Reproductive Rights: Q & A with Amanda Skinner
In what abortion rights leaders and activists across the country are calling a momentous and perilous time for reproductive rights in the U.S., Amanda Skinner, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, discusses the latest developments, what is at stake and shares ideas on resources to turn to for information and actions people can take.
Q. Can you share some information on what is happening and where and what is at stake? What are the next steps in the fight for reproductive rights?
A. Right now, is a red alert moment for reproductive rights in America. We are watching a coordinated strategy to roll back reproductive health, rights and access — one that is years in the making — unfold. Just this year, more than 600 restrictions on abortion were introduced in state legislatures across the country. Many of these won’t go into effect but it’s clear that politicians won’t stop trying to take away people’s fundamental reproductive rights.
On September 1, Texas enacted one of the most restrictive and radical abortion bans in the country. This law bans abortions after six weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant. Alarmingly, the law is enforced through civil actions: this law allows anyone — even a complete stranger — to sue anyone who helps a person seeking an abortion after six weeks, with a minimum award of $10,000 for a successful lawsuit. Already we’ve seen an exponential increase in Texas patients visiting health centers in surrounding states for access to abortion. Those who can’t afford to travel or take time off work are left virtually without options and without choice. And this isn’t the only fight. Already, politicians in Missouri, Arkansas, South Carolina, and other states are following Texas’ playbook to push increasingly extreme abortion bans.
This month (December 2021), the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. This is the first direct challenge to Roe v. Wade since Justice Amy Coney Barrett was appointed, and it has the potential to completely gut the protections of Roe and render the right to abortion meaningless.
Even in places where the right to abortion is protected, like here in Connecticut, we know there is still inequitable access to abortion. For people who are undocumented and ineligible for health insurance coverage, or residents enrolled in high-deductible plans who are forced to pay out-ofpocket for the cost of their medical expenses, access to sexual and reproductive health care — including abortion — is often out of reach. We need to address these barriers in Connecticut and make health care more affordable and easier to access.
This is an issue of equity and justice. Abortion bans are about controlling anyone who has a uterus — women, trans men, and people with nonbinary and fluid gender identity — and strip away their rights to make decisions about their bodies and their future. These bans also have the hardest impact on people who face multiple barriers to accessing care: Black and Latino/a/x people, people with low incomes, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and more. Restrictions on abortion and on sexual and reproductive health care only reinforce the deep, systemic, and painful health care disparities in our communities.
Q. Can you direct readers to where they may find additional resources and information to keep up with what is happening?
A. Locally, you can follow us on social media @PPSNE to learn more about our work in Connecticut — and nationally, you can follow @PlannedParenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights to get more information about how other states are impacted. We also encourage people to learn more about the reproductive justice and abortion justice movements. This work is led by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) activists, fighting for equitable access to reproductive health care and working to ensure everyone can decide when, how and if they want to become a parent and to raise their children in safe, supportive, and healthy communities. We recommend following SisterSong, All* Above All, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice — these are just a few of the many organizations we can continually learn from.
Q. What are some specific actions our readers can take? How can they get involved and help?
A. We want to encourage people to support those who are most impacted — if possible, please consider a donation to a Texas Abortion Fund or one of the funds through the National Network of Abortion Funds. These funds help cover the costs of abortion, including additional out-of-pocket expenses like travel and childcare. You can also donate to the abortion access fund at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England to help patients in Connecticut access abortion — and an additional gift to our organization supports sexual and reproductive health care services, education programs, and community outreach and advocacy efforts in our own communities.
Another powerful thing you can do is speak out and share your story. We can help end the stigma around abortion by speaking up from our own experiences. Sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion, is life-saving and life-changing. Visit ppsne.org/story to share your story.
Q. What can people do while they wait for the Supreme Court decision?
A. We can get behind Congressional efforts to safeguard access to abortion, including the Women’s Health Protection Act. This critical legislation would prevent states from enacting medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion and protect our fundamental right to safe, legal abortion. Connecticut’s U.S. Senators and Representatives have all co-sponsored the bill, which passed the House recently. If you have a moment, contact your Representative and thank them for their
vote so they know abortion access matters to you. You can also contact Senator Blumenthal (who introduced the bill in the Senate) and Senator Murphy and tell them you want the Senate to take action — and thank them for championing reproductive rights.
Q. As President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southern New England, can you share your thoughts about what is happening and why you feel getting involved matters?
A. This fight is incredibly personal to me. Planned Parenthood was there for me as a patient. As a nurse-midwife, I’ve spent years working to give my patients the essential care they needed and deserved. Now, at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, I am proud to lead an organization dedicated to providing access
to health care and advocating for change here in Connecticut, in Rhode Island, and across the country to achieve the promise of reproductive freedom for all people.
I encourage everyone to join our movement. We need you — your voice, your experience, and your story are incredibly powerful. I’ve seen change happen and I know it’s possible. Right now, it might feel like the fight is too big, or the challenge too daunting. But what we’ve achieved over the years here in Connecticut to protect reproductive rights is a testimony to the legacy of thousands of people just like me and you who took a stand and fought for what’s right. We have the power to continually make change for those in our state as we fight for equitable access to health care — for ALL. Visit
This article was part of the Winter 2021 edition of The Community Fund for Women & Girls' newsletter.