Molly Booth ’25
On Sept. 11, Scripps Presents hosted Congresswoman Judy Chu for a discussion on the current state of reproductive rights and reproductive justice in the United States. In conversation with Dr. Noah Nattel from Planned Parenthood, Chu talked through the impact of Dobbs, the fight to get the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) through Congress, and future threats to reproductive rights.
Representative Judy Chu, who proudly represents Claremont in Congress, has long been an advocate for reproductive rights. Her work on this issue gained even more significance and recognition in the wake of the Dobbs decision, which was a pivotal moment in the battle for reproductive rights. In 2022, the Supreme Court released a decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which overturned the ruling of Roe v. Wade, a ruling that had previously upheld the constitutional right to an abortion. Since the Dobbs decision, at least 24 states have either banned or imposed restrictions on abortion, and these policies have had widespread impacts. Rep. Chu’s visit to Scripps College was part of a national tour designed to raise awareness of the reality of abortion access in the post-Dobbs world.
Firstly, Rep. Chu discussed some of the restrictions imposed by these 24 states. Many states have implemented mandatory waiting periods stating that a person seeking an abortion has to wait a given period of time before getting the procedure. Along a similar vein, many states also now require an ultrasound to be taken before the abortion takes place. Rep. Chu stated that the creators of these restrictive policies made these rules to force people to reflect on the decision with the hope that time or seeing the fetus would cause people to change their minds and not follow through with the procedure.
Another main impact of the Dobbs decision is the state-wide closing of abortion clinics in several of these states. In territories where abortion has been deemed illegal, there are no clinics, and in almost all states that have put restrictions on abortions post-Dobbs, many abortion clinics have been shut down. The main impact of this is, for many people, access to safe and legal abortion now requires significant time and financial burdens to travel outside of their state. For those who cannot afford to do so, they are forced to carry to term or resort to non-licensed means.
Even in California, a state known for its dedication to reproductive rights, the impact of the Dobbs is felt. Rep. Chu and Dr. Nattel discussed how clinics in California have seen an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortions. Not only does this affect the availability of appointments for California residents, but it also takes an immense toll on those who have to travel out of their home states to escape harsh abortion restrictions.
Dr. Nattel also brought up the harsh reality of the pressures that are now put on medical practitioners in more conservative states. In states with abortion restrictions and bans, doctors can have their medical licenses revoked if they perform an abortion in any way the state deems illegal. As a result, many doctors take their services to states where this risk is not present. This leads to some people in areas with a shortage of doctors finding themselves facing difficult decisions about delivering babies and seeking abortions.
Rep. Chu asserted that she is committed to protecting reproductive rights from future threats. One of her focuses going forward is passing the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), a comprehensive act with the main goal of protecting reproductive rights. The act aims to mandate the legalization of abortion with the goal of protecting abortion seekers as well as abortion providers. It has gathered more support than any other reproductive rights bill that has circulated through Congress. In fact, WHPA has been passed in the House of Representatives twice but has been unable to make it through the Senate.
Currently, Rep. Chu is looking to the future, past the elections of 2024, where Democrats hope to gain a majority in the Senate. She feels that if Democrats and their allies are able to take control of the Senate and retake control of the House, WHPA could be successfully passed. She encouraged those attending the talk to increase their civil engagement, from calling representatives to writing letters expressing support for the bill.
One particular comment of interest was made by Dr. Nattel, who brought up the current controversy surrounding Mifepristone, a drug used for both abortions and managing miscarriages which some political actors are seeking to ban. The current blurred lines between political agendas and healthcare decisions have made “everything fair game” according to Rep. Chu, and there is no telling how far the reproductive restrictions will go.
Given that the reproductive rights landscape is facing even more challenges, ensuring safe and easy access to abortion remains at the top of Rep. Chu’s list of priorities. When ending the informative session, Congresswoman Chu and Dr. Nattel highlighted the importance of continuing to fight to protect reproductive rights. In the words of Dr. Nattel, “Roe was always the floor” and now we are tasked with the necessary job of protecting our rights.
Image Source: Courtesy of LASPA Center