Where Things Stand: Women Took Some High Profile Risks To Defend Abortion Access Today

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WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 19: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is detained by U.S. Capitol Police Officers after participating in a sit in with activists from Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPDA) in front of t... WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 19: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is detained by U.S. Capitol Police Officers after participating in a sit in with activists from Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPDA) in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on July 19, 2022 in Washington, DC. The CPDA held the protest with House Democrats in support of abortion rights. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Seventeen members of Congress were arrested outside the Supreme Court today while protesting the high court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Those arrested for “illegal demonstration activity” — aka blocking traffic during the protest — included Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA) and several others, such as Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), the only male lawmaker arrested in the bunch.

Before making the arrests, police warned protesters that they were blocking traffic and should leave if they didn’t want to be arrested. That announcement reportedly prompted chanting and singing from the crowd of protesters, according to several reports from the scene. The footage is striking to see:

It is, of course, not uncommon for lawmakers to stage protests and get arrested, often with the aim of bringing more visibility to an issue they care about or are pushing to address legislatively. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Joyce Beatty (D-OH) were all arrested at different times last summer while participating in voting rights demonstrations.

Some of the lawmakers arrested this afternoon released statements saying they were obviously protesting the Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to an abortion, hoping to keep the issue front and center (especially as we get closer and closer to Midterms this fall).

“The extremist Republican Party is determined to take us back in time and take away our rights. I refuse to stand on the sidelines as their rampage continues,” Clark said in a statement. “I am furious and heartbroken, and I will proudly fight for our right to abortion and all of our Constitutional rights. They can arrest me, but we won’t allow them to arrest freedom.”

But the very public, very high profile arrests came against the backdrop of another less noticed, but equally high profile and, perhaps, risky effort to defend abortion rights and abortion access in D.C. today.

A few outlets have reported on the news, but let me give you a rundown:

Abortion advocate Renee Bracey Sherman, who is the founder and executive director of the abortion story sharing group, We Testify, addressed lawmakers during a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations hearing today. She and others testified on the impact of Roe’s overturning.

In a historic and, honestly, brave move, Bracey Sherman explained how to take abortion pills safely at home — the first time someone has described how to self-manage the procedure in front of Congress.

She shared the step-by-step process for ingesting both the misoprostol and the mifepristone abortion pills after telling a story about how she, as a teenager, tried to induce a miscarriage by drinking an “unsafe” amount of alcohol and even considered throwing herself down the stairs, per HuffPost.

“That was when [abortion] was legal in every state. Now, it is not and I know some will try the methods that I did,” she said. “And I want them to know that there are safe methods to self-managing their abortions, according to the World Health Organization.”

She then outlined the process step-by-step for how to take the two abortion pills to safely carry out the procedure. The combination of the two pills is one of the most common ways to get an abortion, often beginning in a medical clinic where the process is explained by a doctor. The pills were already subject to intense regulation by the FDA and accessing the medication has become, obviously, more difficult in the wake of Roe’s demise as red states ban the procedure. One of the other witnesses on Tuesday’s panel noted that ending legal abortion will not end abortions in those states. People will just end up carrying out the procedure on their own, sometimes without guidance from a medical professional.

“It is one mifepristone pill followed by four misoprostol pills dissolved under the tongue 24 to 48 hours later, or a series of 12 misoprostol pills, four at a time, dissolved under the tongue every three hours,” Bracey Sherman. “There’s no way to test it in the blood stream and a person doesn’t need to tell police what they took.”

She said she shared the process from the House floor to exercise her constitutional right to free speech.

“I share that to exercise my right to free speech because there are organizations and legislators who want to make what I just said a crime,” Bracey Sherman added. “Everyone loves someone who has abortions.”

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