In the states…
Louisiana has one of the strictest abortion bans in the nation, and despite Gov. John Bel Edwards’ claims that the transition to outlawing abortion has gone “smoothly,” the state has been thrown into complete chaos. You may remember that the state Department of Health has been refusing to answer questions from doctors—who say the law has created an “atmosphere of terror.” Well, we’re seeing that terror in stark action: OBGYNs in the state are refusing to see pregnant women until they’re 12 weeks along, because they’re afraid that the high risk for miscarriage in that first trimester could end up making them a target for investigation. (Generally you’d go for your first prenatal appointment around 8 weeks.)
Thirty-year old Kaitlyn Joshua from Baton Rouge told NPR, “How in the world can we have a viable health care system for women, especially women of color, when they won't even see you for 12 weeks?” Joshua not only was unable to see a doctor early in her pregnancy, but was denied treatment again and again when she started to miscarry around her 10th week. One emergency room refused to definitively confirm her miscarriage, and wouldn’t explain her treatment options. Instead a nurse told her, “we're praying for you.”
When Joshua went to a second hospital the following day, bleeding so much that her pants soaked through with blood, she asked the doctor for medication to speed up the miscarriage or a D&C (both standard miscarriage treatment). The doctor told her, “we’re not going to do that,” and refused to refer her somewhere else for miscarriage treatment—or even give her discharge papers stating that she was having a miscarriage. Joshua says, “She stated that they're not going to put anywhere 'spontaneous abortion' because that would then flag an investigation on them.” Joshua’s husband said they wouldn’t even look him in the eye.
Joshua should have been able to get immediate care, instead she had to spend weeks miscarrying without treatment. She told NPR, “This experience has made me see how Black women die. Like this is how Black women are dying.”
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A new poll shows that the majority of Nebraska voters oppose more abortion restrictions. (Abortion is legal in the state up until 22 weeks.) Nearly 60% of voters are either somewhat or strongly opposed to the enactment of more abortion restrictions, and only 24% ‘strongly support’ more restrictions. Another poll released a few weeks ago showed that nearly 70% of voters oppose a total ban on abortion. Anti-abortion groups, of course, refuse to believe the truth. The executive director of Nebraska Right to Life told the Nebraska Examiner that the state “is pro-life” and that voters just need to be educated better. Just another reminder that anti-abortion activists and lawmakers don’t care what voters want.
In Florida, a crisis pregnancy center was allowed to continue operating even as they were under investigation for lying to women about providing medical care and giving them false and dangerous information about their pregnancies. The Florida Women’s Center in Jacksonville told women they weren’t pregnant and just had a stomach virus, that their embryos weren’t developing and that they didn’t have to worry about getting an abortion because they were going to miscarry anyway, and in one case that a woman had an ectopic pregnancy but that she didn’t need to worry and should go “relax at the beach.” And when the state Department of Health launched an investigation in 2018, the center was permitted to go on meeting and lying to women—the department didn’t even make the report public. The Tampa Bay Times has the full story in collaboration with Reveal News, and you should read the whole thing—because there is so much more.
Public radio in Wisconsin looks at what’s changed for abortion rights since Roe was overturned, and what might come next. Since the state passed their ban with no exceptions for rape or incest, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has had to shift the focus of their work to STI testing, contraception, cancer screenings and other kinds of reproductive health care. But the organization’s president Tanya Atkinson says that those seeking abortions can still contact them: “Planned Parenthood can still be there to support you to access that abortion in another state.” Abortion rights proponents in Wisconsin are also keeping a close eye on the spring election for a seat on the state Supreme Court.
Republicans in Pennsylvania are still considering advancing an anti-abortion constitutional amendment despite the very clear evidence that when abortion is put to voters, abortion rights win. Which is why Democrats in the state are also proposing a bill to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights. From Rep. Liz Hanbidg and Rep. Danielle Friel Otten’s sponsorship memo:
“This amendment would ensure that every individual has a right of privacy with respect to personal, sexual, and reproductive healthcare decisions, including the right to choose or refuse an abortion, the right to choose or refuse contraceptives, and the right to choose or refuse fertility care, all without discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or relationship status.”
I’m so grateful for abortion providers, and this piece about a North Carolina clinic is a good reminder why. Calla Hales, the executive director of the clinic, spoke to The Charlotte Observer about the protesters outside her door and the political future of abortion rights:
“It’s easy to joke and yell back random absurdities, she said, but there are times it can get scary. People have disguised themselves to get into her office. She’s had to find bars where the owners know who she is and what she does so she can have a safe public space to be with friends. But despite the threats and hate, she’s not afraid for the future. There’s a difference between fear and caution, and Hales said she’s cautious, vigilant and aware. Hales and A Preferred Women’s Health Center are staying put.”
I wrote this week about how important it is that we have local prosecutors who refuse to go after abortion cases—these are the people who will decide, literally, if women will be jailed. And so I was glad to see Virginia’s Fairfax County Attorney Steve Descano come out publicly and affirm that if Governor Glenn Youngkin’s 15-week ban is passed, he would not prosecute abortion ‘crimes’. More of this, please.
Here’s some more info on the constitutional amendment proposed in Washington to protect abortion rights;
And an explanation of the new reproductive rights protections in California.
In the nation…
Republicans are still stinging from their midterm losses, and are “recalibrating” on abortion, The Hill says as the new year approaches. Conservatives seem to be taking cues from a September RNC polling memo which encouraged lawmakers to try to seem more ‘moderate’ by saying they’d be open to exceptions to abortion bans. The memo said, “When comparing a Democrat who supports abortion at any time for any reason, against a Pro-life Republican who supports exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, the GOP candidate holds a +22 percent advantage.” Again, we know that attempts to soften their messaging on abortion is all bullshit. Republicans are well aware that exceptions aren’t real, and that the only real purpose they serve is to give conservatives good PR.
Digital privacy concerns in a post-Roe world is more important than ever. And the co-founders of the Penn-CMU Digital Health Privacy Initiative want Americans to know just how endangered their health information is—and how it can be used by law enforcement. In a column for the Los Angeles Times, Ari Friedman and Matthew McCoy remind us that 99% of abortion clinic website contain third-party trackers that can transfer your information to different companies—and that even private citizens can buy lists of those who have visited clinic websites. Which, when it comes to states like Texas, where citizens can sue individuals over abortion, is pretty fucking scary. And then there’s this:
“Unlike the information in your electronic health record, which is supposed to be protected under the federal privacy law called HIPAA, your online activity enjoys no special protections under federal law.”
Just a total nightmare.
Always listen to Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, the woman behind Aid Access, which provides abortion medication to women who live in places where it’s illegal. Gomperts gave an interview recently about advance provision—ensuring you have abortion medication on hand just in case you need it:
“It’s exactly the same as accessing any other medication before you actually need it. Painkillers, antibacterial creams before you get an infection, epipens before you have an allergic reaction. People should see abortion as healthcare, there's no reason to treat it differently. I really believe every woman in the US should have the abortion pills in her medicine cabinet.”
The Guardian has more on the new study showing a link between abortion restrictions and increased suicide rates among women of reproductive age;
And on the international stage, a Polish anti-abortion group has introduced draft legislation that would criminalize “public advocacy” and “information” on abortion, which if passed would carry up to 8 years in prison.
The Daily has an episode today where they talk to two women “on how their lives have transformed” since Roe was overturned—and I’m actually not going to recommend that you listen to it. But I am going to complain about it! The episode catches up with two former interviewees, an abortion provider in Texas and an anti-abortion activist in Mississippi. And let’s be clear: Only one of those people has a life that has been transformed by abortion rights being gutted. You want to hear from women whose lives have been changed by the end of Roe? Talk to the woman in Texas who was denied care for so long that she ended up in the ICU with sepsis. Talk to the woman in Missouri who nearly died while waiting for care to end her doomed pregnancy. I’m so tired of mainstream media outlets talking to anti-abortion activists as if they have any skin in the game other than the continuation of their work deceiving and hurting women. An abortion provider who is killing herself trying to help women is not “the other side,” or the fucking counterpart to a person working day and night to limit women’s ability to make decisions about their own bodies and lives. Journalists: Do better.
You love to see it…
It’s hard to read horror stories every day about abortion—that’s why I so appreciated this piece from Buzzfeed on the people doing incredible work to defend and protect reproductive rights. From abortion storyteller (and friend-of-the-newsletter!) Renee Bracey Sherman from We Testify and lawyers like Jenny Ma at the Center for Reproductive Rights, to abortion providers and the tireless activists at abortion funds—the people who are out there doing the work every single day have made the last six awful months just a little more bearable. If there are any activists you want to shout out in comments (even if it’s yourself!), please have at it!