Abortion, Every Day (11.30.23)
Ohio Sec. of State admits collusion with anti-choice groups
Click to skip ahead in the newsletter: Some truly wild news in Attacks on Democracy today. Buckle up. In the States, more ballot measure news and what pro-active abortion rights activism looks like in Massachusetts. Criminalizing Abortion picks up on some key language in guidance from the Oklahoma Attorney General. In the Nation, a few quick hits. Stats & Studies looks at data on emergency contraception access for teens, and Listen Up brings you an interview with the ProPublica reporter who uncovered just how much power anti-choice orgs have over state lawmakers. The Care Crisis examines maternal care deserts in Wyoming and docs’ overwhelm in pro-choice states. Finally, a little bit of Anti-Choice Bingo.
Attacks on Democracy
You’re going to love this: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose admitted that he worked with anti-abortion groups on the language for Issue 1’s ballot summary. Cleveland.com reports that LaRose let that information slip during a GOP event earlier this month, when responding to a question about the summary:
“In response to a question about specifics in the amendment language, LaRose said his office consulted with three prominent anti-abortion groups that led the anti-Issue 1 campaign—Susan B. Anthony Pro Life America, the Center for Christian Virtue and Ohio Right to Life—as it crafted the ballot language. All three groups played central roles in leading and funding Protect Women Ohio, the main anti-Issue 1 campaign group.”
Remember, when Ohio voters went to decide on the ballot measure, they didn’t actually see the text of the amendment—just LaRose’s summary, which was incendiary and false: He replaced the word ‘fetus’ with ‘unborn child’; left out the fact the amendment would protect rights other than abortion (like miscarriage care and fertility treatment); and inverted language about restrictions later in pregnancy to say that the amendment would “always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability” if a doctor deems it necessary.
Essentially, he crafted to trick voters out of supporting Issue 1. Still, over and over again, LaRose claimed that he was objective. After the Ohio Ballot Board—which LaRose led—passed the summary, for example, he said, “having worked extensively on drafting this, I do believe it’s fair and accurate.”
Yet while claiming objectivity, he was conspiring with anti-choice leaders who spent millions of dollars and months of activism to oppose the measure!
In response to LaRose’s slip-up, a spokesperson from his office tried to play down the seriousness of the state’s chief election official collaborating with anti-abortion activists, saying that LaRose “always is going to represent the conservative values on which he was elected.” What a total crock of shit.
We know that Republicans will do anything and everything to keep voters from having a say on abortion—this is just more proof of that fact. But because I need some optimism in my life, I’m trying to think of it this way: That’s how much people want abortion legal. And that’s how incredible pro-choice activists in Ohio are; they were able to win with huge margins despite all of these insane state-driven hurdles.
Speaking of pro-choice ballot measures and Republican interference in the democratic process, let’s talk about Florida. Right now, Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody wants the state Supreme Court to reject the language of a proposed abortion rights amendment. And a new poll out of the state shows why Moody and other Republicans are so desperate to keep the ballot away from voters.
The University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab reports that 62% of Florida voters say they’d vote ‘yes’ on the measure if it was on the ballot. Only 29% said they’d vote ‘not’, and 9% reported they didn’t know or wouldn’t answer. If those numbers weren’t incredible enough, consider this: Even most Republicans, 53%, reported that they would support the pro-choice amendment.
Florida ballot measures need 60% of the vote to pass (though Republicans have been trying to push it up towards 67%). Political scientist Michael Binder, the director of the Public Opinion Research Lab, said, “It looks like the proposed abortion amendment is right at that threshold among these respondents.”
This is why the state GOP is so eager to stop the measure from ever getting to voters; they know they’ll lose. That means we need to support the pro-choice efforts in Florida now more than ever. So if you want to help Floridians Protecting Freedom, consider donating here.
Do you remember the cost estimate brouhaha over Missouri’s pro-choice ballot measures? You can read the background here, but the short version is that the Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey held up pro-choice petitioners by refusing to sign off on a cost estimate for the measure. The state auditor reported that it would cost the state $51,000; Bailey wanted him to say it would $51 billion. Even though the auditor is an anti-abortion Republican, he refused to change the estimate and the issue had to go to the Missouri Supreme Court. (They forced Bailey to sign off and let pro-choice activists begin collecting signatures.)
This week, the state auditor at the center of that fight, Scott Fitzpatrick, spoke to St. Louis Public Radio. He says that while he doesn’t want a pro-choice measure to pass, “I didn't find it appropriate for us to use the, you know, the process of drafting the ballot summary to try to derail initiative petitions.” When asked if he thought this was just a delaying tactic by Bailey to stop the ballot from getting to voters, Fitzpatrick says, “I think that's totally what happened.”
In the States
More in ballot measure news: Minnesota lawmakers may put abortion rights on the ballot soon, and a new poll shows that voters in the state would likely support it. The MinnPost reports that 53% of voters would support a pro-choice amendment, with 42% strongly supporting the hypothetical measure. Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic says, “Minnesotans continue to tell us that they are concerned that their kids have less rights than they did and they want access to reproductive health care.”
But there’s some concern about putting abortion on the ballot—a huge and expensive undertaking—in a state where abortion is already legal. The other issue is something I didn’t know about Minnesota ballot measures:
“To appear on a general election ballot, proposed amendments must receive a majority vote in both the House and Senate and don’t need the governor’s signature. Then, amendments must receive a majority of the votes cast in that election, not just for that measure. That is, a voter who doesn’t make a choice on the amendment essentially registers a no vote.”
House Speaker Melissa Hortman (who has endorsed an abortion rights amendment in the past) told the MinnPost, “I don’t want to put something on the ballot that reflects good public policy but does not have infrastructural support to get it passed.”
Abortion is also legal in Montana, but thanks to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte—who has been working to restrict abortion in every way possible—pro-choice activists want an extra lawyer of protection. That’s why they’re pushing for a pro-choice amendment. From Christopher Coburn of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana:
“We have an entire team of folks who’s thinking about how we deeply engage with folks across the entire state, to learn more about their perspectives, to chat with them about what this ballot initiative would mean, and to ultimately put the decisions into their hands.”
Not gonna lie, I’m still pissed off about that awful moment in yesterday’s oral arguments in front of the Texas Supreme Court. So I made a TikTok about it. We’re going to be waiting for a while for a decision, unfortunately: Center for Reproductive Rights lawyer Molly Duane says she expects a ruling this summer.
In the meantime, The American Prospect has this interesting tidbit in their coverage of the lawsuit against Texas: A lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought forward the case on behalf of 22 women, tells them that “Texas doctors in the mid-1800s had more discretion regarding pregnancy complications requiring abortions than doctors do in 2023.” Whew.
Public universities in Massachusetts had until today to submit their “abortion readiness plans” for students on campus. I love this so much: basically the state is requiring public colleges to create relationships with abortion providers in the area, and develop a strategy for ensuring that students know and are able to access reproductive rights and get abortion medication.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health even worked with Reproductive Equity Now to release an abortion rights toolkit to help colleges develop their plans. Once colleges submit them, the state will help the schools to put the plans into place—and will do the same thing every year. This is what pro-active abortion rights work looks like!
In a reminder that every elected position counts, Florida abortion rights activists are working to elect pro-choice public defenders;
More on Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signing the petition to put abortion rights on the ballot;
And the Baltimore City Council in Maryland is considering a policy that protect abortion providers from out-of-state prosecution (which would align with the state’s existing shield law).
I’ve seen some positive media coverage recently of Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who issued a ‘clarification’ last week that the state’s abortion ban prohibits prosecuting abortion patients. (They always use the word ‘clarify’ when it comes to trying to fix their fucking awful laws.) Drummond also wrote guidance that supposedly makes it easier for doctors to provide life-saving abortions. But let’s take a closer look at what he actually says.
In his letter to law enforcement agencies, Dummond writes “there is no requirement that the woman be septic, bleeding profusely, or otherwise close to death; rather, if the physician reasonably deems that the continued pregnancy will jeopardize the woman’s life, this is sufficient to trigger the exception.” How generous!
In the same guidance, Drummond encourages district attorneys to “pursue criminal prosecution” against anyone who performs or assists in the performance of an “elective” abortion. And while he writes that doctors should be given “leeway to treat pregnant women experiencing life-threatening or emergency physical conditions,” I want you to pay attention to the language here:
“Moreover, when a situation where the mother’s life is at risk arises, or where the life exception has been cited, district attorneys should generally refrain from prosecuting when no pattern or trend exists, or where evidence of criminal intent is absent or unclear.”
What exactly does he mean by a “pattern or trend”? Is it not safe to assume that doctors like maternal fetal medicine specialists are going to see a “trend” of patients with complicated and life-threatening pregnancies? How many abortions do they need to perform before triggering a review by a prosecutor who thinks their life-saving care qualifies as a “pattern”?
Most importantly: How many doctors will delay life-saving care out of fear that they’re contributing to that “pattern?”
Abortion, Every Day catches the vital details that traditional media outlets miss. Help the newsletter doing this important work signing up for a paid subscription:
In the Nation
Rolling Stone on Republican Speaker Mike Johnson’s upcoming speech at the far-right anti-abortion group, the National Association of Christian Lawmakers;
A former U.S. Marine pled guilty today to federal criminal charges for firebombing an abortion clinic in 2022;
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is debating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tonight, where abortion rights is sure to come up;
And Sen. Tommy Tuberville says he may drop his ‘protest’ of the Pentagon’s abortion policy, which has blocked hundreds of military promotions and nominations: “Soon, but not today.”
Stats & Studies
A new report from the Population Reference Bureau found that progress for women’s health is on a serious blackslide since the 1960s. (Ya don’t say?!) ABC News reports that women in their 20s and 30s are more at risk of suicide, dying in childbirth, and being killed than women of previous generations. Maternal mortality, in particular, has spiked:
“Maternal mortality among millennial women is some 30 deaths per 100,000, compared to 19 maternal deaths per 100,000 just a decade ago.”
In other we-need-to-do-better news: A new report from UCLA’s Center on Reproductive Health, Law, and Policy shows that even in California, young people face barriers to obtaining emergency contraception. Researchers report that only half of pharmacists in the state know that teenagers can purchase the morning-after-pill, and over 13% believed that teens needed parental consent in order to do so. (They don’t.)
Twelve percent of pharmacists eve said they don’t provide emergency contraception to minors regardless of parental consent. Just another reminder that even ‘pro-choice’ states have work to do.
“We know at this moment that we are on the right side of history. And that a growing majority of people are with us. We know this not only from polling, but also because people are showing up to fight for the right to control their bodies and their futures. So much of this work is filling people’s cups with the hope that tomorrow will be better than what we are experiencing today.” ~ Ruth Richardson, President, Planned Parenthood North Central States
NPR’s “Here and Now” spoke to ProPublica reporter Kavitha Surana about her excellent piece on the influence of anti-abortion groups on state lawmakers—and how they’re largely responsible for the lack of health exceptions in state bans.
Yesterday’s episode of The Daily gets into the latest post-Roe data, specifically how abortion rates didn’t go down—but birth rates went up. (I’m going to have more on this soon.)
The Care Crisis
You all know that maternal healthcare deserts across the country have been expanding since Roe was overturned. Doctors are leaving anti-choice states, hospitals are shuttering maternity wards, and millions of U.S. women leave in ‘double deserts’—counties that don’t have reproductive or maternal healthcare.
This week, the Casper Star-Tribune looked at the crisis in Wyoming, where a lack of maternal care for some is putting people’s lives at risk. One woman who lives in a rural area, Sara Domek, described giving birth in Jackson. Domek had retained a piece of her placenta in her uterus but had no idea. She just happened to be en route to a follow-up appointment when she started bleeding heavily.
By the time she reached the hospital, she had to be rushed into emergency surgery and given a transfusion. “It was totally timely and so lucky that I was there,” Domek said. “Had I been here in Dubois and not happened to be over there, I don't know what my story would look like.”
While doctors flee anti-choice states, those in pro-choice states are under tremendous strain as they see an exponential uptick in patients. Planned Parenthood of Illinois, for example, saw a 700% increase in out-of-state patients. That’s why states like Illinois are putting together programs to help those coming from anti-choice states who need the most urgent care.
You may remember that the state is investing more than $23 million in reproductive health care initiatives, including the Complex Abortion Referral Line for Access (CARLA)—a referral and navigation program for patients who need hospital-based abortion care. (It’s a team of nurse navigators who help patients coordinate scheduling, funding, transportation, child care, and anything else they might need.) More like this, please!
Vanity Fair has a devastating piece about the impact of Roe’s demise. Reporter Abigail Tracy spoke to Anya Cook, who was denied an abortion in Florida after her water broke 16 weeks into her pregnancy. (You may remember her story from The Washington Post this past April.) This quote from her husband, Derick, blew me away—he was asked by doctors whether they should prioritize saving Anya’s life or her uterus. “That was very confusing. I just went with the best answer: Save my wife and her uterus,” he said.
Tracy also spoke to a pastor and an ultrasound tech about what their lives and work have looked like since Dobbs. It’s so vital to remind people that the impact goes beyond patients. The ultrasound tech, for example, described what it’s like working in Georgia—and being the person responsible for determining whether or not someone’s pregnancy is within the confines of the state ban:
“It’s extremely difficult…. When I put the probe down and they’re too far [along], or I see [heartbeat activity], I just pause and say to myself, How can I relay this information without instilling so much trauma to this patient on this bed? How long is it going to take for me to console this woman who has come to our clinic for help?”
The director of a Virginia abortion clinic reminds us of the same thing: while patients denied care are those most impacted, the ripple effects of abortion bans have a far reach. In The Virginian-Pilot, Karolina Ogorek of the Bristol Women’s Health Clinic spoke about the out-of-state patients she sees—and how difficult the travel can be. “Not just for the women but for their entire family,” she say. “It has such a big effect on more than just one person.”
By the way, that entire piece is worth a read; it looks at what’s going on in Bristol—the town that straddles both Virginia and Tennessee. That means in some areas of town, abortion is legal; in others, it’s punishable by 15 years in prison.
If you’re a regular Abortion, Every Day reader, you know that there are certain words, phrases and themes that come up again and again in anti-abortion talking points. (‘Consensus’, I’m looking at you!) Today, it’s the blatant co-opting of feminist rhetoric by groups working overtime to roll back women’s rights.
In a Stateline piece about the rise of ‘abortion reversal’ laws—which mandate that doctors tell abortion patients about the unproven, dangerous procedure—I caught this quote from an anti-abortion activist. Here’s Christa Brown of Heartbeat International:
“Autonomy dictates that the patient ultimately decides the intended outcome of her pregnancy even if she’s already taken an abortion drug.”
That word ‘autonomy’ is doing a whole lotta work. It will never cease to amaze me how shameless they are.