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Choice 101

How to get up to speed on the basics of reproductive rights.
 
 
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Reproductive freedom is a complicated, multifaceted issue. Decisions made by state legislators, school boards, or even college campus authorities can affect individual women as much as any Supreme Court ruling. So, to recognize the 35th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, Campus Progress has assembled a brief reading list. If you want to fill yourself in on the basics of every angle of the reproductive rights debate, here’s where to start.

Roe v. Wade

What would happen if Roe were overturned? Ever since John Roberts and Samuel Alito joined the Supreme Court, this chilling question has taken on heightened importance for reproductive rights advocates everywhere. In the June 2006 issue of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Rosen takes an impressively comprehensive look at the fallout that would result from Roe being overturned, from the impact on low-income women to electoral turmoil that could redraw America’s political boundaries.

Parental Consent

Although laws guaranteeing a woman's right to an abortion are on the books, many states persist in making it exceedingly difficult for a woman to obtain the procedure. Some states seek to hamper access by passing parental notification laws. As Jennifer Baumgardner discusses on Alternet, the main problem with these laws, other than their blatant injustice, is that they are actually rather ineffective. Baumgardner recalls how her sister received a judicial bypass to avoid the parental notification requirement 20 years ago, as some women across the country often do today. Yet, while Baumgardner aided her sister in evading their mom and dad, she still encourages young women to discuss this monumental decision with their own parents. She notes that the most important thing is that young women have the ability to make the decision in the first place. “I want to do anything I can to help girls and parents turn to each other, willingly,” she writes.

Contraceptive Access on Campus

Cost can be a limiting factor for college women on the birth control pill. Recently, the co-pays for many oral contraceptives have doubled in price. As noted in Mother Jones, this is the result “of a change in a Medicaid rebate law that means pharmaceutical companies are no longer providing large discounts on some drugs to universities, including, surprise, contraceptives.” Women across the country are being forced to break the bank just to continue with their regular practices, and clinics are struggling to maintain the distribution of inexpensive contraceptives to their clientele. And even after making Plan B available over the counter for more than a year, Salon’s Broadsheet examines how accessible emergency contraception really is. As icing on the cake, according to a recent Associated Press poll, this comes as at a time when a majority of Americans are actually in favor of giving contraceptives to public high-school students.

Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

What do the academics and empirical studies say about efficacy of abstinence-only education? In a July 18, 2007 New York Times story, Laura Beil takes a look at the modern abstinence-only education movement. While the movement’s effectiveness and future are nebulous, the Bush administration is pouring thousands of dollars into abstinence programs across the country. Beil follows recent high school grad Jami Waite, who is the face behind the Virginity Rules campaign, and presents the conclusive facts on abstinence education in this short, yet captivating, piece. Furthermore, Bush has been promoting what choice activists call the “Global Gag Rule,” which restricts foreign aid from promoting abortion or contraception as a form of family planning. The Global Gag Rule Impact Project has a seven minute streamable documentary called “Access Denied” on the deadly effects on women in Zambia.

Abortion and Birth-Control Access for Low-Income Women

Coming just three years after Roe, the Hyde Amendment, an often overlooked and discredited piece of legislation, devastated lower-income women nationwide by removing abortions from the list of health services provided to women on Medicaid, despite the other reproductive services it covers. Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, makes a compelling case for the amendment’s repeal, while providing a definitive fact sheet on the public funding of abortions.

The State-Level Battles

As “trigger laws,” laws that would effectively ban abortion in the event of the Supreme Court striking down Roe, have shown the state-level battles are vital. In a piece on Stateline.org, Christine Vestal fleshes out the ongoing state battles between pro-choice and anti-abortion activists, which was fueled by last year’s Supreme Court ruling that banned partial-birth abortions. Vestal highlights the important cases, divisive arguments, and future of abortion rights on the state level.

The Current State of Sex Trafficking and Prostitution

Sex workers, often burdened with societal stigmas and deprived of opportunity, endure extremely dangerous work and have few advocates working on their behalf. But with the growing availability of Web access, they have found a functional vehicle—whether for maintaining anonymity, displaying their creative works, or organizing events to promote safe sex. Juhu Thukral, the director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York City, takes a look into how blogs, MySpace, and email have helped mobilize and unite sex workers on the nation’s streets.

Bobby Allyn and Brittany Schulman are editorial interns at CampusProgress.org.

 
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