Jan 23 • 14M

Abortion, Every Day (1.23.23)

Texas law would fine district attorneys who don't prosecute abortion

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Daily audio updates & commentary on abortion in the United States.
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Content warning: Today’s newsletter contains descriptions of pregnancy loss and related medical complications.

In the states…

In case you missed it last week, just a reminder that the new anti-abortion bill in Arkansas wouldn’t just criminalize women for abortion—but for miscarriages that the state deems that they ‘caused’. I have yet to see a single mainstream news outlet cover this.

Speaking of extreme bills that aren’t getting nearly enough media coverage: Kansas legislation that would allow towns to ban abortion in spite of state law. CORRECTION: The local reporting in Kansas has changed, and they’ve clarified that the bill allows towns to restrict abortion with the exception of contraception. So sorry for the fuck up, but glad to have caught it early.

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Because Texas continues to be the worst, legislators there are trying to find even more ways to restrict abortion—despite the fact that the state has a total ban. (Republicans have been trying to find innovative ways, for example, to punish companies who offer travel reimbursements for employees who need to leave the state for care.) The Texas Tribune reports that recently-filed bills would allow the state Attorney General to target any district attorneys who refuse to pursue abortion cases. The legislation would allow the AG to go after said district attorney for any costs incurred from taking over the cases, and would mandate civil penalties: $1,000 for the first case they refuse to prosecute, and $25,000 for each additional cases.

In Florida, a Tampa-based doctor describes the suffering that the state’s 15-week ban caused a woman—she was pregnant with twins when one of the fetuses began to deliver. OBGYN Rachel Rapkin says that because of the law, her patient had to wait for either the partially delivered fetus to deliver, both fetus’ hearts to completely stop, or for the woman to show signs of impending sepsis.

“Because of the 15-week ban, she was forced to come to the office every day, as she waited in agony for the cardiac activity to stop or for her to develop signs of infection before the hospital would agree to end her pregnancy. By the end of the week, neither fetus had a heartbeat and doctors were finally permitted to end her pregnancy and prevent her from going into deadly septic shock.”

Also in Florida, pro-choicers marched on Sunday to protest Republicans’ likely move to push further abortion restrictions. Activists in Wisconsin (where we’re all paying attention to the state Supreme Court election) also marched in support of abortion rights. Meg Wheeler in Madison told the Associated Press that she was marching with her daughter: “I want to make sure she has the right to choose whether she wants to have a child.” The New York Times has a nice video of the protest here.

In Nebraska, where Republicans (and one Democrat) are pushing a 6-week abortion ban, dozens of doctors gathered this weekend to speak out against the legislation—which they say would put physicians and their patients in danger. OBGYN Dr. Mary Kinyoun asked, “How close to death do we allow pregnant people to become before we perform a life-saving abortion?” Doctors also spoke about how the law would prevent the state from recruiting and retaining medical professionals. From medical student Tyne Tyson: “Why would I stay in a state that threatens to take that all away from me? All I want to do is my job. Providing my patients with the care they deserve.”

The Idaho woman whose story went viral after she documented being denied miscarriage treatment in a series of videos on TikTok describes her 19-day ordeal and what if felt like to have a doctor explain that there was “trepidation” to give her care because of state law: “I felt like 50 pounds of bricks got lifted off my shoulders and got replaced with like 50 pounds of raging fire. But I couldn't do anything because this guy's helping me so I'm not mad at him and it's not his fault. I'm obviously mad at the law.” Better news from the state: Mutual aid group Idaho Abortion Rights got a donation to increase their ability to give out emergency contraception.

And since we could all use as much positive news as possible: Pro-choice states are fighting back against crisis pregnancy centers. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s latest budget just might include the end of funding for crisis pregnancy centers. Walz said, “I think women deserve better than that, I think they deserve to have the whole picture.” And in New Jersey, the Attorney General issued a consumer alert about the centers, warning citizens about their deceptive practices:

Quick hits:

In the nation…

This weekend marked the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade, and we saw anti-abortion activists descend on Washington, DC and dozens of other cities across the country. I wrote a quick column reminding us what, exactly, they were celebrating.

If you can stomach some interviews with anti-choice leaders, PBS Newshour did a short segment on the march and what the anti-abortion movement is focusing on next:

A new poll from NPR/Ipsos shows that nearly 70% of Americans support using ballot measures or voter referendums to decide abortion rights in their state. This comes at the same time that Republicans across multiple states are trying to make it harder for voters to make their voices heard on abortion. The poll also showed that while 60% of Americans want abortion to be legal in most or all cases, and 26% believe it should be legal in all cases, only 9% of respondents think it should be illegal in all cases.

Vice President Kamala Harris gave a speech in Florida:

“Can we truly be free if families cannot make intimate decisions about the course of their own lives? And can we truly be free if so-called leaders claim to be quote, I quote, on the vanguard of freedom while they dare to restrict the rights of the American people and attack the very foundations of freedom?…The right of every woman, in every state, in this country, to make decisions about her own body is on the line. I said it once, and I'll say it again: How dare they?”

How dare they, indeed.

I was really glad to see The New York Times hit on something that we’ve been talking about a lot here: The fact that abortion exceptions aren’t real. Definitely take some time to read the piece, and share it: People need to understand that just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it’s accessible.

Quick hits:

What conservatives are saying…

Up until recently, the anti-choice strategy to ban abortion in small towns in pro-choice states has largely been limited to a small group of activists. (Most notably, this very strange man.) But this weekend, a major anti-choice leader—Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life—told NPR that they plan to focus on local level restrictions, as well. “It's gonna be the city campaigns,” she said. “It's, 'What can we do?' Is it passing some sort of ordinance in the city council? Is it getting more active on the streets?”

Keep an eye on…

I’ve mentioned the Comstock Act before—the law that makes it illegal to mail ‘obscene’ materials, including drugs that cause abortion—and how anti-choice activists may want to use it to restrict abortion medication. Ian Millhiser over at Vox has a must-read about the details of the (bad) law, and how the availability of abortion medication may rest entirely on who is in the White House. Right now, the Department of Justice has made clear that the Comstock Act doesn’t apply to the shipping of abortion medication so long as the people mailing them don’t know if they’ll be used for something illegal.

“The fact that the DOJ interprets the law one way today is no guarantee that it will read it the same way in a Republican administration,” Millhiser writes.

You love to see it…

Tissue from pregnancies 5-9 weeks

I am so thrilled to see the excellent MYAbortion Network in The New York Times! The clinicians at the organization have a fantastic op-ed about what early abortion really looks like—and what it was like to have their images go viral and be accused of photoshopping or tampering with the tissue because of just how different it looks than what we’ve been taught early pregnancy looks like. I will never not share these pictures, and remind folks what exactly it is Republicans are saying have more rights than we do.

Also: Small businesses like bars and coffee shops have started to give out emergency contraception to customers—which is amazing!

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