Former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards issued a stark warning about a rising conservative wave of attacks on abortion rights on Wednesday, a trend that she hopes can be stayed by the power of an opposing women’s movement. In an Op-Ed for The Los Angeles Times, Richards noted that state governments across the country had taken to passing a myriad of legislation meant to inhibit or prevent women from gaining access to abortion — including Iowa, where lawmakers passed a so-called “heartbeat bill” banning the procedure after just six weeks of pregnancy. In Arkansas, medication abortion was effectively banned outright after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by Planned Parenthood — leaving women in Arkansas with no clinics available to them outside of Little Rock, where the state’s only surgical abortion provider is located.
“There is no medical or health reason for this ban on medication abortion,” wrote Richards. “Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, non-invasive medication abortion is safe by all measures — safer than Tylenol and Viagra, even.”
Nonetheless, an Arkansas law barring medical abortions unless providers have a contract with a second doctor with hospital admitting privileges was allowed to take effect by the Supreme Court — in spite of the fact that in 2016, the Supreme Court struck down a near identical restriction passed in Texas three years earlier. These restrictions, Richards said, hurt poor women the most, since they cannot afford to travel out of state and already have limited access to reproductive care. Planned Parenthood is continuing to fight the Arkansas law, but for now, she says, the nearly 20 percent of Arkansas residents living below the poverty line have effectively been stripped of access to abortion.
The silver lining of this disheartening trend, Richards added, is that public support for Roe v. Wade has quietly climbed to 70 percent — the highest, she says, that it’s ever been. And with an unprecedented number of women running for political office, Richards says she’s “hopeful that these harmful policies will soon become relics of the past.”
Read the full Op-Ed at The Los Angeles Times.