The vast majority of Americans understand that abortion is health care, and health care is not a crime.
Just this year, six Republican-led states have passed draconian, near-total abortion bans that make basic health care a crime, and that are designed to give the Supreme Court a chance to end legal abortion rights nationwide.
But the overwhelming majority of Americans support the right to safe, legal abortion — and tens of thousands of them are taking to the streets Tuesday for more than 500 "Stop the Bans" protests in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
"This is now a fight we can and will win, if Americans are ready to act on their convictions and make women’s health a priority," said Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and president and chief executive of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a Washington Post op-ed about the Republican attacks. Planned Parenthood is among the lead organizers of Tuesday's protests.
Protesters flooded the streets wearing the red Handmaid's Tale robes, from the dystopian Margaret Atwood story about women being used as birth slaves, which have become a symbol of Republican attempts to reduce women to their reproductive capacity and outlaw their health care.
The rallies included a large gathering in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., where the fate of all Americans' reproductive rights could rest in the hands of Trump's extremist anti-choice appointees, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
The recent rash of six-week abortion bans isn't likely to go into effect because the bans are so blatantly unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade. But the conservatives who pass them are determined to use the resulting legal battles to try to get the Supreme Court to overturn the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision.
One of the extreme bills protesters objected to, passed in Georgia, would subject women to up to 10 years in jail for having a "criminal abortion" — and could also expose them to murder charges because it grants fetuses full legal rights. The same penalties could apply to doctors who perform the procedure.
Trump openly admitted on the 2016 campaign trail that if abortion were outlawed, there would have to be "some form of punishment" for women who ended their pregnancies.
And while he was forced to walk that back because anti-abortion movement leaders objected, that doesn't change the reality that abortion bans inevitably punish women — both through the physical and emotional torture of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term, and through the criminal justice system.
Even today, when abortion is supposed to be legal, police and prosecutors use anti-choice state laws as an excuse to pursue criminal charges against women who have miscarriages.
Abortion is health care for people who are pregnant and don't want to be, or who want to be but can't for medical reasons. Nearly 1 in 4 women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and the vast majority of Americans also recognize that abortion is and should be an individual health care decision, not a crime.
When Republicans try to make health care a crime, they can expect a serious reckoning.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.