Abortion, Every Day (10.6.23)
Montana Planned Parenthood after shotgun attack: These Doors Stay Open
In the States, an attack on a Montana Planned Parenthood (thankfully no one was hurt). In the Nation, Republicans are trying to repeal the federal legislation that protects abortion clinics. In the section on Criminalization, I tell you about how conservatives are targeting abortion patients (while claiming they’d never do such a thing). Read Conservative Corruption for a recap of attacks on democracy in Ohio. And finally, in You Love to See It, some good news about the women running for office after being denied abortions.
In the States
Last night, someone attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Helena, Montana, firing two shotgun rounds into the building’s front entry. Thankfully (and somewhat miraculously), no one was hurt. A representative from Planned Parenthood of Montana declined to disclose whether anyone was in the building at the time of the shooting.
This attack is the absolutely predictable outcome of Republicans’ violent rhetoric on abortion rights. For months, they’ve been yelling about abortion ‘up until birth’ and lying about the existence of ‘post-birth abortion’. They knew something like this would happen. How? Because it’s happened before. When a mass shooter attacked a Colorado Planned Parenthood in 2015—killing three people and injuring nine others—he told police "no more baby parts," echoing what was then a common Republican talking point.
I have lots more to say about violence against clinics—and Republicans’ absolutely horrific response to it—in the national news section of the newsletter today. In the meantime, click here to donate to Planned Parenthood of Montana.
With Ohio voters just weeks away from deciding on a pro-choice ballot measure, state Attorney General Dave Yost has issued a legal analysis of what the amendment would do, if adopted. As a reminder, Yost is the Republican AG who has been trying to enforce the state’s 6-week ban (which is currently blocked). He also called the story of a 10 year-old rape victim into question, later refusing to apologize for his comments. So, all around gem of a guy.
Yost had no reason to issue the analysis: it’s not something required by the state, and no one asked for it. But he decided to use the state’s time and money to write up a document that he says is “an objective analysis” of the measure. (Yost is so “objective” that he headlined Ohio Right to Life’s fundraising dinner last night.)
Most of the analysis is unsurprising: Conservatives in the state have been trying to paint the measure as radical, so Yost claims that the amendment “is not just ‘restoring Roe’…it goes further.” Anti-abortion groups have also been lying about the measure’s impact on minors, saying that it would allow children to obtain abortions or get gender-affirming care without parental consent. Yost bolsters those claims by writing that “there is no guarantee that Ohio’s parental-consent law will remain in effect” and that “Ohio’s general laws concerning minors and health care could be affected.”
But there were other bits of worrying analysis that went beyond the talking points we’ve heard before in Ohio. For example, the amendment says the state can’t regulate reproductive health care unless it’s to “advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.” Yost takes issue with this, saying that requiring using “widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care” is different than prior law, “which allowed States to rely on their own reasonable medical judgment as long as there was a fair debate.” In other words, he wants the state’s “medical judgement” to be able to override doctors’.
Similarly, Yost criticizes the fact that the amendment prohibits the state from regulating abortion after ‘viability’ if a doctor deems it necessary to protect a person’s health or life. He says that the concept is too broad, and bemoans the fact that it’s up to the doctor to decide if the standard applies, “with no requirement for a second opinion or objective criteria for evaluating the physician’s professional judgment.”
First of all, a second opinion when someone is dying seems like a dangerous fucking idea to me! But once again, Yost wants the state to be able to override doctors’ judgements. Now, of course that’s an idea at the heart of all abortion bans—the belief that legislators should decide on abortion rather than pregnant people and their doctors. But it’s wild to see it spelled out so explicitly. (I have more on the upcoming ballot measure vote in Ohio in the Conservative Corruption section of the newsletter.)
In Florida, Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani filed legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book, to protect people who self-manage their abortions from criminalization. While Republicans claim that the current 15-week ban prohibits abortion patients from being prosecuted, the language of the statute says that anyone who “willfully performs, or actively participates in” an abortion can be charged with a felony. Obviously, someone who takes abortion medication is both performing and actively participating in an abortion. Eskamani and Book’s bill states that the criminal penalty doesn’t apply to the person who ends their own pregnancy.
Also in Florida: the state has validated more than 400,000 signatures in support of an abortion rights ballot measure; they need over 890,000 to get the amendment on the November 2024 ballot. (Floridians Protecting Freedom has submitted more than 400,000 signatures—that number is just how many the state has verified so far.)
Boise State Public Radio spoke to the founder of the Pro-Voice Project in Idaho, an abortion storytelling project and play. A reminder that Idaho has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, and has also disbanded their committee on maternal mortality. You can listen to the interview directly below:
The Washington Post looks at the upcoming Virginia election, where abortion rights has taken center stage. As you know, Gov. Glenn Youngkin is pushing for a 15-week ban—which he and other Republicans insist is not a ban. WaPo also reports that Planned Parenthood Virginia’s canvassing work has them on track to knock on 70,000 doors before the election, and that the group has seen double the number of volunteers who have come out to help with their efforts.
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America clearly has their hands in the election. The national organization has been pushing Republicans to take a more aggressive stance on banning abortion (the group blamed Republicans’ midterm losses on the “ostrich” strategy). That’s what we’re seeing in Virginia, both in terms of Youngkin’s ban, and the state GOP claims that Democrats want abortion ‘up until birth’. SBA’s political coordinator told WaPo, “we’re seeing the entire party in Virginia really unify around a message, around Governor Youngkin’s position, and go on offense.” Virginia is the only Southern state that hasn’t banned abortion since Roe was overturned.
In Wisconsin, where Planned Parenthood clinics have resumed abortion care despite the state ban not being repealed yet, representatives from the group tell the American Independent that they’re already working on what’s next. They say they’re thinking of reproductive health access in a three-pronged approach: restoring abortion, protecting access, and removing existing restrictions to expand access. In the meantime, the staff there is just grateful that they’re able to help people. From associate medial director for Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, Dr. Allie Linton:
“I think what’s scary for me is trying to figure out where these patients were going for the last 449 days. We know that those who have access and the support and the ability to be able to travel, that they were able to. But we also know that a lot of patients weren’t able to. And so I’m both very thankful to be seeing the patients now, but it also is sort of overwhelming to think about what was happening before.”
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs has filed a brief with the state Supreme Court this week, urging justices to uphold an appeals court ruling blocking an 1864 total abortion ban. Hobbs’ brief outlines the stories of six different women and how access to abortion impacted their lives—from protecting their health to allowing them to escape abusive relationships. Hobbs also points out in the brief that Arizona voters may be able to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution in 2024. Justices are set to hear arguments in the case this December.
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I told you yesterday about Quincy, Illinois, where conservative activists are trying to pass an anti-abortion ordinance. (Anti-abortion groups have targeted Quincy because it borders Missouri, where abortion is illegal.) Two aldermen have come out to oppose the ordinance, saying that the city would be better off “focusing on poverty, homelessness, and affordable housing and not an unenforceable, symbolic ordinance.”
Planned Parenthood Action Kentucky has endorsed a candidate for state auditor;
And the CEO of White Castle donated to the pro-choice ballot measure campaign in Ohio, so I guess I like White Castle burgers now??
In the Nation
Since Roe was overturned, violence and harassment targeting abortion clinics, providers and staff has been on the rise. (The National Abortion Federation’s 2022 report showed a 100% increase in arsons, for example, and a 229% increase in stalking.) And, as I reported earlier the newsletter, a Montana Planned Parenthood was attacked just last night. So naturally, Republicans think now is the perfect time to repeal the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act—which makes it a federal crime to use force, threat of force, or physical obstruction to block people from getting reproductive health care.
This week, Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) and Rep. Chip Roy (Texas) have introduced legislation to repeal the act, claiming that it’s being used to punish well-meaning activists. Sen. Lee said, “The Biden DOJ has weaponized this constitutionally suspect law against pro-life sidewalk counselors while failing to protect pregnancy centers and churches from violent attacks.” (Which is…not true. Unfortunately, the FACE Act has also been used to go after pro-choice activists who merely graffitied an anti-abortion center.)
The timing of this isn’t a coincidence. In August, a jury found five anti-abortion activists guilty of violating the federal law when they deliberately blocked access to a D.C. clinic. And over the last few months, anti-abortion activists across the country have been suing over “buffer zone” laws under the guise of free speech—trying to remove clinic protections that stop protesters from being able to get too close to the staff or patients.
So let’s be clear: Republicans are trying to make it easier for anti-abortion extremists to harass and intimidate patients and staff. They know that violence against providers and clinics is increasing, and they don’t care.
Related: In better FACE Act news, a federal appeals court rejected Operation Save America’s attempt to remove an injunction that prevented them from coming near a Tennessee abortion clinic.
Speaking of ill-timed and awful moves by Republicans: The Associated Press reports that the GOP is stripping away or forgoing funding for sex education—part of the broader ‘parents’ rights’ movement sweeping across conservative states. We know what happens when teenagers don’t have access to comprehensive and accurate sex education, and it’s not good! This comes at the same time that some states are using anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to teach sex education, and others—like Florida—are trying to pass laws that would prevent kids from even learning about menstruation.
USA Today on how doctors are struggling to provide adequate care in states with bans;
The Guardian with an explainer on the fight over PEPFAR funding;
Ms. magazine on Fifth Circuit judge James Ho and his connections to the anti-abortion movement;
And in international news, voters in Chile are angry over the conservative-led attempt to tighten abortion restrictions in the country’s constitution, and Brazil is getting closer to decriminalizing abortion.
One of conservative’s constant refrains is that they don’t want to see women punished for having abortions. The reality, of course, is much different. Over the last few months, we’ve seen a young woman from Nebraska sent to prison for self-managing an abortion as a teenager. Her mother, who helped her, was also sentenced to jail time. And the response from anti-abortion groups paints a very clear picture about what kind of criminalization efforts we’ll see in the future.
When a pro-choice group put up billboards in Nebraska reading, “Women are going to jail under Nebraska’s abortion ban,” for example, Nebraska Right to Life claimed it was “misinformation.” From the organization’s executive director, Sandy Danek:
“The young woman who had the abortion performed simply went to jail because she improperly handled the body, didn’t report the death and lied to authorities. We do not support any measures seeking to criminalize or punish a woman.”
In fact, the two were arrested and charged with illegal abortion. (They pled out to different charges.) But the charges are besides the point, really: They were arrested because the then-teenager ended her pregnancy. But the anti-abortion movement and zealous members of law enforcement think that they can get around promises not to target abortion patients by prosecuting them under various different laws.
Pregnancy Justice’s recent report, for example, outlines the way pregnant people are criminalized: The charges that are used most often are child abuse or endangerment, chemical endangerment, failure to report a birth/death, tampering with remains, etc. All of these charges are made possible by fetal personhood laws—which are anti-abortion policies.
Like so many Republican promises around abortion, the vow that women won’t be arrested is just false. They think not prosecuting women for abortion specifically (instead, focusing on related charges) will give them the rhetorical wiggle room they need to avoid being called liars. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen.
As we get closer to Ohio’s vote on a pro-choice ballot measure—an initiative that could enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution—I figured it was a good time to revisit all of the sketchy shit Republicans have done leading up to this moment. In addition to trying to raise the standards on ballot measures to require 60% of the vote, as opposed to a simple majority, Ohio Republicans also attempted to mandate that citizen initiatives get signatures from every county in the state. (A change like that would allow a single rural community to quash an amendment that the vast majority of voters want to pass.)
And because abortion rights are so popular, Republicans there avoided admitting that all of this work they were doing to change the rules was about the pro-choice amendment—instead, they claimed it was about protecting Ohio’s constitution from out-of-state special interests. The GOP was forced to admit otherwise, however, when a letter from one of them talking about how this was all about abortion was leaked.
All of those efforts by legislators was happening at the same time that anti-abortion groups were bringing forward lawsuits trying to stop the measure from moving forward, and as Republican leaders rewrote the ballot summary with the aim of tricking voters about what the amendment would actually do.
In short, the GOP has been working overtime to stop voters’ ability to have a say on abortion rights—and undermining democracy in the process. (For more, The Washington Post has a good piece today about the various ways Republicans in Ohio have been using their supermajority to erode citizens’ rights.)
That’s why this ballot measure is so important: it’s about abortion, but it’s also about sending Republicans the message that their attempts to stomp all over democracy didn’t go unnoticed, and won’t win.
You Love to See It
I told you earlier this week about Allie Phillips—the Tennessee woman who decided to run for office after being denied an abortion. Phillips, who had to travel to New York for abortion care after finding out that her pregnancy wasn’t viable, is running as a Democrat for House District 75. When that news broke, I wondered whether we’d be seeing an influx of candidates like this—people denied vital care who decide they want to change the policies themselves.
Well, it turns out the answer is yes! The Meteor reports that Nancy Davis—the woman in Louisiana who was denied care even though her fetus was missing parts of its brain and skull—also plans to run for office. Davis has already established a foundation to help other patients, and has testified in support of a bill that would have prevented doctors from being arrested for providing abortions. (Sadly, it didn’t pass.)
Davis told The Meteor that she recently had a three-hour phone conversation with Phillips about their respective experiences, and that “I do plan on running for something this year.”
“Seeing the lack of empathy that was shown to other women and other families, it really had me outraged,” she says.