Nov 21 • 22M

Abortion, Every Day (11.21.22)

Alabama arrests woman to 'protect' her fetus: But she wasn't pregnant

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

Oklahoma has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, but that’s not stopping Republicans from proactively making sure it stays that way. Two anti-abortion legislators sent out a press release stating that they’ll oppose any attempts to add rape and incest exceptions to the law: “New allowances for abortion might come veiled as compassion and care for difficult and tragic circumstances. In fact, this is not the case at all. This would be nothing less than the taking away of innocent human life.”

And State Sen. Warren Hamilton has sent a letter to Oklahoma’s attorney general asking for “clarification” on women self-inducing abortion with medication—a letter that claims women who take abortion medication could be prosecuted for homicide and sentenced to life in prison. Right now, Oklahoma’s law says women who have abortions shouldn’t be prosecuted for murder, “unless the mother has committed a crime that caused the death of the unborn child.” Hamilton argues that women who self-induce abortion are breaking state law around ending a pregnancy without the “supervision of a duly licensed physician”—which makes it possible to charge them with homicide. The letter, of course, is framed as ‘just asking questions’, but is very clearly meant to intimidate any women in the state who may be thinking about obtaining abortion pills. (And by the way, Hamilton is the same lawmaker who questioned why there should be an exception for ectopic pregnancies.)

Arkansas Republicans are also moving fast on more anti-abortion measures: One new bill would require that employers who provide travel expenses or coverage for out-of-state abortions also offer 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. You know I’m all for increased maternity leave, but naturally the move has nothing to do with supporting new mothers. State Rep. Aaron Pilkington, who filed the bill, said he just wants to discourage employers from offering abortion-related coverage. Charming.

Doctors in Georgia are speaking out about how the (currently blocked) abortion ban has interfered in their ability to provide adequate care to patients. In The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dr. Megan Cohen, medical director of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said she’s called in to deal with incomplete miscarriages about once a week—as did two other Atlanta-based doctors who didn’t want to be named. Because of the strict ban, doctors had to wait until patients developed infections, which can be deadly, before they could provide them abortion. Cohen also said she had to refuse abortions to about two rape victims a month because they didn’t want to file police reports, which the ban requires. (Also in Georgia, the upcoming run-off has abortion top-of-mind for voters.)

Remember the Alabama county who has been jailing pregnant women in an attempt to ‘protect’ their fetuses? Well one of the women they put in jail wasn’t even pregnant. Stacey Freeman was arrested for “chemical endangerment of a child”—they said she was using drugs while pregnant—and held in Etowah County Detention center. Freeman offered to take a pregnancy test, but they booked and held her anyway; once she was released, Sheriff Investigator Brandi Fuller warned Freeman not to get pregnant lest she face additional charges. This is a distressing precedent: Law enforcement officials are already using abortion bans to go after pregnant women—now they’ll go after any woman just by claiming she’s pregnant??

The consequences to abortion bans are everywhere and spreading fast. Conservatives are hoping that if we can’t keep up, we won’t fight back. Abortion, Every Day is working to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Reproductive rights activists in Ohio are planning on getting abortion on the ballot, with the hopes of enshrining the right to abortion in the state constitution. Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio, says, “It’s a when, not an if.” (That’s why Republicans in the state are trying to amend the rules around changes to the state constitution to require 60% of the vote instead of 50%.) Cincinnati Public Radio is doing a segment on the issue that will be uploaded here this afternoon.

Abortion providers and activists in Illinois are frustrated with Democrats for not pushing legislation to protect women and doctors from out-of-state civil and criminal charges. The state has become a safe haven for abortion access, which makes it a target from anti-abortion groups in other states. “The fact that Illinois legislators have done nothing so far is a major problem for abortion providers in this country, and patients,” said David Cohen, a Drexel University law professor.

There’s an ongoing battle in Idaho over what constitutes a medical emergency when it comes to abortion—so much so that the federal government has sued the state over the lack of clarity. In the Idaho Capital Sun today, a reproductive rights attorney writes that the abortion ban is putting women’s lives at risk and that “hospitals must provide the appropriate medical care to every person that walks into their ERs.”

Last week, the University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy held a webinar about the confusion over abortion law in the state—which a problem nationwide, but a particular issue there. There’s a breakdown of the panel here, and what I found especially interesting/troubling was the vagueness around what aiding and abetting abortion means in the state. Also in Arizona, Governor-elect Katie Hobbs says she’ll call a special session to try to repeal the state’s abortion ban:

A couple of quick hits: Here’s more info on New Jersey’s possible constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights in the state; here’s a run-down on the latest on the Wisconsin battle over abortion; and Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General, Dr. Denise A. Johnson, has written an oped about the importance of abortion rights as it relates to domestic violence and reproductive coercion: “Let’s not let pregnancy mortality be another unintended consequence for victims of domestic violence.”

In the nation…

I’m betting you’ve already seen this bombshell piece from The New York Times about Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito leaking the anti-contraception Hobby Lobby case decision to friends (who just happen to be anti-abortion activists)—but in case you haven’t, make sure to read the whole thing. The gist is this: Anti-abortion activists successfully ingratiated themselves to Alito, and Alito paid them back with advance notice of his decision in the Hobby Lobby case. At a time when trust in the Supreme Court is at an all-time low, this is just another blow to the institution—and a reminder that these assholes will do anything but play fair.

Speaking of that NYT piece, law professor and author Mary Ziegler has a piece in Slate about how Alito’s leak fits into the broader anti-abortion playbook; she goes in-depth into anti-choice strategy around dark money and influencing judges, definitely check it out.

I told you last week about the conservative group that is suing the FDA in an effort to get them to reverse their approval of mifepristone for abortion. Apparently the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the same group that brought forward the lawsuit that would go on to overturn Roe, deliberately filed the case in Amarillo, Texas, which is almost certain to put it in front of the ultra-conservative, Trump-appointed Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk. Rigging the game, per usual.

Abortion bans have put women’s lives at risk across the country—yesterday, the Associated Press spoke to some of the women who have been denied care and the doctors put in the impossible situation of deciding just how sick is sick enough to be able to legally give someone an abortion. One 35 year-old in Texas, for example, had a nonviable pregnancy but was in the hospital in agony for days before being able to find a doctor to help. She said she thought, “What am I supposed to do, just lay here and die?” And a Colorado abortion provider recounted seeing a cancer patient who had traveled from out-of-state for care who just kept thanking her, grateful that her toddler wouldn’t be left without a mother. The whole piece is an absolute-must read.

POLITICO has a big piece on how anti-abortion organizations are re-grouping post-midterms; and how, as I’ve written here before, their take-away is that Republicans weren’t strong enough on abortion. Marilyn Musgrave, from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, says, “I hope Republicans got the message loud and clear that running away from the issue doesn’t work.” POLITICO also reports on the fighting within the movement about best next moves: Many want to see Republicans push for a federal 15 week-ban, while others (like SBA Pro-Life America) want a bill that bans abortion after what they call a heartbeat, but what is actually electrical activity.

On Sunday, former Vice President Mike Pence told Face the Nation that he believed IVF should be protected and exempt from abortion bans—but it doesn’t appear anyone specifically asked him what he thinks about embryos being discarded or selective reduction, both of which are common parts of the IVF process. It’s an important question, because we know that legislators aren’t going to go after IVF by banning it, but by restricting it.

The Washington Post looks at judges who are blocking state abortion bans and the various reasoning behind their decisions; The Guardian looks at how key wins and abortion helped to stave off a ‘red wave’; Mother Jones argues that we need to make birth control pills available over-the-counter; and the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation is urging Republicans to go on offense on abortion—including pushing a federal ban.

Listen up…

NPR in Kansas City has a segment on Mylissa Farmer, the Missouri woman who was denied an abortion despite having a nonviable pregnancy. The hospital that refused her care is now under federal investigation.

You love to see it…

The Cut has an interview with Rachel Sweet, the incredible organizer behind the pro-choice wins in Kansas and Kentucky:

But nonpartisan ballot-measure campaigns are one of the best pathways that we have for protecting or restoring access to legal abortion. It is a state-by-state strategy….It took the anti-abortion movement 50 years to overturn Roe. I don’t think it’s going to take us 50 years to rebuild abortion access in this country, but we have to accept that we cannot undo this overnight. It is going to take a concerted effort.

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