Kate Michelman Discusses Women’s Reproductive Rights in the Era of President Trump
By Mary Frasier, Contributing Writer
“Make your voices heard.” This was the advice that Kate Michelman gave to her audience at the Gettysburg College Democrats meeting last Wednesday. Over 50 people were in attendance to hear the former president of NARAL Pro Choice America (1985-2004) speak. Her other accomplishments include testifying against Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in their Supreme Court Justice nomination hearings, writing the book With Liberty and Justice for All: A Life Spent Protecting the Right to Choose, and being recognized as the “face of reproductive rights” by The Washington Post.
Michelman predominantly discussed the outlook on reproductive rights of women in the era of President Trump and how women — and men — can fight back. She began the evening by recalling her past, about her first husband leaving her after only a few short years of marriage. Michelman suddenly went from being a homemaker to a single mother of three young girls on welfare and food stamps. A month later she discovered that she was pregnant. She decided the most responsible action was to terminate the pregnancy because she was already struggling to support three children and herself. Abortion was illegal at the time, leaving her with the only two options of a back-alley termination or a hospital abortion. After being told her pregnancy would be terminated by an “expert” but not necessarily a doctor, she decided to go through a hospital.
“I can’t describe adequately the humiliation,” she recalled, obviously in pain from recollecting the experience.
The hospital’s doctor panel would make the decision if she would be allowed to have an abortion. They asked her questions during two separate conferences that made her feel uncomfortable and judged. After being approved to receive an abortion, she still had to surpass the obstacle of obtaining her husband’s permission. She could then terminate her pregnancy.
After this low point in her life, Michelman decided to spend the rest of her life devoted to political activism, especially in the areas of civil and women’s rights. For almost twenty years, she was the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, an organization that fights to protect a woman’s right to accessible abortion care, birth control, and paid parental leave, along with fighting against any kind of pregnancy discrimination.
Over forty years later, Michelman is still fighting to protect people from humiliation and discrimination. She discussed the newest proposed healthcare legislation and how the budget for women’s healthcare, such as cervical screenings, is being cut significantly. Other negative aspects from the healthcare bill, in her view, include the non-existence of no-cost birth control and that insurance providers that are no longer required to include maternity care.
Michelman suggests that if access to birth control is limited, the need for abortions will skyrocket. This led her to discuss President Trump’s restoration and expansion of the Global Gag Rule, a rule that does not permit any overseas organization receiving U.S. funding for contraceptive services to perform abortions, even if they are legal in the country. The Obama administration eliminated the rule altogether, but President Trump reinstated it on his second day in office.
More than anything, Kate Michelman hoped that young adults at the college would become more involved politically and make the necessary changes our country needs.
“There is nothing more important,”she preached, “[than being] informed and active and saving our democracy.”
Editor’s Note: While the author is a member of College Democrats, multiple members of the editorial board reviewed this article prior to its publication to ensure appropriate journalistic tenor. (BP)