Republicans have always been overt about wanting to remove control of women's bodies from, well, women. They're especially good, though, at doing it covertly as well. Take the COVID-19 crisis. You can be sure that while the nation is understandably consumed with staying informed, and hopefully alive during the pandemic, the GOP is busy finding ways to go stealth about restricting rights for the marginalized — in this case, women.
Elie Mystal wrote about this on a macro level at The Nation. The courts, packed by and with Federalist Society judges, hell-bent on taking us back to the 1950s, are already taking advantage of COVID-19. I urge you to read the piece in its entirety to get a sense of the contempt with which the GOP hold women, and the legal details of how fragile our hold on this right really is. In a nutshell:
Within the last few weeks, the governors of Texas, Ohio, Iowa, and Alabama—Republicans all—have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to issue orders further restricting the rights of women. Their excuse? Abortions are “elective” medical procedures and therefore have to be put on hold alongside all the other elective procedures that are being suspended during the crisis. As if a woman’s right to her body is akin to getting a nose job.
If states are allowed to ban abortions because of a state of emergency, that’s a power Republicans will use again and again to shut down abortion providers.
Governors declare states of emergencies for all sorts of things. Every one of those emergencies could be used as pretext to ban abortions, if the coronavirus restrictions stand.
While Mystal speaks to our legal rights from a legislative and judicial standpoint, I'd like to take you into the streets. Not only is the GOP using this pandemic/crisis as cover to further restrict women's reproductive rights. They're making the women who approach clinics less safe for another reason.
Clinic Escorts are no longer allowed at most Planned Parenthood and family planning clinics. That's where I take my stand against forced birthers. (I will never call these people "pro-life." They care nothing for the life of the mother, nor do they care for the child once it has passed through the birth canal.) I volunteer as a clinic escort - we escorts are all volunteers.
Because of COVID-19, Planned Parenthood, and other family planning clinics have asked clinic defense escorts to stop coming. The patients who have appointments now must approach the clinics without the benefit of a friendly face who can act as a calming buffer between them and the forced-birther, anti-choice protesters trying to harass them. In order to do our jobs as escorts, we put our bodies between the patients and the forced birthers. We shield them. We offer our arms to hold. We speak calmly to them so that they can focus on something other than the misogynists trying to coerce them away from their chosen path. We cannot do this from 6 feet away.
Do you think the forced-birth protestors are abiding by social distancing guidelines? Stay-at-home orders? Guess what? They aren't.
At the clinics where I escort, I know the protestors are still there, no masks, no 6-feet distancing, and freedom to approach patients at will. In North Carolina, fifty forced-birthers — FIFTY! — gathered to harass patients at a women's health clinic. Police dispersed the crowd, and arrested eight of them for violating the ban on mass gatherings. Senator Ted Cruz was outraged at the arrests.
2/x WATCH: This is an unconstitutional arrest. @BenhamBrothers exercising core First Amendment rights. PEACEFULLY. In a way fully consistent w/ public safety. Because elected Dems are pro-abortion, they are abusing their power—in a one-sided way—to silence pregnancy counselors. https://t.co/at4UxQrXBU
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 4, 2020
Again, there were 50 of these assh0les gathering to harass women seeking legal medical treatment. Joyce Vance explained it to him.
It's not pregnancy counseling if the pregnant woman doesn't request it. It's just harassment. https://t.co/NkKqHVv8oN
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) April 5, 2020
It has been killing me not be able to escort, because I know firsthand the harassment these women face, the lies they're told, the tricks employed, the sweet-talk, the double-talk, the anger and intimidation they face. Here is just one of the more despicable examples: they rent spaces right next to legitimate family planning clinics and call them "Pregnancy Crisis Centers." They try steer women into THOSE offices to work their manipulation in private. Sometimes it's 10 or 15 minutes before the patient will come out bewildered and/or furious because they didn't realize they were going into a Christian "crisis" center. Without us there to help, some might not make it to the correct clinic at all, or they might miss their appointment entirely and have to reschedule — if they even have the luxury of rescheduling.
Yet, because we follow the rules, and don't want to infect/endanger the women, we do what the clinics ask of us and stay home, it means these anti-choice, forced-birth, hypocrite misogynist psychos have easier access to their prey.
So yes, on a grand scale, legislators and judges are using the pandemic to whittle away further at what few reproductive rights to which women cling. But on a micro scale, misogynistic forced-birthers are taking full advantage of COVID-19 to harass and abuse vulnerable women even more on their way into clinics, because escorts are not there to help. And you can be sure they're still out there, swooping in because they know we're not — no masks, no 6-ft buffer. These anti-choice, sadistic assh0les inflicting everything from inconvenience to trauma on women and girls just seeking LEGAL medical care for all kinds of things, mind you - not just pregnancy.
The ones who try claim the "pro-life" moniker are willing to infect pregnant women with COVID-19 in order to convince them to carry out a pregnancy they don't want or that present a danger to them. A pregnancy that might not survive a now newly COVID-19-positive mother. They are risking killing both mother and fetus. But hey. They're just providing "counseling," right Sen. Cruz?