Abortion, Every Day (1.20.23)
Arkansas bill would criminalize women who 'cause' their miscarriages
In the states…
While Republicans in some states have been worried about the public perception of criminalizing women for abortion, the GOP in Arkansas seem to have no such concerns. Abortion is already illegal in the state with no exceptions for rape or incest, but a new bill being pushed by Republicans would allow women to be prosecuted for the “death of an unborn child.” This is important: They are not just trying to criminalize abortion, but any ‘death’ that is “caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default.”
That means that under this legislation, a woman who has a miscarriage could be arrested if the state determines she did something to cause her pregnancy to end.
There’s language in the bill that says it “does not authorize prosecution for an accidental miscarriage”—something I’m sure Republicans will point to as proof that they won’t target women for pregnancy loss. But specifying an “accidental miscarriage” means that Arkansas lawmakers are suggesting that there are miscarriages that aren’t accidental, and their legislation would enshrine the idea that it is murder to ‘cause’ a miscarriage or stillbirth.
We already know that prosecutors across multiple states have used fetal personhood laws to arrest women for stillbirths and miscarriages—for reasons ranging from alleged drug use, refusing medical interventions like a c-section, even a suicide attempt. So this kind of criminalization is not without precedence.
And under this bill, almost anything a woman does while pregnant could be used against her. Having wine could be a ‘wrongful act’; not taking prenatal vitamins or lifting a heavy object could be ‘neglect’; ‘default’ could be failing to seek prenatal care. There is no limit to what a zealous prosecutor could arrest a woman for. This is always where these laws were leading, but it’s shocking to see it written out so explicitly.
Oh, and by the way—because this bill defines an ‘unborn child’ as existing from the point of fertilization, Republicans can use this legislation to ban anything that they claim prevents implantation of a fertilized egg, like emergency contraception or an IUD. I’m not saying these forms of birth control actually do prevent implantation—but the GOP can claim that they do. (See: Hobby Lobby) In fact, the new draft legislation removed language that said a person wouldn’t be liable for the ‘death of an unborn child’ if it was caused by contraception or IVF.
Which means that theoretically, a woman could be arrested for murder if she uses certain kinds of birth control or undergoes fertility treatments.
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I’ve already written about how Tennessee Republicans are considering adding in rape, incest and life exceptions to the state’s ban—a move to counter all of the horrific press and public outrage that’s come their way since the ban passed. It’s all for show, and this condescending quote from Republican Speaker Cameron Sexton is a good reminder of that:
“I believe that in the Republican caucus, our members should listen to the women of the caucus and have a better understanding of what they would like to see, why they’d like to see it and how they feel about it. Instead of us pontificating, all men talking about what we think should happen, I think we should do a better job of listening to the women in Tennessee.”
What a bunch of bullshit. Now he wants to listen to women? And which women? Surely not those who can explain what it’s like to have your state consider you less than a full human being. Fuck this guy.
In Oklahoma, Democrats know that a bill seeking to allow voters to decide on whether or not to legalize abortion isn’t likely to go anywhere—but the hope is that Republicans’ lack of consideration will energize those who plan to try to get an abortion-related ballot measure going.
You know we’ve been watching the Florida lawsuit by former state attorney Andrew Warren who was fired by Gov. Ron DeSantis for making clear he wouldn’t prosecute abortion cases. Today, unfortunately, a judge ruled against Warren—saying that while DeSantis violated the state constitution by suspending Warren, the U.S. Constitution prevented the judge from being able to reinstate Warren to his position. Wild stuff.
The Cut published the story of a Texas woman who ended her pregnancy with abortion medication. You should definitely read the whole thing, but I had to share this quote:
“If a woman has an abortion, she should not have to explain why she had that abortion to anyone. That should just be a right that she should have.”
Just a reminder that a Georgia Democrat is trying to push the state to cover any and all costs for an unwanted pregnancy that a woman is forced to carry—from medical expenses to child care and secondary education.
And it’s nice to be able to bring you all good news every once in a while: Minnesota’s PRO Act passed the House and is headed to the Senate. The legislation would not only protect abortion rights and contraception, but would ban local governments from trying to limit abortion via town ordinances. Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, who sponsored the bill, said, “I know that not every positive pregnancy test is a celebration and not every ultrasound appointment ends with good news. And I, as a politician, have no business making that decision for someone else.”
Here’s a brief rundown of the arguments made in front of the Indiana Supreme Court yesterday on the state’s abortion ban;
In Arizona, a ruling from a federal judge is allowing the state to ban abortions sought because of fetal abnormalities;
More info on the Kansas legislation that would allow towns to ban abortion despite state law;
The 19th gets into the push by Montana Republicans to redefine what constitutes a medically necessary abortion under Medicaid;
And Michigan’s Supreme Court closed out Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lawsuit challenging the state abortion ban in light of the state’s new amendment enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution.
In the nation…
As what would have been Roe’s 50th anniversary approaches this weekend, there’s lots of analysis out there about what comes next for the anti-choice movement. CNN reports that this weekend’s ‘March for Life’ will represent a fresh start for activists; and The New York Times gets into the rift in the anti-choice movement over whether to push for federal legislation and just how extreme to be with state bans moving forward, as does Rolling Stone. Bloomberg says that Republicans will be hyper focused on painting Democrats as the real extremists as they coalesce around a 15-week ban, and The Atlantic looks at the uncertainty “rippling beneath the surface” of the anti-choice movement.
You likely know this already, but the Supreme Court probe into the Dobbs leak has come up empty-handed, you can read the report on the investigation over at POLITICO.
The Department of Health and Human Services has released a report of what the Biden administration has done to restore and protect abortion rights since Roe was overturned—you can read the full report here.
Over at Teen Vogue, Amy Merrill, a co-founder of Plan C, writes that anyone with the ability to get pregnant should have abortion pills in their medicine cabinet:
“While voters, activists and policy-makers continue to challenge bad laws and push for constitutional protections, I’m interested in finding ways we can take well-being into our own hands rather than placing it in the hands of our elected officials. With direct and advance access to abortion pills, the majority of us can safely self-manage our own abortion, without visiting a doctor, and regardless of what the courts have to say about it.”
The Hill looks at how abortion medication is getting harder and harder to access in certain states;
Vanity Fair examines what’s ahead for the case seeking to ban abortion medication—and the Trump-appointed judge who’ll decide the pills’ fate';
Vox has a big piece today where they speak to different women about what Roe being overturned has meant for them.
Media Matters reports that Eventbrite is allowing anti-abortion activists to use the site to plan harassment campaigns at abortion clinics;
Axios has a rundown of some of the national abortion-related legislation to keep an eye on;
And CNN looks at the state-level attacks on abortion rights.
This newsletter was compiled with the help of researcher Grace Haley.
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