Delivery of Care

An escalating cultural, political war on abortion

In Rhode Island, a new billboard proclaims: “Abortion is health care and health care is a human right”

Image courtesy of The Womxn Project Education Fund

The graphic representation of one of four new billboards created by The Womxn Project Education Fund.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 4/10/23
As contradictory federal court decisions occurred on the use of FDA-approved abortion drugs, a new billboard campaign in RI seeks to promote abortion as health care.
Why is Gov. McKee fighting a proposed increase in the Attorney General’s budget, given how successful AG Neronha’s office has been in curtailing gun violence, recouping hundreds of millions of dollars for the state in legal challenges to the unscrupulous drug companies and utility mergers? When will Brown Medical School speak out and enter the fray around the training of medical students for abortion? When will the General Assembly enact the Equality in Abortion Coverage legislation? What budgetary provisions are in place to protect those losing health insurance coverage through the Medicaid eligibility renewal process to ensure that they have access to abortion coverage through private health insurance plans?
The departure of RI Department of Administration Director James Thorsen on April 28, coupled with the abrupt medical leave by DCAMM Director David Patten, opens up the potential for a widening scandal within the McKee administration over its sketchy budget plans when it comes to state agency budgets – including Housing, BHDDH, DCYF, DHS, the Department of Health. The inability to allocate the resources for hiring entry-level workers, as well as DOA’s strategy to dismantle the infrastructure for behavioral health services during a time of acute need, undercuts the Governor’s posturing around economic recovery. Will legislative leaders have the gumption to hold the McKee administration accountable for its budgetary shortfalls -- and correct them?
As we approach the 53rd celebration of Earth Day, how we define the environmental movement has become more difficult to do, given the way that the fossil fuel industry keeps promoting misinformation and disinformation about the industry’s role in plastics manufacturing. At the dinner table conversation, I envision the families of all the former Philadelphia Phillies players who contracted brain cancer, and the apparent link to the toxins contained in the synthetic turf that the ballplayers were subjected to. Throw in reporter Sharon Lerner from ProPublica, Rosanna Xia from the LATimes, and Sandra scientist Steingraber, to talk about the dangers of PFAS.

PROVIDENCE – The stirring words of Winston Churchill in June of 1940, promising that Britain would fight against “the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule,” standing up to the threat of invasion from Nazi Germany, seems to capture the tenor of our times here in Rhode Island:

“We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; and we shall never surrender.”

The battle to fight for the right to an abortion, for the right for women to make their own choices for health care, and for the equitable delivery of health care services is being fought in the courts, in the legislature, on the airwaves – and now on highway billboards in Rhode Island.

Four artist-designed billboards promoting reproductive justice will be displayed along Route 95, beginning on April 3 through July 17, with the goal to de-stigmatize abortion, according to Christina DiChiera, director of The Womxn Project Education Fund, in an email to ConvergenceRI.

“Abortion was a safe and legal health care procedure nationwide for over half a century,” Dichiera wrote. “It has given people who faced unwanted pregnancies the ability to control their bodies, choose their paths and, in many cases, protect their health and their lives.”

She continued: “Abortion is now illegal in 23 states across the nation – this is a tragic and dangerous reality for thousands of people facing unwanted and unplanned pregnancies. As our first billboard states: abortion is health care and health care is a human right.”

The Womxn Project Education Fund is committed to combating misinformation by helping people access credible information, according to DiChiera. “We believe that everyone deserves science-based knowledge, financial resources, the safest available medical procedures, privacy and respect. Our billboards are a big and bold way to connect people to that work.

The shifting political landscape
A legal challenge to FDA-approved drug, mifepristone, proved successful before a Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas, only to be contradicted by a another, separate ruling by a federal court in Washington state, holding that a nationwide injunction blocking mifepristone’s distribution would be “inappropriate.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse weighed in on the Texas judge’s decision: “In a backdoor attempt to impose a nationwide medication abortion ban, a Trump-appointed judge has overturned a decades-old FDA decision about a safe drug,” Sen. Whitehouse said. “Nothing has changed about the law or the drug, which is used in abortions and to protect the health of women going through miscarriages, but anti-abortion extremists were able to shop their case to an overtly political judge willing to carry out their agenda”

Sen. Whitehouse sought to reassure Rhode Islanders. “Women should know mifepristone is still currently available, and Democrats will fight to make sure it is not taken out of pharmacies in Rhode Island and across the country.”

Sen. Jack Reed also criticized the Texas ruling, describing it as “right-wing judicial overreach” that’ll limit women’s access in “every state in America,” as reported by the Boston Globe’s Alexa Gagosz.

Gov. Dan McKee also joined the fray on Twitter, calling the Texas decision “another devastating attack on reproductive rights. Make no mistake. We are committed to ensuring reproductive freedom is protected in Rhode Island.”

R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha, who had joined the lawsuit brought in Washington state, responded by saying on Twitter: “We joined other AGs in Washington state to ensure nothing changed here in RI. And won. So RI women and their doctors can go forward as they always have. Are there fights ahead? Sure. And, we’ll continue to be in them.”

On the ground
Jocelyn Foye, the executive director of The Womxn Project, promised that there would be a “tough fight ahead” after the initial mifepristone ruling in Texas. Foye framed the coming political fight as one where it will be up to citizens to protect their rights. “The laws and the courts don’t keep us safe; we do,[emphasis added],” Foye said.

“Mifepristone was first approved by the FDA more than 20 years ago, and has since been used by more than five million people to safely end their pregnancies,” Foye wrote in the news release. “Medication abortion or abortion using pills is extremely safe. Serious complications occur in less than one-third of one percent [0.31%] of medication abortions. Abortion using pills is highly effective with a success rate over 95 percent. In this time when it is more and more difficult to access abortions, [mifepristone] is also a crucial piece of access.”

Foye continued: “Everyone should have the ability to make decisions about their own reproductive lives and futures, including choosing the method of abortion that works best for their circumstances. We must be clear that abortion is still legal in all the places it had already been permitted, even though this judge is trying to put up needless barriers to accessing mifepristone.”

Foye concluded: “We will never stop doing all we can to make sure we control our health decisions, our bodies, and our futures.”

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