Atima Omara

Atima Omara is a writer, advocate, and award winning leader in politics and the progressive movement. She serves on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood Metro Washington Action Fund and is a former member of the board of directors of the D.C. Abortion Fund. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from the University of Virginia and a Masters in Public Administration from George Mason University.

Recent Articles

As Hyde Amendment Turns 40, Poll Shows Support for Its Repeal

It’s been 40 years to the day since Congress first passed the so-called Hyde Amendment that bars federal funding for abortion services, and it’s also the first year that any presidential candidate—in this case, Hillary Clinton—has campaigned on a promise to repeal that amendment if elected.

It’s unclear whether Clinton’s pledge will carry much weight with voters. In an election in which women’s votes are expected to be pivotal, abortion has not surfaced as a major campaign issue. Both Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump have sought to appeal to female voters with proposals for paid parental leave and equal pay for women, but neither has spent much time talking about reproductive health care.

But recent polling suggests that women in key battleground states might find Clinton’s Hyde Amendment opposition compelling. Named for former Illinois Senator Henry Hyde, a Republican, the amendment prohibits abortion coverage for women enrolled in federally funded health-care plans such as Medicaid, which serves low-income families; Tri-Care, which serves military families; and the government health-care plan that covers federal employees.

The poll was conducted by Hart Research Associates for All Above All, a coalition of organizations working to end insurance coverage bans on abortion. Pollsters focused on the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The poll targeted 1,155 registered voters and included larger-than-average samples of both young voters age 18 to 34, and of African Americans and Hispanics.

A full 76 percent voters agreed with the statement, “However we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman's health coverage for it just because she's poor.” The voters who agreed included 76 percent of independents, 66 percent of Republicans, and 89 percent of Democrats.

Voters also said they would support a bill that would require Medicaid to cover all pregnancy-related care, including abortion, by a margin of 53 percent to 41 percent. The support for the repeal of Hyde is even stronger with millennials, a group Clinton is making a special effort to win over. More than two-thirds of young voters said they support Medicaid coverage for all reproductive health care, including abortion.

“The battleground-state poll findings are consistent with a nationwide poll from 2015,” says Destiny Lopez, co-director of All Above All Action Fund. “Both polls found that a majority of voters support requiring that Medicaid coverage include abortion care.”

The polling data may draw notice from reproductive-rights advocacy groups that are busy registering and turning out voters in a year when Clinton, the first woman to head a major national party’s presidential ticket, has emerged as a strong women’s health advocate.

“Some of our strongest supporters are people of color and young people—a critical voting bloc,” says Lopez. “Secretary Clinton’s position on lifting Hyde [is] completely in sync with voters, and we’ll be using this to energize her base and be sure they turn out on Election Day.”

SCOTUS Abortion Ruling Benefits Women of Color, Low-Income Women

The Supreme Court’s 5-3 ruling on Monday to throw out restrictive Texas abortion laws in the landmark case known as Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is a major victory for reproductive rights advocates, who have been fighting a wave of what they call “clinic shutdown” laws nationwide.

First enacted in 2013, the Texas laws rejected by the Court Monday had imposed numerous medical requirements on abortion providers, and had the effect of reducing the number of abortion clinics in the state from 40 to approximately 19. The law had required that doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals, and that clinics meet hospital-like standards. Referred to as Targeted Regulations Against Providers (TRAP) laws, such restrictions have been proliferating in states around the country.

The resulting drop in abortion clinics has had “a disproportionate effect on women of color, young women, and rural women,” said Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, during a press call earlier this month. Northrup’s group represented the Texas women’s clinic Whole Woman’s Health in its Supreme Court challenge.

“There have been higher costs to women who seek the care,” Northup said on the call. “They have to take multiple days off work, travel up to in some cases 200-300 miles to get to a clinic, obtain child care, experience a delay up to 20 days just to get an appointment.”

The ruling has far-reaching implications for other states that have enacted TRAP regulations. According to the Guttmacher Institute, about 24 states have laws or policies that regulate abortion providers and go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety; all apply to clinics that perform surgical abortion.

Proponents of the Texas law had argued that it was enacted for the protection, health, and safety of women and their families. Not so, argued reproductive rights and justice advocates before the Court, who cited a tremendous economic and emotional strain on women of limited means seeking reproductive health care in Texas. The state’s clinic mandates had been compounded by such additional abortion restrictions as mandatory waiting periods and mandated ultrasounds.

“There was a woman who drove her RV, camped in parking lot of the Austin clinic with her husband and two children to accommodate the mandatory waiting period in order to have the abortion procedure,” recounted Northrup in this month’s conference call. “And it was the only way they could afford lodging and transportation to get the procedure done.

It was stories like this that motivated Whole Woman’s Health staff members to fight the Texas law all the way to the the Supreme Court.

“It has been a long and arduous journey for Texans,” Andrea Ferrigno, the clinic’s corporate vice president, told the Prospect. “We embarked on this journey because we wanted to protect their rights and provide services in their communities.”

Nevertheless, having closed half its clinics and laid off half its staff, Ferringo acknowledged, Whole Woman’s Health will need some time to reach capacity again.  “It’s not a simple process to re-open clinics,” Ferringo says. Nevertheless, she adds, the ruling means that “clinics that are open will remain open.

Punishing Women for Abortion

In a new front in the emotional battle over abortion, state legislatures and courts have been imposing prison sentences on women who seek to terminate their pregnancies.

AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins
When Donald Trump declared in March that there should be some form of “punishment” for women who have abortions if the procedure is banned, abortion opponents quickly protested that their aim is never to penalize women. “No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen an abortion,” said Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund in a statement just after Trump’s remarks. “This is against the very nature of what we are about.” But is that really true? State legislatures and courts around the country have increasingly begun to criminally penalize women for abortions, threatening their right to make their own medical decisions from the moment they become pregnant. Trump has since reversed course on the issue, saying he would leave the question of punishment to the states. But in a growing number of states, the criminalization of abortion is well under way. And, as is often the case in the criminal...

On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a Right Under Threat

Forty-three years after the historic Supreme Court case, drastic new restrictions on abortion target economically vulnerable women.

(Photo: AP/CQ Roll Call/Bill Clark)
January 22 marks the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade , the landmark Supreme Court ruling that established the legal right to abortion in the United States. But what does the right to end a pregnancy mean if you can’t afford it? Access to abortion care and other family planning services are inexorably linked with women’s economic security. Going into the 2016 election, elected officials would do well to keep that in mind. The Roe v. Wade decision, along with a 1965 high court ruling that legalized contraception, gave many American women autonomy over when and whether they would have children. This decision carries significant economic weight for women, who increasingly play the role of primary or sole breadwinner in American families. One 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center found that nearly one-third of U.S. couples between the ages of 18 and 34 put off marriage or postpone having a baby for economic reasons. Anti-abortion politicians have failed to overturn the Roe...

The High Cost of Reproductive Coercion

For most women, birth control is a universal good—but only when it's consensual.

(Photo: AP/Nick Ut)
For many women, birth control unquestionably improves the quality of their lives. Amid conservative attacks on Planned Parenthood, reproductive-rights activists this month launched a social media campaign dubbed “Thanks Birth Control” to celebrate the economic, social, and health benefits of family planning. It’s true that contraception can be transformative—but only when it’s voluntary. Unfortunately, contraception can also be used as a tool to abuse and control women. When that happens it’s called contraceptive coercion, or birth control sabotage—and it’s more widespread than you think. Such coercion has been linked to domestic violence, rape, and even the spread of HIV. While men also experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner, women suffer it at much higher rates. A woman is assaulted every nine seconds , and 72 percent of murder-suicides involve intimate partners ( 94 percent of those killed are women). I have seen...