Abortion, Every Day (11.29.23)
Will Republicans admit that they want birth control banned?
Click to skip ahead in the newsletter: In the States, I rage about the oral arguments in Texas yesterday. In Ballot Measure Updates, news from Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida. I cover the hurdles that Biden faces in 2024. And I get way petty in You Love to See It.
In the States
The Texas Tribune has a good overview of what went down yesterday at the state Supreme Court—where justices heard oral arguments in the lawsuit brought by 22 women against Texas over its abortion ban. (Read Center for Reproductive Right’s detailed outline of the case and the stories of the women bringing the suit here.)
One moment that stuck out to me was when the lawyer for the state, Beth Klusmann, admitted that acrania—a fatal condition where a fetus develops without parts of its skull or brain—would not fall under Texas’ abortion ban exception. This is something that I don’t see discussed nearly often enough: This ban forces people to carry doomed pregnancies to term. Unless the pregnancy is putting someone’s life at risk, they have no choice but to give birth to a baby that will die. As Klusmann said, “You do have to look to the legislature to create an exception for something that is solely a fatal fetal anomaly”
But the other thing about this moment that struck me was that Klusmann wasn’t sure what acrania was. She laughed nervously and said, “You’re testing my medical knowledge here,” before asking if it was a fetal anomaly.
It’s bad enough to defend this law while ignorant of basic medical facts, but what makes this even more egregious is that several plaintiffs had pregnancies that were diagnosed with acrania! Samantha Casiano vomited on the stand while recounting being forced to give birth to a baby that was missing parts of her brain and skull. Did Klusmann not listen to her testimony? Does she care at all?
I feel particularly sick over this because of the young woman I spoke to in Texas who was denied an abortion despite her diagnosis. If you have the stomach for it, you can watch that moment—and the rest of the oral arguments—below. And for some righteous anger over yesterday’s hearings, read Andrea Grimes at MSNBC.
In Idaho, Republican Attorney General Raúl Labrador is appealing a decision from earlier this month that blocks enforcement of the state’s ‘abortion trafficking’ law. (He wants to be able to prosecute people for ‘abortion trafficking’ while the law is being battled out in court.)
Something important to note: When U.S. District Magistrate Debora K. Grasham blocked the law, she cited free speech specifically. Part of the (understandable) worry from pro-choice activists is that the ‘abortion trafficking’ law will target abortion funds and activists who give information about abortion medication or out-of-state options to minors.
Labrador addresses free speech head on in the filing, writing that the Court “erred” in finding that the ‘abortion trafficking’ law violates First Amendment rights. He argues that the law only criminalizes conduct: “Recruiting, harboring, or transporting the minor child.” He continues, “The mere fact that speech may be used in recruiting, harboring, or transporting the child is immaterial.”
But here’s the thing: Labrador interprets abortion law broadly. He’s argued, for example, that Idaho’s ban makes it illegal to provide out-of-state referrals. In March, Labrador wrote a legal opinion arguing that because the law criminalized doctors who “assist” in performing an abortion, the language would apply to those who referred patients out of state. (He had to rescind his claim after abortion providers brought a lawsuit.)
All of which is to say, it’s reasonable to assume that the Idaho AG will define “conduct” in the broadest possible way.
In Mississippi, Democrats are pushing for protection for contraception—and Republicans are being awfully sketchy about it. Last month, the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus announced that they would be introducing the Right to Contraception Act in the next legislative session. In a press release, Rep. Chris Bell said, “Women and their partners deserve to feel confident about access to birth control—including condoms, IUDs, the pill, patches, emergency contraception, the ring—all of it.”
Republicans didn’t much like that. You may remember that state Sen. Joey Fillingane—who wrote Mississippi’s abortion ban—claimed that the legislation would legalize “morning-after abortions.” (Remember, redefining birth control as abortion is a big part of the conservative strategy to ban contraception.)
The Mississippi Free Press reports that Republican Gov. Tate Reeves may also be opposed to the legislation. They point to a 2022 “Meet the Press” appearance where Tate was asked if he would sign a bill to ban contraception. Tate quickly pivoted:
“Well, I don’t think that’s going to happen in Mississippi. I’m sure they’ll have that conversation in other states.”
After Chuck Todd pushed, telling Tate that he wasn’t answering the question, the governor responded, “There’s so many things we could talk about.” Okay then!
As you know, Republicans absolutely want to ban birth control and are already years into a plan to do just that. What happens next in Mississippi could shine a light on that extremism.
My piece on how Republicans plan to ban birth control by redefining it as abortion:
More on AED’s favorite Tennessee candidate, Allie Phillips;
Ballot Measure Updates
Love this news out of Arizona: Yesterday, Gov. Katie Hobbs publicly signed onto a petition form for a pro-choice ballot measure. The Arizona Abortion Access Act, which would protect abortion rights until ‘viability’, could be on the 2024 ballot if advocates are able to collect 383,923 signatures.
At the signing, Hobbs said, “In Arizona we are just one bad court decision away from an 1864 abortion ban that carries prison time for doctors and provides no exception for rape or incest.” As you probably remember, Arizona’s Supreme Court is set to decide on that old-ass abortion ban soon, and one of the Justices is an anti-abortion activist. (If you missed this newsletter about Justice Bill Montgomery, you really should read it.)
As expected, anti-abortion activists in Arizona are trying to make the proposed amendment sound as radical as possible. Check out this quote from Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy Action, which hits all of our anti-choice bingo words:
“The vague language would go far beyond what most voters support…The consequences would put our girls and women at risk because it would remove long-held, commonsense safety standards designed to protect girls and women; it would remove the required medical doctor, leaving girls and women in the hands of unqualified providers, and it would shut moms and dads out of their minor daughter’s abortion decision.” (Emphasis mine)
I really wonder if these people are going to come up with anything new, because we saw how poorly those talking points worked in Ohio. And as the Arizona Mirror reports, a poll last year found that 62% of Arizona voters approve of legalizing abortion access in most cases. So the anti-choice movement is going to have their work cut out for them.
The Arkansas Advocate has more on the abortion rights ballot measure that was rejected by Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin. As I reported yesterday, Griffin, who has a long history of anti-abortion activism, claimed that the language of the measure—even the title!—was too vague or confusing.
In response, Arkansans for Limited Government (AFLG), the group working to get the measure passed, said that they’re “committed to supporting a ballot proposal that is clear for Arkansas voters.”
In the meantime, Karen Musick of the Arkansas Abortion Support Network reminds us of the real suffering that’s happening as Republicans try to stall or stop voters from having a say:
“Blocking any statewide vote won’t matter to the many pregnant people who do need this health care. Evidently being at the bottom of the barrel in maternal mortality and teenage pregnancies isn’t enough for him. Now he must continue to force people to give birth against their will?”
For more on the ballot measure effort in Arkansas, listen to “Ozarks at Large” at NPR affiliate KUAF:
In Florida, the Orlando Sentinel editorial board has slammed Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody, who is petitioning the state Supreme Court to reject the language of a proposed pro-choice ballot measure. As I’ve reported previously, Moody is focusing on the amendment’s ‘viability’ standard, claiming that it’s deliberately misleading.
The editorial board writes that Moody’s tactic doesn’t have to do with worries over language, but is “more likely an effort to delay a ruling.” They point out that the abortion rights advocates may have a harder time collecting signatures and raising money “with uncertainty lingering over a pending court decision.”
The Florida Phoenix, however, reports that pro-choice activists supporting the measure are feeling good about where they are with signatures. Floridians Protecting Freedom say they’re narrowing their petitioning to ten specific congressional districts in an effort to show that the amendment has support from all across the state. From Amy Weintraub of Progress Florida:
“We’re in a position now where we can focus on the geographic diversity requirements. That’s a very different place than, say, a couple months ago when we were trying to get as many as we could from anywhere we can.”
The Center Square has more on the proposed pro-choice ballot measure in Nevada that was rejected by a judge;
and Virginia Public Radio on the abortion rights amendment proposed by Virginia Democrats.
Vanity Fair says President Joe Biden could take some lessons from newly-reelected Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who made abortion rights central to his campaign. (Something previously unheard of for a Democrat in a red state.) VF points specifically to Beshear’s ad featuring a young woman who was raped by her stepfather as a child, which drew attention to opponent Daniel Cameron’s anti-abortion extremism.
I’m sure we can count on the Biden camp to do the same when it comes to Donald Trump and his responsibility for Roe’s demise—but with Trump trying to seem moderate on abortion, that may be more difficult. Especially if the mainstream media buys into Trump’s bullshit talking points. Remember my prediction on how Trump is going to take credit for pro-choice wins? All of this relies on media buy-in.
Hillary Clinton tweeted today about Trump’s plan to seem ‘reasonable’ on abortion: “He thinks women are going to fall for this?” I think for the most part, they won’t. BUT, we know that Trump is aiming for white Republican women who are put off by abortion bans—and that some of those women may be looking for a reason to vote for him. (I don’t understand it, but that’s the reality.)
As I’ve written before, there’s a way in which Trump’s obvious apathy for the issue works for him. Republican women pissed off by bans want to believe that abortion isn’t important to Trump, and that he won’t do anything drastic (despite all evidence to the contrary).
I think a lot about this quote from a Pennsylvania woman, for example, who said this to The New York Times:
“I haven’t seen Trump say something either way on abortion; he doesn’t seem to care either way and that’s fine with me.”
She’s voting for him.
That’s why it’s going to take more than hammering on Trump’s anti-abortion record to win. As AED has said before, it’s not enough to get women to vote against Trump—Biden needs to lay out a proactive abortion rights plan that gives Americans something to vote for.
Chris Christie says he wouldn’t sign a 6-week abortion ban;
Republican pundits continue to try to position Nikki Haley as ‘reasonable’ on abortion;
You Love to See It
I really need to get back to reporting more good news! So in the interest of feeding my optimism, some stuff to be happy about:
California is putting $20 million into two new programs: the Reproductive Health Service Corps and the Pharmacists Comprehensive Abortion and Reproductive Health Empowerment Initiative. The first will expand and diversify the repro health workforce, and the second will empower pharmacists to provide comprehensive reproductive health care services.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says, “with extremist judges and out-of-touch politicians continuing their attacks on access to abortion care, California is once again leading the fight to protect and expand reproductive freedom.”
Maryland announced a partnership with the nonprofit group Upstream USA that will expand access to contraception in cities and rural communities. As part of the initiative, Maryland is going to give healthcare providers free contraception training for the next four years. From Gov. Wes Moore:
“This is about making sure that we treat contraception like basic health care, because contraception is basic health care.”
Finally, because I’m nothing if not petty, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is under investigation again in relation to his attack on abortion provider Dr. Caitlin Bernard. (Rokita spent a year using the power of his office to attack and smear Bernard after she treated a 10 year-old rape victim from Ohio.)
First, Rokita was issued a public reprimand by the state Supreme Court as part of a settlement agreement over comments he made about Bernard on Fox News: He claimed that she had a “a history of failure to report” sexual violence, which was just patently false.
But as the Indiana Citizen reports, the same day that the Indiana Supreme Court approved the agreement, Rokita issued a crybaby statement blaming “cancel culture” and “liberal activists” for the censure. So now the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission is investigating him again, because the statement goes directly against the sworn affidavit he signed to settle the matter.
Fucking hilarious. In response to the news that he’s being investigated for the second time, Rokita’s office issued a statement saying that the AG has “learned from the situation and—like everyone—can always do better.” I wish I was a better person, but stuff like this really does make me happy.