By Sikivu Hutchinson
I have always considered so-called “pro-life” anti-abortion zealots to be virulently pro-death. Not just the male stalkers who terrorize and police women with plastic bloody fetuses outside of abortion clinics, but the female anti-abortion architects who wear their complicity with white supremacist capitalist patriarchy proudly and unabashedly, rail against birth control and welfare, and demonize black children who are warehoused in foster care, jails and in the streets because of the neoliberal destruction of the social safety net. In a 2014 discussion between feminist cultural critic bell hooks and trans activist and actress Laverne Cox, hooks argued that folks who are against reproductive health care can’t be considered feminists. In this era, when women’s right to self-determination is under siege on multiple levels, being for reproductive justice is non-negotiable for a feminism based on economic justice.
The Trump administration’s potential restoration of the so-called domestic “gag rule” (which was originally implemented by the Reagan administration in 1988 and was rescinded by president Clinton in 1993) is the latest act of state violence against women’s right to self-determination which directly attacks poor women of color. It would prohibit health care providers who receive federal Title X funds from informing patients about abortion services. It would also “require physical and financial separation” of a clinic’s abortion-related services from its Title X services. Instituted under the Nixon administration, Title X funds are specifically designated for family planning and preventive health care for low income and uninsured patients. Title X provides funding for birth control, cancer and STD/STI screening and pregnancy counseling services. As part of the Religious Right’s “death by a thousand cuts” strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade, the policy takes direct aim at Planned Parenthood, one of the biggest sources of health care for women in the U.S. Planned Parenthood and other health care providers which receive Title X funding are frequently the only federally funded providers in rural and low-income communities. The gag rule is opposed by the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Restricting providers from giving women full and accurate information about their options for abortion subverts the very foundation of trust between patient and practitioner. Like the totalitarian prohibitions on speech and information in George Orwell’s novel 1984, the gag order would effectively condemn working class women to incomplete and/or inaccurate information while middle class women with private health coverage would continue to be empowered with the resources and information to control their bodies. The gag rule essentially extends the anti-abortion ethos of the 1976 Hyde Amendment (which banned federal funding for abortions except for rape and incest) to medical speech. It lays bare the most dangerous element of the Trump administration’s anti-abortion crusade—the complete and utter fascist colonization of women’s reproduction via state violence.
Women of color overwhelmingly rely on Title X funded clinics for comprehensive care and counseling on family planning. According to California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Latinas comprise 53% of the nearly one million women who receive services at Title X clinics in California. Further, nearly a million African American women rely on Title X funded health care. According to the Black Women’s Health Imperative, 21% of patients who rely on Title X for birth control and reproductive health care are African American. The gag rule—coupled with the wave of reproductive health care clinic closures that have devastated poor communities of color in the South and Midwest—are clear examples of how abortion is an economic justice issue, a vital pathway that affords women access to jobs, housing, education and wealth equity when they’re in control of their bodies and destinies. And any entity that would aid and abet Trump’s criminal gag rule is not “pro-life” but an accessory to state violence.
Reproductive justice organizations are calling on communities to protest the gag rule by submitting comments to Health and Human Services by July 31st.