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Reproductive Justice Is Racial Justice: Abortion Doctor & Activist Facing Deportation Vow to Fight On

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As the leaked opinion showing the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade sparks protests across the United States, we speak to an abortion doctor and a reproductive rights activist facing deportation about what is next. “We will keep fighting for us to have abortions that are safe, legal and accessible to everyone, no matter where you are, no matter where you’re coming from and no matter what your income,” says community organizer Alejandra Pablos, noting the decision could have particularly disastrous effects on already vulnerable undocumented immigrants and border communities in Arizona. “People should be able to access abortion care as part of the general healthcare that a pregnant person or any other person would seek,” says gynecologist Dr. DeShawn Taylor about how criminalizing abortion affects medical professionals in the field, especially her clinic Desert Star Family Planning, one of the only abortion clinics in Arizona.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Massive protests have erupted across the United States following the publication of a leaked Supreme Court opinion that revealed the court is preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion nationwide. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the leaked document is authentic, but said it’s only a draft opinion. He has launched an investigation into the leak. Thousands took to the streets around the country in outrage Tuesday, just hours after reproductive justice groups called for actions, with rallies in California, Arizona, Washington state, Oregon, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, Illinois, Pennsylvania, here in New York and dozens of other cities. Protesters also gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., for a second straight day Tuesday.

CHELSEA WHITE: I think it could be overturned, and then it’s going to become a war on women’s rights again, something that our mothers and grandmothers already did before. And I can’t believe that they now have to live through this again and that there might be back-alley abortions again. Because abortions, it’s never going to be banned. It’s never going to go away. All they’re doing now is just sacrificing women’s health and the medical issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Grassroots groups have called on people to donate to abortion and reproductive health funds. Meanwhile, many Democratic-led states are preparing to receive a growing number of people seeking abortions if Roe v. Wade is struck down. At least 16 states and Washington, D.C., have already codified abortion rights into state law, including New York and Colorado. Here in New York, lawmakers have now introduced legislation that would expand abortion and reproductive health access to all. New York Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, who is leading the efforts, made the announcement Tuesday.

ASSEMBLYMEMBER JESSICA GONZÁLEZ-ROJAS: The fight for reproductive justice is the fight for access. Everyone should be able to access the care that they need, no matter their immigration status, no matter their gender identity, no matter their sexual orientation, no matter their racial identity, no matter their disability status. Every single person deserves access. So I’m so proud to stand with you today as we introduce the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Act, that demands and ensures that our abortion providers, who are on the frontlines, who are our essential workers, are able to get the resources to build capacity to ensure that New York state will be a safe haven for every single person who needs access to care.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on how grassroots organizers are responding to the leaked Supreme Court opinion, we’re joined by two guests in Phoenix, Arizona, a doctor and an activist. Alejandra Pablos is a reproductive justice community organizer and storyteller. She’s been targeted by ICE — that’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement — for her activism, has been in deportation proceedings for over a decade. And Dr. DeShawn Taylor is with us, an OB-GYN physician, abortion provider, owner of Desert Star Family Planning. Dr. Taylor is the only Black independent abortion provider in Arizona, where Republican Governor Doug Ducey in late March signed into law a measure banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Dr. DeShawn Taylor, talk about your response to hearing this leaked opinion, that was leaked by Politico yesterday, and what this means.

DR. DESHAWN TAYLOR: I would say that although, logically, I knew that this opinion was possible — our newer justices had been signaling about their thoughts on what they may do during the oral arguments, actually. And so, although most of us who work in abortion care on the day to day thought that this was possible, it’s still hard to see it on paper. It’s still hard to hear that Justice Roberts, you know, confirmed the authenticity of this document. And so, what this means for us is that we really have to determine: Would we have a 15-week ban that the governor signed, or does the pre-Roe law that bans abortion entirely come into play with this ruling from the Supreme Court, which would completely criminalize abortion, make it illegal in Arizona?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Dr. Taylor, even with the law that was passed, Senate Bill 1164, and that the governor signed in March, outlawing abortions after 15 weeks in your state, what’s been the impact on your practice since that law was passed?

DR. DESHAWN TAYLOR: So, I am trying to make sure that people understand that abortion, through our current legal limit, is still available to people. When our governor signed that bill into law, it doesn’t take effect until 90 days after legislative session ends. But people don’t understand that. In all of the discussion around it, in the discourse in the media, it has created an effect on people where there’s this fever pitch of people trying to get into clinics to receive abortion care before they can’t anymore. There is definitely this fear that people will not be able to get their abortion. And it’s a real fear, even with the opportunity to have an abortion up to 15 weeks.

Because of all the restrictions that already exist in Arizona, people essentially have to travel into the Phoenix metro area from all of the state. And so, with these — and there’s a 24-hour forced delay. So there could be weeks before someone can actually get that initial consultation to have an abortion procedure, and then there might even be another week or so before they can then actually have the abortion, because it’s not like they’re going to come in and then have their abortion the very next day, in most instances, because of the congested and decrease in access that has occurred in our state over time due to all the restrictions that have been passed over the past decade.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to bring Alejandra Pablos into the conversation. Alejandra, can you talk to us about your reaction to the court’s ruling and how you see it affecting your work as a reproductive justice community organizer?

ALEJANDRA PABLOS: Gracias, Juan. Gracias, Amy. Thank you so much for having me back.

You know, for me, even as I was listening to the beginning of the program, I just started to get really overwhelmed. And just a reminder that I’ve already been in a state of threat, you know, due to my deportation case. I’ve seen my name on paper — right? — being attacked. I think, through my multiple identities, as a woman, as a racialized person, being a “noncitizen,” as a queer person, as a pro-abortion activist, I know too well already what that threat felt like. And I know that people are saying that it’s not — it’s still a draft, but, to me, it’s very much a warning of what’s about to happen. And I think we need to be just as outraged in June when we hear this again.

I think, for me, the same people that would force me to be deported, to send me to a place I’ve never lived at — right? — I don’t choose to live at, are the same people that are going to force me to be pregnant when I don’t want to. So, I think right now I’m thinking of all the people that we do this work for — right? — all the people that we share our abortion stories for every day so we can release stigma and myths, because those hurt us. And I think, for me, it’s just, again, we have to do more than just fight the courts; we have to repeal laws right now that are still putting barriers for our daily reproductive healthcare.

AMY GOODMAN: Alejandra, can you talk about the scene yesterday, in Arizona, all over the country, people rising up, thousands of people coming out to protest against this? Now, again, it’s a leaked opinion; it is not a decision that has been handed down yet. It could conceivably change because of this response. But you are a longtime activist. If you can describe that and talk about your own story in having an abortion, in being a community organizer and feeling that you yourself were targeted by ICE, which is why you’re in deportation proceedings?

ALEJANDRA PABLOS: Thank you. Thank you, Amy. In Arizona, we are about to be one of those 22 or 28 states that already ready with legislation, copied — right? — from Mississippi and from just overall racist legislation. There’s been, I think, around 500 restrictions since 2011 to ban our right to our full reproductive healthcare. So we know what’s at stake.

And I think the work that many of us is doing as storytellers, as abortion activists, is to get us ready for this moment to support one another. We need to take care of each other. That’s what we mean, that’s what we’re talking about, when we’re fighting policing — right? — policing of our wombs, policing of our lives, our bodies, our sexuality.

So, for me, again, facing the threat of immigration — I saw the clip that you all decided to share around my asylum hearing. You know, it’s been a long decade of fighting to stay with my family, making decisions over my own life. And I think it’s a moment to shout out the activists in Mexico, activists that have been in more hostile countries, right? Where, quote-unquote, here in the U.S., we have a lot of rights, but we see here that the attacks on our bodies are daily. And I think I want to just shout out the work of people in Mexico doing this work, because we don’t give them enough credit. People are always doing this work, even in the most dangerous places. So, just I want to shout out to all the activists here, because it’s dangerous, right?

In Arizona, we are still facing freedom of speech — we’re being criminalized for protest, right? We’re still here as — I’m an abortion doula here, which is why it’s important to do this work. I am the one that gives people rides to clinics like Desert Star, right? I’m the one that has to talk to activists and abortion storytellers in New Mexico to be connected and make sure that our people have the support that they need. But day in and out, we are talking about how abortion access is an immigration justice issue — right? — the most impacted people that don’t even get to access our healthcare because of fear of the institutions of hospitals and police working together, right? We are talking to the people that are most put to the side and marginalized.

I think right now we’re ready. We’re ready to take care of one another. Right now we are not going back to hangers. I don’t know why people keep — this white feminism wave keeps putting people in fear and throwing this hanger, when we are particularly — we are practically taking care of one another. We’re experts. We now have pills, that are telehealth, right? Abortion pills exist. Regardless if you make them illegal, those abortion pills exist, and we will never stop having abortions, people. We cannot force people to be pregnant. And I think that’s what’s at stake right now. This is a racial justice issue, and we need to be talking about it as is.

AMY GOODMAN: And your own experience, Alejandra?

ALEJANDRA PABLOS: Well, my own experience, I mean, for myself, I shared publicly that I had — I’ve had more than one abortion, and I shared publicly — I think it was in 2017, I shared for the first time. You know, because of taboo, we don’t share publicly our stories, or with more than one person. But we always have someone who loves us. We know that six out of 10 people having abortions are already parents. Eight out of 10 people, regardless if they would have an abortion, they would support us. So, knowing those things, I shared my abortion story.

And I was having my fourth abortion in 2017. And that was informed because of my deportation case. I have been, like I said, fighting for over a decade. And the same people that would force me to have a baby would take my baby away — right? — if I were to see this pregnancy to a full term. So, literally, after sharing about my fourth abortion, I get picked up by ICE a year later, and I spend another two months fighting to be released and back into my community.

And I think those are the things that we’re facing right now. Immigrants like me are facing mandatory detention and mandatory deportation. We don’t know when we’re going to be picked up by ICE, when we’re going to get deported or held in cages indefinitely. And we know how dangerous those places are. And again, we get to decide when and where we want to create our families. And as SisterSong has framed, it’s about when and where you want to create families, and when you do want to create families, that you do so in safe environments. And as long as police and cages exist, there is a threat to my autonomy. I do not feel safe. And again, we will keep fighting for us to have abortions that are safe, legal and accessible to everyone, no matter where you are, no matter where you’re coming from and no matter your income.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dr. Taylor, I’d like to ask you, in terms of this whole issue of how — clearly, people will continue to have abortions if they need it, either in states that permit it or otherwise. How does self-managed abortion look today in 2022 compared to the early 1970s before Roe v. Wade?

DR. DESHAWN TAYLOR: I want to thank Alejandra for referencing this old coat hanger imagery. It is outdated, and we really want good-intentioned advocates to stop, because we have abortion pills, and it has definitely made self-managed abortion safer. Self-managed abortion is someone who takes some type of substance to induce their own abortion. And we have seen that increasing currently while Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land. Because of all of these restrictions that have been passed across the country, people are already taking their abortion care into their own hands. There have already been community networks formed to ensure that people have access to abortion pills and that they have community support as they go through this process.

I will say that my clinic was a site for a study with some researchers out of UT Austin in Texas, where we wanted to see what people knew about self-managed abortion, and had they tried it themselves, and what types of things people were trying to use. And so, what’s been really helpful over these last couple of years of the pandemic is the increased access to misoprostol, and now the ability to mail mifepristone. Together, the protocol is to take the first medication, mifepristone, and then the second medication, misoprostol, a certain amount of time later to induce the expulsion of the pregnancy. We now have the FDA removing their restrictions so that, permanently, in states that don’t have restrictions for this, people can receive the mifepristone by mail.

So, the idea that we’re going back to back-alley abortions, like that person at the Supreme Court rally mentioned, we’re definitely not there. But make no mistake that people should be able to access abortion care as part of the general healthcare that a pregnant person or any other person would seek to help them live and thrive. Abortion care should not be something that’s on the fringe of healthcare. People should honestly be able to go to their primary care provider and have an abortion. That is really how it should be. Our government — what reproductive justice calls for is for our government to create the conditions for our decisions to be safe, affordable and accessible. And so, the fact that self-managed abortion, yes, is a lot more safer than it was, or the attempt to end a pregnancy is more safer than it was before the Roe v. Wade decision, it shouldn’t be something that people should think about at all. We are in one of the richest countries in the world, and we should not be in a situation where people are needing to create networks in their community to make sure that people receive essential healthcare.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dr. Taylor, have you thought about what you will do in your practice, assuming this Supreme Court leaked opinion becomes the final decision of the court, and, of course, that once the Arizona law comes into effect, what you will do in terms of providing abortions?

DR. DESHAWN TAYLOR: Right now we are waiting to see ultimately what the final decision is. My clinic would not necessarily close. I provide holistic community care, and abortion is a part — abortion care is a part of the care that I provide. So, particularly if abortion was illegal in Arizona, Desert Star Family Planning would still exist. We do provide miscarriage management, as well. And so, what I suspect to be able to be for the community is a safe haven for people who have questions, who may have an incomplete — present as an incomplete miscarriage because they may have started a process at home that didn’t complete.

I think it’s really important to tie this into what Alejandra mentioned about policing and the increased police state. The fact that a healthcare worker called the police on that young woman for a miscarriage in Texas, I mean, people are going to be afraid. And I want people to know that Desert Star Family Planning is a safe space for them, regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court decision this summer.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Alejandra, the effect particularly on undocumented people who want abortions in Arizona?

ALEJANDRA PABLOS: Yeah, I think the state is getting even more hostile, and it’s just — it’s really unfortunate, because the resilience and the resistance of our people here is what drives me and what keeps me going.

It’s really interesting to remember back in 2018 when, again, I got rearrested and got taken away by ICE. And I got interviewed after shortly being released, and reporters there told me that — we shared that we would be fighting for a pardon in the future, because that could be a tool to relieve me from deportation. We don’t fight pardons here in Arizona. As we can see, the governor is not very welcoming or a very nice governor. And you know what the reporters would tell me, or the hosts? They would always tell me, “You know, the governor is going to not — he’s not going to give you a pardon for your deportation, not because you don’t deserve it or your work and your rehabilitation, but he’s not going to give you one because of your abortion activism.” And three years later, look at where we’re at, right? The same governor that never wanted to protect people in a pandemic — right? — is the same one being ready to ban abortion here.

And I think when I’m fighting — when we’re talking about undocumented people, when we’re talking about our deportation cases, I think it’s more than just wanting to win a deportation case. We already know we are supposed — we’re free. We already know we have dignity. And we already know that we’re performing freedom, performing freedom every day, right? So, I think, for us and for myself, it’s about, again, fighting white supremacy, right? It’s fighting domination control, of being able to tell people what to do, indoctrinate them with their religious beliefs. Like, abortion is not even in the Bible, right? So I think it’s a lot of, like, having to unlearn and have conversations within one another, and, again, having these conversations that are accessible to Spanish-speaking communities, to African immigrants. Arizona is full of immigrants from all over the world. And I think, you know, right now we’re talking about if people deserve to have abortion because they have a piece of ID. Right? Like, I think everybody, again, should be having abortions, and we should stop making it more harder for people to access abortions. And —

AMY GOODMAN: Alejandra, a quick question, and we just have 15 seconds. Your senator, Kyrsten Sinema, released a statement Tuesday pledging her support for abortion rights, but she did not say she would change her opposition to reforming the Senate’s filibuster rule to pass legislation that would codify the right to an abortion. Your thoughts?

ALEJANDRA PABLOS: I don’t understand why we keep asking Sinema. Sinema is not going to give me any reproductive healthcare. Sinema is not relieving any threats here for anyone locally. As everybody has seen, we are being watched by the whole Arizona. So I think Sinema is better not saying anything at all and letting people share their stories of resistance and supporting one another.

AMY GOODMAN: Alejandra Pablos, we want to thank you for being with us, reproductive justice community organizer, speaking to us from Phoenix, as is Dr. DeShawn Taylor, OB-GYN physician, only Black independent abortion provider in Arizona.

Next up, we look at how the Supreme Court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority was designed for this moment by a conservative dark money network. We’ll also go to Ohio to talk about the race there that Nina Turner just lost for Congress. Stay with us.

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