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Women's rights in danger in U.S. states and by Trump, activist Gloria Steinem warns

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women’s rights advocates must pay attention to threats in individual U.S. states where policies could set back abortion availability and health care as much as the plans of President-elect Donald Trump, activist Gloria Steinem said on Thursday.

Writer and activist Gloria Steinem speaks about photographer Annie Leibovitz's new exhibit 'WOMEN: New Portraits' commissioned by UBS in New York U.S., November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Some of the most right-wing politics are found not so much in Washington, D.C., but in several of the 50 U.S. states, Steinem said at an evening panel held by Donor Direct Action, an organization that supports women’s groups.

This month, a law is due to take effect in Texas that requires burial of fetal remains from abortions, which pro-choice advocates call unnecessary and an effort to shame women who have undergone abortions.

In Ohio, lawmakers this week approved a bill that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks after conception.

If signed into law, it would be one of the nation’s most stringent abortion restrictions.

Courts have struck down so-called heartbeat laws in North Dakota and Arkansas, but supporters hope such measures could withstand a legal challenge in the Trump administration.

Trump has promised to appoint an anti-abortion justice to the U.S. Supreme Court and supports stripping federal funding from Planned Parenthood, whose clinics offer women’s health care services including abortion.

“The overall political lesson is that we need to pay as much attention to our state legislatures as we do to Washington,” said Steinem, a pioneering feminist who co-founded Ms. magazine in 1972.

“We have not done that,” she said. “The battle is being fought there.”

Steinem said she is heartened by a renewed energy among women’s rights advocates since the Nov. 8 presidential election, such as a planned women’s march on Washington on Jan. 21, the day after Trump takes office.

“What I see in the streets and online and in all kinds of ways is that people are taking power unto themselves,” she said.

“There are a lot more of us than there are of him.”

Steinem also proposed a tax resistance movement similar to that used by opponents of the Vietnam War in the 1960s who refused to pay a percentage of their income taxes that would have gone toward funding the unpopular conflict.

“In this case, we can say ‘I’m sending the part of my income tax that should go to Planned Parenthood, I’m sending it directly to Planned Parenthood. Come and get me.’

“They come and collect eventually, but it costs them way more to go through the process.”