Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day (1.31.23)

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Abortion, Every Day (1.31.23)

Tennessee bill would jail women who make 'false' police reports to get abortions

In the states…

I’ve been writing a lot about how Republican lawmakers across the country are suddenly very interested in adding exceptions to their abortion bans as a way to pretend like they give a shit about women: It’s a win-win for conservatives, who know that abortion exceptions aren’t real but that voters overwhelmingly support rape and incest victims having access to care. This kind of strategic PR play is especially important in places like Tennessee, where the abortion ban is so strict that it doesn’t have an exception for women’s lives. That’s why Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile has introduced legislation that he says would create an exception for rape and incest victims. But if voters catch on to what Haile’s bill actually does, the legislation may blow up in his face.

Senate Bill 857 would not only mandate that women report their attack to law enforcement—something we know only a small percentage of victims do—but the legislation would make it a felony to provide a false report “in order to obtain an abortion.” Women who the state says make a false report would have to serve a minimum of three years in prison—with an added requirement that they serve the full sentence.

Where to start?! We know what this is about: The bill is just another way to make rape and incest exceptions completely and utterly useless. It’s meant to scare women away from seeking abortion care, or from reporting their attack at all. And what constitutes a ‘false report’? If the report doesn’t end in a conviction? If a woman doesn’t have enough evidence to warrant an arrest?

We know that women across the country have been accused—and arrested!—for making false reports for reasons as simple as a police officer didn’t believe them. Others have been accused of falsely reporting a rape when they decided not to pursue charges, or if they recanted the accusations—something many, many victims do for a variety of reasons. (They were pressured by their attacker or law enforcement, for example.)

So this bill isn’t an ‘exception’ to anything—it’s a way to further punish women. I don’t even know what to say anymore.

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Meanwhile, in Wyoming lawmakers debated a bill that would ban abortion without rape or incest exceptions, and define life as starting from conception. (Please remember that despite language that says the bill wouldn’t apply to contraception, when you define life as starting at fertilization, it opens the door for conservatives to argue that IUDs and Plan B are abortifacients.)

Two OBGYNs, Dr. Renee Hinkle and Dr. Giovannina Anthony, testified that the law would put doctors in legal risk—and noted that physicians have already transferred patients out-of-state for fear of felony charges. Dr. Anthony also pointed out that the language of the bill would ban IVF in the state: “No IVF provider would come to this state to practice with this law in place.”

In Utah, Rep. Kera Birkeland introduced a bill that would increase abortion restrictions, including mandating that rape victims file a police report before they’re able to get care. And if you have any doubt about what a piece of shit Birkeland is, her own sister is speaking up against her and the legislation. Samantha Hansen says, “Based on her treatment of me, a rape survivor, and her sister, I believe it is safe to say that Kera doesn’t care about protecting rape survivors.” Whew! Hansen went on to say that had filing a police report been a requirement when she was raped, “I don’t know that I would be here today,” and that Birkeland didn’t support or believe her when she came forward. “She also mocked my abuse, my trauma, and my assault,” she said.

I told you about Mylissa Farmer back in October, who was denied an abortion in Missouri despite having a potentially deadly complication during her pregnancy. Farmer, along with the National Women’s Law Center, has filed a federal complaint against the hospitals in Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois that refused to treat her. The suit claims that Farmer was denied care based on her sex. Michelle Banker, Farmer’s lawyer at the NWLC, says the hospitals’ “discriminatory refusal to [treat her] not only violated the law—it put her life at risk.”

Conservatives are big mad that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called out anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ states in her state-of-the-state address. In her speech, Whitmer pointed out that “states with extreme laws are losing talent and investment because bigotry is bad for business.” Which is…correct! Yet Republicans are trying to use the pretty tame comment as proof that Whitmer doesn’t care about the religious beliefs of Americans. Insert world’s biggest eye-roll here.

Indiana’s Supreme Court said yesterday that it won’t hear a challenge to the state’s abortion ban, instead leaving the decision to an appeals court. The lawsuit claims that the ban is a violation of religious freedom.

And Iowa Republicans introduced legislation yesterday that would make it a felony to “manufacture, distribute, prescribe, dispense, sell or transfer” abortion medication in the state. A reminder that abortion is legal in Iowa, and that more than half of women who get abortions use medication to end their pregnancies.

We really need to be paying attention to the way that hospital mergers with Catholic institutions are impacting reproductive health—even in pro-choice states. In Colorado, for example, a major hospital has quietly implemented a new policy to deny women sterilization procedures as part of “conducting itself in a manner consistent with the ethical principles of the Catholic church ministry.” In an increasing number of states, a big proportion of health care centers and hospitals are religiously-affiliated, which means that women won’t be able to get adequate care no matter what their state laws say.

In better news, now that Maryland allows nurses to be trained in abortions—and has allocated increased funds for that training—more and more people are signing up to become providers. Nicole Devlin says, “The second I could be trained I said put me in, coach. Of the skills I could learn, I find abortion care incredibly important.” Love this, and love the medical professionals who are rising to the occasion.

Quick hits:

In the nation…

Axios reports that the Biden Administration is considering issuing a public health emergency declaration on abortion—yesterday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said that they are still evaluating the decision. (Here’s a letter from Democrats to the White House about why a public health emergency declaration is important, and how it could help.) I really wish they’d stop dragging their feet!

That said, here’s a terrific move from the White House: The administration unveiled a proposal that would change a Trump administration rule that allowed employers to bypass the ACA’s requirement that they cover contraception. The new rule would would allow women to have their birth control covered regardless of whether or not their employer has religious objections by providing them with an independent pathway for reimbursement. That means employers still wouldn’t have to cover contraception—but insurers would be required to, and would then get reimbursed by the government. Secretary Becerra said, “Today’s proposed rule works to ensure that the tens of millions of women across the country who have and will benefit from the ACA will be protected. It says to women across the country, we have your back.”

Doctors are preparing to see an increase in complications from women seeking out abortions on their own. In an article by acute care surgeons flagged by The Guardian, physicians not only noted that they needed to be prepared to see patients from marginalized communities in anti-choice states, but that they also needed to consider the implications of criminalization when they treat those women: “The patient’s legal safety should also be of utmost concern and underscores the significance of knowing your state laws around this issue.” It’s depressing, but I’m glad doctors are thinking preemptively about all of this.

I’ve been hammering on the fact that conservatives are going to make it harder and harder for women to leave the state for abortion care—but that it won’t be outright bans or pregnancy checks at state borders. I agree exactly with Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute:

“They probably won't pass travel bans…But they will try to limit how businesses can provide abortion care and support patients who need abortion care or how the abortion funds can operate.”

Quick hits:

Listen up…

If you don’t know Jessica Mason Pieklo and Imani Gandy, you should absolutely be listening to their Boom! Lawyered podcast. And lucky you, you can check out their latest episode in the video below, where Pieklo and Gandy taken on the fear-mongering around abortion medication.

What conservatives are saying…

I may have to start an Asshole of the Day award. If I did, today’s honors would go to former Senator Rick Santorum, who decided to open his trap about abortion at Penn State:

“That mother consented to activity that caused that child and she knew it…What I’m saying is the sentence for that baby should not be death because you engaged in an activity that resulted in pregnancy.”

What a charmer! Santorum also told the audience that “my point of view is considered to be homophobic, misogynistic, and paternalistic,” and “I’ve been called those things pretty much every day of my life for the last 20 years.” As you should.

Keep an eye on…

You’re gonna love this (and by love this I mean you’re going to absolutely hate it): Anti-abortion activists have a new term for medical professionals who believe that women deserve to be treated like full human beings with bodily autonomy: “Woke medicine.” That’s right, they’re trying to capitalize on the weird conservative obsession with ‘wokeness’ and ‘cancel culture’ by making up a bizarre term for pro-choice doctors and nurses.

In fact, Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup told Axios this week that Republicans are fed up with the American Medical Association because “it looks like all you care about are woke issues,” referring to the AMA’s pro-choice stance.

I hate that this is going to become a thing.

You love to see it…

Love this so much: As part of a partnership with the abortion storytelling organization, We Testify, the ACLU is sharing stories of reproductive rights activists and what life has been like for them and their work post-Roe. You can read them here, or check out the video below:

And I just wanted to flag something that Cazembe Murphy Jackson said about the importance of talking about your abortion, when possible:

I think in a post-Roe world, storytelling is even more important…We need way more people to be talking about abortion because we need to normalize it. And I think talking about it takes away the stigma. Audre Lorde said, ‘Our silence doesn’t protect us.’ You can be silent and not talk about abortion, but they’ll still come for you, you’ll still be criminalized, people you love will still not have access to the care that they need.”

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Abortion, Every Day
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Daily audio updates & commentary on abortion in the United States.
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Jessica Valenti