Abortion, Every Day (1.24.23)
Indiana Congressman wants to institute a travel ban on women
In the states…
We knew this was coming: An Indiana Republican running for U.S. Senate wants to institute a travel ban on women. In a radio interview last week, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks indicated that he would support legislation that stopped women from leaving the state for abortion. When host Pat Miller complained that “a young lady can hop in a car in Fort Wayne and in an hour and a half she can be in a place in Michigan,” the four-term GOP congressman replied, “That’s exactly right.” Rep. Banks continued by promising, “I'm for federal legislation, I'm for stronger laws at the state level, whatever we can do, to save lives, to protect babies. That's what this fight is all about.”
In response, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said, “The GOP's plan to criminalize the most fundamental decisions a woman can make doesn't stop with overturning Roe.” And that’s exactly right—they’re going to stop at the state level, they’re not going to stop with bans, they’re not going to stop with doing anything that they can to punish women.
Case in point: What’s happening in Utah. Republicans there got one step closer to changing the standards around when courts can issue an injunction, in a move to remove the block on the state’s abortion ban. The joint resolution, which the Democratic Caucus called “unjust” and “an expression of unchecked power,” passed the state House yesterday.
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And today in South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem and the state’s attorney general said the they will prosecute any pharmacists who dispense “abortion inducing drugs.” Attorney General Marty Jackley released a letter with Gov. Noem saying that pharmacists will be “subject to felony prosecution” if they procure or give out abortion medication (or, the language suggests, any medication that could end a pregnancy) in spite of the FDA’s loosened restrictions.
Florida’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the state’s 15-week abortion ban, though they declined to temporarily block the law while the case is decided. Whitney White, a lawyer with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said, “We hope that the court acts quickly and follows 40 years of precedent and the will of the people to stop this unconstitutional 15-week abortion ban, which has caused chaos and devastation in the state since going into effect in July.” Unfortunately, Gov. Ron DeSantis has stacked the Court with conservative judges—and abortion rights proponents are concerned (rightfully) about their chances for success.
Texas Republicans continue to try to make it as hard as possible for women to get abortions—even out-of-state. House Bill 61, for example, would prohibit government entities (like towns and cities) from directing funds to any organizations that help women leave the state for abortion care—even if the money goes towards child care. This comes right on the heels of the legislation I mentioned yesterday, which would allow the Attorney General to fine district attorneys who refuse to prosecute abortion cases. (As Adam Serwer says, the cruelty is the point.)
Similar legislation has been filed in Indiana, where Republican Rep. Peggy Mayfield wants to block any towns or cities from giving funding to organizations that cover any costs related to traveling for an abortion; and in Idaho, where Republicans are introducing a bill to withhold sales tax revenue from any local government that won’t prosecute abortion cases.
New Mexico’s Attorney General, however, has asked the state Supreme Court to nullify any local ordinances that seek to restrict abortion rights—and got a nice burn in, to boot. AG Raúl Torrez said, “This is not Texas. Our State Constitution does not allow cities, counties or private citizens to restrict women’s reproductive rights.”
Speaking of New Mexico, I had to flag this very weird thing. The Washington Examiner has a glowing profile of an anti-abortion activist in the state, Eddie Perez, who operates a mobile crisis pregnancy center in the state. Perez runs Vans for Life, which is essentially a van offering pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. The article encourages you to look at pictures of his van, as if seeing a sketchy sparse bed in the middle of this dude’s van would make us feel better about the idea of him luring women to the vehicle. (Though I should say ‘girls’—because that’s what Perez calls them over 15 times on his website’s Q&A, talking about how he “gets girls into the van”!!) I would be very curious to know what kind of ultrasounds he’s offering to ‘girls’—in early pregnancy, you generally need to use transvaginal…Anyway, gross!
In Wisconsin, Democrats are reintroducing a resolution to ask voters whether the state’s total abortion ban should be repealed, and the protections of Roe be reinstated. Republican legislators aren’t likely to let it go anywhere, but it’s smart move by Democrats—reminding voters that anti-choice politicians will do anything they can to prevent them from making their voices heard. Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard, a sponsor of the joint resolution, said, “I think we all know that legislative Republicans are scared to be putting this on the ballot…Because they know that they are out of line and out of touch with the people of the state of Wisconsin.”
Also in Wisconsin, doctors are speaking up about the horrific toll the abortion ban is having on women—including a patient whose water broke 17 weeks into her pregnancy and was unable to get care. By the time she finally was able to end her pregnancy, she had spent a week in the ICU, “on the brink of death.”
In better news: Oregon is launching a free abortion hotline to offer legal advice to people—from any state—who are seeking to end their pregnancies. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said, “This is especially important because we share a border with Idaho, which has a near-total abortion ban.” Other states, like New York and Delaware, have launched similar hotlines.
And in Washington, lawmakers are going to hear testimony on multiple bills that would protect and expand abortion rights, including legislation that would change the state constitution to enshrine abortion rights, a bill to prohibit out-of-pocket costs for patients seeking abortions, and a bill to stop hospital mergers if such a move would reduce access to reproductive health care (aka Catholic hospitals).
North Dakota’s Senate Human Services Committee is considering a bill that would double the state’s funding of crisis pregnancy centers;
Kaiser Health News looks at the moves by Montana Republicans to change the standards for what constitutes a “medically necessary” abortion for those seeking Medicaid reimbursement;
Connecticut might allow birth control pills to be prescribed by pharmacists;
In the nation…
The Department of Justice announced yesterday that they are going to be monitoring state-level abortion restrictions for signs that any violate federal protections. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who heads the DOJ’s reproductive rights taskforce, said, “Every day that passes there are still more reports of new efforts not only to restrict access to abortion, but also to chill and intimidate women from seeking abortion and other reproductive health services even where they remain lawful.”
I really appreciated this piece from Jezebel, who caught up with a Texas woman whose story of being denied care went viral a few months ago. As so many horror stories come out, it’s easy for the public to start to treat them like statistics—or forget that these are real people enduring real suffering. Having pieces like this, going beyond just reporting someone’s tragic event and then forgetting about them, helps to keep these stories about women’s humanity, not just their trauma.
And if you missed Vice President Kamala Harris’ remarks on the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade, you can watch them below:
CNBC on the lawsuit seeking to force the FDA to reverse their approval of abortion medication;
Bloomberg Law on the Biden administration’s moves to protect abortion rights, and how they may only help the states that need it least;
Fast Company on what employers can do to address the maternal mortality crisis;
And PBS NewsHour takes a broad look at what’s happening with court battles around abortion.
NPR’s Here & Now covered how the next big reproductive rights battle will be over abortion medication; Minnesota Public Radio has a short segment on efforts to defund crisis pregnancy centers; and over at WNYC, The Brian Lehrer Show had a nice segment about the anniversary of Roe, the new FDA rules allowing retail pharmacies to carry abortion medication, and what conservatives are up to next:
This newsletter was compiled with the help of researcher Grace Haley.
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