Abortion, Every Day (11.15.23)
Wyoming left with one abortion clinic
Care Denied looks at the new group of women joining the lawsuit against Texas over the state’s abortion ban, and a Wisconsin woman speaks up about her experience. In the States, more news on the Ohio GOP trying to overturn the will of voters, along with a some rare good news. In the Nation, Grace reports on what’s coming next for the Pentagon’s abortion policy. In The Care Crisis, Wyoming is left with just one abortion clinic, and what abortion bans mean for domestic violence victims. And in Keep An Eye On, March for Life announces their (very tone deaf) theme for 2024.
Seven more women have joined the Center for Reproductive Rights’ lawsuit against Texas over the state’s abortion ban. This brings the total number of plaintiffs to 22. (I know it goes without saying, but obviously there are many more patients who have been harmed by Texas’ ban—these are just the ones who felt they could come forward.)
The stories these women tell are distressingly familiar: severe fetal abnormalities, fatal diagnoses, and dangerous pregnancies where a patients water breaks way too early. You can read about their experiences here.
Kimberly Manzano, for example, was 10 weeks pregnant when she found out that her fetus’ organs were growing outside of the body. The longer Manzano remained pregnant, the more her health and life were at risk; so she and her husband decided to travel to New Mexico for an abortion.
“I was grieving, I was processing all of this, and then I was also feeling like a criminal. It’s dehumanizing…and it shouldn't be like this for health care.”
For background on the lawsuit, check out my previous coverage here. The short version is that CRR isn’t suing to overturn Texas’ ban, but to ensure that those with complicated and dangerous pregnancies can get care. In August, CRR and the women they represent won, and a judge issued a temporary block that allowed doctors to provide abortions in complicated pregnancies. But the state Attorney General appealed, which put the judge’s ruling on hold.
Molly Duane, senior staff attorney at CRR, says they’re heading to the state Supreme Court.
“The numbers will continue to grow until the state of Texas gives doctors clarity on who they can help and when. Yet, the Texas government is doubling down on these laws that continue to risk the lives and health of every pregnant person in Texas. All we are asking for is common-sense guidance that will allow doctors to use their good faith judgment without fearing loss of their license and life in prison.”
In other Care Denied news, a Wisconsin woman is speaking out about her experience going into preterm labor at 19 weeks. Hannah Thompson writes that doctors explained to her that under state law, she would have to be close to death before they could give her care:
“The law ties doctors’ hands and forces women to be on death’s door before they can receive the care they need and deserve. Eventually, my white blood cell count jumped, which indicated infection, and my heart rate accelerated while my blood pressure plummeted. I was prepped for an emergency dilation and evacuation, but learned once I came off of anesthesia that our baby delivered naturally. He lived for only one hour.”
Torture. This is torture.
Support independent media that’s as pissed off as you are:
In the States
Ohio Republicans are still looking for ways to stop Issue 1. Rep. Jennifer Gross, one of the Republicans threatening to strip the courts of their power to enforce the pro-choice ballot measure, held a town hall meeting this week to face her constituents. They were…not happy. People crowded the room to accuse Gross of trying to overturn the will of the people. (Which is correct.) In response, Rep. Gross asked one constituent if she voted “to rip babies’ arms off.” Yes, really. Local television station WCPO caught some footage of the charged meeting here.
At least some Republicans see the writing on the wall: Rep. Sara Carruthers told the Journal-News that fighting against Issue 1 makes the state GOP look bad:
“I think people will say we’re not listening to our constituents, which is what I think it is. We are always going to lose on abortion, and if people don’t see that, I don’t know why not. It’s a nationwide thing.”
Meanwhile, Ohio Democrats are taking full advantage of the pro-choice energy in the state after their ballot measure win. They’ve released digital ads attacking Republican candidates Bernie Moreno, Frank LaRose, and Matt Dolan and their support for a national abortion ban. (Someone should tell them to look into the video of Rep. Gross’ exchange!)
More from Ohio: Ohio Republicans want to give tax breaks to those who donate to anti-abortion centers; How Black voters in the state were a driving force in passing Issue 1; And an abortion provider writes why legality isn’t enough—patients need access, too. Also, this headline from The Onion is just WOW.
Democrats in red states are looking to the recent pro-choice wins as a sign to go all in on abortion rights. In Utah, for example, Democrat Kathleen Riebe, running in the special election for the Second Congressional District, is running an ad blasting her opponent over their anti-abortion extremism. (Utah passed an abortion ban that’s currently blocked as its being battled out in the courts.)
“When you look at the results of the election on Tuesday, you have Ohio, Kansas some really red states are taking another look at this and they are not agreeing,” Riebe said.
"Myself when I had a miscarriage, would I have to sit in the parking lot and wait until I was really sick before I was allowed to have care? If my daughter was raped, would she have to have that baby? I am not OK with that and I don’t think most women and parents are. So when you think about what’s important to your family, you think about having agency to do what’s best for your family.”
Kentucky Republicans say that they’re open to adding rape and incest exceptions to the state’s total-abortion ban. This comes after the re-election of Gov. Andy Beshear, who ran a campaign focused on abortion rights—specifically, Kentucky’s lack of exceptions. Since winning, Beshear has been pushing lawmakers to add those so-called exceptions into the law.
Now, you all know how I feel about ‘exceptions’. There’s a reason Republicans are open to them: Even if they’re passed, chances are they’ll be unusable. That’s why it’s not enough that Beshear and other Democrats get the legislature to adopt exemptions—they need to ensure that doctors aren’t so fearful of prosecution that they won’t perform abortions, and that there aren’t hurdles for those that qualify. (The fact that I have to write the word ‘qualify’ when talking about the right to health care makes me furious.)
Take what’s happening in Iowa right now, for example. A 6-week ban is currently blocked, but the state Board of Medicine still has to pass guidance on how doctors should adhere to rape and incest exceptions if the law is enacted. The proposed rules are both onerous and ridiculously vague. For example, doctors treating a rape victim would be required to ask her for details about the attack and try to make a “good-faith assessment that the woman is being truthful.” So they want doctors to be detectives, and for patients to have to prove they were attacked.
Doctors who don’t accurately asses if their patients are rape victims could face revocation of their medical license or fines up to $10,000. And there’s no real guidance for how a doctors would be determined to have broken the rules. As The Gazette points out, the proposed guidance simply says, “Failure to comply with this rule or the requirements of Iowa Code section 146E may constitute grounds for discipline.” From Iowa OBGYN Dr Emily Boevers:
“What physician is going to want to come and practice in this environment? Where you stake your license on what constitutes rape appropriately and get called before the Board of Medicine to determine what your discipline is. And we don’t know what those actions might cost us..It’s incredible.”
This is why you can’t find a single doctor to give a rape victim an abortion in a place like Mississippi. The risks are far too great.
Meanwhile, over in Tennessee, Democrats are introducing legislation to protect access to birth control. I’ll be curious see to see how Republicans there react to the Tennessee's Contraceptive Freedom Act—and if they’ll give themselves away. (After all, we know that conservatives keep insisting that the morning after pill and IUDs are actually ‘abortions’.)
And in good-but-bad news, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled yesterday (again) that the state constitution allows for life-saving abortions. I just can’t believe that needs to be made explicit. My favorite part, though, is the response to the ruling from the state Attorney General’s office. Spokesperson Phil Bacharach said, “It is worth underscoring, however, that these decisions do not impact Oklahoma’s prohibition on abortion that remains the law of the land.” So no faking death for those abortions, ladies!
Let’s counteract that absolute insanity with a bunch of good news: A Pennsylvania House Committee advanced a bill to prohibit state courts from cooperating with out-of-state abortion prosecutions. The majority of North Dakotans oppose the state’s abortion ban. Minnesota Democrats are considering putting abortion on the ballot in 2024. And more emergency contraception vending machines are popping up in New York and Washington.
In the Nation
Democrats are making moves to bring a potential resolution to the Senate floor that temporarily bypasses Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold. The resolution, which would need bipartisan support, would allow for groupings of military promotions to be quickly confirmed by the year-end. The Senate Rules Committee voted yesterday to approve the resolution, bringing it one step closer to a vote on the chamber floor. No Republican Senators have endorsed the temporary rule change (publicly) yet.
Instead, 27 Republican Senators sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding that the Pentagon rescind the abortion travel policy. The letter, signed by Senators who’ve publicly criticized Tuberville like Sens. Joni Ernst and Lindsay Graham, warns against the “precedent” this blockade and the temporary rule change could set going forward: “Our men and women in uniform deserve Senate-confirmed leadership but the current situation began with your original sin of promulgating the Policy.”
Something else worth highlighting: A new analysis shows that the abortion travel policy costs the DOD less than 1/800th of their budget. These anti-choice Senators are jeopardizing national security and the careers of hundreds of officers for something that costs the Pentagon 0.00125 of the millions of dollars allocated to them. They will stop at nothing to use abortion to dog whistle the same (tired) talking points: falsehoods about “tax-funded” and “late-term” abortions.
A government shutdown has been averted for now, after the Republican-led House passed Speaker Mike Johnson’s continuing resolution plan. In the meantime, all eyes will be on the spending proposals duking it out in the House—which are currently rife with anti-abortion and anti-trans provisions.
The anti-abortion case that boosted Speaker Mike Johnson’s career as a lawyer;
NBC News on J.B. Pritzger’s abortion rights org that will fund pro-choice candidates and ballot measure efforts;
Molly Jong-Fast on why Democrats shouldn’t give up on abortion rights;
The Care Crisis
I’m sorry to report that Women’s Health and Family Care Clinic in Wyoming is closing, leaving the state with just one abortion clinic. The clinic served the Jackson area for more than thirty years. The remaining clinic, Wellspring Health Access, is 280 miles away, in Casper, and was the victim of an arson attack last year.
In other Care Crisis news, The 19th has an important piece this week about one way abortion bans are impacting domestic violence victims. We know that reproductive coercion is a big part of intimate partner violence, for example, and that abusers use abortion bans and restrictions to further control their partners. But The 19th points out something else that’s not discussed nearly as often: what the OBGYN exodus out of anti-choice states will mean for victims.
Doctors are a vital part of the screening process in identifying DV victims and finding them help—and OBGYNs in particular, are who women tend to confide in:
“There is research showing patients are more likely to disclose personal information with their OB-GYNs; a poll from 2017 found that 61 percent of women were more likely to be honest with those medical providers than with a general practitioner. In their guidance, ACOG cites the unique nature of the physician-patient relationship within the context of reproductive health care as a critical reason why these providers should screen for intimate partner violence.”
As you know, states with abortion bans are losing huge numbers of OBGYNs and maternal fetal medicine specialists—which, in turn, means less doctors for victims to go to for help. Idaho, for example, has lost many of their OBGYNs and the majority of their maternal fetal medicine specialists. Dr. Rebecca Uranga, an OB-GYN in Meridian, Idaho, tells The 19th, “Who will be asking is going to get smaller…Someone needs to be asking.”
NC Health News on the ongoing impact on care since North Carolina passed its abortion ban;
The Washington Post on how abortion bans are hurting access to miscarriage treatment;
And Cosmopolitan on the financial cost of having an abortion.
Keep An Eye On
March for Life has announced their 2024 theme: Pro-Life: With Every Woman, For Every Child. March for Life president Jeanne Mancini says they chose the theme to counteract “the false narrative around abortion, whether it’s through mainstream media or the entertainment industry or academia, is that abortion is empowering and necessary.”
Maybe it’s just me, but the odd phrasing of this theme just makes it sound like they’re saying they want a “a child for every woman” or a woman for every child. Which, I suppose, they do. Either way, I hate it!