(courtesy photo)
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (courtesy photo)

On the 44th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, abortion rights and health care face the threat of drastic reforms as Donald Trump assumes the 45th Presidency of the United States.

Safeguarding abortion rights has become a critical issue as the Republican administration assumes political control in the nation’s capitol, and massive staged protest by thousands of women were held in D. C. and around the country as Donald Trump and Mike Pence were sworn into office on Jan. 20. Both the new president and vice-president have vowed to enact drastic changes to abortion rights.

“We have entered a challenging time in our nation’s history,” declared Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), who joined several other reproductive movement leaders during a recent teleconference urge women to fight for the protection of abortion rights.

“To many it feels unprecedented, even scary. And I understand that sentiment. Donald Trump, along with his Republican supporters in Congress, have pledged to defund Planned Parenthood, repeal the Affordable Care Act, pass new and highly restrictive national abortion bans, and make the outrageous and cruel Hyde Amendment permanent.

“And that’s just the beginning of his mean-spirited plan to harass abortion providers, shut down clinics, and deny care and coverage to those who are already struggling to get by,” Lee declared.

Under a new campaign titled “Roe vs. Wade in 2017: We Will Be Bold, We Won’t Be Punished,” Lee stated that American women must prepare for the most hostile political environment in a generation.

“I’ve been in Congress long enough to remember the good times and the tough times. And because I’ve always fought for communities most affected by poverty, racism, and lack of health care, I know what it’s like to fight an uphill battle. In fact, you might say I’m at my best when faced with a challenge,” said Lee.

“I remember when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down: it was a day of celebration and gratitude that we as a country had finally ended the era when women were denied the legal right to abortion, and were forced into silence, shadows, and shame,” Lee recalls.

“Now, forty-four years later, I am deeply concerned that some women have been denied the promise of Roe, because through the Hyde Amendment, (which bars the use of certain federal funds to pay for an abortion except under extreme circumstances), Congress took away the health coverage they needed.

“Now, the incoming President wants to inflict the pain and punishment of restrictions and coverage bans on even more women, including those who already face too many burdens.

“By repealing the Affordable Care Act, the anti-woman Congress will also make it harder to prevent unwanted pregnancy,” Lee pointed out.  “And on top of all that—they want to gut the programs our families need to thrive. In Trump’s future, being a woman is a lose-lose situation.

“But I am heartened by the constituents who’ve asked me and other members of Congress to stand up to Trump – to remind him that he has no mandate to take away our basic rights.”

Women’s rights supporter Janette Robinson Flint, Executive Director of the Los Angeles-based Black Women for Wellness, was particularly alarmed at the rising maternal mortality rate among Black women, which has reached crisis proportions.

“Black women are dying in childbirth at shameful rates—five times that of any other ethnic group,” said “Black women die in childbirth at a rate of 22 per 100,000 in the United States.

“This is not only a national crisis, but a cause for global shame. Our maternal mortality rates rival that of many so-called developing countries,”  Flint said  “Black women have no expectations from Trump, Pence, and the bullies in Congress to bring attention and resources to this national disgrace nor reach Healthy People 2020 goals of reducing maternal mortality to 11 per 100,000.

“Rather than focusing on improving Black women’s access to health care, this new administration is in the process of repealing access to the healthcare services and treatment for women and girls currently covered by the Affordable Care Act.”

Jessica Gonzalez Rojas, Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, observed, “Let’s be clear about their goals. The Trump administration and their supporters in Congress want to push abortion out of reach or even outlaw it altogether.

“But that’s not all: they also want to make it harder to prevent unintended pregnancy by repealing Obamacare and stripping women of birth control coverage.

“Here’s the big picture: Trump, Pence, and their allies in Congress want to make abortion inaccessible, make birth control unaffordable and punish women with children by taking away the resources we need to thrive.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Whole Woman’s Health based in Texas, said; “We are experiencing a maternal health emergency in Texas, yet politicians continue to plan and push even more laws that make healthcare hard to get.

“Black women in Texas experience the worst outcomes: in 2011 and 2012 Black mothers accounted for 11.4 percent of Texas births but 28.8 percent of pregnancy-related deaths.

“If more states start to look like Texas, or if Trump and Paul Ryan succeed in their anti-woman agenda on a federal level, we will see more negative outcomes for women’s health. There’s no question,” said Miller.

Destiny Lopez, co-director of All Above All, declared; “We have launched our most aggressive campaign yet; ”We Will Be Bold, We Won’t Be Punished.”

“Trump says he didn’t really mean ‘punish’ but we know the truth. Trump supports the Hyde Amendment, which already punishes poor women, and in Indiana, Pence made punishing women for abortion a policy priority.

“Moreover, we are stunned by the polling that says 4 in 10 Trump supporters think women should be punished for abortion.

“That’s why we greeted Trump and Congress with a six-figure ad campaign which will continue all month.”