21. Taking Politics Out of Women’s Health: Biden’s First 100 Days (with Carrie Baker, Joia Crear-Perry, Leah Litman and Julia Kaye)

Taking Politics Out of Women's Health; Biden's First 100 Days

With Guests:

 

  • Carrie Baker, a frequent Ms. contributor, lawyer, professor and director of the program for the study of women and gender at Smith College. Dr. Baker was a co-founder and former co-director of the Five College Certificate in Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice, a certificate available to undergraduate students at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
  • Joia Crear-Perry, founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. Dr. Crear-Perry is a thought leader around racism as a root cause of health inequities, as well as a speaker, trainer, advocate, policy expert and fighter for justice. Recently, Dr. Crear-Perry addressed the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urge a human rights framework to improve maternal mortality.
  • Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, Kaye leads the ACLU’s litigation challenging the FDA’s unjustified restrictions on medication abortion, as well as the project’s advocacy efforts to remove outdated laws banning nurse practitioners and other qualified clinicians from providing abortion care.
  • Leah Litman, assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, where she teaches and writes on constitutional law, federal post-conviction review and federal sentencing. She is co-founder of Women Also Know Law and is one of the co-hosts and creators of Strict Scrutiny, a podcast about the U.S. Supreme Court.

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In this Episode:

Friday, January 22 marked the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision affirming a constitutional right to abortion. Yet, decades later, reproductive health care access remains illusory for many women and people of birthing capacity.  
 
Is the constitutional right to abortion a reality today? If so, for whom? How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted women’s health and exacerbated existing disparities? What can we expect from the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration? What is the status of reproductive health, rights and justice—48 years after Roe?

Have something to share? Drop us a line at ontheissues@msmagazine.com.

Background Reading:

Transcript:

0:00:00 Michele Goodwin: 

Welcome to “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” at Ms. Magazine, a show where we report, rebel and tell it like it is. On this show, we center your concerns about rebuilding our nation and advancing the promise of equality. Join me as we tackle the most compelling issues of our times. On our show, history matters. We examine the past as we pivot to the future. 

On today’s show, we focus on taking politics out of women’s health, Biden’s first 100 days. Now, January 22nd marked the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision decriminalizing abortion, yet nearly 50 years later, reproductive rights are in jeopardy, and more people are demanding reproductive justice, in fact, a “reproductive new deal.”

So, what is the status of reproductive health rights and justice 48 years after Roe? Is the Constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy a reality today? If so, for whom? Who has COVID-19, the pandemic, impacted most, and how has it impacted women’s health and exacerbated existing disparities? What can we expect from the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration in recognizing the threat to the reproductive health care of people who can become pregnant? Now, helping us to sort out these questions and more on how we should think about these issues are really terrific guests. 

I’m joined by Dr. Carrie Baker. She is a lawyer and grassroots reproductive rights activist in Massachusetts. She is president of the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts. Dr. Baker is also a professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. 

I’m also joined by Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, who is absolutely fabulous. She is the founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. She is a thought leader around racism and the root causes of health inequities. 

I’m also joined by Julia Kaye. She’s a staff attorney with the Reproductive Freedom Project at the ACLU. She leads the ACLU’s litigation challenging the FDA’s unjustified restrictions on medication abortion, as well as the project’s advocacy efforts to remove outdated laws banning nurse practitioners and others qualified to provide abortion care. 

And finally, I’m joined by the wonderful Leah Litman. She is an assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, where she teaches and writes on constitutional law, federal post-conviction review, and federal sentencing. She is the co-founder of Women Also Know Law, and is one of the cohosts and creators of the Strict Scrutiny podcast, which is a podcast about the U.S. Supreme Court. Welcome to our Ms. Magazine show. Thank you, all, for joining us to discuss these very sensitive and often overlooked matters. 

Now, before I turn to my guests, let’s take a listen to the oral argument from December 13, 1971, in Roe v. Wade. That’s nearly 50 years ago, and the first voice that we’re going to hear is Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, and he’s going to start the questioning of Sarah R. Weddington. She’s the lawyer that represented Jane Roe and Mary Doe in this landmark Supreme Court case. Let’s take a listen.

0:03:43 Chief Justice Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments from number 18, Roe against Wade. Mrs. Weddington, you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

0:03:54 Sarah R. Weddington:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court. The instant case is a direct appeal from a decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The court declared the Texas abortion law to be unconstitutional for two reasons.

First, that the law was impermissibly vague, and second, that it violated a woman’s right to continue or terminate a pregnancy. Although the court granted declaratory relief, the court denied appellants’ request for injunctive relief. The Texas law in question permits abortions to be performed only in instances where it is for the purpose of saving the life of the woman. 

Sarah Weddington in 1978. (Wikimedia Commons)

The case originated with the filing of two separate complaints—the first being filed on behalf of Jane Roe, an unmarried pregnant girl, and the second being filed on behalf of John and Mary Doe, a married couple.

Jane Roe, the pregnant woman, had gone to several Dallas physicians seeking an abortion but had been refused care because of the Texas law. She filed suit on behalf of herself and all those women who have in the past, at that present time, or in the future would seek termination of a pregnancy. In her affidavit, she did state some of the reasons that she desired an abortion at the time she sought one, but contrary to the contentions of appellee, she continued to desire the abortion, and it was not only at the time she sought the abortion that her desire was to terminate the pregnancy.

0:05:30 Michele Goodwin: 

Julia, let me turn to you first. You’re a lead counsel in Food and Drug Administration v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a case dealing with the FDA regulation on medication abortion. Tell us a bit about that case, and why is it so controversial?

0:05:45 Julia Kaye:

Sure. We filed this lawsuit in May on behalf of many of the nation’s leading medical providers, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as well as reproductive justice advocates like SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and the lawsuit challenges a Food and Drug Administration requirement that subjects patients to entirely needless COVID-19 risks on top of the normal burdens that … the usual burdens, I should say, that it imposes on patients. 

So, the FDA requirement forces patients who need a safe and effective medication used for early abortion and miscarriage care to make an entirely needless in-person trip to a health center for the sole purpose of picking up a pill and signing a form.

Pro-abortion demonstrators in downtown Chicago on July 9, 2018. (Charles Edward Miller / Wikimedia Commons)

0:06:39 Michele Goodwin: 

Great points, Julia, but what’s your response to people who say it’s really important that women consult their medical professionals and specifically that they consult doctors, because that’s a good thing for people who are using prescription medications and who have other health care problems. What’s the response to that?

0:06:57 Julia Kaye:

So, these are patients who have already been fully evaluated and counseled through telemedicine or at a prior in-person visit. There is absolutely no medical reason for this in-person trip, and in fact, the FDA does not even require patients to take the pill on-site at the health center. They are free to put that pill in their pocket and swallow it later at home. There is absolutely no justification for this travel, and the government is well-aware of the viral risks associated with traveling for in-person health care during the pandemic.

0:07:31 Michele Goodwin:

So, wait, so you’re saying you’ve been working on this case that was just heard by the Supreme Court since May. COVID-19 was alive and flaring all during that time, and so, the requirement is that people have to go out, people who are pregnant, women, have to go out during COVID to put a pill in their pocket?

0:07:54 Julia Kaye:

That is exactly right, and meanwhile, what you have is the government suspending other kinds of in-person requirements for far less-safe drugs, including opioids like fentanyl.

0:08:06 Michele Goodwin:

What?

0:08:07 Julia Kaye:

And yet they’re…that’s right. It is as shocking as it sounds, and yet they are forcing…the Trump administration has been forcing patients seeking early abortion and miscarriage care to take on needless, life-threatening risks as a condition of obtaining an abortion.

0:08:25 Michele Goodwin: 

And mind our listeners that now we’re up to over 400 thousand deaths due to COVID. I mean we’ve well exceeded the number of deaths that were associated with, let’s say, the Vietnam War, which was over 19 years. 

So, Carrie, I want to bring you into this. You are very well-versed in medication abortion. You’ve written about this for Ms. Magazine, and recently, in an article, you noted that the Trump administration has suspended all kinds of in-person requirements for medications that are far less safe than mifepristone, including for opioid drugs, just like we heard from Julia, like fentanyl and OxyContin—and yet, they’ve appealed this all the way to the Supreme Court, twice, to maintain the requirement of in-person visits for those who receive mifepristone. So, what’s going on here?

Mifepristone is used in combination with another medication—misoprostol—to safely and effectively end early pregnancy. (Robin Marty / Flickr)

0:09:21 Dr. Carrie Baker:

Well, the restrictions on mifepristone are entirely political. After years of anti-abortion resistance, the FDA finally approved mifepristone in 2000 but placed it under what’s called this Risk Evaluation and Mitigation System (REMS), which is a drug safety program that tries to restrict unsafe drugs, and under this restriction, they require that patients go in-person to their doctors. They don’t allow retail pharmacies to distribute this drug, and that’s where this restriction came from, but the fact of the matter is, is that mifepristone is an extremely safe drug. It’s actually six times safer than Viagra, which the FDA does not restrict, and which you can buy on the internet like candy, and so …

0:10:09 Michele Goodwin:

Wait. Wait. So, it’s safer than Viagra?

0:10:11 Dr. Carrie Baker:

Much safer. Much safer.

0:10:12 Michele Goodwin:

Much, much safer than Viagra?

0:10:14 Dr. Carrie Baker:

Yes.

0:10:14 Michele Goodwin: 

Right? It’s not going to cause anybody heart attacks?

0:10:16 Dr. Carrie Baker:

No.

0:10:18 Michele Goodwin: 

And all those things that we hear about with Viagra? And men are not required to go in-person?

0:10:24 Dr. Carrie Baker:

Exactly.

0:10:25 Michele Goodwin:

To a clinic or to a doctor to pick up their Viagra?

0:10:30 Dr. Carrie Baker:

Yes. It’s a misogynist double-standard, and it’s a political double-standard, and feminists have been fighting for years to try to remove these restrictions and made some progress in 2016, under Obama, but it’s still there, and there’s a very vibrant grassroots campaign to try to get the FDA to remove that restriction, and it’s high on the agenda for Biden, coming in, that he not only reverse this Trump policy that you have to go to your doctor during the pandemic but also asking Biden to get the FDA to review this restriction more generally.

0:10:30 Michele Goodwin: 

So, before we get to the super-doctor, Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, who just like knocks it out of the park all the time, I’m just so happy that she’s with us, you know, help the audience understand a little bit more just how disparate this is, what the FDA is requiring, because it’s not only that the FDA is treating this differently than erectile dysfunction medications for men, but we’re also talking about thousands of other medications where they’ve not isolated it out like this. Like, how many is it, Julia?

0:11:45 Julia Kaye:

Right. So, out of 20,000 drugs that the FDA regulates, this safe, effective medication used for abortion and miscarriage care is the only one that the FDA forces patients to pick up in-person in a clinical setting even though they’re not required to take it in a clinical setting.

“Out of 20,000 drugs that the FDA regulates, this safe, effective medication used for abortion and miscarriage care is the only one that the FDA forces patients to pick up in-person in a clinical setting.” (VAlaSiurua, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

0:12:05 Michele Goodwin:

All right. Let’s bring in the extraordinary Professor Leah Litman. So, Leah, what’s your take on this?

0:12:09 Leah Litman:

I think it’s a troubling sign about how willing the court will be to allow governments to enforce laws that will be very burdensome on women’s access to abortion and offer very little benefit and actually how far the court will bend over backwards to do so. 

So, the case involved women’s access to one of the pills used for medication abortion, and the side effects for that pill are similar to over-the-counter aspirin or something like that, but still, the FDA was unwilling to waive the requirement that women obtain that medication in-person and sign a disclosure form during a pandemic, during which that the FDA has waived the in-person pick-up requirement for controlled substances like opioids, and still, the court was willing to allow the Federal Government to enforce that requirement. 

And more than that, the court didn’t bother to explain why it was willing to do so. The only justice who explained the vote to allow the Federal Government to enforce that requirement was the chief justice, who said he owed deference to elected, accountable public health officials, but as Justice Sotomayor noted in her very powerful dissent, no public health official has ever offered a reasoned explanation for why it is good for public health to require women to pick up that drug in person but not so good for public health to require people to pick up opioids in person. More than that, the chief justice has also been quite skeptical of deferring to federal administrative officials in other contexts—but here, when it comes to abortion, apparently it’s just fine.

0:13:45 Michele Goodwin: 

And I’d like to now turn to Dr. Joia Crear-Perry. I’ve enjoyed working with her at congressional briefings, town hall meetings across the nation, addressing issues involving reproductive health rights and justice, maternal mortality being one of those issues high on the list, and in these recent times, you’ve had to spend a lot of attention not just on maternal mortality but also the attacks on contraceptive access and abortion rights—and we’ve seen a number of those attacks coming through the last presidential administration and a number of restrictions that have recently been placed on access to abortion. And you’ve been writing and speaking about how this is rooted in bias and misinformation. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

0:14:30 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

You know, thank you, so much, Michele, for having me and being here. So, it’s so hard to disentangle the belief that women cannot control their bodies from all the policies that we see all the time. In fact, at the root of all of these policies is the belief that we are hysterical, right? The word “hysterectomy” comes from this idea that women are hysterical, that we need someone to oversee our choices, oversee our bodies. 

So, sadly, it does make sense, although it is harmful and mean-spirited and comes from a history, a legacy of patriarchy and white supremacy culture, it’s not surprising that the one drug out of 20,000 drugs that are available to be regulated by the FDA, the one thing that women can use to control their bodies, that they could just stay home, a doctor can talk with them over the phone if they have complications…no, they have to come in in the middle of a pandemic.

So, it’s actually true to the…it’s a continuation of this history and legacy of a belief of devaluation of people of color and of women and anybody who is not fitting to the norm or the little cycle of, you know, cisgendered white male mid-40s. Everybody else has to beg to be seen as fully human and ask for things, like: Can I just be treated where I can have my doctor talk to me at home and send me the medicine at home? And we send birth control pills, you know, in fact, we know for sure…

Long ago, one of my first times ever testifying was trying to get the HPV vaccine to be on insurance companies, and Viagra was covered on insurance companies, but HPV vaccines were not, and the one way I could get those congress…it was the state legislature in Louisiana to agree was I said, well, you know, HPV causes penile cancer, so you need it for your penises. Oh, then, magically, they listened to the conversation. 

So, we have to get to a space where the people who have power look more reflective of the people who need services, like more women, more people of color, more gender-nonconforming folks, because they’re going to continue to produce harmful policies like these at the Supreme Court that say: “Out of all these drugs, you have to come in-person, even though we know there’s no medical reason, we just don’t trust that you’ll do the right thing”—and that’s at the core of it, we don’t believe you, we don’t trust you, we don’t think you will be capable of not giving it to a friend or selling it in the black market or whatever, and meanwhile, we know we have a much higher rate of substance use disorder. You know fentanyl is much more complicated, and we’re worried about that, but yet, we cannot see women as being capable and fully human.

0:16:57 Michele Goodwin:

When you mention the testifying that you did in Louisiana, if our listeners could only see the reaction that we all had on-screen here, and yet, we know it’s true. You know put a penis associated with it and something that harms men’s sex drive, legislators then are gung-ho to make sure that there’s access to whatever it is that will relieve men from any kind of discomfort, and you know, it’s interesting, the conversation that we’re having because, you know, as I think about things like dialysis, right? Dialysis can be very complicated, and yet, people can do dialysis at home, right? 

They can plug themselves into a dialysis machine, sit there several hours while fluids are draining out of their bodies and circulating back in, and yet, the bottom line of this is a sense that women lack such capability, capacity, mental capacity that they can’t take a pill on their own, right? I mean there’s so much behind that. 

I want to deepen our conversation just a little bit because we are in a period of COVID, and it has revealed so many underlying institutional and infrastructural inequalities in our society, and so, what does that mean, then, when we’re talking about people having to go out during COVID? Because reality is that there are disparities in terms of people who’ve contracted COVID and people who are dying from COVID. So, what does this mean, let’s say, for Latinx women or for Black women, Dr. Joia?

0:18:41 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Well, we know that people of color are more likely to be impacted by COVID, and honestly, even when they were calling it the Chinese virus, we knew that racism was already setting us up, right? So, we were going to be left out from getting resources, from getting tested, and so many people…this is another example of we’re already dying in our homes because we’re not getting tested, because we’re not getting…when we go in to say we have a complaint, if we get to the doctor, we’re more likely to be sent home without being treated and evaluated.

So, then you bring in this rule that in order to have a safe abortion, you have to go in to a provider—well, you already don’t have access to paid leave, you don’t have access to transportation, equal pay, so all the other infrastructure things you need to be able to go somewhere to receive medical care, right? 

So, that’s one of the reasons the United States has the worst outcomes in the world when it comes to maternal health is we don’t participate in any of the things that the other countries that have good outcomes do, like equal pay, paid leave, child care, paternity leave, you know, simple things. So, when you add on COVID, the infrastructure and the lack of investment in social support and social safety and wellbeing and health and joy comes out really strongly, and you see that people…you’re going to see birthing people, you’re going to see pregnant people, people with the capacity for becoming pregnant not going in to get the pill because they already…how are they going to get there? They already are nervous about what’s happening with the pandemic. We’re already nervous about transportation and shutting things and opening things. 

So, it just creates another burden, another layer, and the opposite is happening with everything else. With prenatal care, we’re saying, hey, we don’t care how many times you come in, we can just do it over the phone, we can call you, we’re revamping the entire system for prenatal care, for postpartum care, for all these other infrastructures, but yet, when it comes to abortion, magically, we tell you, you have to now come in.

That is the opposite of what we’re seeing from every other kind of care. You mentioned dialysis. We’re doing all these things virtually, teaching patients how to take their own blood pressures, teaching patients how to weigh themselves, teaching patients how to do all these things that’ll be, if we can continue them, they’ll be much better for the future, for infrastructure, that we all have diversity of how we can enter care. It doesn’t mean that everybody should not come in, but we do need diversity. People always needed an opportunity to receive care telephonically.

0:20:49 Michele Goodwin:

So, I’m wondering, Julia, then, what are the implications for the Supreme Court’s decision for access to other forms of reproductive health care? Does it mean something broader than medication abortion? What should we learn or take away from this? And it was a 6-3 opinion divided along conservative/liberal lines in the Supreme Court. So, how do we understand this case for the future?

0:21:18 Julia Kaye:

The court’s ruling in this case sends a chilling signal about the future of the right to abortion. They didn’t give an explanation for their ruling, which is typical when a case goes up to them and it’s kind of…the particular process here where a party is just asking the court to overrule the lower court’s decision and immediately reinstate something. So, it’s not uncommon for them not to issue an explanation, but when you look at the facts of this case, the overwhelming fact of this case showing that this restriction provides zero safety benefit while exposing patients to life-threatening risks, the only possible explanation for the court’s ruling is to make it as difficult as possible for people in this country to get an abortion when they need one. 

Abortion activists outside the Supreme Court in 2012. (Blink O’fanaye / Flickr)

We should absolutely be frightened by the implications for the future, and I’ll just underscore that, right now, there are at least 15 cases relating to abortion access that are either already pending before the Supreme Court or are one step away in one of the federal appellate courts. So, this court will have plenty of opportunities, including in the near future, to further restrict access to this essential health care.

0:22:36 Michele Goodwin: 

So, I want to ask you a question about the case, and then, I’d like to hear from any of you, each of you, about what some of those cases are. So, in this case, Justice Roberts did say, well, the standard that we have from Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the undue burden standard, is really not the one that we should apply in thinking about this. 

What is he doing in saying that, and how should we be thinking about Justice Roberts given in June Medical, he sided with the liberals on the court, and there were some who were hopeful, saying, oh, he’s going to become the new swing vote, he’s going to be kind of Kennedy, and Kennedy was not necessarily a friend on women’s rights or reproductive health and rights. That’s so much overstated. So, what’s the skinny on Roberts, coming out of this case?

0:23:29 Julia Kaye:

So, let me start by talking about the Louisiana decision this summer that you mentioned where the chief justice sided with the liberal justices to block this incredibly harmful law in Louisiana that everyone agreed served no medical purpose and everyone agreed would have shut down all but one abortion provider in the entire state. So, the chief justice joined the liberals in striking down that law, but he made clear that he did not want to do so, that it was really reluctant, and that he was doing so only because four years earlier, just four years earlier, in a case called Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, out of Texas, the Supreme Court had considered the literally identical law and had struck it down as an undue burden, and so, the chief justice said, well, stare decisis, we don’t want to flip flop, it’s the same law, and that’s why I’m, you know, sort of reluctantly agreeing that this law must fall. 

Demonstrators in front of the Supreme Court during oral arguments for June Medical Services LLC v. Russo on March 4, 2020. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

So, that was then. Now, we’re in a position where even if the chief justice had joined with the liberals in our case, because of the change, because of the replacement on the court of, you know, the loss of Justice Ginsburg and now the presence of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, it actually wouldn’t even have been enough if the chief justice had sided with the liberals in our case, which is truly terrifying, but what I also want to highlight is the chief justice’s reasoning in our case. 

He actually is the one member of the majority who explained, to some extent, why he ruled the way he did, and he said, well, as I’ve said before, I believe we should be deferring to government officials who are responding to the pandemic, but that is exactly backwards because it is undisputed in this case that this was not a judgment call, a reasoned judgment of public health officials grappling with this public health emergency. It is undisputed that the FDA never even considered the impact of these in-person requirements in the context of the pandemic and that they have not revisited the justifications for this in-person requirement in years. So, that explanation by the chief justice simply is not credible. That’s not what was going on here.

0:25:50 Michele Goodwin: 

Well, you know, one could also think about this kind of…we’ll pivot to what the legislator or legislative body say. You can think about that in the context of race across any number of areas, you know, most immediately the case of Loving v. Virginia comes up, right? I mean that’s decades ago, but again, you see it across so many areas, the ways in which local municipalities justified racial discrimination of all sorts—and by the way, listeners, I highly commend to you to take a look at Pauli Murray’s book on race laws, which Thurgood Marshall said was the bible of the Civil Rights Movement, because what’s so shocking there are the myriad ways, the hundreds of ways, the thousands of ways … it’s surprising that there was so much attention put to finding ways to discriminate against Black people—can’t play checkers, can’t go bowling, can’t be in the swimming pool, can’t be in the park, can’t rent here, can’t eat in this restaurant, can’t be in the taxi. And then, the impositions on businesses, too—if we catch you with a Black person in your taxi and it’s not the taxi that’s certified for Black people to be in, you can be fined, and all of that. 

How is anybody going to take any of that seriously, and isn’t it the court’s role to be scrutinizing of unjust laws, Julia?

0:27:15 Julia Kaye:

It certainly should be their role, and it is deeply troubling that we have not seen them fulfilling that obligation during the Trump years. You know as a broader matter, I think about the Muslim ban and the refusal to consider the president’s clear statements about why he was imposing these restrictions and who was the target of it, and I think it’s deeply concerning.

0:27:41 Michele Goodwin:

So, some might say this sounds like political capture when we’re talking about the FDA, and can you explain to the audience what that means, the political capture of an agency?

0:27:54 Leah Litman

So, political capture refers to the idea that an agency is beholden, essentially, to politics, who the elected leaders are and who they appoint to head an agency. Now, the idea of political capture is nothing new. In fact, some people think that political capture is a good thing, inasmuch as it allows presidents to appoint people to head agencies who share their priorities and will carry out their policies, and in some ways, that might be a silver lining of this decision, you know? Perhaps Joe Biden will appoint someone to the FDA who will waive the in-person requirement for the medication abortion now that, you know, he is President Biden. So, political capture isn’t always a bad thing, but I think it is troublesome when it flies in the face of so much science, data, and needlessly risks people’s health and safety.

0:28:47 Michele Goodwin:

So, what’s your sense about what the Biden administration needs to do during its first 100 days? There’s a lot of weight that’s put on that, a lot of hope. Have you any ideas about where you think that the Biden-Harris administration should be going when we’re thinking about matters related to reproductive health rights and justice?

0:29:07 Leah Litman:

I think when it comes to reproductive health and justice, you know, some of the most important things they can do actually concern political power and voting rights, you know, what will make it easier to protect access to reproductive rights and justice in the future? If you make it easier for people to vote, I think that that is, you know, an important rationale for trying to do electoral democracy reform and voting rights reform is to enable, you know, the country that largely supports…you know a majority of the country supports access to abortion, to enable that majority to have their preferences actually reflected in our elected officials’ policies. 

So, voting rights is definitely one component of that. You know, of course, addressing the pandemic and access to the vaccine and coronavirus relief is an important part of that story, too, but the third thing that I would flag is, of course, the courts. It’s likely, it’s possible, perhaps…you know maybe I just hope that we might have a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and I also hope that the Biden administration will move quickly and decisively to appoint young judges who share the faith in democracy and believe in public health to the federal courts.

0:30:24 Michele Goodwin:

Your sense is that the Biden administration should engage in deep exploration of reshaping the courts?

0:30:34 Leah Litman:

Oh yes.

0:30:35 Michele Goodwin:

And what might that look like? Have you thought about what that should look like?

Rally in support of the Affordable Care Act in front of the Supreme Court in D.C. in March 2012. (LaDawna Howard / Flickr)

0:30:38 Leah Litman:

So, at a minimum, they announced they are going to have a court reform commission, and I believe that that commission will be considering, among other things, the idea of term limits on Supreme Court justices or the federal courts, the idea of altering the kinds of cases that the federal courts might hear, or jurisdiction stripping, the idea of expanding the Supreme Court or the courts of appeals or the district courts, the idea of establishing commissions, you know, to decide who gets nominated or appointed to the courts, or the idea of just developing a pipeline to ensure a robust, diverse federal judiciary. Those are different kinds of federal court reform that might be on the table.

0:31:20 Michele Goodwin: 

So, all right, so I’d like to hear from each of you, whoever wants to jump in. We’re decades past Roe, 1973, and it’s a 7-2 opinion. Five of those in the majority happen to be Republican-appointed. Justice Blackmun, who writes this opinion, is nominated to the court by Richard Nixon. So, before we get to what kinds of drama is happening at the state level with regard to abortion rights, what has happened? I mean you think about it, Prescott Bush, the father of George H.W. Bush, was the treasurer for Planned Parenthood. 

His son, George H.W. Bush who, before he became president and was a member of Congress, shepherded Title X through Congress, which provides reproductive health care for the poorest of Americans. That’s when we hear about breast cancer screenings, cervical care screenings, all of that. That was the work of George HW Bush and others. Nixon signed into law, saying this is basic common sense. So, for those who believe, well, this is just the Republican position, that is actually not the case. The Republican position was very different. So, Carrie, Dr. Joia, Julia, what happened? What happened, Carrie? What happened?

0:32:38 Dr. Carrie Baker:

The Republican Party got in bed with the evangelicals, basically, and it was connected to Nixon’s Southern strategy. As the Republican Party began to recruit Southern whites, they also began to align with evangelicals and assumed an anti-abortion platform in 1980 with Reagan, but you know, just more generally, the Federalist Society has hijacked the courts. It’s been a very long-term strategy to take over the courts and I think directly in response to the expansion of rights that existed…that developed from Brown v. Board of Education on, and as a result, they targeted the courts to try to pack the courts with right-wing justices that would no longer affirm rights.

And that’s why I think that we have got to turn to legislative bodies, and we’ve got to turn to the states because unless we expand the Supreme Court and can convince Biden to back that, we’re stuck with a court that’s terribly anti-civil rights, anti-abortion, and while I think that, you know, Julia, you need to keep on fighting the fight, we can’t fight on their ground. We’ve got to find a new way, and you know, the rise of telemedicine abortion and self-managed abortion and people calling organizations like Aid Access abroad and getting doctors abroad to prescribe this medication and send it to them for $95, I mean, you know, we’ve got to have a total revolution of abortion health care in this country and function on a totally different playing field, I think.

0:34:20 Michele Goodwin:

But Dr. Joia, what has happened? I mean, you have the history of Louisiana, and Louisiana and Texas have been considered the deadliest places in the developed world to be pregnant. What’s happened, and can you tell us a little bit about how race matters and class matters to this discussion?

0:34:41 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Well, and the beauty of reproductive justice allows you to look at the entire framework. So, when you think about even how the wording of Roe v. Wade, and I think about the most recent case of the Supreme Court. There’s been so many. The language is always…as an OB/GYN, you know, I’m not a lawyer. I’m an OB/GYN, and I was like I’m confused as to how all these states are coming up with these new laws around six weeks. I don’t get it. Like, what is this? So, when you look at their language, it was the viability, that language around viability, and really, the part that got me as a practitioner is it said the state has a right to protect the fetus. 

So, back then, when you think about who was in charge, the guys were like, yes, we’re protecting from these hysterical women, so, when the baby’s viable, we’re going to all come together and say, well, if she’s decided to have an abortion and kill this baby, and it’s a viable baby, then we need to make this law, but viability was never about women’s choice. It was not about women having reproductive autonomy or believing that we were smart. It was the state still believed…and this is where rubber meets the road because the OB/GYNs agreed, clearly. It was like, yes, once you get to viability, we agree with you. Well, now, when they went down to six weeks, you see my fellow colleagues who are OB/GYNs, like, wait, so the state has to protect the fetus from me as a physician? Now, you’re talking about my credibility. You’re talking about me, not just those crazy…

0:35:58 Michele Goodwin: 

You’re talking about my law license, my medical license.

0:35:59 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Exactly. Exactly. So, it was fine when you would complain about those crazy women, we agree that they needed control, and nobody…someone needs to tell them what to do, but now, you’re saying that me, as an OB/GYN, I need control? So, this underlying, undergirding belief still that women don’t know how to control themselves and need someone to tell them what to do is under all of these policies. So, what happens is it’s not just the evangelicals. It’s white dudes who are OB/GYNs who say, yes, of course, they don’t know how to do this. 

It’s rural Southern folks who are like, well, you know, we are super…we believe that some people, just folks don’t know how to handle themselves, and then, you know, people of color do not go to the doctor like they’re supposed to. They don’t follow instructions, and so, we need to make sure we have laws and policies that control how many children they have, when they have children, and their access to contraception and fertility treatment, right? We don’t even talk about fertility treatment. Every other country that has better outcomes than us pays for infertility, in-vitro fertilization on public insurance for everybody. We can’t even get it on private insurances.

0:36:59 Michele Goodwin:

Well, we don’t even have insurance, you know, for everybody, right? So, let’s just be clear. We have a government still trying to fight against congressional legislation and the Affordable Care Act, so.

0:37:09 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Yeah, so the underlying racism, underlying devaluation, of original sin, of believing that one group is hierarchically…a hierarchy of human value based upon skin color. Until we undo that, all these things are going to continue.

0:37:22 Michele Goodwin:

Oh, so, you know, you’re just opening up a rich and ripe discussion right there because then that brings us into eugenics and Buck v. Bell. All right. So, I’m going to try to like come back to that because this is getting deep, and this could be a five-hour episode instead of just an hour. All right. 

So, pin in that, let us remember that because, Julia, I’d love for you to share with us just what else is in the pipeline with regard to rollbacks, attacks on reproductive health rights and justice. I mean there’s just some very arcane and harmful and cruel laws that have been proposed, and but for the ACLU stepping in, Center for Reproductive rights, and others, we would see what kind of cruel laws already in existence, in some states, what do they look like?

0:38:16 Julia Kaye:

Right. Well, there’s no limit to the creativity of folks who wish to restrict access to abortion care, but really, the most terrifying and sort of straightforward trend that we saw in recent years, very recent years, just last year and 2019, is outright bans on abortion, including very early in pregnancy, including at points in pregnancy when most people don’t even know yet that they’re pregnant, and it is not a coincidence that these outright bans were being passed all across the country precisely at the time when President Trump was making new appointments consistent with his vow to only appoint justices who are committed to overruling Roe v. Wade

So, there was this response that we saw from many states, saying, oh, maybe this…this looks like it might be our shot now, and gosh, don’t we want the name of the case that ends up overruling Roe v. Wade, don’t we want Alabama in that case name, don’t we want Kentucky in that case name? There is this, you know, they’re all elbowing each other to try to be the state that succeeds in banning abortion outright, and so, many of the cases percolating up to the court right now are actually outright bans on abortion. We’re not even talking anymore about the laws like we saw in Louisiana and Texas and many other states that purport to protect patient safety. Of course, everyone knows that’s not really what they’re here to do. They’re designed to shut down clinics, but the masks are off. The legislators don’t even feel they need to pretend anymore that their goal is anything other than eliminating this right for people in their states and in as much of the country as possible.

0:40:02 Michele Goodwin:

And when you’re talking about outright bans, you’re also including no exceptions for rape and incest, right? I mean do these bans make exceptions?

0:40:14 Julia Kaye: 

Some of them do, and some of them don’t, but of course, we, you know, it is all outrageous. It is, of course, if these bans had exceptions for rape and incest and life endangerment, some do, some don’t, it is still…

0:40:30 Michele Goodwin: 

They’d still be crazy, and they’d still be counter to the constitutional right that’s already been established.

0:40:38 Julia Kaye:

Exactly, and you know, I think it is important to emphasize here that virtually all restrictions on abortion disproportionately harm people of color, low-income people, young people, people living in rural areas. There are certain…people who are undocumented. There are certain communities that like in so many other aspects of our society, they bear the brunt. They bear the harm, disproportionately.

0:41:08 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah. So, something I want to…Dr. Joia, so, how do you respond to some who are saying, and this includes Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, saying that, well, you know, abortion is Black genocide, that when he hears about Black women having abortions that what Black women are playing into is white supremacy, Black women are playing into the supremacy that white people have to do away with Black people, and there’s some people that say, well, because Justice Clarence Thomas is Black, he must have some inside scoop on this. So, can you tell us, does Justice Thomas have some inside scoop here, or is that just from Crazyville?

0:41:50 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Once again, if you could see my face. I have never thought Justice Thomas was speaking for Black people. That’s…anyway, but the point is, so, the truth is, just like we were talking about earlier with eugenics, we have to be honest about the racist history of reproduction and reproductive oppression and stratified reproduction in this country and this world that still exists today. So, until we can be that honest and be really clear and that we’re not running from that, but yes, there has been a history and a current position where people believe certain people should have babies and others should not. That’s a fact.

However, if you are not investing in me having equal pay, child care, a safe neighborhood, don’t talk to me about my access to abortion. Like, the hierarchy of needs, everybody’s heard of hierarchy of needs, and the thing that I need is food, water, shelter, power. 

Abortion is going to be on that list because you are not providing any of these other things, so to come to me and say Black and brown people are having more abortions without acknowledging we’ve never invested in Black and brown communities, we’ve hyper-policed them, we’ve mass-incarcerated them, we’ve hyper-sexualized us, all of these things, then say you know but it’s mass genocide against Black people. You know what’s mass genocide? Health care is not a right. Education’s not a right. Police violence, militarizing the police, all of those things, that’s genocide of the Black community. So, talking about abortion in the same sentence is not, once again, being intellectually honest. 

So, no, Clarence Thomas does not speak for Black people. Especially, he does not speak for Black women. Let’s talk about Anita Hill right quick. So, it’s important for us to really reevaluate the messenger and the message. It is easy, though, to pick up that trope until we in the repro space are really honest about the history of racism in our space and the current racism in our organizations and the way people are treated, because that, until we have that honest conversation, they’re always going to be able to come back that they’re just trying to kill you, they’re just trying to kill you. We have to say, no, no, no, we value Black and brown women just as much as we value white women, middle-class women, rural women—we’re all here together. We’re not trying to have one population decreased and say that one group needs to be controlled. All of us deserve justice and joy. So, all of us deserve the full range of reproductive options, from the abortion pill to access to in-vitro fertilization. So, we want it all.

0:44:01 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah. So, let’s talk, then, a little bit about that history because it would be so easy for people to not digest it. I mean let’s be clear that even in 2021 that…and we’re just weeks off of an insurrection with people storming the Capitol, breaking windows, crushing officers, people engaging in behavior resulting in five people dead, you know, all of the…you know, wearing anti-Semitic shirts, you know, clearly, this is white supremacy that was deeply associated with this by what people wore and by what people said, right? One doesn’t have to make it up because this is what people adorned on their bodies and what they carried into the Capitol Building. 

Not since 1812 had there been that level of desecration of our nation’s capital, but even with that, what’s amazing is that people really don’t appreciate and have an understanding about the ways in which Black women’s bodies have been put through the wringer in this country, through private subordination and public subordination. So, tell us just a little bit about that because when people get all tangled up in, well, we’re just trying to protect Black women—have they ever tried to protect Black women, and Black women have autonomy over the control of their bodies?

0:45:28 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

I’m still waiting for that. I am definitely still waiting for that, but you know, the most egregious recent moment is at the border, right, in Georgia, where Black women, brown women, people who were immigrants were…their uteruses were removed. They had surgeries without consent. They were not told what was happening, and so, this is a continuation of the devaluation of women of color and Black and brown bodies. We’re seen to be purposeful and useful for creating bodies for workers, right? So, that legacy in history is not just during slavery. 

Like, if you look at who the essential workers are today, the people, if you go to the grocery store, which I go once a week, who you see are Black and brown people. I would love to see…what does a middle-class white dude look like bagging some groceries, because you just don’t see that, right? So, we’ve accepted and normalized that our bodies are to be used to produce workers, and it’s part of the narrative of this history around the globe, even the Global South…I hate that term, the Global South versus the rest of…like they’re producing the goods, the raw materials, and so, we’re worried about creating more babies in that place. We just want the raw material from the Global…

0:46:28 Michele Goodwin:

Dispensable and disposable is what I’m hearing from you. So, Carrie, I want to turn to you about eugenics because people will probably say, okay, I’ve heard that term on the show in this episode, and they may connect it to Germany, and rightfully so because there was a eugenics platform in Germany, but can you help our listeners to understand that, actually, the Germans learned from the United States, and it was actually based on US law that the Germans picked up. What’s going on there?

0:46:28 Dr. Carrie Baker:

I mean, the Nazis looked around the world for models for the kinds of laws they might adopt. They looked at places like South Africa and the United States, and they saw that the worst laws were here in the United States. Matter of fact, they thought United States had gone too far, and some of the things that they adopted were actually moderations of U.S. laws, but you know, we have this deep history going back to slavery in the United States, and these attitudes and these laws and these practices had deeply shaped how we function as a country, and the roots of anti-abortion, you know, or just controlling women’s reproduction are in slavery, and the roots of sexual assault and the toleration of rape in this country are in slavery. 

The racist roots of rape culture and of the reproductive control of women go all the way back to slavery, and until we engage with that…you know it was the point at which it was socially acceptable to take away control of somebody else’s body, right? That was at the foundation of our country with slavery, and with regard to women, it took particular forms of reproductive control, at the time, forcing women to produce children, later, coercive sterilization preventing them from having children, or more recently, like with the war on drugs, punishing them if they had children, now, taking their children away through the foster care system and the prison industrial complex. There’s that deep history that impacts not just women of color. It impacts all women in very different ways, though, and unless we engage with that directly and the legacy of that history, we’re never going to have reproductive freedom.

0:48:52 Michele Goodwin:

So, what does it take to get to the space where reproductive freedom, reproductive justice, becomes a reality in our country? And just on a scientific note, because we have a scientist with us in Dr. Joia, you know, the Supreme Court has abandoned a care for science. You see a little bit in Whole Woman’s Health, right, the turn to science. It’s what Justice Breyer relies on in that case and the record that’s built by the district court, which is very helpful, and you see that in June Medical too, but there are a couple of things that are worth us noting because the politicization of reproductive health care has been done by people who don’t have an interest in protecting and promoting women’s health. So, for example, in abortion, terminating a pregnancy actually is safer than carrying a pregnancy to term. A person’s 14 times more likely to die by carrying a pregnancy to term. That’s just basic. It’s like a starting point, right?

0:49:57 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Not even thinking about the money the child cost, all that other stuff, right?

0:50:00 Michele Goodwin:

Right. Exactly. Like, you’re just 14 times more likely to die by choosing to carry a pregnancy to term. Like, I’m a mom, I chose that, but you know I was choosing something far riskier for my health in choosing that, and at the same time, for so, so long, the World Health Organization has determined that an abortion is as safe as a penicillin shot, as safe as a penicillin shot, and yet, the rhetoric that surrounds pregnancy termination, you’d think it was the most ridiculous, heinous decision that a person could ever make when that is just inconsistent with scientific evidence. Any commentary on that?

0:50:00 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Yeah. I just feel like it’s so important to think about power and control because, really, at the core, that’s where all these conversations come from, and controlling women’s reproduction through abortion, through controlling who can have access to it, who can fund it, is a core argument, and if you think about the right to like…the march on life or whatever that happened a few years ago, and they were all up here in DC, marching around, pro-life, and then an elder in the Native Indigenous community started chanting, and they quickly switched from their pro-life mantra to racist things they were saying to him, right, because the same power and control and desire to control certain groups of people, it’s the same folks. It’s the same entities. It’s easier that…oppressions love each other. 

So, that’s why you can see gender oppression coming with racial oppression. They just kind of…it’s all the same…it overlaps. So, until we undo that, until we say we don’t believe that any group should be oppressed, and we have to undo the devaluation of people, we’re going to keep seeing it pop up so many times in our movements. We stick to one thing. Like, we’re only fighting for this one part, and then, you’ll see, the same way that they went from talking about pro-life to talking about the anti-Indigenous folks, the same bodies, the same folks, and the same moment—until we understand that that’s how they see this, that they are fighting for controlling all of us. They want to control women. They want to control people of color. They want to control everybody, and they have been able to create policies around that. It’s not new, controlling reproduction. In fact, I tell people all the time. Science was colonized. The fact that race is even part of biology is racism, right? That’s not…

0:52:22 Michele Goodwin:

That’s a social construct.

0:52:22 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Exactly. 

0:52:23 Michele Goodwin:

At the beginning of this show, people might’ve said, well, this just sounds slightly conspiratorial, but then you all have been breaking it down left, right and center, and I’m sure now people are like that’s not conspiracy, that’s just real attack over and over again, and it’s a consistent attack, and again, if we were to go back to history, we would think about the foundations of our country, right? Maybe Julia, right, where here’s a nation that gets to decide what equality will look like, and it decides after coming through the cruelties of Great Britain that equality matters, but it’s only going to be for landed gentry men. Right? 

This is a nation that could’ve decided, oh, women get to be equal. Why not? It’s a nation that could’ve decided that, you know, coverture is a bad idea, you know, married women becoming the property of their husbands. It could’ve been decided that domestic violence is a bad thing, but rather, domestic violence was accepted, so long as you’re beating her with nothing thicker than your thumb, hence, rule of thumb. 

These are the histories that connect to reproductive health rights and justice, and that’s the whole point of what you were mentioning earlier, Dr, Joia, about there being a framework of reproductive justice to understand this all, and when we use that, we see everything.

0:53:43 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Yeah, and I guess I always bring that up because I don’t want us to lose sight of, yes, Trump, this was a lot, these four years, and yes, he did a lot of things, but I lived in Louisiana. We have had lack of access to abortion in Louisiana in my lifetime. I had friends in college who had to put together money on a credit card to go to Texas to have an abortion. So, this idea that Roe v. Wade now is under attack, as if this is new, it frustrates me, this idea that Trump is this aberration frustrates me. 

So, I just want to be clear, the history of reproductive oppression is the history of this country, is the history of what we have exported around the world, and this idea that the abortion pill, you have to come in to the doctor to get it, it’s not necessarily surprising to me because it actually feeds along with what we’ve always done, which is try to control women’s reproduction, control people of color, Hyde, Helms, all of those things. What would be new is for us to stop doing that. That’s what would be actually surprising, like, if we really said, if we had never…because if we said we don’t even really need Roe v. Wade, women just get to choose for their bodies themselves.

0:54:40 Michele Goodwin:

Right. You just get to…exactly. You just get to be a person.

0:54:46 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

A person and have full autonomous…

0:54:48 Michele Goodwin:

And have full autonomy and go seek medical care when you want.

0:54:50 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Oh my god. Exactly.

0:54:52 Michele Goodwin:

Or a midwife or a doctor, and peace and blessings.

0:54:57 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Exactly.

0:54:57 Michele Goodwin:

Right, but we didn’t get peace and blessings, right? So, what does it take? What does the next era to get this right, what does it take? Is it going to be litigation? Is it going to be at the policy level, at the state level? What does it take, Julia?

0:55:14 Julia Kaye:

Well, I comfort myself even when I’m feeling bleak about being an impact litigator when the courts look the way they do, and it feels like the evidence and justice and compassion are no longer the deciding factors, I comfort myself by remembering that litigation is just one of the tools in our toolbox, and when you focus on this particular case, this issue, the Biden-Harris administration can fix this on day one. 

They can fix this on day one by issuing guidance making clear that they’re not going to enforce the in-person requirements for mifepristone, for this medication, at least during the public health emergency, and of course, we’re also calling on them to reevaluate the FDA’s entire package of outdated and medically unjustified restrictions on abortion so that, you know, even beyond the pandemic, patient access is dictated by evidence, not politics, but so, you know, I think it is incredible that this litigation was able to secure an injunction for six months. 

For six months, patients were not subject to this dangerous, burdensome requirement, and also during that six months, we sort of had a…we have the real-world evidence that expanding access in this way, that expanding access through the combination of telemedicine and then the medication being mailed or delivered to patients, it works. It is safe. It is effective. It is… patients like it. Patients are hugely grateful and relieved not to have to make an entirely needless trip, not to have to take time off work and lose wages, not have to arrange the child care and pay for transportation and do all of this, jump through all of these hoops, you know, even assuming they can, not have to do so for no medical reason. So, I’m hopeful that the fact that we saw this play out for six months makes it even more likely that the Biden-Harris administration does the right thing here, and so, you know, litigation is part of it. You sort of, you shift your advocacy. You start with the litigation, and you get as far as you can, and now, we’re shifting our strategy, and we just keep fighting. 

0:57:31 Michele Goodwin:

All right. Well, we’ve come to that part in our show…we could continue this on. We do need to, and we will have more episodes. We look forward to having each of you back on the show, but here’s a question. What’s the silver lining? What can we look forward to that speaks to hope in light of all that we’ve just talked about, which, for many people, might seem to be rather than hopeful, kind of scary.

0:58:02 Dr. Carrie Baker:

So, I think what’s hopeful to me is I think telemedicine abortion is revolutionizing abortion health care in the United States, and I think, in part, that’s because of the pandemic. In part, it’s because of that injunction that Julia referenced that for six months, people in many states could order the abortion pill and consult with their doctors online and through the mail, and you know, going back to, Michele, your point about stigma and misinformation about abortion, I mean, part of what the anti-abortion movement is doing is trying to make abortion seem dangerous and scary, and what telemedicine abortion does is it reveals abortion as simple, safe, convenient, and inexpensive, right? 

I mean, right now, you go to a doctor and you pay $5 to $700 to get the abortion pill. Through telemedicine, you can get it for 200 dollars, and it’s easy, and you can get it even earlier than, you know, if you have to have an ultrasound, you have to wait until six weeks, but now, with the new no-test protocols that have been generated as a result of the pandemic, people realize they can take it the day after they miss their periods, and so, all of this, I think, can transform people’s consciousness and awareness about what abortion is and how it can be easy and simple, but we’ve got to do that public education. We’ve got to make people understand what the abortion pill is, what telemedicine is, and how you don’t have to go and spend an entire day at a clinic and spend $700 and have to go back and make another visit, that it can be simple, it can be easy, and it can be affordable, and I think that’s the silver lining. We’ve learned this, and I think that’s the future of abortion health care in the United States.

0:59:49 Leah Litman:

I think the general positive take-home I would give is this: we have the chance to fight fights that we can win, now, with the Biden administration in place. There’s every reason to think that the Biden administration will seriously consider waiving the in-person requirement to obtain medication abortion. So, there’s every reason to think that the Biden administration will respond to calls to diversify the federal bench and appoint justices who are unapologetic champions of reproductive justice. So, I think knowing that we are faced with fights we can win should give us the energy to fight those fights.

1:00:24 Michele Goodwin:

Dr. Joia, silver lining?

1:00:26 Dr. Joia Crear-Perry:

Silver lining is we have a new administration that’s starting tomorrow. It’s Martin Luther King Day, and let freedom ring. So, we asked for the new administration to have a White House office of sexual and reproductive wellbeing. We recognize that we created the structures around control and planning and eugenics inside of the White House, inside of federal policy. It was baked into…so, just like we talked about legal remedies, we need policy inside of the government. We need from White House through Congress to undo the harms of control, eugenics, devaluation, to invest in equal pay, to invest in…including abortion as part of a right, invest in including fertility treatment as part of a right, including sexual education, your reproductive organs…most people don’t even use them for having a baby, that people can have sex just for pleasure and joy, and that’s part of your rights. So, we look for the opportunity for this new day for a new administration to really build on reproductive and sexual wellbeing.

1:00:26 Michele Goodwin:

That’s right, because we haven’t even gotten to sex education and the fact that that’s also been robbed of young people. Whew.

Julia, silver lining?

1:01:32 Julia Kaye:

Well, I talked a lot about the states that are hostile to access to abortion care and how they capitalized on what they see as new opportunities at the Supreme Court level—but what gives me hope is those states that reacted in a different way, those states that saw the loss of protections at the federal level or you know the imminent loss of protection at the federal level and said we need to step up for the residents of our states. You know, for instance, Massachusetts just passed a fantastically progressive and important piece of legislation to expand access to abortion care and remove unjustified barriers, and that was also a direct response to, really, Justice Barrett’s confirmation. 

New Mexico, New Jersey, a number of other states are considering similar measures this legislative session, and we’re hopeful that we’ll see that kind of change enacted, and last year, in the past two years, we saw huge progress in states, including New York and Illinois and others. So, it would not be accurate to say that this is…that everything’s going backwards, that it’s all about the losses, and it’s all about the fear of the future. We are also seeing huge progress on certain issues and in certain areas.

1:03:02 Michele Goodwin: 

Guests and listeners, that’s it for today’s episode of “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” at Ms. Magazine. I want to thank my guests, Carrie Baker, Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Julia Kaye, and the fabulous Leah Litman for joining us and being part of this critical and insightful conversation, and to our listeners, I thank you for tuning in for the full story. We hope you’ll join us again for our next episode, where we will be reporting, rebelling and telling it like it is with special guests tackling issues related to mass incarceration: Don’t Forget About the Women. It will be an episode you will not want to miss, and for more information about what we discussed today, head to msmagazine.com. 

Now, if you believe, as we do, that women’s voices matter, that equality for all persons cannot be delayed, and that rebuilding America, being unbought and unbossed, and reclaiming our time are important, then be sure to visit us at Apple Podcasts. Look for us at msmagazine.com for new content and special episode updates, rate and subscribe to “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts and Stitcher. Let us know what you think about our show, and please, support independent feminist media, and if you’re so inclined, feel free to engage with us at ontheissues@msmagazine.com. That’s ontheissues@msmagazine.com.

This has been your host, Michele Goodwin, reporting, rebelling and telling it like it is. “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” is a Ms. Magazine joint production. Kathy Spillar and Michele Goodwin are our executive producers. Our producers for this episode are Maddy Pontz, Roxy Szal and Mariah Lindsay. The creative vision behind our work includes art and design by Brandi Phipps, editing by Will Alvarez and Marsh Allen, and music by Chris J. Lee, and we’re so grateful for the assistance of Oliver Haug. Stephanie Wilner provides executive assistance.