“If anyone had any doubts before, what we’ve seen in recent weeks has made it very clear that we are in a state of emergency for women’s health in America,” Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen told HuffPost.
The women’s health organization released a report Thursday afternoon which details every abortion restriction and ban enacted in the last few weeks. States including Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Missouri have all banned abortion as early as the first trimester.
“I come from this as a former public health official, having called states of emergency before for other crises,” Wen said, “but unlike a state of emergency that’s called after natural disasters or infectious diseases, this is a man-made disaster that’s years in the making and it’s endangering women’s lives.”
Alabama implemented by far the most extreme legislation earlier this month, banning all abortions from the time a person is “known to be pregnant” and providing no exceptions for rape or incest. Last month, lawmakers in Texas introduced a bill that would threaten people who undergo an abortion procedure with the death penalty.
Planned Parenthood has responded to this legislative assault by filing lawsuits in Missouri, Alabama and Georgia. The health organization is also supporting federal legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act and a resolution to protect Roe v. Wade, the historic 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. The group will also roll out a paid digital campaign to educate voters about what’s at stake in light of these abortion restrictions.
Wen emphasized that restricted abortion access is part of a much larger problem for women and gender non-conforming people in the U.S. Currently, women are 50 percent more likely to die during childbirth than they were 30 years ago. Black women, in particular, are three to four times more likely to die during birth than white women are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“In this setting, we are further cutting access to health care and that will directly endanger women’s lives,” she said.
These abortion bans and restrictions, Wen added, will specifically harm the most marginalized: women of color, trans and gender non-conforming individuals, as well as women who live in rural areas who already face barriers to accessing health care.
Jack Qu’emi Gutierréz, who identifies as non-binary and has had an abortion, explained how much harder it will be for gender non-conforming people to access abortion care once these bans are implemented.
“I feel like more people in my community are probably going to be even less inclined to seek medical care for any reason,” Gutierréz said.
“You’re going to have a lot higher rates of illness of all kinds in transgender and non-conforming communities, and I expect the suicide rate to go up if abortion is not accessible,” they added. “I know that if I had been forced to take that thing to term... There’s no way I would be here for you to talk to me now.”
Abortion rights advocates and Planned Parenthood supporters are planning to mobilize around the country in the coming days as part of the group’s “nationwide emergency response weekend of action,” Wen said.
“Like any other state of emergency, we need all hands on deck,” she said. “I encourage anyone who cares about women’s health and access to abortion care in America to take action, because this is a failure of our system.”