Abortion, Every Day (12.1.23)
Ohio Republican says there's no such thing as marital rape
Click to skip ahead in the newsletter: We start with good and bad news in Criminalizing Abortion, and then move on to just bad in Attacks on Democracy. In the States, updates from Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin and more. In the Nation, some quick hits. In Stats & Studies, I share a new poll on voters and abortion rights. Finally, some highlights from the DeSantis/Newsom showdown in 2024.
Good and bad news in abortion criminalization today. The good news is that a South Carolina woman who was arrested for taking abortion medication has had the charges against her dropped. The Post & Courier reports that court documents indicate there was insufficient evidence or “another legal issue” that led to prosecutors declining to move forward.
A reminder: When South Carolina Republicans were trying to pass a bill that would make abortion punishable by the death penalty, Gov. Henry McMaster claimed that “no one that I know wants to criminalize women.” His comments came just weeks after this woman’s arrest.
In other criminalization news, thanks to Essence for catching this story a few weeks ago: Jeff Landry, Louisiana’s Attorney General and governor-elect, wants to withhold vital funding for New Orleans’ water safety as punishment for not prosecuting abortion providers or patients. From Essence:
“Landry personally solicited the Louisiana State Bond Commission last year to withhold millions in funding from the New Orleans Sewage and Water Board due to the city government’s refusal to arrest and prosecute women in the wake of Louisiana’s total ban on abortion. The New Orleans Sewage and Water Board remains in desperate need of funding to tackle necessary repairs to its four water intake structures—one of which that has been inoperable for 34 years.”
That’s how desperate they are to punish people for abortion: it was never about the protection of ‘life’.
Attacks on Democracy
I told you yesterday that Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose admitted to drafting the Issue 1 ballot summary with anti-abortion groups—a stunning admission, considering how the Republican continually claimed that his incendiary summary was objective. The Ohio Capital Journal summarized it best:
“In other words, Ohio’s top elections official invited opponents to write ballot language that mischaracterized an abortion-rights amendment that supporters gathered a half-million registered voters’ signatures to put to on that ballot.”
Meanwhile, Missouri Republicans are doing anything they can to stop voters from having a say on abortion rights. Lawmakers in the state pre-filed legislation today, and four Republicans pre-filed four different bills that would “modify requirements to pass a constitutional amendment.” (HJR 91, HJR 76, HJR 86, HJR 81)
The language of the legislation isn’t available yet as far as I can tell (if anyone can find them, let me know!) but I think we know where this is headed. Rep. Brad Hudson, one of the legislators who pre-filed, told KY3, “It is way too easy to amend Missouri’s Constitution.”
Missouri Republicans have been attacking proposed pro-choice ballot measures for months: from the Attorney General holding up petitioners by refusing to sign off on a cost estimate to the Secretary of State pushing for a biased summary like the one in Ohio. So it makes sense that Republicans would make a renewed push for increased standards on ballot measures—they’re throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.
The other news to follow on Missouri ballot measures is the fact that there are multiple amendments proposed—and as I’ve reported before, several are being pushed by a Republican strategist who says she’s looking to find a ‘compromise’ on abortion. Lawyer, writer, and fellow Substacker Bridgette Dunlap has a good breakdown of just how dangerous these ‘middle ground’ amendments could be; definitely take some time to check it out.
In the States
A reminder that you can’t divorce anti-abortion activism and misogyny. In Ohio this week, one of the Republicans who wants to strip the judiciary of its power to enforce Issue 1 was the sole vote against legislation that would repeal a spousal exception for rape. That’s right, Rep. Bill Dean believes that there’s no such thing as marital rape:
“I personally don’t believe that a man, if he’s married and has physical relations with his wife, that can be considered rape…I also know that if they’re living apart or they’re divorced and stuff, sure, that’d be rape. I think this law can be used as a wedge between husband and wife and families and a husband and wife’s relationship.”
You know what actually hurts a husband and wife’s relationship? RAPE DOES. As Amelia Robinson, opinion editor of The Columbus Dispatch, put it, “His rationale for voting in favor on wife rape is disgraceful, disrespectful, disgusting and equally obtuse.”
It makes sense that a person who believes women should be forced into childbirth would also believe that their bodies belong to their husbands—misogyny and anti-abortion ideology are inextricable. I just wonder what the other Republicans who want to override the will of the people plan to say about their esteemed colleague.
Pro-choice activists in Florida have collected over 621,000 signatures in support of putting abortion rights on the ballot. They need a little over 891,000 by February 1. I outlined the attacks on democracy in the state yesterday, if you need a refresher. Essentially the Republican Attorney General is trying to get the state Supreme Court to reject the ballot measure language so that it never gets to voters.
And we know why: a new poll shows that 62% of Floridians would vote ‘yes’—just over the requirement to pass a ballot measure—including the majority of Republicans. That’s why it’s so important that we’re supporting abortion rights efforts in the state: You can donate to Floridians Protecting Freedom here.
Did you miss the good news out of Arizona earlier today? Read it here!
We’re keeping an eye on Wyoming, where there’s a lot happening with abortion rights in the next few weeks. With a clinic in Jackson closing soon, the state is about to be left with just one abortion clinic; we’re also watching how a challenge to the state’s abortion ban plays out, with two key hearings in December.
In one, Wyoming Republicans want to stop abortion rights advocates from being able to call expert witnesses. You may remember some of our reporting on this: lawyers for the state are not only arguing that the plaintiffs shouldn’t be able to testify, but they also refuse to answer basic questions about the ban—claiming it’s too “burdensome” to do so. The state Supreme Court will also hear arguments over whether or not Republican legislators can join in on the case (a judge ruled against them this summer, and they appealed).
In Wisconsin, former Attorney General Republican Brad Schimel, says he’s running for the state Supreme Court. He’s going for Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s seat, which could swing power of the Court back to conservatives in 2025. As you likely remember, the election for the state Supreme Court became a referendum on abortion rights, and was one of the state races that showed just how powerful it is to campaign on the issue.
In announcing his candidacy, Schimel said: “There is no check on this new liberal Supreme Court majority; the only check on them is to take back the majority by winning in 2025.”
Nebraska abortion rights advocates are working to get a pro-choice ballot measure in front of voters, and they’re facing the expected opposition from anti-abortion activists. What’s notable, though, is how closely conservatives are following the talking points we saw in Ohio—messaging that didn’t work. The Catholic Diocese of Lincoln, for example, put out a legislative update about the measure today that repeated all of the same shit we heard in Ohio: they claim that the language would allow children to obtain abortions without parental consent, that the measure would legalize abortion “up until birth,” and that the viability standard is fake. I’m not sure why they think these messages are going to turn out differently in Nebraska.
New Hampshire Republicans on the state’s Executive Council continue to block family planning funding from going to pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood. The New Hampshire Bulletin reports that GOP members of the Council have rejected contracts from pro-choice organizations five times in three years—even though the funding wouldn’t be going to abortion care, and even though the groups provide the majority of the state’s low-cost healthcare like cancer screenings, birth control and STI treatment.
Kayla Montgomery, vice president of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, called the decision “not only disheartening but dangerous.” Cinde Warmington, the only Democrat on the Council, called it “simply outrageous.”
“Today, they voted to defund cancer screenings for low-income individuals. They voted to reject funding for birth control, for STD testing and treatment, and for health education materials to vulnerable populations in need. Their actions today will negatively impact New Hampshire’s reproductive health care system for years to come.”
Finally, in good news from pro-choice states: more on the ‘abortion readiness’ plans that Massachusetts colleges are submitting to the state for review, and more info on the multi-million dollar California program to diversify and expand the reproductive health workforce.
Ohio Democrats are highlighting all of the absurd and horrific things Republicans in the state have said about abortion (there’s a lot);
And Politifact on whether or not Florida’s 6-week abortion ban would prosecute women for abortion (tl;dr: it could).
In the Nation
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor passed away at 93 years-old; she was the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court;
USA Today on the battle between the Biden administration and Idaho over emergency abortion care;
The Washington Post looks at Republicans’ attacks on Democratic cities in red states;
Slate on anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers;
And STAT News on how AI could impact (and feed into) pregnancy discrimination.
Stats & Studies
A new poll released today from KFF Health News found that nearly 1 in 4 voters say they would only support a candidate who shares their views on abortion, and that abortion was in the top ten issues that voters care about. Fifty-eight percent of voters also said that they trust Democrats to handle abortion rights issues, while 41% said the same of Republicans.
All Things Considered has more on the increase in the Illinois abortion rate: the Society for Family Planning found that there are 1,800 more abortions a month on than before Dobbs. Ushma Upadhyay, a professor at the University of California-San Francisco and researcher who helped compiled data, said, “What we're seeing is that the states that are the most proximate to states with bans are the states that are seeing the largest surges in patients needing abortion.”
The Guardian says that last night’s debate between California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Glorida Gov. Ron DeSantis shows why DeSantis will never be president. I couldn’t bring myself to watch, but if you want a pretty hilarious mashup of truly humiliating moments for DeSantis, check out this TikTok:
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More in 2024 news: ABC News asks why Biden is losing support from people of color; TIME on the Republican candidates who qualify for the next presidential debate; and Chris Christie attacked Nikki Haley on abortion rights, saying that she changes her tune on the issue depending on her audience.
A note from Jessica:
Be on the lookout for “The Week in Abortion” tomorrow or Sunday, which will give you the rundown on the most important stories this week. And remember: If you’re a paying subscriber, you’ll get some extra analysis and access to the audio version of the newsletter. We’ll also have our One Good Thing thread going this weekend. So consider signing up if you haven’t already!