What the Democrats Can Do to Protect Abortion Rights

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If you know me, you know that for a very, very long time I could only continue to make YouTube videos by never, ever reading the comments. Because it was seriously a cesspool of very targeted, very violent misogyny and hate and I just wasn’t in a good place where I could deal with that. Let’s be honest, maybe .01% of well-adjusted people are in a good enough place to deal with that.

But I have evolved, like a Pokemon whose special ability is letting shit roll off my back. I also think that YouTube has gotten a bit better at automatically blocking and shadow banning dumbasses; whatever it is, I actually DO usually scan through comments on my videos these days. And I promise I won’t make it a habit to respond to comments this way, but I recently got a few replies that I think deserve a follow-up video.

Both comments were in response to my video posted earlier this week about what you can do right now to help people continue to be able to access abortions.

Okay, so first up, I really, really hoped I wouldn’t have to make an entire video on this, but I saw a comment in which someone tried to “cleverly” suggest that women abort their fetuses using things like pennyroyal. It’s mind-boggling that that’s the first thing they list, because I used it IN THE VIDEO THEY ARE REPLYING TO as an example of a way that a woman seeking an abortion may very well end up dead. Yes, throughout history people have used a variety of methods to abort fetuses. Some of them worked, some of them didn’t. But the throughline is that pretty much all of them gave the pregnant woman a coinflip’s chance of surviving. Pennyroyal induces abortion by damaging the patient’s liver, which then leads to multiple organ failure and often, death. This commenter recommends using the essential oil version, which is extraordinarily toxic and has killed people, and dogs, and anything else that comes into contact with it. As I said in a previous video on the topic, essential oils can damage you even by absorption through the skin. Do not do this.

I know it’s cute and fun and cottagecore to pretend we’re all witches who can fight back with “all natural” ways of controlling our bodies but that is dangerous bullshit. Plan C is at least 95% effective with no common dangerous side effects. Use it, buy it for pregnant people who don’t want to be pregnant anymore, tell the world about how great it is and how relatively easy it is to get (for now). Don’t post things that are going to get people killed, and especially don’t post them in my YouTube comments, you fucking assholes.

First, a few people asked for clarification and explanation on the actions Alexandria Ocasio -Cortez has proposed that Democrats in Congress do right now. I debated going into detail on that in the previous video, but it would have been a great big detour because I wanted to tie it into something I’ve seen a lot in the past few months: liberals arguing vociferously that there is simply nothing the Democrats could have done in the past 30 years to stop this from happening, and that there is simply nothing they can do now that the Supreme Court has effectively taken over and destroyed our democracy.

These excuse makers argue things like “Well, even though Democrats have, several times in the past 30 years, had control of the Presidency and Congress, they might not have had enough votes to overcome a filibuster,” while ignoring things like how the Republicans have rarely had that same amount of control but have accomplished a tremendous amount, because politics is about more than yes or no votes. It’s about backroom wheeling and dealing, it’s about threatening, incentivizing, it’s about whipping votes. Like, remember that pre-canceled Kevin Spacey show that was entirely centered on a guy whose job was “WHIP”? That’s what that guy did! In addition to murdering the occasional journalist, which I am not recommending. I’m just saying abortion rights have not been a priority for Democrats, and also Democrats aren’t very effective at even enacting overwhelmingly popular legislation, so they haven’t gotten it done.

Anyway yes, I would be happy to talk a little bit more about what AOC is proposing!

In that previous video I specifically pointed to one Tweet to sum up a lot of what she’s been talking about lately, so let’s go through them: first up, restraining judicial review.

Judicial review is the idea that the Supreme Court can “check” the decisions made in the other two branches of our government (executive and legislative) by ensuring they represent the will of the people. It’s not in the Constitution but some founders thought it was a good idea. Back in the Marbury v Madison decision of 1803, the Supreme Court struck down an act of Congress as unconstitutional, and this power has been in play ever since. In fact, that’s how we got same sex marriage: the Court used judicial review to strike down as unconstitutional legislation that described marriage as being between a man and a woman.

But it can also go in the other direction, morally speaking, as when the Court ruled the Missouri compromise unconstitutional because Congress couldn’t tell States they had to outlaw slavery.

So in theory, if Democrats WERE interested in pushing out legislation saying women have the basic human right of bodily autonomy and therefore the ability to get an abortion if they want one, the Supreme Court could turn around and say “Well, that’s unconstitutional, into the bin with that law.”

These recent decisions have led to renewed calls to add some caveats to judicial review, like insisting that the Supreme Court can only overrule Congress if the decision is unanimous, or a strong majority of 7-2.

Whether or not this is a good idea is NOT something I am equipped to decide. I will leave it to the experts to decide, and by “experts” I mean people who don’t JUST want to protect abortion rights at any cost as soon as possible but people who want to protect abortion rights AND our democracy itself, changing things without introducing bigger problems down the line. I do trust that AOC is one of the latter and it sounds like a good idea to me.

Next up she suggests expanding the court. Historically the Supreme Court has anywhere from 5 to 10 justices, and Congress has the power to determine how many will serve at once. It has changed over the years based on political motivations: like when Andrew Johnson, who Congress rightfully hated, was getting ready to appoint a new justice, Congress yoinked a few people from the bench so he couldn’t. So yes, a politically motivated Congress that wants to balance out a Supreme Court full of theocrats could absolutely vote to add some more seats and let Biden appoint them.

However, they’d have to either repeal the filibuster or whip enough votes to get it to pass. See my previous comments about whether or not getting this done is a priority, which it isn’t for Biden as he is for some reason against expanding the court.

Next, opening clinics on federal lands. As I mentioned in the previous video, in order to do this Congress MIGHT first need to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which took effect in 1980 and prevents the federal government from directly funding abortions. This means that the tremendous number of poor and disabled women and others with uteruses who get their health insurance through Medicaid are unable to pay for abortions.

So, if Congress repeals the Hyde Amendment, which they can do through the same means of expanding the court, they can restore full healthcare access to millions of people AND they would have the ability to open clinics on federal land where state law would not apply.

That said, I’ve seen some experts argue that the Hyde Amendment wouldn’t necessarily apply to this idea and that the government COULD possibly lease federal land to clinics without repealing it. I will leave it to the experts to argue.

Expanding education and access to Plan C: “Plan C” is a medical abortion. It’s usually administered as two pills taken a day or two apart, which in 95-98% of cases results in the body miscarrying the fetus. You can take the pills at home, and there is very little risk. In fact, the risk of complications from taking Plan C is drastically lower than the risk of carrying a pregnancy to term. After you miscarry, if you see a doctor for any reason they will have no way to know whether you miscarried “naturally” or not. The pills cost anywhere from $50 to $400 and can be purchased online.

The problem is that not many people know about this, which is why it would be awesome to have a national ad campaign letting people know that they can go to to learn more and find a trusted source to purchase them.

I’ve talked about repealing the Hyde Amendment already so let’s hop to “hold floor votes codifying Griswold, Obergefell, Lawrence, Loving, etc.” I mentioned this in my first video following the leaked SCOTUS decision, but the basis for the overturning of Roe v. Wade basically provides precedent for the Court to continue to overrule other previous decisions that protect our right to privacy: our right to have consensual sex with who we want, to marry who we want, and so on. This is just a suggestion that Congress go on the offensive and codify all those things into law now, since justices like Clarence Thomas have officially gone on record as saying they will be looking to overturn those laws.

Finally, AOC recommends a “vote on Escobar’s bill protecting clinics.” Escobar is Veronica Escobar, a Congressperson from Texas who in May introduced a bill that would protect healthcare workers across the country by issuing grants for facilities to upgrade their security, including, crucially, their cybersecurity. They need to be able to defend themselves from the “pro-life” crowd who have been enacting terrorism upon abortion clinics for decades now, and who are only going to get worse with this opinion. The cybersecurity is necessary not just to protect clinics from attacks that might take them offline but to protect the privacy of the people who are using their services. And that’s a whole other video I might do later, by the way. But yeah, delete that stupid astrology-based period tracker from your phone and maybe consider using Signal to talk to your friends.

So those are all the things AOC is pushing for, and I think it’s great. I highly recommend you call your Congresscritters and ask them what they’re doing to knock items off this list.

Thanks to everyone for watching, liking, subscribing, all that good stuff, and thank you for the comments that are smart and funny and not full of dangerous pseudoscience. I know, that seems like such a low bar but I guess YouTube still has some ways to go on the ol’ moderation algorithm.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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