Abortion, Every Day (11.27.23)
Arizona Supreme Court Justice's Secret Planned Parenthood Records
In All About Arizona, some shocking news about a state Supreme Court Justice. In the States, info on the lawsuit against Texas’ abortion ban and where you can watch tomorrow’s arguments in the case. In the Nation, Grace lays out battleground Senate races. 2024 looks at Trump’s plan to seem ‘moderate’ on abortion. A few quick hits in The Care Crisis. And Stats & Studies looks at the birth rate increase since Dobbs.
All About Arizona
Last month, I told you some absolutely wild news out of Arizona: One of the justices on the state Supreme Court, which is poised to rule on the state’s abortion ban, is an avid anti-abortion activist known to protest in front of Planned Parenthood.
Justice Bill Montgomery also wrote on Facebook that Planned Parenthood is responsible for “the greatest generational genocide known to man.” Understandably, Planned Parenthood filed a motion asking for Montgomery’s recusal.
Here’s where it gets wackier. Not only has Montgomery refused to recuse himself, he claims in an order signed last week that his comments can’t be taken as bias because he didn’t specify that Planned Parenthood Arizona was responsible for genocide—just Planned Parenthood generally. Basically, he’s saying there’s a difference between accusing the national Planned Parenthood of genocide and accusing the state affiliate. Jaw-droppingly ridiculous. Montgomery also says that he won’t recuse himself because he wasn’t “a member of the judiciary” or “a candidate for judicial office” when he made the statements.
Incredibly, it gets weirder and sketchier. In what I assume is an attempt to get ahead of accusations of wrongdoing, Montgomery makes a stunning admission in a section called “Additional Facts And Circumstances.” In 2015, some cleaners happened upon records from Planned Parenthood Arizona while clearing out a building once occupied by the organization—they turned them in to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO), which Montgomery led at the time.
Instead of giving the records back to Planned Parenthood, Montgomery says he “engaged a local law firm to review the boxes to determine what the records consisted of, whether there was evidence of any criminal, civil, or administrative wrongdoing, and assess any ethical issues that would preclude MCAO from conducting a criminal review of the records, if warranted.”
That’s right: he decided to hand over what he believed were patient medical records to be investigated for criminal activity, having zero reason to do so. (The law firm that investigated the records is not named, but I’m looking into it.)
“That he was immediately so suspicious shows serious bias, as opposed to protection of patient confidentiality,” law professor David Cohen tells me. If the records were from a pediatrician’s or dentist’s office, Cohen says, Montgomery probably would have returned them: “But because it was Planned Parenthood, he immediately thinks it’s something suspicious.”
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Montgomery writes that the law firm’s “review” concluded the following year. They found that the boxes of records didn’t have medical records—just donor lists—and that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing. The state Supreme Court justice also writes that he never made any public note or record of the boxes until now—and that he neglected to do so out of kindness to Planned Parenthood Arizona:
The purpose for taking this approach was to avoid creating public records that could be used to insinuate or suggest Appellant had engaged in any criminal activity. That the records could easily have been used for political gain during 2016 or otherwise used to the detriment of Appellant was never discussed or contemplated. Appellant was treated fairly and impartially.”
It…sure doesn’t seem like that was the case! After all, why was the issue of criminality raised at all? I’ll have more from you this week on Montgomery and his very clear bias, but in the meantime—I cannot believe that this is the kind of person that holds the fate of Arizona’s abortion rights in his hands.
Ballot Measure Updates
Missouri Republicans are still trying to stop any pro-choice ballot measures from getting to voters in 2024: The Missouri Independent reports that Paul Berry III, who wants to be the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn 71 proposed ballot measures—including measures on abortion rights.
Specifically, Berry’s suit targets the six ‘compromise’ measures proposed by Republican strategist Jamie Corley. I’ve written about Corley’s efforts before; she’s framing her measures as ‘middle ground’ proposals to restore abortion rights. Some would only allow abortions until 12 weeks into pregnancy, for example, or would permit abortions for sexual violence victims—but only if they report the attack to a crisis hotline. (You can guess how I feel about all that!)
The Springfield News-Leader reports that abortion rights advocates in Missouri haven’t sorted out which proposed amendment to throw their weight behind yet—though most seem to agree that Corley’s are a no-go. This week, Corley’s amendments were also criticized by sexual assault survivor advocacy groups.
Maggie Olivia at Abortion Action Missouri says that the group is “committed to the most expansive policy possible.” (There has been a lot of internal strife over ‘viability’ standards.) Whatever amendment moves forward, Olivia says “we are encouraged by the level of excitement that we're seeing both in state and out state.”
If you missed my email earlier today about what’s happening in Ohio around Issue 1—and how it will determine attacks on democracy throughout the country—you can read it here:
New ballot measure alert! Montana abortion rights activists are proposing an abortion rights amendment that they hope will get on the 2024 ballot. The proposed measure would protect abortion rights until ‘viability’.
Abortion rights have been protected in Montana’s constitution since 1999, when the state Supreme Court ruled that women’s health decisions were part of a right to privacy. But since Roe was overturned, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and Attorney General Austin Knudsen have pushed the court to reverse that decision and tried to otherwise restrict abortion. That’s why in part, Planned Parenthood says, they’re bringing forward the amendment.
Chris Coburn, a spokesperson for Montana Planned Parenthood, told the Montana Free Press that “just because abortion is currently protected under rulings made by the Montana Supreme Court, that does not mean abortion rights are secured.”
In other good ballot measure news, Dakotans for Health, the group pushing for a pro-choice ballot measure in South Dakota, has reached a compromise with Minnehaha County over where they can gather signatures. (I reported back in May that the county started to restrict the group’s ability to petition in front of certain high-traffic areas—a move to stymie pro-choice efforts.)
In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz says the legislature will determine whether to a pro-choice measure in front of voters next year, noting that “the issue of individual sovereignty over personal health decisions is not going away.”
In the States
Tomorrow, the Texas Supreme Court is going to hear the case from women harmed by the state’s abortion ban. The suit, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of 22 women, seeks to change the state’s law around abortion access for those facing dangerous and complicated pregnancies. To learn more about the suit and the women’s stories behind it, click here. You can watch a livestream of the oral arguments here, tomorrow at 11AM EST.
The number of abortions performed in Indiana have plummeted since the state’s abortion ban went into effect. Earlier this month, the Guttmacher Institute reported that there were virtually no abortions in the state; the Indiana health department, puts the number in the low double digits. Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, says that the data shows “what we know to be true: exemptions are a right in name only.”
In Florida, where abortion rights activists are collecting signatures for a ballot measure while they wait for a state Supreme Court ruling that could determine the future of abortion rights, a reminder of what’s really at stake. Rachel S. Weiner, co-chair for the statewide campaign for The Religious Action Center, writes in The Palm Beach Post about needing an abortion when her water broke 15 weeks into a wanted pregnancy:
“What would have happened to me if this had happened today or next month? Would they have made me practically bleed to death before giving me the lifesaving treatment I needed? Would I have died? Gone septic? Lost the ability to get pregnant in the future?”
Finally, the Detroit Free Press spoke to Michigan Democrats about the legislative session. You know that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a watered-down Reproductive Health Act into law, which was disappointing. But that doesn’t mean the state hasn’t been incredible to watch from an abortion rights perspective. As Merissa Kovach of the ACLU of Michigan said, “We believe the reason why we have the Legislature that we do right now is because abortion was on the ballot.”
For more, check out this Rebecca Traister piece from last year on Whitmer’s proactive approach to protecting reproductive rights.
In the Nation
Last week, we wrote about how abortion politics are playing out in competitive reelection bids for Democratic Senators in conservative states—but the issue is also defining bluer-state races. These battleground Senate races are a place where folks are going to closely watch whether Democratic incumbents incorporate an abortion-forward playbook as a bellwether for the party’s abortion strategy.
In Arizona and Nevada, for example, candidates like Sen. Jacky Rosen have already signaled that reproductive rights will be a central part of their campaigns, especially considering the potential ballot measures that will share a ticket with them in the general election. The issue will also play a defining role in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania’s tight Senate races too, after their recent ballot measure and statewide election wins.
National pro-choice groups are also expected to spend historic sums to show Republicans’ anti-abortion extremism in these key states. In the meantime, polls—like this new one from NBC—continue to show that abortion rights are one of the top priorities for single–issue voters, especially for women voters. That means the ways candidates decide to incorporate (or neglect) abortion into their campaigns will be incredibly important.
House Republicans introduced two new anti-abortion bills, one goes after the DHHS from issuing guidance on abortion travel bans for minors, the other attempts to strengthen the Hyde Amendment that bans federal funds being used towards abortion care;
Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blockade over the Pentagon’s abortion policy has stalled the nomination of the first female superintendent from the Naval Academy;
The Biden administration is criticizing the media over their treatment of Trump’s anti-abortion strategy;
And something scary: the popularity of online ‘trad-wife’ content among conservative right-wing men who are drawn to the widespread subordination of women.
Rolling Stone has a big piece on something I’ve been writing about a lot: Donald Trump’s plan to run as a ‘moderate’ on abortion rights. RS reports that Trump is downright gleeful that the anti-abortion leaders who tried to push him to commit to a national ban now have no “leverage,” and that the disgraced former president has mocked them as “disloyal” and “out-of-touch.”
“Nowadays, instead of granting concessions, Trump and his advisers now brag that not only have they consolidated enough support to very likely win the primary in a cake walk—they did it while calling abortion hardliners’ bluff.
‘The [anti-abortion] activists who thought they could force Donald Trump to commit political suicide were deeply mistaken,’ a Republican close to the Trump reelection campaign tells Rolling Stone. ‘These were all-or-nothing types who should realize that he doesn’t need them. They need him.’”
A spokesperson for the Biden campaign told RS that “no one is buying” Trump’s attempt to seem moderate. I mean, this is the guy who made it possible for conservatives to overturn Roe! But as I wrote in my prediction about Trump’s 2024 abortion plan, this strategy’s success relies mostly on mainstream media buy-in. Which means…I’m nervous.
The Care Crisis
The New Republic on the brain drain in anti-choice states that are losing doctors;
CBS News on how women in maternity caare deserts are coping (the answer: not well);
And in less depressing news, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Reproductive Equity Now released an abortion rights toolkit for colleges to help them develop abortion mediation readiness plans.
Stats & Studies
Birth rates increased in every single state with an abortion ban, according to the first dataset on birth statistics since the Dobbs decision. The research, led by the Institute of Labor Economics, shows that abortion bans blocked at least 1 in 4 women in anti-choice states who wanted an abortion from getting one. From this, birth rates rose by 32,000 births in the first year after Roe was overturned—and we expect these numbers to climb once more abortion bans fall into place.
Researchers also found that Black women, Hispanic women, and women in their 20s disproportionately had increased birth rates. The increase was especially large in states where patients would have to travel the furthest to find their nearest legal abortion appointment. Caitlin Myers, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of economics at Middlebury College, says, “This is an inequality story.”