Free Abortions on Demand Without Apology

Free Abortions on Demand Without Apology

Free Abortions on Demand Without Apology

Women’s reproductive health isn’t just about what is covered in mainstream media.


Abortion rights advocates gather in Smith Park in Jackson, Mississippi, to rally support for a woman's right to an abortion, Saturday, July 15, 2006. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

When did so many feminists get polite on abortion? I cannot take hearing another pundit insist that only a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s work is providing abortions or that some women need birth control for “medical” reasons. Tiptoeing around the issue is exhausting, and it’s certainly not doing women any favors.

It’s time resuscitate the old rallying cry for “free abortions on demand without apology.” It may not be a popular message but it’s absolutely necessary. After all, the opposition doesn’t have nearly as many caveats. They’re fighting for earlier and earlier bans on abortions, pushing for no exceptions for rape and incest, fighting against birth control coverage—even insisting that they have the right to threaten abortion providers. The all-out strategy is working; since 2010, more than fifty abortion clinics have stopped providing services.

The anti-choice movement isn’t pulling any punches—why should we?

This may be the outcome of 2012’s “war on women”: messaging that mobilized voters, got mainstream media coverage and put reproductive rights at the center the national conversation. But efforts to appeal to all often meant framing reproductive rights issues in the most palatable way possible: by shying away from wholeheartedly supporting comprehensive abortion access.

Earlier this month, I went to the launch of All Above All, a campaign dedicated to restoring public funding for abortion. I listed to partners in the campaign—representatives from organizations like the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights—describe the desperate need to stop treating funding for abortion as a “third-rail issue.” They talked about women who had to sell diapers and formula to be able to afford their abortions, and the incredible toll the Hyde Amendment takes on low-income families. It’s a message reproductive justice proponents and organizations have been hammering home for years, a message the mainstream movement has been hesitant to take on.

I understand the trepidation—we live in a country where even talking about insurance coverage for birth control erupted in a national slut-shaming extravaganza. But the cost of remaining “mainstream-friendly” is too high. Women should not have to count on bowl-a-thons and yard sales to be able to access the care they need. As wonderful as abortion funds are, their existence is proof that the United States is failing the most in need.

Too many of us—especially those with access and power to the mainstream—have become convinced that public funding for abortions will never happen. But Hyde is only a given if we refuse to take it on. All feminists should be taking a cue from the work that reproductive justice organizations and activists have been doing for so long—centering the most marginalized.

“Free abortions on demand without apology” is a call for equal access to a constitutional right. More importantly, it’s a promise that feminists won’t ignore the needs of all women in favor of tailoring messages to the mainstream. Because being pro-choice means doing what’s right, not what’s popular.

In her letter to Chelsea Manning, Aura Bogado talks about making the world a better place for all women.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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