If you want to find ongoing, comprehensive coverage of the effects of abortion bans on care of miscarriages and pregnancies that threaten the health of the mother, there's a go-to source you might not be anticipating: People magazine. The mainstay of hair salons and medical waiting rooms and checkout aisles has been covering these stories frequently, and explicitly putting them in the context of anti-abortion laws.
Here’s a headline from July: “Beauty YouTuber Forced to Carry Dead Fetus for 2 Weeks After Miscarriage Due to Abortion Ban.” Just below that: “’I get so angry that I was treated this way because of laws that were passed by men who have never been pregnant and never will be,’ says Marlena Stell, founder of Makeup Geek cosmetics.”
RELATED STORY: The post-Roe rebirth of an unstoppable reproductive rights movement has only just begun
One from October: “Texas Woman Nearly Loses Her Life After Doctors Can't Legally Perform an Abortion: 'Their Hands Were Tied'”; “I never in my wildest dreams thought that the laws I was so angry about would pose a threat to my life and prevent me from accessing safe healthcare in 2022 in the United States of America,’ says Amanda Zurawski.”
The scope of the coverage is visible in the related stories attached to each.
“Louisiana Mom Says She Was Denied an Abortion Even Though Baby Has Terminal Condition”
“Former Ms. South Carolina Forced to Carry Unviable Fetus for 7 Weeks: It 'Was Like a Dagger to the Heart'”
“Rep. Frederica Wilson Speaks About Being 'Forced to Carry My Dead Baby' After House Passes Anti-Abortion Bill”
There’s a whole tag for Women's Choices Women's Voices (the coverage is overwhelmingly of cis women). The stories are powerful—People has one of the largest audiences of any magazine in the United States—and know how to to engage a reader. Most of them fall into the category of the ones above, offering an important message about how extreme abortion bans actually are, and letting readers who believe that abortion is for other people know that the bans could affect them, too. That’s an important message, but it’s not enough in the scope of the abortion rights movement as a whole. The volume and forcefulness of this coverage alone would be remarkable coming from such a mass-market publication. Yes, the abortion rights movement needs to win more than the availability of miscarriage care or abortions to protect women’s health, but it is still a win for the movement to have this drumbeat of coverage.
And People does go further on occasion. While many of the stories that the magazine gives the most attention to are about women finding that they cannot continue their wanted pregnancies and being unable to get care, often risking their health, that’s not the totality of the coverage. The article “Social Media Is Rife with Tips on Accessing Abortion Pills: What's Real, What's Fake — and What's Safe?” provides a valuable service in giving people information to avoid scammers, and offers actual information on how to obtain abortion medications. The magazine also covers abortion policy and moves by the Biden administration on the issue.
An article about “Celebrities Who Have Shared Their Abortion Stories to Help Women Feel Less Alone” offers a mix of abortion procedures when wanted pregnancies became complicated or dangerous, and celebrities telling the also very important story of just not wanting to be pregnant or having the capacity to parent.
If it weren’t for an abortion, “I wouldn't have my life. I wouldn't have had the career I had, I wouldn't have had anything,” Jennifer Grey said. “And it wasn't for lack of taking it seriously. I'd always wanted a child. I just didn't want a child as a teenager. I didn't want a child where I was [at] in my life.”
”I knew at that time, I was not equipped to be a mother, and so I chose to have an abortion," People recounts Alyssa Milano saying on her podcast. "I chose. It was my choice. And it was absolutely the right choice for me."
"It was not an easy choice," Milano added. "It was not something I wanted, but it was something that I needed, like most health care is."
In that piece, Lily Allen is quoted, from her Instagram, writing, “I wish people would stop posting examples of exceptional reasons for having abortions. Most people I know, myself included, just didn't want to have a f---ing baby. AND THAT IS REASON ENOUGH! WE DON'T HAVE TO JUSTIFY IT. It shouldn't have to be said, and I think all these examples just play into the hands of the baddies.”
That’s an absolutely valid perspective. My take is that those examples are important as part of the story. But we do have to be relentlessly clear that these are not the only valid reasons to have an abortion, or the only people who deserve to have their stories told. Would I rather that People was bringing its millions of readers regular coverage of someone who could not imagine how they would parent another child, or was not willing to have a child with their current partner? Yes. But, and I say this with love, as a former longtime subscriber, those are not generally People’s stories. The magazine’s abortion coverage as it exists is simultaneously surprising and an indicator of how far from the mainstream of U.S. women—the actual, checkout-line-magazine-buying, hair-salon-page-flipping mainstream—Republicans and their abortion bans are.
It's never too early to start talking about the House! Joining us on this week's edition of The Downballot is Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin, who offers his thoughts on the overall playing field and a wide range of key contests. Jacob explains why Lauren Boebert might have an easier time of it in her likely rematch, how some candidates have a "special sauce" that allows them to keep winning difficult districts, and why he thinks Mary Peltola is favored for re-election despite Alaska's persistent red lean.