Abortion, Every Day (1.17.23)
Idaho Republican: It's "cathartic" for a teen raped by her father to have the baby
In the states…
This is distressing: On Sunday evening, an Illinois Planned Parenthood was set on fire and sustained significant damage. Nobody was in the Peoria Planned Parenthood at the time, thank goodness, but a firefighter was sent to the hospital with injuries. Planned Parenthood of Illinois president Jennifer Welch says, “Senseless acts of vandalism have been on the rise across the country and Illinois has become a target as extreme and divisive rhetoric increases.” Clinic violence has been on the rise for several years.
Our least favorite state Attorney General, Steve Marshall in Alabama, is walking back his assertion that the state can use chemical endangerment laws to prosecute women who take abortion medication, despite the state’s ban prohibiting arresting women. Now, Marshall says that it’s only providers who can be arrested (even though the state has already been targeting pregnant women using chemical endangerment). We have no reason to believe him, of course, but the fact that Marshall felt public pressure enough to have to change his position is great news. It goes to show that shining a light on what Republicans are doing absolutely has an impact. And I’m proud that we got to be a small part of that.
Marshall also recently signed onto a letter with other state AGs urging the head of the FDA to reverse their decision making abortion medication available at retail pharmacies. Related: A reminder that the FDA’s decision to allow abortion medication at pharmacies doesn’t supersede state laws on the pills. In Florida, for example, patients need to get abortion medication directly from a doctor—and last week the state’s health department sent out a letter to healthcare providers warning them about the regulation.
It’s time to update the list! While defending his bill to strip rape and incest exceptions from the state’s abortion ban, Idaho’s Sen. Scott Herndon compared his legislation to the work of Martin Luther King Jr.: “He spent 13 years advancing the civil rights of people based on certain characteristics and this does the same thing.” But wait, there’s more!
When Democrat Melissa Wintrow pointed out that his bill would force a teenager who was raped by a family member to carry a pregnancy, Herndon rejected her characterization, saying “These are merely natural circumstances.” He went on to say, “Some people could describe the situation that you’re talking about as the opportunity to have a child in those terrible circumstances if the rape actually occurred.” He then told a story about a Montana woman who wrote a book about being raped by her stepfather and how, “That child that she actually had proved to be incredibly cathartic for her and a huge blessing in her life.”
There is something seriously wrong with these men. Meanwhile, also in Idaho, the Senate Affairs Committee advanced a bill changing the definition of abortion to the “intentional killing of a living human embryo or fetus in utero.” Republicans say the change is meant to protect patients with ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages, but really it’s about something broader: I’ve written before about the conservative efforts to redefine abortion; it’s all about protecting themselves from blame as women across the country are denied vital care. Their strategy is to claim some abortions aren’t really abortions—especially the ones that might make them look bad.
A reminder that Republicans in Utah are trying a roundabout way to lift the block on the state’s abortion ban: Changing the standards by which judges are allowed to grant injunctions, making it more difficult for them to do so. If the bill passed, it would retroactively apply to the decision that blocked the state’s abortion ban and new challenges to that trigger law would have to be filed.
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While some anti-abortion bills are sneaky, others are just cruel. In Wyoming, Republicans are trying to ban abortion medication unless a woman’s health or life is at risk. What’s noteworthy is that the legislation explicitly says that those health and life risks don’t include “any psychological or emotional conditions” even if there is a medical diagnosis “that the pregnant woman will engage in conduct which she intends to result in her death or other self‑harm.” In other words, Wyoming doesn’t care if women commit suicide as a result of state law. What’s also interesting about that specification is that it’s an unwitting acknowledgement that forced pregnancy is incredibly damaging and (as studies show) increase women’s suicide risk. This is important, because conservatives are constantly telling us how women will see these forced pregnancies as a blessing in disguise—yet their laws have to allow for the certainty that women will become suicidal as a result of all this.
In response to the increasing number of towns trying to ban abortions via ordinances, New Mexico Democrats have introduced legislation making clear that they cannot do that. The Reproductive Health Care Freedom Act would ban “public bodies, including local municipalities, from denying, restricting or discriminating against an individual's right to use or refuse reproductive health care.”
A Montana Republican wants to require death certificates for miscarriages;
Indiana’s state Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week in the lawsuit challenging the state’s abortion ban, and a proposed bill in the state would require schools’ sex education classes be medically accurate and comprehensive;
In the nation…
Medical students at Duke University looked at TikToks about IUDs and found that they were overwhelmingly negative—largely because of women’s discomfort when getting the devices implanted. The videos studied also showed that a good deal of women didn’t trust doctors about IUDs because they felt lied to about just how painful the procedure would be. Given how effective IUDs are (along with our post-Roe reality), this is a big problem. The last thing we need is women who are hesitant to get longterm birth control, so doctors need to start taking women’s pain concerns seriously. OBGYN medical resident Jenny Wu, says, “Getting seen by your OB-GYN shouldn't be a traumatic experience.”
In related news: Mashable has a good piece about why people should be skeptical of social media stars pushing fertility awareness methods. (I’ve written a lot about the misinformation online about contraception and the trend of health influencers touting ‘natural’ birth control—both are part of a thinly-veiled anti-abortion strategy to make young women doubt hormonal birth control.)
Slate has a great conversation about abortion rights between Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern (both of whom are doing terrific work on the issue) that gets into the anti-abortion movement’s lie that women won’t be punished under state bans. For example, we already know that places like Alabama plan to target women using abortion medication under ‘chemical endangerment’ laws, and Stern points out that there are tons of laws on the books that prosecutors could use:
“It can be as simple as practicing medicine without a license. It can be all of these laws involving the shipment of illegal goods over state lines or into a state. There are a huge number of criminal statutes on the books in every state that can apply to those who illegally order and use medication abortion. So we have to stop pretending like women, patients, pregnant people will not be prosecuted just because they’re exempt from a handful of laws about abortion. The broader criminal code still puts a bullseye on their backs.”
Foster youth already had a difficult time accessing abortion; now that Roe has been overturned, that problem has gotten exponentially worse. Experts point out that because of foster children’s general instability—changing of homes and schools—they’re less likely to have received comprehensive sex education, and less likely to have the financial resources necessary to get an abortion. And for teens who don’t have traditional legal guardians, states that have parental consent laws prove an impossible hurdle:
“In most states where parental notification or consent is required, caseworkers are prohibited from consenting to an abortion or from providing notification for an abortion.”
So even if the state is the teen’s legal guardian, they cannot legally give them permission to have an abortion—instead, they need to seek out a judicial bypass. Nightmare.
The New York Times has a profile of the “father of the abortion pill,” Dr. Étienne-Émile Baulieu;
Bloomberg Law has a breakdown of some post-Dobbs abortion rulings;
While Health Affairs looks at the legislative battles ahead on abortion;
And Axios on the increasing closings of obstetrics units across the country and the danger that poses in anti-abortion states where maternal mortality is on the rise.
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