what those actual obstacles are, and where those gaps are, focusing on those to make sure that we are addressing the issue for what it is and implementing the changes that need to be made,” explains Shepherd.

Harris has also worked with Representative Lauren Underwood to introduce this year’s Black Maternal Health Momnibus to fill gaps in existing legislation. Among a comprehensive set of regulations and investments to address the crisis in Black women’s maternal mortality, the Momnibus Act will compile data on the underlying social determinants that lead to higher mortality rates to address the racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes among Black women in America. “It’s so incredibly important to making a difference and saving lives,” says Johnson.

Improving Care for Uterine Fibroids

Shortly before Harris was announced as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, she put forth the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act to initiate crucial research and education in relation to uterine fibroids. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 20 to 80% of women develop fibroids by the time they reach 50. Studies have shown that, relative to white women, Black women are two to three times more likely to have fibroids, as well as experience more severe symptoms at younger ages. “What the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act is looking at is the economics of fibroids and how it impacts women’s lives, their communities’ lives, their jobs, their relationships, and family life,” explains Shepherd. “By putting $30 million a year into the National Institutes of Health, it’s putting monetary value to that in how we can expand research, which would allow more research to go toward uterine fibroids, as well as creating a plan for public education programs through the CDC.”

Advocating for Health Equity

From addressing the racial disparities in maternal health to calling further attention to COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on people of color, Harris continues to confront racial disparities across health and social care. As Johnson says, “As a woman of color herself, Harris intimately understands the institutional racism and structural barriers to health care that have always existed for Black, Latino, and APIA communities—and can begin the work to dismantle those systems of power.”


3 Things President Biden Can Do on Day One for Reproductive Rights - Rewire  News Group
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have a lot of work ahead of them, including undoing harmful policies enacted by the Trump administration.
 Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden could tackle Trump’s harmful reproductive health-care policies on his first day on the job.

From announcing the Muslim ban to seating three conservative justices on the Supreme Court, Donald Trump was catastrophic for human rights.

But attacks on reproductive rights are not unique to the Trump administration. Conservatives and even liberals have long deprioritized abortion and contraceptive care by upholding harmful policies like the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion care, and restrictions on minors’ access to abortion.

It will take a progressive Congress and court reform to undo many of the harms of the last four years, including the erosion of reproductive health-care access for millions who rely on abortion and contraceptive care.

But here are three steps the Biden administration can take on Day One to roll back Trump’s attacks on reproductive rights. While these actions won’t immediately undo the damages, they would get the Biden administration off on the right start.

Rescind the domestic “gag rule”

Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services issued rules blocking federal family planning dollars from going to organizations that provide abortions. Known as the domestic “gag rule,” the regulations had a devastating impact on access to health care and cut federal family planning capacity almost in half.

On day one, President-elect Joe Biden can issue an executive order directing the agency to undo these rules and begin the process of restoring funding—and reproductive health care—to millions who rely on it.

Rescind the global “gag rule”

Trump also expanded the global “gag rule,” which restricts U.S. foreign assistance from going to organizations that provide or even discuss abortion care. Ronald Reagan first instituted the global gag rule in 1984. Trump expanded the restrictions to apply to all U.S. foreign aid, not just family planning funds—denying assistance to organizations providing care for HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and malaria. The Biden-Harris administration could begin to reverse these restrictions immediately.

Rescind Trump’s Affordable Care Act rollbacks 

Trump and his Republican colleagues have been focused on gutting health-care reform since the moment he took office. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the latest legal effort to kill off the ACA. But the Court likely won’t rule on the challenge until next summer, giving the Biden-Harris administration time to tackle Trump’s rules aimed at limiting birth control access and gender-affirming care under the ACA.

And if the runoff races in Georgia lead to Democrats gaining control of the Senate, a new Congress could not only revive any damage the Supreme Court does to the ACA, but also expand on the law’s historic protections.


Dr. Julie Amaon explains what a “perfect world” for reproductive health care looks like to her.

Dr. Julie Amaon, M.D., 43, is the medical director of Just the Pill, a mobile reproductive health clinic out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, which began mailing medication for abortion, birth control, and STI treatment this month. She graduated from her residency in family medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic and realized that, with clinics limiting their services and patients afraid to see a doctor over exposure concerns, no-touch, no-test medication abortion was critical health care that she could safely provide.

Amaon tells Bustle about how she became an abortion provider, and what reproductive health care would look like in a perfect world.

I started in the abortion care world not as a physician, but working in my local Planned Parenthood in Austin, Texas. This was right around the time when our state government took away most of our family planning money and gave it to crisis pregnancy centers. Over the next four years that I managed the clinic, things just kept getting worse for abortion access. I decided to go to medical school in 2012 to become a physician, so we could have more abortion providers in Texas.

My family medicine residency program at the University of Minnesota Medical Center trained everyone studying family medicine in abortion, and if someone wasn’t comfortable with that, they could opt out. It shouldn’t be something super unique, but there are only 38 Reproductive Health Education in Family Medicine (RHEDI)-funded opt-out programs in family medicine nationwide. [Even in OB-GYN residencies, many programs are either opt-in or don’t offer abortion training at all.]

In a perfect world, you could see a family medicine doctor for a sinus infection, for birth control, and for a medication abortion. That doctor could call the medicine in to your pharmacy or have it mailed to your home — whatever is best for you.

People drove 18 hours, from Texas to Minnesota, to get abortion care.

That’s not what’s happening now. Because of the FDA’s Risk Evaluation & Management Strategy (REMS) program, in order to provide medication abortion,you have to be registered as a provider, which means being on a publicly available list maintained by the drug manufacturer. This creates a lot of stigma among those who would want to offer medication abortion in a small town, as a family medicine doctor. In Minnesota, specifically, 97% of counties don’t have an abortion provider. The struggle here is very real. Most people will have to travel a long way to get an abortion.

That’s how the idea was born to have a mobile clinic. What if we could drive through the state with our clinic and then people could access medication abortion because we’ve come to them? We’ve been up and running for a week, and the response from our community has already been amazing. The reproductive health advocacy organizations we partner with are so excited that people in rural areas can now have access to abortion, regardless of whether or not they have a car or live in a county with a provider. I just sent our first medication abortion pill order from our mail-in pharmacy partner.

In July, an injunction lifted some REMS restrictions in light of the pandemic, so you can now mail mifepristone, the medication abortion pill, where before that was largely illegal. That means we can advertise in rural communities more than 100 miles away from our brick-and-mortar medical office, where we house medication abortion pills in case our ability to use mail-in pharmacies is revoked so that we can mail it out ourselves. It also means people can take their pills at home, which is wonderful.

Our plan is to target rural communities in the state because right now, people have to drive for hours to get their health care. I was in Minnesota when abortion clinics shut down in Texas because of COVID — people drove 18 hours, from Texas to Minnesota, to get abortion care. Even after the pandemic ends, we hope to have a mobile clinic so we can insert IUDs or the birth control implant Nexplanon and provide other forms of primary care.

As a family medicine physician, I love being able to take care of patients cradle to grave. If someone has an unwanted pregnancy, my hope for the future is that they can come to me, their trusted family medicine provider, and I can offer her all the options in my clinic or over video.

I shouldn’t have to say, ‘Well I don’t stock mifepristone here, so I have to send you somewhere else and to a doctor you don’t already know and trust.’ I envision healthcare differently than that.

This interview has been edited and condensed.