Dr. Jennifer Merchant’s Talk: “The Criminalization of Women’s Bodies”

By Carol Moore

DAUKWC member Carol Moore gives a recap of the informative and thought provoking talk by Dr. Jennifer Merchant about how women’s rights are being impacted by the current political climate and how we can become active in ensuring those rights are preserved.

Dr. Jennifer Merchant gave a compelling talk on “The Criminalization of Women’s Bodies” via Zoom on June 13th for the Democrats Abroad Global Women’s Caucus.   She began her talk noting that the incidence of abortion in the US has dramatically declined from a high in 1982 of 29.3 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 to about half that, 14.6, in 2014.    But with Supreme Court decisions in the ‘90’s devolving the ability to determine the criteria for access to abortion to states, anti-abortion groups have lobbied at the state level to impose costly regulations on abortion clinics.  This has resulted in clinics closing, limiting access in many states.   

Meanwhile in Washington, DC  legislation has been enacted to limit public funding for family planning and abortions via Medicaid and other federal programs for federal employees, Medicaid recipients, etc.  Dr. Merchant believes these measures are not driven by a desire to protect fetuses but rather to deny poor and low-income women the opportunity to end an unwanted pregnancy, frequently forcing them to give up work and become dependent.  Abortion rates are significantly higher for minority and low-income women. “Lack of access to health insurance and reproductive healthcare play a role, as do racism and discrimination.”

In the last few years, relentless “pro-life” campaigns across the country have resulted in 21 Republican state legislatures putting in place “Trigger laws”, to ban abortion outright if Roe v. Wade is overturned.   Several states have also recently passed unreasonablly short term limits on abortions with criminal penalties, the deliberate aim of which is to build a legal challenge to Roe v Wade.   

Dr. Merchant ended her talk by calling Women’s Caucus members to action:

(1) Encourage husbands, partners, sons and male friends to get involved involved in the battle to protect women’s reproductive rights.  This is not just a women’s issue but a family issue.  

(2) Support the organizations working to fight the upcoming legal battle such as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and NARAL.

(3) Volunteer, donate and vote for pro-choice, Democratic candidates at both the state and federal level. 

The Speaker:  

Dr. Merchant started her academic research in comparative abortion politics and is now a leading researcher in medical technologies involving human reproduction based in Paris. She is a  Professor of Anglo-American legal and political institutions at the Université de Paris II (Panthéon-Assas),

To watch the recording of Dr. Merchant’s talk, click here

Note:  The Women’s Caucus’s September 18th meeting will be on Family Planning and Reproductive Rights (more details in the next Women’s Caucus newsletter).  If anyone would like to join in planning this event, contact us at events@womenscaucus.co.uk

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