How Anti-Abortion Laws Negatively Affect Women's Health At Large

A new documentary explores the hidden ways women are being punished.

In the 12th week of Laurie Bertram Roberts’ second pregnancy, she went to the hospital because she feared she was having a miscarriage. The doctors at the Catholic hospital she went to told her that she was indeed having a miscarriage, but that they couldn’t do anything because the fetus, which had stopped growing weeks ago, still had a heartbeat. 

After she’d been sent home, she began bleeding so heavily that she passed out. Only when the fetus’s heart stopped beating hours later, and when Roberts was close to dying from all of the blood loss, was she able to be treated. 

Roberts’ story is not unique ― many women have been forced to access health care at Catholic hospitals, and had their health care adversely affected because of it. 

This is just one example of what can happen when we consider a fetus a person.

Birthright: A War Story,” directed by Civia Tamarkin and co-written by Luchina Fisher, looks at how the anti-abortion rights movement and the religious right have mobilized in the days after Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973, and how the legislation passed by these groups affects women.

Tamarkin told HuffPost during an interview for AOL BUILD that the growing presence of Catholic hospitals stems from anti-abortion groups’ constant push for personhood laws and religious-based health care. 

“From the day that Roe v. Wade came into effect, the opposition has been trying to establish a constitutional amendment stating that a fetus is protected and is a person guaranteed all the rights under the constitution,” she said. “Since then, there have been various measures to declare the personhood of the fetus...if you establish the personhood of the fetus, then any harm to that fetus falls under criminal statutes, like homicide.” 

Fisher agreed: “It’s an intrusion of women’s lives right from the very beginning [of a pregnancy].” 

Anti-abortion protestors come together to protest in Arizona. 
Anti-abortion protestors come together to protest in Arizona. 

Because of their insidious nature ― take recent legislation in Arkansas, for example ― personhood laws can fly under the radar, and are often a way to chip away at abortion access without a legislator ever having to use the word “abortion.”

The expansion of Catholic hospitals is another way to limit what a woman can choose to do with the fetus that grows inside her body. When private Catholic hospitals buy out general hospitals, their rules change, and all health care provided must meet the regulations of Catholic health care. The Catholic church is, of course, highly outspoken against abortion, often even in the case of rape, incest, or a miscarriage like the one that Roberts had. 

What both Tamarkin and Fisher want to see in the U.S. is the same anger and urgency directed toward laws like these that women had before Roe v. Wade was passed.

“People need to get active,” she said.

“Women need to go back to taking to the streets. The Women’s March was so effective, but that was back in January...this is now July, and we are not seeing those kinds of numbers despite all the action that the Trump administration is taking.”

Check out the full Q&A above, and check out the “Birthright” website for release dates and more information.



Abortion, After the Decision