With Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, How Far Will the State’s Attacks on Women Go?

By Liza Featherstone
The Nation
October 25th, 2018

Another reader asks about weathering a public #MeToo event with PTSD.


Illustrated by Joanna Neborsky.

Dear Liza,

Women are staring down the barrel of a conservative Supreme Court that will likely dismantle Roe v. Wade. Abortion, as a right, is already hobbled, with many states essentially regulating it into oblivion.

Faced with increased career opportunities but a lack of support systems, women are postponing or refusing motherhood. I think that an awareness of the falling birthrate will soon reach the people in power. To me, this all seems like a perfect storm. Should we expect an even more brutal backlash against reproductive rights?

As a career-focused 30-year-old woman with no plans for a baby, I feel as though I should be making arrangements. What if my current methods of birth control fail? I’ve already started mapping states that will outlaw abortion—and mine, Texas, tops the list. Should I save money for emergency travel?

I have no sense of how far this backlash will go. What do you think the state, and our society, are actually capable of?

—Future Gileadean

Dear Gileadean,

Actually, says feminist activist Jenny Brown, the author of Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight Over Women’s Work, which will be published next year by PM Press, “we’re already experiencing this.”

In Birth Strike, Brown argues that the crackdown on women’s reproductive rights is a response, on the part of US policy-makers, to our declining birth rate. The ruling class worries that when women stop having babies, the smaller workforce will mean rising labor costs. Instead of improving the conditions for parenthood through universal child care and health care, free college tuition, more generous family leave, and higher wages, our elites have seized on what is, for them, a far less expensive solution: forced procreation.

With women holding significant social power, we’re unlikely to wind up living in The Handmaid’s Tale, or even in the pre-1970s United States, an era when my mother needed her husband’s permission to get her own library card. However, with right-wingers controlling Congress, the White House, and many state governments, our reproductive rights are under attack. The good news, according to Brown, is that “women are already taking this into their own hands. There’s never been a better time to have a DIY abortion.” Given where you live, preparing to exercise this option would be smart.

In South Texas, as the restrictions tighten, there is an extensive black market in abortion pills from Latin America (check out the flea markets). But for more reliable drugs and support, look into an organization called Aid Access, run by doctors and abortion-rights activists, which has been shipping abortion pills to women in the United States for the last six months. The group’s website includes information on how to take the abortion pills safely, and Aid Access even offers Skype consultations.

Such DIY measures not only help you, Gileadean; they can also, Brown emphasizes, become a force for change. In Ireland, when abortion was illegal, the prevalence of women performing it themselves “freaked out the authorities and also made a mockery of the law.” This greatly boosted the momentum for legalization, which succeeded—by a landslide—in a referendum this past May.

Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work

Back to Jenny Brown’s Author Page