5 Min ReadPolitics 12 March 2020
We were led through the prison, up several flights of stairs, and eventually came to a circle of chairs where 13 women in white were sitting patiently. Suddenly, the room was filled with joyous shrieks of recognition, cautious introductions assisted by translators, and a heavy realization sinking into all of our bones. These women are prisoners in San Salvador, El Salvador, doing time because of the tragic outcomes of their pregnancies. In a country with one of the strictest abortion bans in the world, experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth makes you the suspect of a heinous crime.
We sat down in the circle of chairs filled with these 13 women whose stories we were about to hear, whose hands we were about to hold, and whose lives had been forever changed by a cruel twist of gestational fate. I, alongside five U.S. state legislators, had traveled to this women's prison in El Salvador with the express purpose of hearing them out. I had organized this journey with a delegation of state legislators from places experiencing their own attempted abortion bans and restrictions — Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Ohio — in order to better understand what happens when a government bans abortion and to help communicate those understandings to other U.S. legislators hell-bent on taking us backward.
This trip, in November 2019, was organized and planned well before we knew what 2020 would bring for reproductive rights. By the time we went to El Salvador, the ongoing avalanche of state abortion bans was apparent, and while abortion remains technically legal in all 50 states, it seems only a matter of time before one of these state abortion bans survive some early court challenges and become the case that puts Roe v. Wade to the test.
But an outright challenge to Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old Supreme Court case that established our national constitutional right to abortion is not only unlikely, it's nearly beside the point. Access to safe, legal abortion care can be whittled down so much that the right exists on paper alone. On March 4, 2020, Trump's U.S. Supreme Court will hear June Medical v. Russo, a case challenging an abortion restriction that could threaten abortion access not only in Louisiana but around the entire country. This case could effectively roll out the red carpet to any states looking to trample all over the promise of Roe.
Judging by what states have already done — over 400 abortion restrictions enacted in the last ten years and a record-breaking number of abortion bans in 2019 alone, there is no doubt that many states will fall to the occasion and race to become the most restrictive abortion state in the nation.
This case and other attempts to ban abortion in the U.S. are not happening in isolation. Despite a growing liberalization of abortion laws around the world — from Ireland to Argentina to Mexico City — other countries are diving deeper into brutal authoritarianism when it comes to bodily autonomy. El Salvador's reality shows the inevitable outcome of banning abortion: turning women into suspected criminals anytime something goes wrong with a pregnancy. We can't assume it won't happen in the U.S. We already have examples of some women — mostly poor, Black, or otherwise marginalized women — facing criminal penalties for their reproductive health decisions and outcomes.
Despite the current political climate, there is actually very little public support for these restrictive policies In the U.S., states are banning abortion in defiance of the American people, whose support for access to safe, legal abortion is at an all-time high and growing; 73% of Americans say they do not want to see Roe overturned, and one in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion in her lifetime. Not a single state has majority support for banning abortion, not even Alabama, home of the most extreme abortion ban in the U.S.
We know who pays the prices for abortion restrictions in the U.S. and around the world. The poorest, most marginalized, and most vulnerable women are already bearing the brunt of harsh abortion restrictions. Rich women can cross state or international lines and seek safe, legal abortion care elsewhere. When abortion is banned, poor women are not only blocked by their bank accounts from getting the care they need, they are most at risk of being scrutinized and suffering the indignities of the carceral state. Making abortion illegal in any country sits at the nexus of state violence, economic coercion, white supremacy, and misogyny.
We know who pays the prices for abortion restrictions in the U.S. and around the world. The poorest, most marginalized, and most vulnerable women are already bearing the brunt of harsh abortion restrictions.
This week's case is critical to understanding how Trump's new Supreme Court will tackle abortion rights, but it's only one in a series of signals to watch for in 2020 and beyond. Roe might be at risk, but opponents of abortion are smart enough to avoid a straight up and down challenge to Roe in an election year.
The reality is that the promise of Roe v. Wade — that abortion is legal for everyone, in every state — is the bare minimum of what we should be asking for. If I have only one clinic in my state, a series of state-mandated hurdles to jump over in order to get there, a hostile climate created by these policies that stigmatizes and shames my healthcare decisions, and financial and logistical burdens to getting abortion care, my "right" to abortion on paper is nearly meaningless. June Medical v. Russo will be the case that decides the extent to which states can create obstacle courses that stand between a person needing care and the clinic where she can get that care.
We don't have to take this. States like Illinois, Maine, New York, Nevada, Vermont, and Rhode Island enacted laws in 2019 to protect or expand abortion rights and access. People in Georgia and beyond have taken to the streets to protest these devastating abortion bans. If your state hasn't passed laws to protect abortion rights and make them easier to access, demand that they do. The crowd that will gather in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday will make sure that the nine justices inside — including Brett Kavanaugh — hear us. They'll hear our cries that we won't go back, that our fundamental rights and bodily autonomy should not be up for debate. They'll hear that we are in this fight together, sisters across the globe, connected in the knowledge that if one of us is blocked from getting the care that they need or even if one of us is imprisoned because of outrageous bans on abortion, then we are all at risk.
For photos of Kelly's trip to El Salvador, see below.
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3 Min Read
With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.