TIME Congress

Watch Elizabeth Warren’s Speech in Defense of Planned Parenthood

She was speaking before Monday's vote on a defunding proposal

Senator Elizabeth Warren has criticized members of Congress who want to defund Planned Parenthood.

“Do you have any idea what year it is?” Warren asked, speaking before Monday’s Senate vote on the defunding bill. “Did you fall down, hit your head and think you woke up in the 1950s or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor?”

Warren was speaking after covertly recorded videos released by the Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the costs associated with fetal-tissue extraction. That footage, roundly criticized by both parties, set off a political firestorm, with Republicans alleging that the conversations proved that staffers were selling baby body parts for profit.

Senator Joni Ernst introduced a bill involving the sweeping defunding of the organization, in a bid to hit back against what, in a recent TIME op-ed, Ernst and Senators Rand Paul and James Lankford called “callous actions that strike at the moral fabric of our society.”

In response, Planned Parenthood has maintained that the videos were taken out of context and alleges that they were edited.

The Senate later voted down the bill, but the issue is expected to resurface as Congress attempts to pass spending bills later in the year.

TIME reproductive rights

Why I Donated Fetal Tissue After My Abortion

Katie Lyon is a mother and a supporter of Planned Parenthood

I was able to turn my pain into something that could benefit someone else

Nine years ago, my husband and I were newlyweds, eager to start our family right away. We figured, why wait? So I started taking prenatal vitamins and folic acid. I made sure I was eating right and doing all the things you’re supposed to do to ensure a healthy pregnancy. When I became pregnant after two months, we were overjoyed.

Eighteen and a half weeks into the pregnancy, I had an ultrasound. Even I could see on the screen that something was wrong. It looked like there was a hole in my daughter’s back. The technician and genetic counselor in the room got real quiet. It turned out that our daughter had myriad problems, including spina bifida and a tethered spinal cord. We didn’t want to rush into such an important decision, but we did eventually decide we wanted to end the pregnancy. Then, we had to wait for an available appointment. We had an abortion at 22 weeks.

It was the right decision for us as a family. It was a decision we made with our doctor — which is how it should be. When lawmakers try to ban abortion after 20 weeks, or restrict access in any way, I know that they just don’t get it. It’s not their right to make this decision for anyone else. Unless someone has been through an experience like mine personally, they really have no idea what it is like, and no idea what they would do in our shoes.

It was horrible for us to have to end a much-wanted pregnancy, but we made the best of it by donating the fetal tissue for research. We contacted our genetics counselor, who coordinated the donation with a spina bifida research project funded by the National Institutes of Health. We figured that donating the tissue could perhaps spare other families the painful situation we found ourselves in. It was clear to me and my husband that the question of what caused the spina bifida needed to be studied.

I feel fortunate that I had the chance to donate the tissue — I was able to turn my pain into something that could benefit someone else.

I want people who are politicizing the option to donate fetal tissue to think about the implications of removing this option. I want them to think about people suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and sickle cell disease — and to consider those people’s family members who no doubt want their loved ones to live longer, fuller lives.

Why would anyone want to destroy the chance to save another person’s life?

Recently, a group began releasing secretly taped videos of Planned Parenthood employees, in which doctors discuss fetal-tissue donations for research purposes. After the videos became public, I decided to advocate for Planned Parenthood by telling my story, so people can understand why fetal-tissue research is a good and important act. (It is also a legal act.)

I’m concerned that as a result of the current ongoing attack against the organization for making fetal tissue available for scientific research, anti-abortion-rights lawmakers will try to defund what is an incredibly important healthcare organization. Republican presidential candidate and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has said he will push a vote to cut funding. His fellow candidate Texas Senator Ted Cruz has also called for defunding, and an investigation into Planned Parenthood. Other prominent Republicans, including Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Rick Perry have made similar statements.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would be a huge mistake. It would mean taking healthcare away from millions of women like me who rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, Pap smears, breast and cervical cancer screenings, STI diagnosis and treatment, sex education and — yes — abortion. It would mean going backward, not forward, with scientific research that benefits society at large.

After my abortion, I was able to become pregnant again. I gave birth to a healthy son, who’s now eight years old. I am grateful that I was able to make my own decision about my reproductive health, and plan my family so that my son can grow up with the resources that every child needs. And I will continue to fight to make sure that these rights are not taken away from me and other women.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME North Dakota

North Dakota’s Strict Abortion Ban Overturned

Jack Dalrymple
Mark Humphrey—AP North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple asks a question during a meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee at the National Governors Association convention on July 12, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn.

The last abortion clinic in the state can stay open

A federal appeals court has struck down North Dakota’s ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, invalidating one of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country and allowing the state’s sole abortion clinic to remain open.

In 2013, North Dakota passed a ban on abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks in some cases. The law was passed specifically to test the constitutional limits of abortion rights—when he signed it, North Dakota Gov Jack Dalrymple called it “a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade,” and noted he expected legal challenges. Before the most recent appeal, the law had already been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2014. The most recent federal appeals court decision permanently blocks the law, but the state can still appeal to the Supreme Court.

The law was first blocked in 2013, which allowed North Dakota’s last abortion clinic, Red River Women’s Clinic, to remain open throughout the whole legal battle.

“No woman should ever have to fear her constitutional rights could disappear overnight by virtue of where she lives,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the Eighth Circuit also struck down Alabama’s 12-week abortion ban. And in June, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked a law in Texas that would force more than half the state’s abortion clinics to close.

 

TIME Reproductive Health

Why We Still Need Fetal-Tissue Research

Planned Parenthood President Feldt
Mario Tama—Getty Images

Two sting videos that claim to implicate Planned Parenthood in the illegal practice to selling fetal tissue for a profit prompted a Congressional investigation of the organization. But it doesn’t mean that research on fetal tissue is wrong. Or that it should be stopped.

The first video released in mid-July that was secretly made by the Center for Medical Progress, a group that includes well known anti-abortion activists, centered around one question: What happens to the fetuses that result from abortions performed at Planned Parenthood? A second surreptitiously filmed video by the same group was released Tuesday. Its central question: Whether Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of such tissue. (The group insists it does not.)

Fetal tissue is valuable for medical research; the National Institutes of Health spent $76 million on fetal research in 2014, and fetal tissue has contributed to vaccines for polio, rubella and chicken pox. While recent efforts to transplant fetal tissue to treat conditions like Parkinson’s haven’t been as consistently successful, it’s still critical to scientific progress.

In the video, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services, notes that the fees Planned Parenthood charges are within laws that govern fetal tissue procurement; the fees cover the expenses of handling, storing and shipping the material, not for the material itself. But in calling for the Congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood’s practices, House Speaker John Boehner said: “When an organization monetizes an unborn child — and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video — we must all act.”

But there’s a blurring of the ethical and political lines here that is both intentional — and intentionally misleading. It’s one that’s always shadowed anything involving fetal tissue in this country. Fetal tissue research was initially allowed under specific conditions and approval by a government Ethics Advisory Board (EAB). During the 1980s, however, as controversy over the source of the fetal tissue — mostly abortions, and primarily elective ones — became increasingly politicized, a moratorium was placed on fetal tissue studies, and the EAB was disbanded. The restriction was lifted in 1993, but the work continued to be a challenge.

The ethical and political conflicts erupted again in 1998, when researchers studying excess IVF embryos and fetuses from elective abortions made breakthroughs in understanding stem cells, the pre-cells of everything that develops in the human body. The promise represented by these stem cells, which because of their developmental potential can possibly be manipulated to replace diseased or ailing cells, raised anew the questions of whether studying tissues from unused embryos and aborted fetuses was ethically — and politically — acceptable.

MORE: Why Planned Parenthood Provides Fetal Cells to Scientists

The resulting debate hampered stem cell research in the U.S. for nearly a decade, after the George W. Bush Administration prevented federal research money from being used to study excess embryos that couples had donated after IVF. Researchers wanting to pursue this work had to find private funding or leave the country, which some did. President Obama lifted the restriction in 2009 — and now, the controversy has erupted again. And as in times past, science is getting muddied by politics.

“This video is primarily aimed not at fetal tissue research but at Planned Parenthood,” says David Magnus, director of the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. “I don’t think this is about the use of tissue that is already discarded. I think it’s about abortion itself. The fact that it’s not clear whether there is any actual problem in terms of [Planned Parenthood’s] behavior highlights the fact that this is politically motivated.” Several Republican presidential candidates have also criticized Planned Parenthood’s practices, invoking the organization’s “disregard for the culture of life” and it’s “penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life.”

There’s no evidence on the video that Planned Parenthood makes a profit from fetal tissue. Nucatola is recorded as saying the organization pays anywhere from $30 to $100 per specimen, and that those fees cover administrative and handling costs, not the cost of the tissue itself. (Those costs are far lower than what other companies that broker exchange of tissues from hospitals and abortion clinics to those who want to study them charge.)

Women who decide to have abortions are asked after they make their decision about whether they want to donate the fetus to research. But not every woman is even given the choice. Similar to marijuana laws, in which there is a disconnect between federal and state policies governing its legality, federal law allows donation of fetal tissue if there is no payment involved, and it doesn’t influence the woman’s decision to have an abortion, while state policies may differ.

“State and local policies, as best I can tell, are patchwork, and there is no consistency across states with regard to how [fetal] tissues are used, whether or not they are allowed to be used, etcetera,” says Debra Mathews, assistant director for science programs at the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. According to the Guttmacher Institute, six states currently prohibit fetal tissue research on aborted fetuses; three states have introduced similar statues that were struck down. And adding to the confusion, some states prohibit experimentation on “live” fetuses, attempting to make distinctions between the state of the fetus following the procedure.

Such opaque policies, and the highly contentious nature of discussing anything involving fetuses, makes it nearly impossible to fully inform women and discuss their choices in an objective way. With embryonic stem cell research, which involves use of embryos that couples donate for research, Mathews notes that there were discussions about the ethical and moral questions involved. “I don’t know that we have had robust conversations about fetal tissue,” she says. “It’s very difficult to talk about. Abortion politics in this country make it very difficult to have discussions about the use of these tissues.”

And that’s led to a situation that’s far from open when it comes to the fate of fetal tissue from abortions. “There is important research, good research, involving fetal tissues,” says Mathews. “But we have not been transparent about it. In so far as this increases the transparency, and helps us to have a conversation about the research being done, and folks are following the rules that do exist, I think that’s important.”

MORE: Here’s What Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards Had to Say to David Koch

That may be nearly impossible, however, if conservative politicians continue to corral abortion positions and fetal research positions into the same ethical pen. Magnus notes that those opposed to abortion can still support fetal tissue research, and that the two stances aren’t as mutually exclusive from an ethical perspective. “The analogy is often made of organ procurement. ‘I’m not in favor of car accidents or people shooting each other. But if tragedies happen, and somebody is shot or there is a car accident, then being able to have something good come out of that is seen largely as a good thing.’”

One question the Congressional investigation will consider is whether the decision to donate the tissue influences the way in which abortions are performed at Planned Parenthood — if it does, that too is unlawful. But it would only be unethical if it compromises the health of the woman in any way. In the video, Nucatola discusses the fact that the way the abortion is performed should be the same for every woman, regardless of whether she agreed to donate the fetal tissue or not. But she does admit that “some people will actually try to change the presentation [of the fetus]” and that “you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, …we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part…and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards issued an apology for the tone of the discussion, acknowledging that “This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”

But Richards defends the way that Planned Parenthood performs abortions as ethical and legal. “Our donation programs, like any other high-quality health care providers, follows all laws and ethical guidelines. [Women and families’] commitment to life-saving research, developing treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s is important and compassionate. And it should be respected, not attacked,” she said in a video responding to the allegations.

But as long as the dialogue about the science and the medical potential of fetal research is entwined in the political debate over abortion, that respect — and the lives that can potentially be saved from these studies — will be hard to come by.

TIME Supreme Court

Supreme Court Keeps Texas Abortion Clinics Open for Now

Blocks restrictions from going into effect until the court decides whether to hear appeal

The Supreme Court voted Monday to temporarily block several abortion restrictions in Texas until the court decides whether to take the case on appeal.

The Court voted 5-4 to grant an emergency reprieve from the restrictions, which would have forced many Texas abortion clinics to close. Earlier this month, a lower court upheld the two restrictions, which would have required abortion clinics to meet the same building, equipment and staffing standards that surgery hospitals must meet, and required physicians who administer abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. If upheld, the restrictions would force half the abortion clinics in Texas to close, leaving the state with fewer than a dozen clinics. Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were the five majority votes, according to SCOTUSblog.

The Fifth Circuit Court previously sided with the Texas legislature, writing that the restrictions “protect the health and welfare of women seeking abortions,” and adding that “there is no question that this is a legitimate purpose that supports regulating physicians and the facilities in which they perform abortions.” Major medical groups like the American Medical Association say that the restrictions “impede, rather than serve, public health objectives,” and reproductive rights advocates say they’re expressly designed to restrict access to abortion.

“We are grateful the Supreme Court has stepped in to protect women’s access to safe, legal abortion, for now. Restricting or banning abortion blocks women from getting safe medical care,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said in a statement. “This dangerous law never should have passed in the first place — which is why we need to elect leaders who will champion women’s health and rights.”

The Supreme Court decision does not strike down the restrictions—it merely prevents them from going into effect until the Court decides whether or not to hear an appeal from the clinics. If the law stays as it is, the abortion regulations in Texas will be among the most restrictive in the country.

The Court is also hearing a similar case from Mississippi, involving the requirement that doctors get admitting privileges at a local hospital. If the Court upholds that restriction, the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi may be forced to close. The Court may issue a decision on that case as early as Tuesday.

TIME reproductive rights

What the New Study On Preterm Birth Actually Means

Hal C. Lawrence, MD, is the Executive Vice President and CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

There is no case for a new viability age—early preterm birth remains dangerous

A new study that was published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, and that gained significant media coverage, addresses the sad issue of early preterm birth and the ensuing high levels of infant mortality. However, the findings of the study are being misrepresented — by some groups inadvertently and by others intentionally — so I would like to set the record straight.

For the new data analysis, funded by the National Institutes of Health, outcomes were recorded for approximately 5,000 babies delivered before 27 weeks gestation; this is very early term, as full term begins at 39 weeks. Of the infants delivered after 26 weeks, 80 percent survived. However, of those delivered at 22 weeks, overall only 5 percent survived.

Some media coverage of this data has heralded the survival rates as demonstrating that the “viability age” has been newly established at 22 weeks. But that’s not accurate, because a 5 percent survival rate is very low.

As an obstetrician-gynecologist, I work closely with families who are experiencing preterm birth and who are facing the tragic prospect of losing their newborn or a lifetime of illness. Unfortunately, as a result of some of the media coverage of this data, they may expect better outcomes than what is likely. The sad reality is that even with the best medical care, early preterm birth remains dangerous.

Worse, some critics of reproductive choice might suggest that the findings of this paper point to a downward trend in the “age of viability,” and that continued work in this field is sure to lower it further. Their goal is to limit abortion access through a 20-week ban based on the mistruth that viability is possible at 20 weeks gestation. But that is just not the case.

Here is what the new data actually mean for health care:

Early preterm birth — generally defined at birth before 34 weeks of gestation — can have a variety of causes. That’s why health care providers, including ob-gyns, monitor pregnant women to identify signs of preterm birth and to prevent labor, if possible.

They have made some progress; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that births before 37 weeks had dropped to 11.38 percent in 2013 from 12.8 percent in 2006; this decrease meant more families avoiding the poor outcomes commonly associated with preterm birth.

For many premature infants, those outcomes are significant. Although risks are greatest for infants born before 34 weeks of gestation, those that are born after 34 weeks of gestation but before 37 weeks of gestation – still preterm, but not early preterm – are still more likely to experience delivery complications, long-term impairment, and early death than those born later in pregnancy.

What’s more, infants born prematurely have increased risks of mortality and morbidity throughout childhood, especially during the first year of life.

Without a doubt, longer gestation allows fetuses a better chance at a healthy infancy. That’s why it’s not surprising that we have sought to identify the point in gestation at which fetuses can survive outside of the uterus.

But the challenge is that gestation is a gradual process, with no set moment at which a fetus would be viable upon delivery. There is also variability in fetal development, which means that viability for one fetus at a particular stage does mean viability for another at that same stage. Without a doubt, the earlier in pregnancy a baby is delivered, the more it will struggle to survive, even with the best medical care. That is what last week’s data demonstrates.

While mischaracterizing or misunderstanding data can be troublesome, misappropriating data to serve a political interest is just plain wrong. Studies like this week’s are meant to further our understanding of the medical universe, and our ability to tailor our care so that our patients benefit. Let us add this data to our arsenal of medical understanding and continue to work toward caring for those who need it.

Hal C. Lawrence, MD, is the Executive Vice President and CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME health

Watch Jemima Kirke Explain Why She Refused Anesthesia During Her Abortion

She couldn't afford the extra cost

Girls actress Jemima Kirke is opening up about an abortion she got during college.

In a new PSA for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Kirke says she became pregnant with her boyfriend’s child while at college in Providence, R.I. “My life was just not conducive to raising a healthy, happy child,” she says. “I just didn’t feel it was fair.”

Even though her family is well off (her father is former Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, and her mother is fashion designer Lorraine Kirke), she didn’t want to tell her parents about the pregnancy, so she had to pay for the abortion herself. She scraped together the money with her boyfriend, but they didn’t have enough for anesthesia, so she got the abortion without it. “The anesthesia wasn’t that much more, but when you’re scrounging for however many hundreds of dollars, it is a lot. I just didn’t have it.”

Kirke presents her story as an example of the various obstacles that are put in women’s way when it comes to making reproductive choices. “We think we do have free choice, and we are able to do whatever we want, but then there are these little hoops we have to jump through to get them,” she says.

The actress and painter said she talks about her story in order to reduce the stigma surrounding reproductive choices, and because she wants to protect reproductive rights for her two young daughters. “I would love if when they’re older, and they’re in their teens or their 20s, if the political issues surrounding their bodies were not there anymore,” she said, adding that settling the debate about reproductive rights would give them “one less thing to battle.”

TIME reproductive rights

Ohio State Rep: Why I Spoke Out About My Rape and Abortion

Teresa Fedor is a Democratic member of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Ohio state representative Teresa Fedor on the shattering incident that compelled her to fight for a woman's right to choose, and against the "Heartbeat Bill"

As an Ohio legislator, I have witnessed for nearly 15 years legislation introduced that intends to marginalize or completely eliminate a woman’s reproductive rights. The most recent and arguably worst offender is House Bill 69, termed Ohio’s “heartbeat bill,” which would ban an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. This bill allows no exceptions for victims of incest or rape, but only ones when a mother’s life is endangered or when she is at risk of serious physical impairment. This means a woman undergoing or physician performing an abortion could be charged with a fifth-degree felony.

Last week, I again found myself enduring the arguments by those in support of House Bill 69. As one legislator after another spoke and gave no reason for excluding victims of incest or rape as exceptions, I felt the overwhelming need to voice my opinion regarding the potential impact of such inhumane legislation. I could no longer be silent.

As I was recognized to speak in the debate on the bill, which passed the House, my frustration was at its peak. At the core of my opposition lay a very personal story but one that I would have to disclose in order to underscore the seriousness of leaving out these exceptions. In one moment, without having planned to speak out beforehand, I made it known that over 35 years ago, I had been a victim of rape and underwent an abortion while serving in the military. Because this happened to me at such a young age, I refused to let this victimization define who I was going to be. More important, I was thankful I had the freedom to make this decision — back then. Unfortunately, it is this freedom that could be stripped from women today.

As the words poured out of me, I proclaimed, “You don’t respect my reason, my rape, my abortion, and I guarantee you there are other women who should stand up with me and be courageous enough to speak that voice. What you’re doing is so fundamentally inhuman, unconstitutional, and I’ve sat here too long. I dare any one of you to judge me, because there’s only one judge I’m going to face.

I dare you to walk in my shoes. This debate is purely political. I understand your story, but you don’t understand mine. I’m grateful for that freedom. It is a personal decision, and how dare government get into my business.”

As a young victim, I made a decision not to carry my pregnancy to full-term. I also know that many women who’ve been victimized by rape make a different decision and carry their pregnancies to full-term. There is no right or wrong answer, and I respect either decision. But it is a personal freedom that should be determined only by the woman whose life it impacts, not by the government.

As an elected official and public servant, I continue to stay true to what I believe is the right thing to do. For nearly a decade, I tirelessly promoted legislation to protect Ohio’s most vulnerable against the scourge of human trafficking. I am proud to have authored Ohio’s first of several anti-human-trafficking bills, setting a precedent throughout our state and country. Comparable to the abortion debate, this issue was widely misunderstood, and others ridiculed or minimized what I fought for.

Sadly, over the past four years, state governments have enacted 231 laws limiting access to abortion, with 26 new laws being passed in 2014, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. Over the years I have felt that the escalating war on our reproductive freedom will require more voices speaking out at the risk of judgment and stigma in our culture. However horrific the circumstances, I was proud to speak truth to that power.

Fedor represents Ohio’s 45th district in the state’s house of representatives.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 27

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Why did Saudi Arabia lead airstrikes on the rebels who’ve seized Yemen? The answer isn’t as clear as it seems.

By Frederic Wehrey at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

2. Three black swimmers swept the 100-yard freestyle at the NCAA swim championships — and swept away a long-standing stereotype.

By Kavitha Davidson in Bloomberg View

3. Could a Facebook deal to host news content make news brands obsolete?

By Felix Salmon in Fusion

4. A new satellite study reveals the rapid breakdown of Antarctic ice. Low-lying nations should be worried.

By Robert McSweeney in the Carbon Brief

5. Here’s how reproductive health rights for women can help end poverty.

By Valerie Moyer in the Aspen Idea

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Iran

Iran Mulls Laws That ‘Reduce Women to Baby-Making Machines,’ Says Amnesty

Tehran plans to outlaw vasectomies and reduce access to birth control

Amnesty International has slammed Iran for proposing two draft laws aimed at boosting the country’s population, saying the legislating would “reduce Iranian women to ‘baby-making’ machines.”

One proposal would ban voluntary sterilization and restrict access to contraceptives, while the other would make it harder for women without children to get jobs.

In a report released Wednesday, Amnesty says the laws, if approved by Tehran’s parliament, would “set the country back by decades” and have serious consequences for women and girls. (For the past two decades, Iran has had an effective birth control program in place that provided affordable contraception, subsidies for vasectomies, and education on family planning and sexual health, with the aim of reducing the population.)

“By abolishing family planning programs and blocking access to vital sexual and reproductive health services, the authorities would be exposing women to serious health risks, and violating their human rights,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The second bill would instruct workplaces to prioritize employing men with children, married men with children and married women with children when hiring for certain jobs. The new legislation would also make obtaining a divorce more difficult, which Amnesty says would have “devastating consequences” for women in abusive relationships.

“The bills send a message that women are good for nothing more than being obedient housewives and creating babies and suggests they do not have the right to work or pursue a career until they have fulfilled that primary role and duty,” said Sahraohi, adding that without access to contraceptives more women would risk their lives and health by undergoing unsafe abortions.

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