Guys: If you’ve only sort of been paying attention, now is the time to focus.The reproductive rights ish is hitting the fan in a major way, as US states rush to pass insane laws that will queue up a Supreme Court overthrow of Roe v. Wade (that would be the landmark 1973 decision that prevents states from outlawing abortion). Republican politicians are actually trying to usher in a future where women could face jail time (or death! Not a typo! DEATH!) for something that we have done throughout human history, and which nearly one in four American women now do before the age of 45.
TL;DR: It’s Handmaid’s Tale vibes out there. Here’s what you need to know—and how you can fight back.
1. States Are Passing All-Out Abortion Bans
So far this year, 31 US states have discussed some kind of abortion ban in their state legislatures.
This week, Alabama is considering a law that would outlaw termination once a fetus is “in utero” (which, like, isn’t a fetus by definition in utero?). There are no exceptions for rape or severe fetal abnormality.
Meanwhile six states have passed bills to ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected, around six-weeks from a person’s last period. This basically means outlawing abortion before most women even know they’re pregnant.
Most of these bills are still tied up in court. But in Georgia, Republican Governor Brian Kemp just signed his state’s so-called “heartbeat bill” into law. When it goes into effect in January 2020, it will be the most extreme abortion ban in the United States. (Both the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights have vowed to challenge it in court, so for now, abortions after 6 weeks remain legal in the state).
“These bills do not represent a chipping away of abortion access. They are not enacting waiting periods,” says Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth. “They are endangering lives and threatening draconian tactics to force us to carry our pregnancies to term, against our will, regardless of our personal circumstances or viability of the fetus.”
And the laws will hit young people the hardest. “Young people, including youth of color and those living in poverty will be most impacted,” Hauser says. “Younger women are least likely to recognize signs of early pregnancy, and many do not have the resources to travel to a more humane state.”
2. These Laws Will Turn Women Who Get Abortions Into Criminals
Georgia’s new law makes fetuses “natural persons” who get full protection under the law. This means that abortion = murder. This means that a woman could face life imprisonment or the death penalty for it.
It also means that even women who have miscarriages could fall under suspicion. If you miscarry, will the state now be able to investigate whether it was because you were on drugs, for example, or whether you ordered the abortion pill online?
“For a long time, the anti-choice movement carefully crafted their image to talk about women as victims,” says Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Now there’s been a shift to talking about women who seek abortion as perpetrators.”
And now that the death penalty has been floated (by Texan lawmakers, among others), things like jail time seem a lot more palatable by comparison—which is the whole point, says Hogue.
3. The Goal is not to Outlaw Abortion in Certain States; it’s to Outlaw it EVERYWHERE
The people passing these laws know they’re unconstitutional, per Roe—and that’s why they’re doing it! Anti-choice activists want these states to be sued so that the cases will reach the Supreme Court and have a chance at overturning Roe.
How do we know that this is their endgame? Because they’ve said so.
The Georgia bill’s original sponsor, Republican State Representative Ed Setzler, has said it would allow the state to “recruit the best legal team in the nation” take it to the Supreme Court so that abortion could be outlawed in the “highest courts in the land.”
“Enacting abortion bans is now the strategy, and the goal is to kickstart a court case that will give the U.S. Supreme Court the opportunity to overturn abortion rights,” says Elizabeth Nash, Senior States Issues Manager at the Guttmacher Institute.
4. Republics Truly Believe The Supreme Court Will Overturn Roe
The court, now staffed by Trump nominees Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch, has made the anti-choice movement very confident.
Overturning Roe was once “the moon shot,” according to Hogue—but it became an actual possibility after Republicans denied Barack Obama his last Supreme Court pick (Merrick Garland) and Trump was elected. “Now they believe they have a court that is willing to undo Roe,” says Hogue. “Otherwise, there’s absolutely no reason to pursue these blatantly unconstitutional laws. These are expensive and hard to defend in court.”
5. Outrageous Lies About Abortion Are Spreading
Just last week, Trump told supporters at a rally that after a baby is born, “The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”
He was speaking in support of an act that would mandate medical care for fetuses that survive abortions during the third trimester. He wants people to think this is a thing that happens. In reality, abortions after 24 weeks are exceedingly rare, comprising less than 1 percent of abortions, and usually happen because the fetus is not viable and has no chance of surviving outside the womb anyway. Regardless, it is illegal to “execute” any baby born alive (OB-VI-OU-SLY!).
The gruesome lies don’t stop there. During the State of the Union in January, Trump falsely described a newly passed New York law as allowing “a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”
And in February, former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told reporters (with a straight face) that people are taking already-born babies home from the hospital and aborting them there.
These completely unsubstantiated falsehoods shift the headlines away from what is actually happening, i.e. the slow death march of Roe. Abortion opponents want to distract us, since they know their views are unpopular (even Trump-supporting Fox News found that only 26 percent of voters actually want to see Roe overturned.)
So What Can You Do To Help?
If you want to speak up for your reproductive rights, and you’re living in the US, call or write your state elected officials to express your opposition for unconstitutional abortion bans.
If you’re not living in the US, you can also sign Planned Parenthood’s petition to stop all six-week abortion bans, donate to groups on the ground helping protect abortion access in the South, and donate to the groups fighting to protect your rights in court. Use NARAL Pro-Choice America’s handy tool to find out how you can volunteer near you.
“One way or another, the destiny of all non-male-identifying people in this country is going to be decided in the next two years,” Hogue says. “Our opponents are counting on people’s silence and willingness to look the other way and focus on other issues.”
“Passivity is a win,” she says, “And the stakes are high.”
This post originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com.