In the states…
Nebraska Republicans are working hard to decide what kind of anti-abortion legislation to propose. Past anti-choice efforts in the state have failed, and conservative lawmakers know that abortion rights are more popular than ever—but Republicans also have extremist anti-abortion lobbying groups to answer to. Nebraska Right to Life told the Omaha World-Herald that they are in ongoing negotiations with lawmakers to sort out what kind of bill would have the best chance at passing. If any anti-abortion legislation does pass (and maybe even if it doesn’t), experts in the state say that we can expect to see a ballot initiative introduced to protect abortion rights.
Speaking of protecting abortion rights in a pro-choice state: Democratic lawmakers in Washington are pushing an amendment to enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution. The amendment proposed in Senate Joint Resolution 8202 would make clear that “the state shall not deny or interfere with an individual's reproductive freedom decisions, which includes the individual's fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and the individual's fundamental right to choose to use contraception.” (Fun fact: Washington codified Roe into law in 1991 via a ballot measure.)
Republicans know how dangerous ballot measures are: Anything that puts abortion directly to voters is likely to come out on the pro-choice side—and lawmakers in Wisconsin are no exception. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told a local television station yesterday that he wouldn’t support voters having a say in whether or not abortion is legal: “We don't legislate that way. That's not how it is. We elect people to make decisions, look at the nuances, craft the wording.” That’s certainly a fancy way of saying voters are too stupid to make the decision for themselves!
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More on just how little Republicans think of their constituents: A lawmaker in West Virginia says he plans to sponsor a bill that would give people convicted of a drug-related crime a lesser sentence if they “volunteer” to be sterilized. Sen. Randy Smith said, “If you get caught with drugs…but if you want to lessen your prison sentence, if you're a man, you can get a vasectomy so you can't produce anymore. If you're a woman, then you get your tubes tied, so you don't bring any more drug babies into the system.” Forced and coerced sterilization has a long nasty history in this country, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit that proposals like these are coinciding with the dismantling of abortion rights.
In Tennessee, Republicans plan to propose a bill to clarify the state’s abortion ban around doctors’ ability to provide life-saving abortions. Right now, the state has no exceptions for women’s lives, but instead an affirmative defense mandate—doctors who want to give an abortion to save someone need to break the law and then prove that the care was necessary. The move goes against pressure from anti-choice groups, who want the state to keep the extreme ban in place as it is. (In November, leaked audio from a strategy session with Republicans and anti-abortion activists showed just how hard they’re pushing lawmakers.) Reminder: Voters in the state overwhelmingly don’t know how extreme the state’s abortion ban really is.
Florida has seen an overall decrease in abortion since the state passed its 15-week ban, but data shows that more patients are traveling from out-of-state to seek care there and that second trimester abortions have gone up. (Likely because of women coming to Florida from anti-choice states to seek care.) Pro-choice activists are worried, rightly, that the increase in those second-trimester abortions will be wielded as a cudgel by Republicans looking to further restrict the right. Incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, for example, has already said that she wants to push the 15-week ban back to 12-weeks.
Since Missouri passed their total abortion ban, the state has been launched into chaos, with women’s lives being endangered and doctors put in the impossible situation of risking jail time in order to properly treat their patients. The editorial board at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the draconian law is part of the state “lurching right over” a right-wing cliff: “Missouri’s women had, overnight, become second-class citizens.”
A lawsuit challenging several of North Carolina’s abortion laws—including the state’s 72-hour waiting period and a ban on telehealth for medication abortion—has been dropped. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, one of the plaintiffs, hasn’t given a statement about why they dropped the case, but the voluntary dismissal doesn’t stop them from trying to overturn the laws in the future.
There are still no leads into the arson at a Wyoming abortion clinic;
Also in Wyoming, here’s a end-of-year round up on what’s happened with abortion in the state;
Questions about Indiana’s exception for a pregnant person’s life;
And a run-down of what’s happened in Idaho post-Roe.
In the nation…
Reproductive rights proponents are concerned, as they should be, about conservatives going after birth control. As you probably already know, Republicans have already targeted contraception—and have been laying the groundwork to label certain kinds of birth control ‘abortifacients’ for years. (There’s a reason that the FDA changed the label on Plan B—it was a preempt against this false claim.) And so experts are focusing in on birth control accessibility: The chief medical and scientific adviser for the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs says, “We need to be more deliberate in ensuring that people are able to access contraception in the ways they want to in a way that’s safe and timely.”
New research from an interdisciplinary team at the University of Pennsylvania shows that restricting abortion is linked to an increased suicide risk among women of reproductive age. The findings—published by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychology, the Perelman School of Medicine, and Wharton School—looked at data between 1974 and 2016. The study found that there was a “significant increase” in the suicide rate among women of reproductive age when abortion restrictions were enacted. Researchers also found that the suicide rate among older women didn’t increase, nor did other kinds of deaths—like those by motor vehicle accidents. “This association is robust,” said one of the study’s authors, Ran Barzilayand. “It has nothing to do with politics, it’s all backed by the data,” he said.”
If you want to know what else is in store for American women, just take a look at what’s happening in other anti-abortion countries. We already know that doctors in Poland have been charged with the death of a woman who was denied an abortion, for example. And in Mexico, 200 women are still in prison for abortion-related ‘crimes’ despite the country decriminalizing abortion last year. (Some of the imprisoned women didn’t have abortions, but miscarriages.)
The Washington Post looks at the Supreme Court’s historic year, with a focus on Roe;
and Fast Company gives corporate leaders advice on how to achieve gender equity in their companies, including commitments to abortion rights and access.
San Francisco’s public radio station KALW has rebroadcast a show about The Janes— a documentary about the Chicago-based abortion-rights collective that helped women get underground care before Roe. You get to hear from original members of the Jane Collective, so I definitely plan on listening to this tonight.
Keep an eye on…
Republicans enacting exceptions to abortion bans as proof that they’re being reasonable or moderate on abortion. This is something I’ve written about quite a bit, but as 2023 legislation starts to roll in soon, we’re going to see an uptick in Republicans offering up supposed compromises on abortion—exceptions that don’t really change the reality of women’s lives or ability to access care. We’ve already seen conservative lawmakers in places like Texas and Tennessee say that they want to enact exceptions to their total abortion bans, and the way that Republicans are painting themselves as somehow softening on the issue. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, for example, said this week that Republicans would support rape and incest exceptions because “those are where the vast majority of where the public is” and “we're willing to be flexible.”
Republicans know that Americans don’t like these abortion bans, so they’re going to do everything they can to portray themselves as reasonable and willing to negotiate. But once more with feeling: Exceptions are allowances in name only. They don’t mean shit, and neither do these Republican ‘concessions’.
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