Last week, Hulu premiered its latest original show, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which portrays a dystopian future where women have been robbed of their political and economic power and reduced to their reproduction. One of the most disturbing aspects of the story is its portrayal of how a world seemingly identical to our own became such a nightmare.
I wish I could say it seems beyond belief — but even here in Minnesota, there are politicians who are bent on passing new, ever-more-restrictive laws designed to undermine women’s decisions and cut us off from the care we need. There is a bill currently making its way through our Legislature that would take us closer to a world in which women’s decisions are no longer our own.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I’m proud that Minnesota is one of more than a dozen states that include coverage for abortion in public health insurance for low-income women. This upholds the value of not treating someone differently just because of their income.
Still, I talk to women across our state who are struggling to afford an abortion — whether because of the lost wages from taking time away from work or the cost of transportation or child care, or other barriers. Low-income women already face substantial logistical and financial barriers to getting an abortion – and House File 809 would make those significantly worse.
As an organization committed to ensuring that all Minnesotans — whatever their income— can get the reproductive care they need without politicians interfering, Pro-Choice Resources works tirelessly to connect those who call us with the resources they need to keep their appointments and pay for their care. But our job is made so much harder, and sometimes impossible, when politicians take away health coverage.
Every day we talk with people who need help accessing abortion care, making an adoption plan or connecting to parenting services. We know firsthand that forcing a poor woman to continue an unwanted pregnancy against her will — simply because she can’t afford an abortion — is contrary to our state’s values of justice and compassion and can be devastating for women and families.
A disproportionate impact
Restrictions on abortion coverage have a disproportionate impact on low-income families, women of color, immigrants, and young people. We reject these restrictions and we won’t be punished by politicians who want to bully women by taking away insurance coverage for abortion or make health care inaccessible for communities who are already marginalized.
We’re not alone. According to national polling, the public is more supportive of abortion rights than ever. Polling from Pew Research Center in October 2016 shows the highest levels of support for legal abortion since 1995. Polling also shows that most people don’t support bans on insurance coverage for abortion. Recent data indicates that most people in the United States oppose bans on abortion coverage, and polling last year by Hart Research Associates shows that three in four battleground voters agree with the statement, “However we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage for it just because she’s poor.” There is broad consensus on this point across party lines and age.
This legislative attack on Minnesota women’s decisions is part of a deeply disturbing trend: Since 2010, state politicians have passed more than 300 new restrictions aimed at pushing abortion care out of reach — all of which have made it even harder for low-income women to access and afford this care.
These laws are designed to shut down clinics, force women to delay care, and shame and punish women for making the decision to end a pregnancy. They are often passed quietly, and build up over time — and ultimately lead to a situation in many states where abortion is a right in name only. We can stop that from happening here in Minnesota by defeating HB 809 and any other policy that would take reproductive care away from those who need it.
Let’s stop this legislation in its tracks and show that at least here in Minnesota, “The Handmaid’s Tale” remains firmly in the fiction category.
Karen Law is the executive director of Pro-Choice Resources.
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