Reporting on Reproductive Health, Part 6: Covering reproductive rights as a democracy issue 

May 3, 2024 in Specialized Topics
Title card: covering reproductive rights as a democracy issue

Reproductive health access has become a major issue in U.S. elections since Roe v. Wade was overturned. 

A series of elections and ballot initiatives in which reproductive rights have been at stake have driven high turnout, and more critical decisions for voters are on the horizon. Meanwhile, human rights advocates and activists link the issue to civil and human rights, specifically, the right to privacy and bodily autonomy. 

Most recently, the relationship of reproductive rights to democratic processes has surfaced in Arizona’s Supreme Court revival of a 140-year-old near-total abortion ban, which prohibited almost all abortions, including in the case of rape and incest, without voter input. The Arizona state legislature recently voted to repeal the law, during the same week  a six-week abortion ban in Florida took effect. The Florida law will be put to a referendum in 2024 alongside the critical presidential election.

It’s not just abortion, either: in February, Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled that embryos created and stored for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) should be considered children. This has generated fears  that “fetal personhood bills” – which consider unborn embryos or fetuses to be children – could lead to restrictions on IVF; for instance, allowing people to sue doctors or IVF patients for destroying embryos created but not ultimately used. That same month, Senate Republicans blocked a bill assuring a federal right to IVF, without fear of prosecution.

In light of these events, reporters need to be prepared to accurately report on reproductive rights as an electoral, human rights and democracy issue – and not just in relation to health care.

In our latest IJNotes episode on reporting on reproductive health, I spoke with Regina Mahone, a senior editor at The Nation magazine and co-host of The A Files: A Secret History of Abortion podcast alongside Bracey Sherman. Mahone and Sherman are also co-authors of the forthcoming book, “Liberating Abortion.”

Mahone discussed how reproductive rights are linked to the health of democracy in the U.S., and detailed how reporters can cover the wide-ranging issue in the context of the country’s upcoming presidential election. Listen here: