Nov 18 • 13M

Abortion, Every Day (11.18.22)

Conservatives sue to reverse FDA approval of abortion medication

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

In the wake of the midterms’ pro-choice wins, Republicans are terrified of abortion-related ballot measures. They know that most Americans support access to legal abortion—and putting the issue directly to voters will reflect that time and again. So they’re trying to rig the game: In Ohio, Republicans are pushing a proposal to require 60% of voters, instead of a simple majority of 50%, to change the state constitution.

Republican Rep. Brian Stewart, who is spearheading the effort, says, “Ohio's constitution has been far too susceptible to efforts by outside groups and special interests seeking to alter the people's constitution to achieve their own ends,” repeating a claim that conservative groups made in Kentucky when the anti-abortion ballot measure lost there. The idea is to say that it’s out-of-state groups spending money to ‘trick’ voters—a lie that’s easier than admitting abortion rights are just that popular. When Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose was asked whether the move was to stop Ohioans from making their voices heard on abortion, he responded by saying, “If somebody thinks that their favorite issue is not capable of mustering a 60% vote, then maybe they should think twice about proposing that as a constitutional amendment.” Charming.

In Wisconsin, Senate Democratic Leader Melissa Agard has responded to Republican Speaker Robin Vos’ comments about only considering rape and incest exceptions to the state’s abortion ban if they mandated victims provide police reports to prove that they had been attacked:

“Republicans are suggesting that legislators, law enforcement officers, and judges be in the doctor’s office with survivors of assault, controlling which health care procedures a person may access…After enduring one of the most traumatizing experiences of their life, survivors should be supported, not required to recount this gruesome event with local authorities.” 

You may remember that Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has launched a state-funded harassment campaign against Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the abortion provider who helped a 10 year-old rape victim from Ohio. Rokita subpoenaed Dr. Bernard’s patient records, claiming that she had complaints filed against her—but the complaints all came from out-of-state conservative trolls who found out about Dr. Bernard when the 10 year-old’s story went viral. The IndyStar has the latest on the case.

Abortion providers in Georgia are doing their best to navigate the confusing legal landscape with their patients in the wake of the state’s abortion ban being blocked. Because doctors aren’t sure what could happen next—or when—some are only making appointments a few days out. MK Anderson of the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, says, “it’s like this roller coaster conversation we have to have with our patients, and that can be emotionally difficult.”

And in Florida, abortion rights activists are planning their next move in case Republicans use their supermajority to go after abortion—including expanding access to birth control and looking for ways to provide funds to those who need to leave the state for care.

Francie Hunt from Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood reflected on her over-500 mile walk across the state for abortion rights, and talking to people along the way who considered themselves ‘pro-life’ but were worried about the state’s ban: “I think even for folks that may not see themselves as liberal or Democrat, they very clearly see that this ban…is way too extreme.”

Reproductive justice activists in New York are calling on Gov. Kathleen Hochul to protect and expand abortion rights. In an op-ed for the Daily News, organizers from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, Girls for Gender Equity, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, say that state leaders need to “act proactively, not just reactively.” They’re also urging legislators to pass the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Fund, because “the right to an abortion on paper without access to abortion care is barely a right at all.”

Anti-abortion activists are continuing their strategy of targeting towns in pro-choice states, this time in Pueblo, Colorado. Anti-choicers there—activists and city council members alike—are trying to stop the opening of an abortion clinic by passing an ordinance to make Pueblo a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” The same thing just happened in Hobbs, New Mexico and in towns across Nebraska.

Alaska Public Radio is doing a deep dive into abortion rights and the state constitution; Minneapolis, Minnesota has passed a new ordinance that makes it illegal to block the entrances and driveways to abortion clinics; and Kentucky Public Radio takes listeners into the state supreme court arguments on the state’s abortion ban.

In the nation…

Conservatives aren’t wasting any time. Anti-abortion activists have filed a lawsuit against the the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health and Human Services in an attempt to undo the approval of mifepristone, which ends pregnancies. From the Wall Street Journal:

“The lawsuit argued the FDA exceeded its authority to approve the drug because the agency used a process meant for treatments of serious or life-threatening illnesses, and there wasn’t scientific evidence to support the approval and other decisions.”

This is a big fucking deal. Abortion medication was a huge step forward in reproductive health, and has been especially important since Roe was overturned. Abortion medication is incredibly safe, and women who live in anti-choice states who want to self-manage their abortions without a doctor or the state knowing can do so without the same pre-Roe risk. Conservatives know this: The medication is women’s last lifeline to safe reproductive care.

Meanwhile, Democrats are calling on the FDA to loosen restrictions on abortion medication and add an indication to the medication making clear that it can be used to manage miscarriages. In a letter from Senators Elizabeth Warren, Mazie Hirono and others, asked the FDA commissioner “to immediately act to defend Americans’ fundamental reproductive rights.”

Here is some really big deal good news: In the wake of abortion bans forcing doctors into the impossible situation of deciding whether to treat their patients or break the law, the American Medical Association urging physicians to put their patients first. At the AMA’s 2022 interim meeting this month, the agency amended their ethical guidance to doctors on abortion. From AMA President Jack Resneck Jr., MD:

“Under extraordinary circumstances, the ethical guidelines of the profession support physician conduct that sides with their patient’s safety and health, acknowledging that this may conflict with legal constraints that limit access to abortion or reproductive care.”

To put it plainly: They’re telling doctors that to provide ethical care, they might have to break the law. The AMA also says they will offer support to doctors, including legal support and pathways for doctors-in-training to learn abortion services if they live in a state where abortion is illegal. All of the language is pretty dry and corporate—but the sentiment is super powerful.

At a global family planning conference in Thailand, reproductive health activists from more than 125 nations considered how abortion bans in the United States could have a trickle down effect to other countries. Samukeliso Dube, executive director of the South African organization FP2030, said, “What the U.S. does often has global repercussions, whether it’s positive or negative.” International activists also say that anti-abortion organizations in other countries gave been emboldened by what’s happening in the U.S..

Spotify is under fire after refusing to carry an ad for a telehealth company that provides abortion medication, saying it violated a policy prohibiting ads mentioning “abortion products and services, abortion providers and pregnancy counseling.” Huh??

Latino voters named abortion as one of their top issues in the midterms; The Conversation on how abortion rights are winning via ballot measures; The Washington Post has a big piece on how hard it is for those in rural communities to get reproductive health care of any kind; Katha Pollitt at The Nation writes that Democrats shouldn’t be taking women’s votes for granted, and that politicians need to remember that “abortion rights are popular, and Democrats should act that way.”

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