Abortion Bans Don’t Work. Here’s Why.

By Anahita Ghajarrahimi

Abortion bans do not prevent the one thing they are supposed to: abortion. Instead, they restrict women from making decisions about their health. By banning abortion, women lose legal access to safe and effective abortions, which in turn threatens their health – the opposite of protecting life.

Contra Costa NOW believes that restricting access to abortion threatens women’s self-autonomy and ability to make decisions about their own bodies. State-level restrictions on abortion disproportionately affect groups like low income women and women of color; the intersections of oppression in these demographic groups build on one another, making access to legal and safe abortions much more difficult (3). 

Brief historical background of Abortion Rights

Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that declared abortion as constitutional right, affirmed that women have the right to privacy and that the state cannot interfere with a decision between a doctor and woman (2). However, through the 1992 Supreme Court decision on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, states could restrict and define how much of access women have to abortion, as long as there is no “undue burden” on the woman; the effects of this decision are increasingly seen today.


Current situation in state-level legislative policy on abortion

Most states allow abortions until 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy, but recently several states have passed early abortion bans that vary in their limitations on when a woman can get an abortion (1). The most extreme case is Alabama; abortion is only allowed if the woman’s health is at risk, with no exception for rape or incest. Other cases include Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia, who recently passed laws that ban abortion after 6-8 weeks, and Utah and Arkansas, banning abortion after 18 weeks. Contra Costa NOW deeply condemns these states who have severely restricted women’s access to safe and legal abortions. 


Communities of color are more at risk

Race and socioeconomic status disproportionately affect women’s ability to get an abortion because abortion access stems from greater access to healthcare. Women of color and low income women are among demographic groups that are under significant attack from restrictions on abortion; the Hyde Amendment of 1976 bans those who receive federally-funded health insurance, including Indian Health Services and Medicaid, from using their benefits for abortion costs – only cases of direct risk to women’s health and pregnancy due to rape and incest are allowed. The Hyde Amendment also unfairly affects women of color because of the systematic links between income inequality, racism, and sexism; for instance, 30% of Black women and 24% of Hispanic women are enrolled in Medicaid as opposed to 14% of white women (4). Thus, women of color, who are more enrolled in Medicaid than white women, face greater challenges in obtaining access to abortions. The current early abortion bans only increase the difficulty for these communities because the greater time restraints on when a women can legally get an abortion build on already-existing challenges of healthcare access (6).


What can we do to help? 

In California, women have the choice to obtain an abortion up until fetal viability (usually 24 weeks), and post-viability abortions are still performed if the mother’s health, life, or overall well-being is at risk (5). However, other states do not offer the same reproductive rights. Speaking out against bans and uplifting those sharing their stories with abortion helps remove the stigma around the procedure. Donating directly to local, grassroots organizations is a monetary way to help out these states affected by the ban.

  1. The Yellowhammer Fund – Alabama
  2. SisterSong – Georgia
  3. Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund – Mississippi
  4. Gateway Women’s Access Fund – Missouri
  5. Preterm – Ohio
  6. Access Reproductive Care – Southeast


Planned Parenthood has begun the #BansOffMyBody campaign in order to gather support across the country to fight back against the recent bans. They plan on attacking these bans both in the courts and the streets. Planned Parenthood Northern California’s Director of Public Affairs, Lauren Babb, states that the organization “will always be there for our patients. We will fight to ensure that patients – and everyone in this country – can still access health care, no matter what.”


Contra Costa NOW champions those voicing their support for access to safe and legal abortions, especially for community members who face more challenges gaining healthcare access due to racial or socioeconomic status. Here are more ways to fight back against the abortion bans: 

  1. Go to https://www.istandwithpp.org/call/house-nobans to call your U.S. representative and ask them to co-sponsor a resolution in support of protecting access to reproductive health care. 
  2. Donate to The National Organization for Women to help us in the fight for greater reproductive justice.
  3. Take action via one of our mobilization campaigns here



Gordon, Mara, and Alyson Hurt. “Early Abortion Bans: Which States Have Passed Them?” NPR, NPR, 5 June 2019, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/06/05/729753903/early-abortion-bans-which-states-have-passed-them.

“History of Abortion.” National Abortion Federation, prochoice.org/education-and-advocacy/about-abortion/history-of-abortion/.

“Mobilize for Reproductive Justice.” National Organization for Women, now.org/nap/reproductive-justice/.

“Hyde Amendment.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund, www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/abortion/hyde-amendment.

Rodriguez, Ambrosio. “Understanding Abortion Laws in California.” The Rodriguez Law Group, 4 June 2018, www.aerlawgroup.com/understanding-abortion-laws-in-california/.

“The Hyde Amendment.” National Network of Abortion Funds, 13 Jan. 2017, abortionfunds.org/hyde/.

County Assessor Gus Kramer

County Assessor Gus Kramer has repeatedly displayed aggressive and inappropriate behavior towards his female colleagues. He has been formally accused of violating the Fair Housing and Employment Act and of creating a hostile work environment. We call on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to remove Kramer from office. Our Political Action Team will be closely monitoring the progress of the legal proceedings against Kramer and the Board of Supervisors’ response. Support our actions and write to the BOS today. Click here to download a copy to send to the CoCoCounty BOS.

Contra Costa NOW 2019 Garden Party — Member Awards





Founding member Sally Johnson (left) and Lesley Hunt, 40 year member were honored at the June 8, 2019 Garden Party.

NOW Celebrates Pride Month, Honors Stonewall Anniversary

NOW Celebrates Pride Month, Honors Stonewall Anniversary

WASHINGTON D.C. — This Pride Month marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 June Stonewall Uprising in New York City. Three nights of resistance at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in New York’s Greenwich Village ignited the modern LGBTQIA+ movement.

Stonewall patrons and their supporters rose up in protest of an early-morning law enforcement raid at the bar, taking to the streets and chanting “gay power.” Out of oppressive police action, a mass movement was born. In protest against injustice, a new civil rights movement was energized.

NOW recognizes the vital contributions of the transgender community in igniting and propelling this movement forward. We celebrate activist heroes, like Marsha P. Johnson, who was present at the Stonewall Uprising and went on to establish Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which provides help to homeless LGBTQIA+ youth.

Here at NOW, our resistance is intersectional. We strive to overcome discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in all areas. We march, we organize, we take action, and we push for meaningful social change alongside the LGBTQIA+ community.

This mission is more important than ever as NOW stands up to the Trump administration’s discriminatory agenda and attacks on LGBTQIA+ rights. Among other initiatives, we are working tirelessly to pass the Equality Act to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity receive the full force of protection under our laws and in the workplace.

NOW celebrates Pride Month this June with continued participation in this vital movement that began on the streets of Greenwich Village 50 years ago.

Letter to the Editor in the East Bay Times — Rebuttal by Contra Costa NOW President Katia Senff

From Katia:  “I was appalled by a recent Letter to the Editor published in the East Bay Times (shown below in red) condemning The City of Walnut Creek’s decision to raise the Pride Flag this June.  I have submitted a response.”


East Bay Times Letter to the Editor
May 22, 2019

Bigotry is a Not a Family Value

RE: Letter: Walnut Creek is known for family values — how could it do this? It’s disgusting and appalling that the city of Walnut Creek would adopt such a standard.

Bigotry is Not a Family Value.

The National Organization for Women stands with The City of Walnut Creek’s decision to raise the Pride Flag this June.

Based on letters, like the one from our neighbor Dane, it is clear that bigotry still exists in our community. Our city leaders are obligated to take a stance against such prejudice.

We believe in a community that supports people of all kinds, colors, and creeds, including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We must continue to speak out against intolerance.

We stand with Walnut Creek, Concord, Pleasant Hill, and all cities in Contra Costa County who are openly supporting the LGBTQ community this June. Thank you for showing our citizens that we are greater than hate and that fear-base rhetoric has no place in our communities.

Katia Senff
President, Contra Costa National Organization for Women


Original Letter to the Editor Published 5/22/19

Walnut Creek is know for family values, not this

Re: “‘A long time coming’:  Walnut Creek council signals support for LGBTQ prie month, flag” (East bay times.com, May8):

It’s disgusting and appalling that the city of Walnut Creed, which is well-known as a family community, would adopt such a standard.

Advocating what I consider to be immoral, lewd and disgusting behavior does not come down the family values of Walnut Creek.

If I want to see things like that I’ll go to San Francisco.  I expected more from them.

— Dane Hansen, Concord

Action Alert – House Judiciary to Hold First ERA Hearing in 36 Years

April 29, 2019

For the first time in nearly four decades, the House Judiciary Committee will hold an official hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). You can join NOW leadership and members and show your support at this exciting event, which exemplifies the growing momentum behind finally ratifying the ERA in the Constitution!

The hearing will be held Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at 10:00 a.m and will be available via livestream at the Judiciary website. If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, you can also attend in person in room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515. (The Rayburn House Office Building is located at Independence Ave. and S. Capitol Street St. SW. The closest metro stop is Capitol South. More location details are available here.)

We advise activists to arrive early as the room will likely be crowded. The hearing room doors will be open at 9:00 a.m. and the Rayburn building opens up at 7:00 a.m. People will be able to line up outside of the hearing room ahead of the hearing. Some activists will be wearing all white in solidarity and ERA pins and stickers are encouraged.

Witnesses testifying in support of the ERA will include constitutional scholar Kathleen Sullivan, Nevada State Senator Pat Spearman and actress and activist Patricia Arquette.

With only one state left for ratification, our work is more important than ever. Please join us on Tuesday either online or in person and show your support for the ERA!

White Pony Express Free General Store Boutique

Contra Costa NOW Board Advisor, Erika Maslan (2nd from right) volunteering at the White Pony Express Free General Store Boutique.

For more info on White Pony Express, click the link below.


Donald Trump’s Abortion “Gag Rule” Won’t Silence Us

Statement by National NOW President Toni Van Pelt


February 22, 2019

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump hates free speech – particularly when it comes to women’s health – and his administration has issued its long-awaited rule that bars groups that provide abortion care or abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning funds. Defunding providers and denying girls and women access to information about legal medical options has been a top priority of opponents of women’s reproductive health care.

This “gag rule” prevents medical professionals from talking to their patients about health care options, including safe, legal abortions – forcing health care providers to choose medical malpractice or lose funding. It is designed to prop up faith-based, science-denying “family planning centers” otherwise known as crisis pregnancy centers, that lie to women about abortion.

The “gag rule” is a first step towards the religious right’s goal of repealing Roe v. Wade. Safe and accessible health care – including access to abortion – is a human right. This is a sneak attack on the Constitution, which the Supreme Court has ruled protects abortion rights—and a direct attack on women’s health care providers, especially Planned Parenthood. They are at risk of losing the critical funding they need to provide services to more than a million people who are the most vulnerable since they are part of our nation’s uninsured and low-income communities.

NOW supports the court challenges that will be filed to block this rule, and we stand in solidarity with Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide front-line reproductive care to women.

Donald Trump can’t stop the truth from being told, and he can’t silence us from speaking out. The “gag rule” must be overturned.

Justice Delayed

Statement by National NOW President Toni Van Pelt


February 21, 2019

WASHINGTON – Today, Virginia Republicans are on the wrong side of history, demonstrating a refusal to stand up for equality for women. The Virginia House of Delegates refused to allow a vote by the full House which killed the decades long effort in Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Votes to fast-track a floor vote on ratification were blocked by a Republican procedural maneuver designed to thwart the will of the people, with recent polls showing an overwhelming 81% who support ratification of the ERA.

One GOP delegate said supporting a rule to bring about a vote would “let the chaos of Washington into our state government.” But nothing could be farther from the truth.

For too long, generations of women have endured a system that pays them less, values them less, respects them less and treats them as second-class citizens. With their actions, Virginia Republicans have shown they are against equality, against women’s rights, and in favor of enshrining sex discrimination into our laws.

This November, they will face the consequences for standing in the way of progress for women not only in Virginia but across the country, as women push to ratify the correction to a flaw in our Constitution that should have been remedied long ago.

This has to stop – and it will.

We are disappointed in the failure of the Republican leadership in the House of Delegates, but proud beyond measure of the activists and supportive legislators who made ratifying the ERA a priority. Their energy, enthusiasm and dedication will only be renewed by this experience, and when voters head to the ballot boxes this November, they will remember who was on the right side of history, and who voted to hold women back.

Celebrating The Life and Work of Bernice Sandler

Celebrating The Life and Work of Bernice Sandler

Statement by Toni Van Pelt, President of NOW

January 9, 2019

WASHINGTON – Bernice Sandler, who passed away January 5 at her home in Washington, D.C., was widely known as the “Godmother of Title IX.” After earning a doctorate at the University of Maryland in 1969, she applied for one of seven teaching positions in her department but was told that she wouldn’t be considered for any of them.

“Let’s face it,” a male colleague told her. “You come on too strong for a woman.” When she applied for another position, the researcher in charge of hiring said he didn’t hire women because they stayed home too often to care for sick children. Later, an employment agency dismissed her as “just a housewife who went back to school.”

Bernice Sandler then embarked on a lifelong mission to change the culture of sex discrimination on college campuses. She spent decades documenting, investigating and working to change the arbitrary limits and sexist standards that held women back academically and professionally. Her work led to the passage in 1972 of Title IX, the landmark legislation that banned sex discrimination in federally funded educational institutions.

Bernice Sandler was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013, when she was lauded for her efforts that led to the first federal investigation of sex discrimination on campuses.

Bernice Sandler was an inspiration to countless women who were inspired by her example and empowered by her accomplishments. She will be missed, but never forgotten.


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