Abortion, Every Day (12.5.23)
Texas woman seeking emergency abortion
Click to skip ahead in the newsletter: In the States, a woman in Texas is seeking an emergency order for an abortion & Ohio’s Issue 1 goes into effect this week. In 2024, Republicans continue to be in denial, while Democratic governors tell Biden to finally talk comprehensively about abortion. In the Nation, Grace reports that Tuberville has ended his block on military promotions (mostly). In Care Crisis news, more people are opting for permanent contraception and doctors warn that bans will hurt their ability to do in-utero surgeries. And in Stats & Studies, a new report on how abortion bans impact Native women.
In the States
A woman in Texas has filed a lawsuit against the state in order to get an emergency court order for an abortion. Kate Cox’s pregnancy was diagnosed with a fatal condition, but Texas only allows abortion when the pregnant person’s life is at risk—not for fetal anomalies, even when lethal. The New York Times points out that this may be the first post-Roe suit where a woman is seeking a court-ordered abortion.
Cox is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the same group representing 22 women who were harmed by Texas’ abortion ban. They’re arguing that Cox’s doctor told her that carrying the pregnancy to term would put any future pregnancies at risk. From Cox:
“I do not want to continue the pain and suffering that has plagued this pregnancy. I do not want to put my body through the risks of continuing this pregnancy. I do not want my baby to arrive in this world only to watch her suffer. I need to end my pregnancy now so that I have the best chance for my health and my future pregnancy.”
Cox says she’s trying to do what’s best for herself and her baby, “but the state of Texas is making us both suffer.”
Ohio’s recently-passed abortion rights amendment, Issue 1, goes into effect this week. And Democrats in the state aren’t wasting any time: they’ve introduced legislation to repeal the state’s 6-week abortion ban. With Ohio under Republican control, it’s unlikely that the legislation will go anywhere; instead, anti-abortion laws will have to be repealed via the courts.
As you know, Republicans in the state are doing everything they can to stop Issue 1 from being enforced: A group of lawmakers wants to strip the judiciary of its power to decide abortion-related cases, others have suggested a ‘compromise’ 15-week ban, and one of the most powerful anti-abortion groups in the country is pushing legislators to redefine ‘abortion’ as a way to render Issue 1 impotent. We’re also waiting for the state Supreme Court to rule on what effect the new amendment has on the state’s 6-week abortion ban.
For a fantastic in-depth look at what’s happening in Ohio, don’t miss Amy Littlefield’s piece at The Nation that looks at anti-abortion infighting in the state and what it means for the movement more broadly. As law professor Mary Ziegler told Littlefield, “This is a next-generation version of the evergreen battle between incrementalists and absolutists in the abortion fight.” What they have in common, however, is that “these are groups that see their cause as much more important than what American voters want.” I highly recommend reading the whole piece.
If you missed today’s special edition of the newsletter on the ballot measure fight in Missouri, check it out below:
“Idaho’s abortion ban has no allowance for patients facing health risks from carrying a pregnancy. Risk of permanent disability or fertility loss and even conditions that eventually cause death are not valid exceptions. This means physicians may have to prove in court, under threat of a lengthy prison sentence and loss of their medical license, that they performed an abortion to avert imminent death. Simply preserving the patient’s health is not acceptable.”
As Necochea points out, this isn’t thanks to just a few extremist legislators—nearly every Idaho Republican signed off on this bill, with a few only opposing it because it didn’t go far enough!
As you may remember, Idaho Republicans are in a legal battle with the federal government because they want the right to refuse women life-saving abortions. The short version: The Biden administration sued the state over its abortion ban, correctly arguing that the law violates the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires doctors to provide life-saving and stabilizing treatment.
A judge blocked part of Idaho’s ban, and now the state is asking the Supreme Court to let its total abortion ban to be fully enacted. (If you need a refresher on the case, check out explainers from Vox and Chris Geidner at Law Dork.)
In Iowa, Republican Attorney General Brenna Bird still hasn’t restored the funding that previously provided free emergency contraception to rape victims. Bird paused the program earlier this year, claiming that she was “carefully evaluating whether this is an appropriate use of public funds.” She stood by that decision even after it was revealed that the majority of victims served by the funding are children who’ve been raped. Bird’s office says they’re putting together a “review” of the program and will release their findings soon.
Let’s be clear: This is how Republicans ban birth control. Not all at once, but a little at a time—whittling away at funding and access until there’s nothing left. It’s also not a coincidence that Bird falsely characterized emergency contraception as abortifacients: The Gazette reports that Bird said she paused the funding because it provided “reimbursement, for example, to Planned Parenthood for an abortion or for abortion pills, things of that nature.” As I’ve written many times before, characterizing birth control as abortions is a big part of the Republican strategy on contraception.
PBS NewsHour looks at how abortion restrictions have impacted care in Wisconsin:
Caroline Kitchener at The Washington Post has profiled Hadley Duvall, the young woman featured in a campaign ad for Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear—an ad that’s been credited with winning Beshear reelection. The ampaign ad featured Duvall talking about being raped as a child, and calling out Beshear’s opponent Daniel Cameron personally:
“This is to you, Daniel Cameron. To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable. I’m speaking out because women and girls need to have options. Daniel Cameron would give us none.”
Studies of the last election showed that the ads that made the biggest impact were those featuring personal stories about abortion—specifically when they were juxtaposed against extreme anti-abortion positions.
Duvall says that wasn’t the only reason the ad resonated with people, though. She tells Kitchener that conservatives wouldn’t necessarily have been as sympathetic to the same story coming from a woman of color. “It’s a sad reality, white privilege…I believe that’s a thing, 100 percent,” she says.
Finally, some wild news of out New Hampshire: Republicans there have introduced legislation that’s somehow more insulting than a total abortion ban—a 15 day ban. And as Alanna Vagianos of HuffPost points out, with Republicans having control of the Senate, House and the governor’s office—the bill could very well become a law. (Gov. Chris Sununu has said in the past that he would veto a 6-week ban, but do you trust Republicans on abortion? I sure don’t!)
Axios on the proposed abortion rights amendment in Virginia;
The 19th on Arizona Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery recusing himself from the case on abortion rights;
And The Star-Telegram profiles one of the women suing Texas.
Republicans are desperate to believe that abortion rights will somehow fade out of voters’ consciousness come the 2024 election. In The Washington Post, for example, a conservative columnist argues that “abortion rights does not override partisanship.” Yet we’re seeing polls that show the majority of Republicans in states like Florida would support an abortion rights amendment if it was on the ballot!
And when it comes to the issue that voters are talking about most on the ground: it’s abortion. Gavin Jackson of South Carolina Public Radio, says “it’s been kind of fascinating to hear from folks because unprompted, they'll tell you abortion is their top issue.”
Republican strategist Liz Mair is a little more realistic, advising that Republicans lay low, “triage,” and “at least for a few years, drop the legislating.” She also says part of the issue is that voters think of the label ‘pro-life’ as extremist—without really acknowledging that the problem isn’t the term, but what abortion bans are doing to communities.
On the other side of the aisle, Democratic governors are advising Biden to start talking about abortion. Like, really talking—and to get over his personal squeamishness on the issue. From Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer:
“We should talk about all the threats to women’s health care, including abortion, and use that word specifically. We should be talking about it like that because Americans are awake. They are angry that this right could be stripped away and we are the only ones fighting for it.”
That’s the rub, right there. Since Roe was overturned, it’s hard not to feel abandoned by Biden. (I don’t know that I’ll ever get over abortion rights being given a measly 30 seconds in his State of the Union.) Half of the population are not seen as full people by their own country! I want to hear from his office—and Biden himself—constantly. I want to know that this is as urgent to him as it is to me.
That’s also why Democratic governors like Whitmer and Beshear are also advising that Biden stop talking so much about Trump—which echoes something both Grace and I have written here: Voters need a proactive abortion rights plan, not just reminders of how terrible Trump is. (We know.)
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In the Nation
After nearly 10 months, Sen. Tommy Tuberville announced this afternoon that he is dropping his block of military promotions over the Pentagon’s abortion policy. This comes after growing pressure from both Senate Democrats and Republicans amid national security concerns over the vacancies.
But we’re not out of the woods just yet: while Tuberville’s latest move will allow over 430 promotions to proceed, he will still continue to block 11 vital, senior official posts.
Tuberville has signaled that he would be willing to move the fight over to the Department of Defense budget, but it’s unclear how he’d be able to push anti-abortion amendments into the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Anti-abortion Speaker Mike Johnson has already presented a version of the NDAA that attempts to remove the Pentagon’s travel policy altogether—though it doesn’t have much of a chance passing the Senate Democrat majority and Biden White House.
Whatever the next step may be, Tuberville has endorsements from major anti-abortion powerhouses, including Heritage Action, the sister organization to The Heritage Foundation, and a long list of extremist groups.
Recent polling has shown how pro-abortion rights politics and strong disapproval on how Biden has handled the war in Gaza are defining how young voters are approaching the 2024 elections. These voters prioritize issues over candidates, particularly when it comes to social justice issues around abortion and Israel—which has resulted in conflicting messages over whether Biden has the support from young voters.
Voter turnout from young women is one of the key reasons behind post-Dobbs pro-abortion ballot measure wins in states like Ohio and Kansas, but these polls are warning that the Biden campaign can’t take these voters for granted. (Keep in mind that a New York Times/Siena College survey last month found that Biden is tied with Trump among young voters under 30—with much of Trump’s newfound support from young voters coming from men.)
The Texas $1.8 billion lawsuit against Planned Parenthood could gut access to sexual and reproductive health services in the state, which are already in a severe decline according to health economists;
STAT News has an important piece today about the way that abortion bans will impact fetal surgery. Three surgeons specializing in pediatrics and in-utero surgeries write that bans pose a threat to their work and to the pregnancies that they work to save, creating “a state of ambiguity for doctors [that] will lead to second-guessing and delays in treatment.”
The doctors point out that when you’re talking about an invasive in-utero surgery, there’s always a risk of losing the entire pregnancy:
“Will physicians be discouraged from intervening, for fear that postoperative pregnancy loss will be interpreted as willful termination? Will they be advised that not intervening may be legally safer?”
As we get further out from Dobbs, the more we’re learning about the ripple effects of abortion bans—from the OBGYN exodus, to issues like this one.
New reporting this week shows that since Roe was overturned, people are increasingly seeking out permanent contraception. Ohio OBGYN Dr. Clodagh Mullen tells public radio station WFYI that patients are worried that birth control could become illegal in the same way that abortion has.
“Some patients will say, ‘Oh, could you stash some IUDs for me?’ They get very nervous that [birth control] is just going to go away overall. Nobody can re-implant your tube once it's been taken out, so I think that they have that comfort of there's no way anybody can take this part away from me.”
This isn’t just a trend among women, by the way—men are also booking vasectomies at a much higher rate than in past years. (Good for them.)
Stats & Studies
Ballotpedia—which is a great resource in general for ballot measure info—has a list of where abortion rights amendments stand across the country. They also have an easy-to-share map of where you can find pro-choice ballot measures, if you’re into that kind of thing!
A new report from the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center shows that Roe’s demise has disproportionately harmed Native women. The South Dakota-based group reports that Native people are less able to travel out-of-state to receive care—which makes abortion bans, like the one in South Dakota, especially burdensome. The report also notes that abortion bans “sever [a] long tradition of bodily autonomy and self-determination.”
“They represent a continuation of the settler colonial forced assimilation that the US has perpetrated against Native People since before the founding of the country. In the Native American tradition, abortion is a private matter that no one has the right to interfere with. Abortion bans violate essential rights, forcing Western and Christian ideas on communities that do not buy into them.”
In keeping with pretty much every other credible poll we’ve seen on abortion rights, a new NewsNation Decision Desk HQ poll shows that most Americans believe that Republicans are overdoing it when it comes to restricting abortion. Only 7% believe the GOP isn’t doing enough to ban abortion and only 25% think they’re doing just the right amount of abortion restrictions.