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Defending reproductive rights: A call to action

Natasha Perez

Two years ago, the unprecedented leak of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision showed exactly where Donald Trump’s court was headed — restricting access to reproductive rights in striking down Roe v. Wade.

By the time the formal ruling was handed down in June, states across the country were already responding to the seismic legal shift. Massachusetts got in gear by passing a bill affirming access to choice in the Bay State. But many other states went in reverse gear, limiting choice and imposing health risks to women losing bodily autonomy.

In the state Senate, where I once worked as chief of staff to the Senate president, the measure passed unanimously, signaling our state’s dedication to protecting these fundamental rights. It passed the House as well and was signed into law on July 29, 2022.

Two years later, this victory stands in sharp contrast to other parts of the country, where the landscape of reproductive rights is facing unprecedented challenges, particularly in the South, where regressive measures are eroding hard-won protections.

Thirteen states, anticipating the Supreme Court decision, passed “trigger” laws that generally ban abortion at any stage of a pregnancy except in special circumstances. Others restricted the types of providers who can offer the procedure, while some limited access to medication abortions, requiring that they only be performed by physicians.

The playbook is clear: Take cues from the current composition of the Supreme Court to pass state laws introducing restrictive measures that undermine established protections without fear of intervention from the federal judiciary. This is not a coincidence but a calculated move that disregards the well-being and autonomy of individuals, especially women. 

Donald Trump brags about being the person responsible for overturning Roe and has dodged politically tricky questions about a federal abortion ban by saying decisions about abortion are now in the hands of the states. But he can’t dodge the reality that one in three women of reproductive age now lives under an abortion ban. Women are being denied care at emergency rooms and are being forced to go to court to get permission for care. Doctors are under legal threats for doing their job.

The impact of these attacks on reproductive rights is not uniform. It disproportionately affects marginalized communities, particularly people of color. The South, with its higher Black population, often faces systemic barriers and minimal support for public health initiatives. When reproductive rights are curtailed, it exacerbates existing health disparities and further marginalizes those already facing systemic inequalities. It is a stark reminder that the fight for reproductive rights is inherently linked to broader social justice and equity struggles.

The upcoming election carries immense weight, not just for reproductive rights but also for critical issues that directly impact communities of color. Over the past four years, we have witnessed significant challenges, from environmental injustices to disparities in healthcare and the criminal justice system. These challenges have disproportionately affected marginalized communities, highlighting the urgent need for proactive and decisive action. 

We must be bold and active in the face of these challenges. Every election, every vote matters. It is a chance to defend and advance our hard-fought gains in various social justice spheres. Our ability to mobilize and turn out the vote will determine the trajectory of our collective future. It is about protecting existing rights and forging a path towards a more just, equitable and inclusive society for all.

It is crucial to recognize that reproductive rights are not isolated issues but integral components of broader human rights and dignity struggles. The fight for reproductive justice encompasses the right to make autonomous decisions about one’s body, access to comprehensive healthcare, and the dismantling of systemic barriers that perpetuate inequality. It is a fight that requires solidarity, resilience and unwavering commitment.

As we navigate these challenging times, let us recommit ourselves to defending reproductive rights and standing in solidarity with all those fighting for justice. Let us use our voices, votes and collective power to ensure that reproductive rights remain protected and that the vision of a more equitable and inclusive society becomes a reality. Together, we can make a difference and build a future where everyone has the freedom and agency to make decisions about their bodies, health and lives. The time to act is now, and the stakes could not be higher.

Natasha Perez is vice president for strategic communications at the Northeast Clean Energy Council.

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