Nov 17 • 13M

Abortion, Every Day (11.17.22)

Woman ends up in ER after getting false info from crisis pregnancy center

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Jessica Valenti
Daily audio updates & commentary on abortion in the United States.
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In the states…

For months, I’ve been warning how conservatives are laying the groundwork to blame doctors for when the first woman dies because of an abortion ban. Now they’re creating a paper trail to do just that. After a Washington, DC woman went to the press about being denied miscarriage treatment in an Ohio hospital, an anti-abortion organization in the state has gone on offense: Ohio Right to Life has filed a complaint with the state medical board over the woman’s story. Elizabeth Whitmarsh, who is the anti-choice organization’s director of communications, claims in the complaint that the abortion ban doesn’t prevent doctors from giving patients adequate care. As Kellie Copeland with ProChoice Ohio said, “They are not filing this complaint out of concern for her. They are filing this complaint to cover up the fact that they are culpable with what happened.”

But wait, there’s more: When Whitmarsh’s complaint goes to the state’s medical board, guess who will be receiving it? Her boss. That’s right: The president of Ohio Right to Life, Mike Gonidakis, sits on the state’s medical board. What the ever-loving fuck.

Also in Ohio, where the state’s 6-week abortion ban is currently blocked, State Rep. Casey Weinstein warns that Republicans might try to pass an abortion ban and move it quickly through the lame duck session: “There’s a chance that it could happen very quickly without giving us a significant opportunity to push back.”

Meanwhile, crisis pregnancy centers are putting women’s lives in danger—and not just in anti-abortion states. The Boston Globe reports that an OBGYN at University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center recently treated a woman in the ER who had visited a crisis pregnancy center because they offered a free ultrasound. But crisis pregnancy center workers aren’t medical professionals—and often give false information to convince women not to get abortions. That’s happened in this case: The patient was given inaccurate information about her pregnancy, wasn’t referred for emergency treatment as she should have been, and ended up with a severe hemorrhage that sent her to the emergency room a week later.

Some better news in the state: A Massachusetts organization has launched a toolkit for activists and leaders to strengthen abortion rights in their towns and cities. Rebecca Hart Holder, president of Reproductive Equity Now, the organization that put out the kit, says that “municipal leaders can play an enormous role in expanding access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care.”

A new survey in South Carolina shows that most voters want abortion to be legal in at least some circumstances, but I’m struggling with this particular bit:

“Eighty-six percent of respondents said a woman should be able to terminate a pregnancy that threatens her life or health. That number was 80% among Republicans and 92% among Democrats.”

Who the fuck are the people who think women shouldn’t be able to have an abortion if her life is at risk? Sometimes this world really is the worst.

Doctors in North Dakota are facing the same hurdles that providers in Tennessee are struggling with: If they give an abortion to save someone’s life, they’ll have to prove that it was necessary in court. The state attorney general is arguing that doctors should be able to disclose their patients’ private health information as part of their defense.

The way that doctors are being targeted has already started to impact anti-abortion states. In Texas, health care recruiters are having an increasingly difficult time convincing doctors to come to the state. One recruiting firm said it recently had 20 OBGYNs turn down positions because of abortion laws, and another recruiting professional says that they had multiple doctors turn down a single position in maternal fetal medicine because of the state ban. One recruiter who called a doctor about a position had the physician simply say “Roe versus Wade” before hanging up. Which, fair enough. I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to work in Texas or any other anti-abortion state—but it’s going to be women, and the most vulnerable women, who suffer.

Officials in Missoula, Montana approved a new public school policy that bans sex ed from being taught by any person or organization that provides abortions. (This is in the wake of a state law requiring the same.) Educators at Planned Parenthood of Montana have provided the comprehensive sex education curriculum in state schools for years. Now, however, there’s a lot of confusion not just about who can teach sex ed—but what constitutes sex ed. One educator in the state points out, for example, that because the state law now allows parents to remove their kids from any lessons about “human sexuality,” children could be be pulled from history classes about gay rights or gender equality: “School districts have received legal guidance to take a hyper-cautious approach, interpreting ‘human sexuality’ in the bill as applying to classes far outside of what has historically been considered sex ed.” This isn’t just censorious, but dangerous.

Hundreds of protesters have been harassing patients outside of an abortion clinic in Raleigh, North Carolina:

In Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he’d be willing to amend the state abortion ban to include exceptions for rape and incest—but only if a woman or girl has a police report to “prove” they’ve been legitimately victimized. How generous. Ian Henderson, policy and systems director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, says “If the only way to access abortion is for a victim of sexual violence to report to law enforcement, they're going to have to engage with a system that most survivors don't want to engage with.” Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood in the state is increasing their birth control and family planning services.

Terri Pickens Manweiler may have lost the Idaho race for Lt. Governor, but she’s not giving up on fighting for abortion rights in the state:

“I made a promise to my daughter when the Dobbs decision was leaked back in March that I would do everything I could to ensure that she had reproductive freedom in this state. She's away at college. I got four years to get it done. So, this is the only way we're going to get it done in Idaho is a ballot initiative.”

Arizona Governor-elect Katie Hobbs says she’s willing to work across the aisle on lots of issues, but that she won’t compromise on abortion: “The majority of Arizonans support safe, legal abortion, and we need to roll back many of the restrictions that are in place now.”

And in Connecticut, a new law allows nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives to perform abortions—and medical professionals are lining up for training. At Planned Parenthood in the state, Dr. Nancy Stanwood says “We started our training in the beginning of August and it’s going really well with our first group of cohorts who are learning the skill.” She says, “We want them to feel totally able to manage. We’re also giving them the other context for safe care and team-based care.”

In the nation…

We already know that the health and lives exceptions in state abortion bans aren’t particularly helpful: Doctors across the country are confused about the language of the laws, and fearful (understandably) that they’ll be arrested for saving a patient’s life. Now the Associated Press points out yet another flaw in the supposed-exception: They don’t take mental health into account. In fact, some of the laws explicitly exclude mental health! Abortion bans in Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia all specify that suicide threats don’t constitute a “medical emergency,” and Florida’s law includes a ban for life-threatening situations “other than a psychological condition.” As the saying goes, the cruelty is the point.

FiveThirtyEight points out that despite the pre-midterms media narrative that claimed voters were losing interest in abortion rights, there were plenty of polls showing how important the issue remained for Americans:

“Crucially, the share of people who said that abortion was a key reason to vote—rather than just an important issue—seemed to grow as the election season went on. After all, concern about an issue doesn’t necessarily translate into voter enthusiasm, and some Americans who said inflation was their top concern overall may have been more influenced by abortion when they cast their ballot.”

Becca Andrews in ELLE urges people to stop dismissing red states as a lost cause on abortion rights and to remember that “there is power in the South”:

“Writing off the South means disregarding the slow, deliberate work done by grassroots organizations that have fought to provide reproductive health care there for decades (in some cases, since the Roe ruling). It also means shrugging off Southerners, many of whom are people of color…”

POPSUGAR says single women are less likely to want to have casual sex or “situationships” post-Roe; hotels and their legal teams are preparing for what abortion bans mean for them, and how their visitor records could be subpoenaed in investigations of women who traveled out-of-state for abortion; and POLITICO profiles Families United for Freedom, a new political action committee that helped secure some of the midterm’s pro-choice wins.

What conservatives are saying…

Conservatives are still trying to sort out what happened in the midterms, but the message I’ve seen again and again is that abortion didn’t lose them races: Not being strong enough on abortion did. The advice to future candidates is to stay the anti-abortion course—specifically to push for 15-week bans, which conservatives believe Americans will be more likely to accept as some kind of compromise. (Vox has a good comprehensive piece on the conservative response to their big abortion-related losses if you want to read more.)

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