BONUS: What we must do now to save reproductive freedom

Guest: Julie Kay
We’re releasing a bonus episode from 1972! Just kidding. We’re releasing a bonus episode from 2022 about what to do now that the United States is about to revoke the rights of millions of people with uteruses. Sabrina reaches back out to human rights attorney and previous guest, Julie Kay to talk about: • What this legal ruling might mean for other rights • Which interventions are and are not likely to work once Roe v. Wade is overturned • How we keep going, keep fighting, and strategically channel our rage
United States

ViewHide Transcript
Julie Kay Transcript

Sabrina Merage Naim
Hello glass breakers, I am Sabrina Merage Naim. And this is a bonus episode where I asked Julie Kay to sit back down with us, after our previous conversation with Kitty Colbert where we got to talk about their book controlling women, what we must do now to save reproductive freedoms. And now that is more a reality than ever. We it was an episode we launched a couple of months ago, it was something where we had the conversation even back then, at the time before this Supreme Court opinion leaked, that Roe v Wade will likely be overturned next month. And Kitty and Julie even at that time, were extremely sure that that was going to happen. So now here we are. Julie, thank you for joining me again.

Julie Kay
Thank you for having me back. Sabrina, as you said, before we got on here. It's under difficult circumstances, but not a complete surprise.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yes, yes. And although not a complete surprise, and although we had this conversation before, and you guys you and Katie, were even preparing for it for a long time. Given that you had written this book, this is something that you had anticipated would happen. I'm still curious to know, where were you? What were you doing? When you saw Justice Alito was draft leaked? It's kind of like a Kennedy Assassination moment, like, Where were you at that moment? And and how did you react even though you knew I'm curious to know what your human reaction was.

Julie Kay
I mean, my human reaction, it was still like a kick in the uterus. I mean, it was just so appalling to read, I first found out about actually, a male colleague, friend of mine texted me and he's not even a colleague in the reproductive rights space. And I think, in some ways that was appropriate, because it was people who kind of knew this work and cared and followed along, but still thought that's never gonna happen. Or if it happens, it's not gonna happen like this. So to have it come out as a leak was unprecedented. But I think for me, the real sinking feeling came when I read Justice Alito's draft, it just was cruel. It was inaccurate, historically, as far as about abortion, and it was really shameless in how it was attacking the court's own precedent and route.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Was that surprising for you was that kind of the most surprising component was how it was written and what was referenced in it?

Julie Kay
I think the most surprising thing is, you know, we all have an inner optimist if we do this work, because otherwise you, you know, would either not get out of bed or move to another country or do something else, I think. So that was, I think, when you know, something like that was likely to happen. And we know when we lost the election in 2016, that Donald Trump was going to get the core. And yet and still, I was surprised by the time he appeared, He appointed Amy Coney Barrett to the court. So it's kind of a series of, you know, an elevator going lower and lower. And I don't think we've hit bottom. And I think that's something to be very mindful of as well, that the way the opinion is drafted and the way it attacks, the whole premise of privacy rights. That Roe and many, many other decisions were written based upon that privacy. Right. That's, I think, a whole other level of chill that came out of reading that draft.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah. And to be clear, again, this is something that we do want to specify for our audience time and time again, that this was a leaked draft, Roe v. Wade has not yet been overturned, we are anticipating that it likely will be next month in June, but it hasn't yet. This is kind of just the road to to getting there. And that also, like you mentioned, there are a lot of other decisions that will will be impacted by this. Not least of which is Planned Parenthood V. Casey, which your colleague Kitty Kolbert was the one who argued in front of the Supreme Court in 1992. And that was kind of her big landmark case, and that one will also be overturned. So what sticks out to you in terms of the national response over the past two weeks?

Julie Kay
I think the national response has been heartening. I think people are angry and outraged and they're looking at ways to direct those feelings, I think it's all of a sudden become personal to many people, whether it's personal because they are in a position where they might sometime have unplanned pregnancy or whether it's personal because it's their friends, lovers, wives, mothers, daughters, you know, you name it in our circle. You know, one in four women in America has had an abortion, which means that everybody knows somebody. My unscientific data reveals that one in one women in America have had a pregnancy scare a time when she thought she might be pregnant and didn't want to be. And I think even for people who aren't, aren't going to become pregnant or never did, the idea of living in a country that criminalizes women's healthcare is really doesn't align with our values. It's not who we are. It's not where we want to be. So I think the combination of protests in the street and online as well as just the conversations that I've been having with people, one on one, has been very important. And, you know, Sabrina, you made a great point earlier that roe is still the law of the land. I was in Mississippi last month and talking to activists who were not directly working on reproductive rights, but we're working in education, empowerment and other areas around sort of, I guess you'd say like kids ability to exist and thrive in a very poor part of Mississippi, and very under resourced part of Mississippi. And they thought that abortion had already been overturned in the Mississippi case. And so there's a real chilling effect going on in this country, even from having the draft, even from having the Texas ban, in effect, even from having Mississippi that, you know, people are watching their own backs and very fearful of the kinds of prosecutions that we're seeing that we saw in Texas and other places. So I think the flip side of that coin is what we can do. Now, we don't have to wait because you know, the time is here to start taking action. And I've seen a lot of energy in that direction.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah, and the lion's share of this conversation will really be those tangible steps that we can take. But before we get there, I do want to just say that, you know, in terms of the national response, I think it's so clear that it is reflecting the fact that most Americans are supportive of abortion, even with all the nuance, even with all the complications and feeling all kinds of ways about it. That that unfortunately, the legislatures right now are not reflecting what most Americans feel, and and it's not representing America. So that's something that's really important to acknowledge.

Julie Kay
And can I if I can, just to add to that, because I think that is so important. 70% of Americans support the Roe versus Wade framework where they think this is a decision that a woman should make in consultation with her doctor. Though that's a slightly older number, I've seen some preliminary data that's come out since the draft leak, and those numbers are going up that even more people feel more strongly about abortion rights being supported now. And so it is a winning political issue, so to speak, in moreover, it's a human rights issue that shouldn't be put through this kind of political fighting and fracture. But alas, that's where we are.

Sabrina Merage Naim
One of the things that stuck out in the conversation we had with Kitty a couple of months ago to me was really the the trickle down effect of what happens if and when Roe v Wade gets overturned? What are the other things that get impacted? And we had that conversation. So I want you to kind of help us understand the theories that are floating around right now about the fact that the legal reasoning applied in this draft could put other rights like marriage equality, interracial marriage, IVF, access to contraception at risk? Are these things as a legal expert, are these things that you are seeing are kind of just a false narrative that's floating around? And it's a scare tactic? Or is there real validity to these concerns?

Julie Kay
You know, I'm not personally a big fan of the slippery slope arguments. But I think in this case, we have seen a far right political movement with a very specific narrative and a very specific strategy towards controlling these kinds of fundamental decision making around sex and sexuality and partnership and gender. And so, you know, I know from my work in the fields that they in the field that they have been anti contraception for a very long time. Abortion has been the priority issue, but there's certainly been a good deal of homophobia, anti contraceptives, there's, you know, a ideology that underlies the anti abortion movement and I think in the past, you know, decade or so, uncertainly during the Trump years, it has only become more aligned with white nationalism and that kind of movement. I think there are differences and fissures in the movements. But I, you know, between reading the legal opinions and knowing the legal basis for these arguments and seeing the political side and the movement side against having women and others have access to these rights, I don't think it's a bridge too far to say that contraception, contraceptive rights have been endangered that LGBTQ plus rights had been endangered. I don't see this as a court that supports race equity as part of its core beliefs. And when you look at it from a sort of legal wonky point of view, the argument that Justice Alito was writing about and the language you use was very much looking at the content, you know, the language and the words in the Constitution and the framers intent. So if you go back to when our constitution was drafted, women certainly weren't at the forefront, people of color were not at the forefront. Justice Alito, you know, he cites these legal commentators, you know, from another era who thought that marital rape was okay, you know, that there was no such thing as a woman not being able to consent to sexual activity with her husband, therefore, rape was not a thing. You know, it's 2022. And he feels that it's okay to cite these commentators who were saying that abortion was criminalized when they had so little understanding of gender equity, and so little interest or commitment to it. So, you know, if he's willing to go there, if he's been getting a majority of these ultra conservative justices to go with him, I don't see why he wouldn't be able to lead them or go hand in hand with them towards putting some real restrictions on contraceptive access in a very short period of time, and then taking it from there forward.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Wow, that's really scary. It's such a backwards time, it just feels extremely disheartening. Now, I want to ask, where is the most effective place to direct our rage? What are the tangible actions that we can take today? So that it doesn't feel like we should just put our heads down and die at this point,

Julie Kay
right. I mean, I think as you were saying, sort of laying out the grim portrait of what are we supposed to do if they're taking away our contraceptives, and abortion rights? You know, I think I sit here and think, Well, they are big fans of abstinence only until marriage and a lot of procreation. And I, you know, and it's humor full, but also very serious, because this is where the sort of, you know, very fundamentalist religious beliefs that have been sort of driving the bus on our reproductive freedoms for a long time. And so I think the other alternative for us is to take the wheel, and to get involved politically, you know, many people are already and I think, you know, it's hard to say well vote, and because a lot of us are voting and supporting campaigns and politics and a lot of people who can't vote, because they're blocked from voting through our history of, you know, voter entanglement and sort of racist anti voting policies in this country, where they don't vote because they don't think it will make a difference. So, you know, getting involved politically means supporting candidates, finding ways of changing the faces and attitudes of people who are controlling our legislators. I don't think that we need to turn every red state blue, but we do need to turn every red state into supporting abortion rights.

Sabrina Merage Naim
So let me let me pause you there. Yeah. Because I think this is a really important point it, it can sometimes feel a little abstract for people when we say vote, vote vote, right. But what you're saying is, if you live in a red or purple state, where there are people that are, you know, anti choice who are running for office, whether it is on your school board level, up to local government, like whatever it is, those are the people that you need to vote out, right. Those are the things that you need to pay attention to. And that yes, your voice matters, and Your vote matters, and that you do need to show up for that. So then, let me ask you on the flip side, because I can speak for myself when I say that most of my family, my in laws live between California, Colorado, New York, these are three states that will be seen as Haven states for safe access to abortion. And yet, I still really want to do something I still want to, you know, make sure that I am part of the fight. So it feels like calling my congress people is not necessarily the thing to do. Right. But what do what do we do if we do already live in a blue state and we still want to be part of the fight?

Julie Kay
Well, I think that's a very good point. Partly because The blue states are going to be diluted with people who are traveling for abortion services. In California, you're already seeing a real influx of women coming from Texas because Texas has banned almost all that early abortion services since September 20 of 2021. You know, you're going to have to expand services within your state both to accommodate those women traveling as well as people in the state who are needing abortion services. I was talking to somebody from Oklahoma, who, you know, they said, Monday morning, the phone lines open up at their clinic. And it is just, you know, it's a lottery of who gets in, because there are so many women coming from Texas, and this is after they've expanded their services. So expanding services in blue states trying to have places like urgent care clinics provide medical and surgical abortions. So there are more outlets. A number of states and cities are looking at providing more funding for people who are traveling both for the cost of abortion, but also for childcare, transportation, housing overnight, those kinds of things. All those resources can be poured into blue states, California already has starting this year requirements that public universities will have to provide medication abortion. So there's a lot that you can do to sort of even up the game of blue states. And you know, we live in a country where our, you know, red state, like minded folks, and people in the trenches can use our help more than ever, even on their electoral and the, you know, the 501 C four part of their work. Traveling is an option, and it's a great option. But it's certainly not the best option. We want every person to be able to get an abortion, you know, within range and without stigma. And so there's a number of different strategies. Obviously, there are a lot of abortion funds that needs support more than ever, because they're already overwhelmed with the number of women and people traveling for abortions. And just one other point about Sophia, we fall into this red versus blue, so much. You know, people and politicians change their minds on things because they take the political winds, you know, Donald Trump certainly used to identify as being supportive of abortion rights that changed, I will say, Joe Biden has even made a nice switch to understanding why the Hyde Amendment was so harmful to people and especially to women of color. So part of it is going to be showing even our elected officials in red states who are very solid and comfortable in their position of being in office that if they want to keep that, we need to get our allies and people who will listen to the legislators who will listen to our allies to say, you know, you don't have to come all the way over to being blue or to the left, but you've got to do better on abortion, you've got to allow it to be available. And you've got to have, you know, safeguards for women's health and lives and well being.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah, and I think that's a really important point, because abortion is so often seen as a red versus blue issue. But it doesn't have to be it really shouldn't be that you can, you can have conservative views and ideals. Or you can have, you know, more liberal views and ideals and still on either side of that spectrum, be supportive of women's access to health care. And that this is something that I think we want to really press is it doesn't matter if you identify as a Republican or Democrat or Independent or anything, right, that you can still and that you should still see the importance of, of being an ally for people with uteruses who need access and safe access. And I hear what you're saying that if you're living in a red state, putting pressure on your local elected officials is a really important piece of this, that if you're living in a blue state, supporting clinics that will have that deluge of of individuals coming from different places. We've talked a bit about doing that through abortion funds. Is that something that's on your radar as well?

Julie Kay
Yeah, absolutely. And I been in conversation with a lot of those funds, I think they are working more collaboratively than ever, which is fantastic. Because, you know, its geographic problem as well, and how we get people from state to state. I've also been talking a lot about their legal needs, because the law and the landscape is shifting. And so you know, when the Supreme Court overturns Roe, the laws will go back to the states to determine so, you know, from a very legal standpoint of things, if I'm trying to assist somebody to go from, you know, Texas to another state, what does it mean to cross state lines? What does it mean to send pills what's legal? And we've already seen in Texas, the prosecution of a woman for having allegedly having tried to self induce an abortion she was put in jail. I don't want a single person had to spend not one night in jail because they tried to have an abortion or they assisted somebody and having an abortion, I think this is a, you know, the minimum standard that we should be able to agree with even between those who are most vehemently anti abortion that this is not something that should result in incarceration for women and for people who are seeking abortions. So I'm working a lot with the funds and the people on the ground and trying to connect them to more and more pro bono or free or low cost legal services. Because we need legal help on this now more than ever, it's moving at a very rapid and dangerous pace right now. So funding is definitely important. Legal Support is important. And there's different roles for everybody in this and and some people will be running aboveboard, completely legal organizations and helping the way they can and other people I've spoken to are really just looking to get safe, reliable pills into the hands of those who need them for medication, abortion, and backup support medically as needed.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah, it's it's crazy what you're saying. And and also the legal component of it, which I don't think is necessarily at the front and center of the national narrative, it should be because what we're seeing is certain states are going to criminalize trying to get an abortion or helping someone to get an abortion. And that is going to be seen as a deterrent, even for people who are trying to help are trying to be the advocates and the allies. So so the combination of an abortion fund, for example, in the for those of you who don't know, this is something we've been talking a little bit about on social media, these, there's a national network of abortion funds, and then there are state by state funds, which will help individuals in whatever way they can financially get access to an abortion, that is anywhere from travel costs to hotel stays to childcare for the many individuals who often have children already at home when they need access to abortions. And it depending on where you are in the country, it can be much more expensive, because if you're living in the South, and there is, you know, there are states all around you who don't have access to safe abortion, then you're having to travel further and go for longer. So so there's the combination of that supporting those funds financially. But then the legal component, which is something that I think a lot of people don't even consider, is huge. And it makes me feel better. And I'm sure I'll sleep better at night, knowing that there are individuals like you who are focusing on that, who are who are doing, you're doing your part as a legal expert, to help individuals on the ground, and there's nonprofits on the ground to do whatever they need to do to make sure that it's not just a closed door in these women's faces. So I really appreciate that.

Julie Kay
Well, it makes me feel better during the day and sleep better at night, knowing that you're doing what you're doing Sabrina as far as reaching more people, because I think that's the major component of what we need to do now. And next is, you know, I guess there are some lawyers who are probably listening, hopefully some philanthropist or people of generosity to give to funds, some medical providers, but we really need to take this issue and this conversation as broadly as we can. And we need to frame it as the human rights issue that it is this is not a debate over the philosophical beginning of life or the religious component of of morals, this is really about our human right to decide whether when and with whom to have a child or not to start a family, or to maintain the family we have. And so, you know, what I think is so important is to go to a March, if that's something that you can do, and you're there for, I think, having conversations with those in our networks, whether they're, you know, in our bubble, or whether it's somebody we can reach out to and say this is why this issue is important to me. This is what it means to me to live in a country that criminalizes women's basic health care and fundamental rights, and to start demanding more not just of our elected officials, but of the corporations of the people who are helping to stigmatize this issue by not speaking up. You know, we've gotten comfortable as a nation talking about LGBTQ plus rights, we've gotten more comfortable than we used to be about addressing race equity, and we need to take that model and do the same with abortion and try to get the stigma off really look at you know, the corporate partners that are doing wonderful things in helping people travel for abortions, but also how are they spending their philanthropic dollars? How are they spending their advertising budget? How are they communicating that abortion is something that one in four women in this country are going to need and rely on in her lifetime? And that all of us need to know is there when we need it, whether we ever do or not. Whether it's for ourselves or for somebody else in our lives or just for strangers that we think have a basic human mind to access these vital services.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Amen. Do you hear that everyone, this is something that you need to talk about that you need to shout it from the rooftops, even if it makes you uncomfortable to have the conversation. So long before this leaked draft, you and Kitty, we're encouraging people to stop banging our heads against the marble staircase. What do you say to people who feel like they're banging their heads against a wall in every direction to people who feel helpless about voting, marching, calling their elected officials? I mean, I know that this is kind of the call to action. But at some point, like you said, so many of us kind of just feel like deflated by this. What do you say to get that fire going? Again?

Julie Kay
Yeah, I think the irony is the people who have been doing the most all long, are feeling the most defeated at the same time, because they're being asked to do the most again. So one of the things that I liked about the, you know, post draft leak period, is that people have been coming up and say, Well, what can I do, and it's people who haven't been necessarily on the front line. So I think, you know, it's the bring in another person, find another person, share your knowledge with them. And, you know, part of it may be an uncomfortable situation, I don't personally feel that anybody ever has to say, you know, I had an abortion. And that's why you should I think we can all say, this is why it's important to me, this is what it says to me and about my future. You know, how do I live in a world that has no abortion rights, so we can have those, those conversations in a very personalized and comfortable way, the same way, you know, we, we need to help persuade people and bring them along and bring them into this into this next stage. And it is a fight. It's a long fight, it's, you know, things are going to get worse for a lot of women before they get better. And a lot of people looking for abortions are going to have a really tough time, and particularly those without resources. And we need to keep drawing attention to that, that the, you know, when you make abortion, inaccessible or illegal, it's the people who suffer the most are teens, people in rural areas, low wage people without resources, and it falls disproportionately on women of color and women in the margins. And we are now sort of merging our healthcare system with our criminal justice system by reporting women when they show up in hospitals, or when they need health care, or when they're trying to self induce an abortion. And that's a really dangerous position. It's one that has not served our country well. So I think the more we start framing it as that issue and bringing in allies and being good allies ourselves, I mean, these were not single issue voters, we're not telling people to be single issue voters, we really need to, you know, see what else is possible and with the groups that we work in alliance with and and know that it's important and know that long term, I am very confident that we are going to win and win back more rights, I'd love to see us amend our constitution and make it a document for the next generation going forward. But we're not there yet. Until we get power in the States, we're you know, we're a ways away from adding a gender equity Amendment to the Constitution. But we know how we feel and why these rights are so important, why they're so fundamental to us. And we need to start talking to other people and empowering them to talk about these as fundamental human rights issues.

Sabrina Merage Naim
So in that same vein, before I let you go, and with this kind of idea that we always hold out hope. On Wednesday, the Senate voted on the Women's Health Protection Act, a federal law to protect the right to abortion, and it surprised no one that it did not pass. But they've the version that they voted on was not the only version that's floating around. Right. What what is happening right now separate of this Supreme Court decision that is looming, what is happening that we still are holding out hope for,

Julie Kay
you know, I'm not waiting for a knight in shining armor to charge up Capitol Hill to save us. It's, you know, the the numbers are not where we need to be. And we're close. We're very close. You know, the federal government has never been one to lead on this issue. And I think that's become more and more apparent in the past week, as we've looked back at the history of how the how the heck did we get here, as they say? So I think it's multiple strategies in many states. I do think having a commitment in the states into state elections, as well as at the federal elections, the midterms that are coming up, helping people who are traveling in the meantime and for the foreseeable future, and really, you know, framing this differently, and really being aggressive that this is a human right, is the best way forward. I don't see a single piece of legislation that's nearby on the horizon, unfortunately, but I think it doesn't have to be that far away. If we all really step up and rally and bring allies and hold people accountable who you know, this is not a controversial issue for the vast majority of us, it's a no brainer issue. It's a basic decision about whether you'll be able to control your own body. We've seen the right dominate this issue to the point where now these laws are being regularly passed without even an exception for pregnancy that results from sexual assault or rape or child sexual abuse. We've seen exceptions for people's health dissolve. And, you know, I've seen way too many tragedies in other countries where abortion has been completely banned. And you know, women have suffered both in seeking abortion care, but also even in the basic maternal health care that you know, the tragic cases that are well known of women who had miscarriage mismanage because physicians and medical providers are heard a fetal heartbeat and were like deer in the headlights and did nothing. They have the case in severe hollobone bar in Ireland, and two other women in Poland in the past year have died from sepsis because of that kind of inability to act. And so between that and seeing women falling into the criminal justice system, like this is not the world we want. You know, we're too smart now to just sort of say, Oh, that was an individual woman or whatever. We know that this happens with systemic racism and gender inequality. And we need to just keep talking about it like that. And say, we're not going to take the fallout of this, we're not going to let women without resources and without a voice, go unrecognized.

Sabrina Merage Naim
So friends, you're hearing it directly from a woman who has been on the frontlines for decades, whether it's here in the US or abroad. Bring a friend talk about it, pressure your local officials vote, if you can, march, march, if you can give to two independent clinics or to abortion funds. There are a lot of ways to get involved, even if it's just talking with the people in your life, that need to hear about how important this issue is. And maybe one day we will see The Amended Constitution that our next generation deserves. But until then, it's up to us. So don't just sit back. Don't just rely on someone else to fight this fight for you. It really depends on all of us. We'll see you soon.

Kassia Binkowski
Like what you're hearing on breaking glass. Do us a favor and share this episode far and wide. leave a review for the show wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter. We promise to round up the very best resources on issues affecting women around the world so that we can all be just a little bit more educated and a whole hell of a lot more empathetic toward one another. It's also worth mentioning that breaking glass is a production of evoke media evoke is a nonprofit organization that exists in order to elevate the people and stories working to make this world a more unified and equitable place. Learn more at weareevokemedia.com.

Latest Episodes