On May 24th, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill that criminalizes almost all abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.
Under the law, any person who performs an abortion after eight weeks – which is often before many women know they are pregnant – could be charged with a Class B felony punishable by five to 15 years in prison. That is to say, doctors who perform abortions could be charged with felonies and sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 years. Women who seek abortions would not face prosecution.
The new law does not have exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Termination of pregnancy after eight weeks is legal only under the law’s definition of a medical emergency.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield), said, “Missouri law now requires people to remain pregnant against their will, treating them as little more than fetal incubators with no rights or role in the decision, even in cases of rape and incest.”
As a uterus-having person who does not want children and is not interested in becoming a born-again virgin, things are pretty scary right now. But hope is not lost and we can still take measures to prevent unwanted pregnancy while pushing back on this draconian legislation. In fact, many groups are already fighting the good fight.
The remainder of this article will be divided into two parts: how you can get involved in overturning this law, and what to do if you find yourself in need of an abortion.
Pt. 1: What can I do to fight back?
One of those most important things you can do is not become complacent about this issue. The government telling people what they can and cannot do with their body is reprehensible and it is not normal. Be brave, speak your truth, stand up in injustice.
Sign the ACLU of Missouri Petition
The ACLU has until Aug. 28 — the day the abortion ban is scheduled to go into effect —to collect more than 100,000 signatures to place the law on the ballot for an up-or-down vote. As of June 6th, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft rejected the referendum, so the MO ACLU is filing a lawsuit. Learn more here.
For more information and to learn how you can help collect signatures, click here.
Participate in Protests
There have been several protests springing up all over the state. Most of them I have learned about through Facebook pages and groups. Some pages/groups to check out are:
*ACLU of Missouri
*Planned Parent Advocates in Missouri
*NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri
*Missouri Democratic Party
*Black Lives Matter & Allies of BLM Joplin, Mo.
*Atheist Freethinking Women
*Joplin Intersectional Feminists
*And be sure to follow Julie Joplin Magazine on Facebook if you aren’t already! We will post about protests as we learn about them!
Contribute to Campaigns of Pro-Choice Candidates
Learn all you can about candidates running at the state and national levels and contribute your time, money, and/or talents to their cause.
I also recommend signing up for emails from Emily’s List at www.emilyslist.org. The mission statement of Emily’s List is literally: “We elect pro-choice Democratic women to office.”
I get emails frequently with information about candidates, petitions, and other movements I can contribute to.
The people in the Missouri State Government are our representatives. Clearly, if you support a woman’s right to choose, your interests are not being represented. Make no mistake, we are their boss and these elected officials work for us. Here are the names and districts of MO representatives and how they voted on the abortion ban (HB 126).
If you are not registered to vote, click here to learn how to register.
Representatives from our area who voted YES on HB126 are:
Lane Roberts (Joplin)
Bob Bromley (Carl Junction)
Cody Smith (Carthage)
Ben Baker (Neosho)
Dirk Deaton (Noel)
Ann Kelley (Lamar)
Pt. 2: How to Protect Yourself
First and foremost, I want anyone reading this to know that it’s not evil or bad to have sex and not want to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy. Slut shaming is so last century so don’t even listen to that nonsense. Read more on that topic in this fabulous Julie article called “The Mythology of the Slut.”
Our MO government representatives want us to believe that the only reason to have sex is for procreation and that’s simply not true, biologically or practically. Humans are wired to have sex for enjoyment and procreation. If you’re not ready to have children, are done having children, or just don’t want to get pregnant for whatever reason (nobody’s business, mmkay), but you also don’t want to never have sex again, that’s perfectly normal and reasonable. But thanks to the Anti-Choice folks in Jefferson City we have to be more careful than ever to protect against an unwanted pregnancy because the safety net/last resort option is all but gone.
- Prevent an unwanted pregnancy from happening in the first place
It goes without saying that it’s becoming more important than ever to practice prevention. Fortunately, they haven’t been able to outlaw birth control even though you KNOW they want to (sigh). There are tons of options out there – from the pill to implants to the shot and more. If you are not on birth control, now is a good time to get serious about finding a method that works for you. Talk to your doctor or visit Planned Parenthood to find out what method to try.
What you need to know about Plan B (aka the morning-after pill)
- It is debated that emergency contraceptive is less effective for those with a BMI over 30 or ~165 pounds. There isn’t definitive proof, but please take note of this.
- Take an emergency contraceptive pill (Plan B) within 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex.
- A brand called “ella” is the most effective. It works just as well on day 5 as day 1. But you need a prescription. You can get a fast medical consultation and prescription with next-day delivery online.
- Other brands such as “Plan B One Step” are available over the counter without a prescription in most drug stores. These type work best within 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex, but you can take them up to 5 days after. The sooner you take it, the better.
- Don’t use two different kinds of morning-after pills (like Plan B and ella) at the same time or within 5 days of each other because they may counteract each other and not work at all. And don’t take more than one dose of either type of morning-after pill — it won’t give you extra protection from pregnancy, but it can make you feel sick.
- It’s safe to take Plan B as often as you need to, but it’s not the best method to rely on for regular birth control because it’s so much more expensive.
- Learn more here.
But what if I don’t have health insurance?
- Did you know there are a ton of online services out there that will deliver birth control right to your door with just an online doctor evaluation? Most of them are super cheap. This article has a really handy list of several services, the costs, and whether or not it’s available in your state. About half of these are available in Missouri.
- Or you can try sites like GoodRx to find cheap birth control with no insurance for as little as $4 a month. There are a lot of ways out there, so a simple Google search will yield a lot of results. Don’t forego birth control just because you don’t have insurance.
But what if I’m a minor?
- In Missouri, minors (those under 18) who are married can get a prescription for birth control without a parent’s permission. All other minors must get a parent or guardian’s permission to receive a prescription. Because it makes a lot of sense for a minor to be able to get married but not to be able to get birth control. (And marriage = responsible adult??) Okay, Missouri.
- There are clinics called “Title X clinics” – pronounced “Title Ten” – which provide confidential sexual and reproductive health care to both teens and adults, including prescriptions for the Pill. If you go to a Title X clinic, your appointment will be confidential, including your billing and your records. These clinics charge on what’s called a sliding-scale fee basis, which means they help you pay what you can afford, and you can pay in cash. If you pay for your visit by using your family’s health insurance, then your parents are likely to see the bill when it arrives in the mail. Use this link to find a Title X Clinic.
- When you make an appointment for health care, ask about confidentiality rules. When you call, ask:
- Can I get services at your office without my parents’ permission?
- Can my parent/s have access to my records?
- Will my parent/s see the bill?
It is your right to get sexual and reproductive health care where you feel safe and comfortable, so don’t worry about asking these questions.
- Hold your sexual partner accountable.
Assuming you’re a woman having sex with a man, insist they do their fair share of preventing an unwanted pregnancy. Talk to them about your concerns and designate some rules such as no ejaculating inside your vagina, must wear a condom, must help you pay for birth control, must help you buy Plan B, etc. It’s not selfish to enforce these boundaries to protect yourself. It takes two to tango and you should not have to be the one to shoulder all the responsibility. And because men have much more sexual freedom in the eyes of the law, it makes sense that they would and should be able to bear some responsibility. If your guy refuses, tell him to hit the road.
P.S. Did you know there are free Julie condoms at Bookhouse Cinema in Joplin?
3. Work within the bounds of the new law
The new law is not an all-out abortion ban. It prohibits abortions past 8 weeks, before most women realize they are pregnant so it’s a sneaky way for the government to make it impossible for many to seek an abortion.
So, the trick is to find out if you’re pregnant asap before eight weeks. I checked and pregnancy tests are most reliable from the first day of your missed period, although some tests can be used as early as 4 or 5 days before your period is due. If you’re nervous you may be pregnant, don’t wait to do a test. Get on that, pronto.
That being said, there’s only one clinic in Missouri that still performs abortions, and it’s in St. Louis. You’re likely better off to go to the closest clinic, which is in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Arkansas requires abortions be performed within 19 weeks. Check below for more information on Arkansas abortion laws.
- What if I need an abortion and it’s past 8 weeks?
If you find out you’re pregnant and you’re more than eight weeks along, you can still legally get an abortion in another state. Below are the abortion law basics in nearby states. Unfortunately, we are in a sea of red and there aren’t many options even outside of Missouri.
For Planned Parenthood Great Plains locations in Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma visit: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-great-plains/about-us
**Please note: All of these states require parental consent for those under 18.
- What if I can’t afford it?
If you need more information on abortion or help paying for an abortion, call the National Abortion Federation Hotline at 1-800-772-9100, Monday–Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time).
Did you know there are fundraising groups out there that exist solely to help people pay for abortions? Find a complete list here.
Sites like GoFundMe and KickStarter have been notorious for taking down abortion fundraising efforts, but as far as I can tell, it’s not illegal to try this route.
- What if I need transportation/place to stay?
If you need to travel to another state for an abortion but don’t have transportation, try reaching out to one of those Facebook groups I listed above. Private groups like Burning Bras and Atheist Freethinking Women have members who have offered rides and accommodations during those mandatory “think it over” days (don’t even get me started on that topic…*angry*). There are tons of closed groups on Facebook for pro-choice people and those two are a good place to start. There is a whole community of kind, non-judgmental people in our area who support the right to choose and will help in any way they can. Even though it’s sometimes hard and scary to reach out to strangers, please remember to use these communities to seek help. You can also message me through the Julie Facebook or email me at email@example.com and I will personally do what I can to help.
My sincere hope is that you never have to use this information, and you’re able to have access to a birth control method that works for you to prevent the need for an abortion in the first place. Despite the rhetoric spewed by the conservative right, no one likes abortion and no one is using it as their birth control method, but like I said earlier, it’s a safety net and it’s a last resort that all should have the right to access.
No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will. Not in 2019. We’re not going back.