Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day (2.13.22)

Abortion, Every Day (2.13.22)

TN's biggest anti-choice group says hemorrhaging isn't an 'objective' medical reason for abortion

In the states…

Just when you thought anti-abortion groups couldn’t get any worse! If you’ve been following the newsletter, you know that Tennessee’s abortion ban doesn’t have an exception for women’s lives and that anti-choice organizations in the state and nationally want to keep it that way. (You may recall that leaked phone call between state legislators and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America where the group was pushing lawmakers to keep the ban as it is.) That said, Republicans are worried about backlash at the polls, and are eying amending the law.

Well, today the Tennessee Lookout published an article today about that conflict—specifically, the way that Tennessee Right to Life pushing back on legislation introduced by state Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes. Apparently Tennessee Right to Life “opposes a ‘subjective’ decision by physicians to perform an abortion to save a woman’s life,” meaning they don’t trust doctors’ best judgement and want to lay out exactly what circumstances would allow for a life-saving abortion.

Here’s where it gets extra horrific:

“Helton-Haynes, however, said, ‘I think that’s difficult if a mother’s hemorrhaging, to be objective.’ Right to Life wants more diagnostic testing, but sometimes the doctor needs to know what to do and ‘take care of it,’ she said.”

Let’s make it plain: The state’s most powerful anti-abortion group doesn’t want hemorrhaging women to be able to get life-saving abortions. They don’t think a woman bleeding out constitutes an ‘objective’ need for care. I wonder, how much blood does a woman need to lose for Tennessee Right to Life to believe her doctor can help her? Are they going to put a number on it?

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More out of Tennessee: Medical students in the state have written an op-ed pleading with legislators to reverse the state’s abortion ban and urging voters to do the same. They point to the state’s growing maternal health deserts, and how Tennessee will lose medical students and doctors because of the abortion ban:

“We strongly oppose this legislation, its lack of exemptions and all attempts to limit a doctor’s ability to provide necessary care to patients. This legislation additionally limits medical training, reducing the number of physicians serving our patients and causing an increase in bad outcomes in all areas of obstetric and gynecologic care. Tennesseans deserve better.”

In Nebraska, Republican Sen. Dave Murman has introduced a bill that would allow medical providers, insurers, pharmacists and more to deny anyone treatment they say violates their religious, ethical or moral beliefs. In practice, the legislation would mean that anyone from a nurse to a mental health counselor could refuse care to someone that they didn’t want to. The bill is so broad, for example, that a pharmacist could refuse to fill someone’s birth control pills.

And Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is not just looking to give millions of taxpayer dollars to crisis pregnancy centers—but also wants to have the state partner with the fake clinics in order to drive vulnerable pregnant women their way. Reynolds’ ‘MOMS’ program would direct the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to contract with crisis pregnancy centers in Iowa so that that women seeking help would be directed to anti-abortion centers that lie to them. I don’t even know what to say anymore.

Wyoming Public Radio has more info on the Republican bill I told you about last week. The ban is even stricter than the state’s currently blocked legislation; it has no exceptions, and allows citizens to sue abortion provider and patients. But here’s the most important bit: The legislation would also expand lawmakers’ power to interpret the state constitution when it comes to abortion.

It gets even wilder: If House Bill 152 is made into law and is challenged in court (as their previous ban was), the legislation doesn’t actually give all lawmakers the right to intervene in that case—just the sponsors and cosponsors of the legislation! Constitutional scholar David Adler told the Casper Star-Tribune that these kinds of Republican power grabs are going to become a nationwide trend: “This is the Legislature enforcing its strength, enforcing its power.”

And as is the case in so many states, there’s lots of intraparty turmoil among Wyoming Republicans around how extreme the legislation to be—mostly because of a fear of backlash. Rep. Barry Crago said, “We're giving the people who want pro-choice ammo. That's all we're doing. And we are going to regret it. I'm fairly certain.” (A rare instance when I hope a Republican is right.)

I’ve been writing a lot about the anti-choice strategy of targeting small towns in pro-choice states to ban or restrict abortion via ordinances—particularly in New Mexico. Today, VICE published a big piece on what’s happening in the state, and how we’re going to see these kinds of moves from the anti-abortion movement across the country.

Reproductive health clinics in Alabama are really, really struggling in the wake of Dobbs—they have very little Medicaid reimbursement for prenatal care and donations are starting to die down. Robin Marty at the West Alabama Women’s Center—who is also the author of the incredible book, Handbook for a Post-Roe America—says individual donations have dried up: “I mean, everybody’s exhausted. Everybody’s asking for money.” (Click here to donate to the West Alabama Women’s Center; the other clinic mentioned in the piece, Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Health Care, also takes donations.)

Quick hits:

In the nation…

A new study shows that Black women continue to be the most impacted by America’s maternal mortality crisis—regardless of their socioeconomic status. The research, which looks at nearly ten years of data, found that the richest Black mothers and their babies are twice as likely to die as the richest white mothers and their babies, and are just as likely to die as the poorest white mothers and their babies. From The New York Times:

“But this data shows how the effects of racism on childbirth start long before people arrive at the hospital, researchers across disciplines say, and continue after they leave. The stress of experiencing racism; air pollution in Black communities; and inequitable access to paid family leave, for example, have all been found to affect the health of mothers and babies.”

A nightmare.

With the possibility of mifepristone being limited or banned in a soon-to-be decided lawsuit against the medication, everyone is talking about misoprostol-only protocols for abortion medication. Slate has a piece on how doctors and organizations are preparing to treat patients if mifepristone gets pulled, and how a misoprostol-only abortion actually can be nearly as effective as the two-drug combination. Melissa Grant at Carafem told Slate, “We now find effectiveness rates with misoprostol by itself can be as high as 95 percent.”

“Mifepristone and misoprostol are about 98 percent. So we’re really talking about a small difference overall,” she said. We do know, however, that a misoprostol-only protocol can be more painful; and physicians are concerned that this discomfort will stop patients from taking the take the necessary second and third doses of the medication. If you want a little further reading, this is a good thread on some of the issues pro-choice advocates are thinking through:

If you’re not reading the hilarious and perfect Alexandra Petri, you should remedy that error immediately. This column in particular, “Don’t listen to the FDA. Listen to a Trump-appointed judge named Matt,” was exactly what I needed. (It’s about the abortion medication lawsuit being heard by U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk.)

“I remember when I was giving birth and the epidural did not immediately kick in. My first thought was ‘Get me a Trump-appointed judge named Matt!’ I remember having my appendix out, too. To this day, I feel that I didn’t receive adequate care, because the only people involved in the procedure were doctors. I kept shouting, ‘Where is my Matt? Get me my judge!’”

Quick hits:

Listen up…

I spoke to the amazing folks over at Strict Scrutiny about what’s happening with abortion rights, anti-choice strategies & the work I’m doing here at Abortion, Every Day. A huge thanks to Kate & Leah for having me on!

WNYC has a segment about Biden’s State of the Union and what the president didn’t say, including the way he barely discussed abortion rights.

What conservatives are doing…

Republicans across multiple states are looking for ways to punish district attorneys who refuse to prosecute abortion cases. You already know about how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended a state attorney over abortion; and I’ve written how Texas Republicans are pushing a bill that would force civil fines up to $25,000 for each case a district attorney declines to prosecute. Georgia conservatives are trying to create an oversight commission that would discipline any DAs who don’t go after abortion cases; a South Carolina bill would allow the state attorney general to prosecute abortion cases; and Indiana Republicans want to appoint a special prosecutor to any abortion cases that the district attorney refuses to pursue. Definitely something to pay attention to.

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Keep an eye on…

The way the mainstream media is doing conservatives’ work for them: In an article about the strain that abortion bans are putting on clinics in pro-choice states, The Wall Street Journal referred to crisis pregnancy centers as ‘pregnancy-help centers’. Seriously.

We know that the anti-choice movement has been working hard to rebrand crisis pregnancy centers because of all the (well-deserved) negative baggage attached to them. A big part of that strategy is pushing mainstream outlets to use new language and terminology to help anti-abortion groups start fresh with a less horrific reputation. And it looks like the WSJ has no problem helping them out. And it’s not just the term ‘pregnancy-help centers’. Check out the language here:

“Pregnancy-help centers, which provide services to pregnant women and oppose abortion, are seeing an uptick in demand, suggesting that some women are choosing to continue their pregnancies because of these laws, said Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, an association representing the centers.”

‘Choosing’ to continue their pregnancy?? How can women choose if they’re banned from doing anything other than remaining pregnant? I understand that reporters are relaying what Godsey said—but that’s not a quote, its the WSJ’s language!

Related: Heartbeat International actually runs the largest network of crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S. and abroad. And if you want to know just how eager they are to lie to women, consider this quote that their Vice President gave to the Denver Post. When asked about legislation that seeks to stop these organizations from lying to women, Andrea Trudden said, “I guess I would have to see the bill to speak too much into it. I agree with that there should be no deceptive advertising but what are you considering deceptive advertising?” They just tell on themselves again and again.

You love to see it…

The University of Washington is planning to launch a new program, UW ACTIONS (Abortion Care Training Incubator for Outstanding Nurse Scholars), to train clinicians in abortion care:

“Curriculum will include four online courses, covering practical guidance on how to start an abortion practice or incorporate their training into an existing practice. It will also delve into topics like the country’s abortion history and politics. Students will then be placed at clinics in the area for direct experience.”

Dr. Sarah Prager, an OB-GYN professor at the school says that in a time when residents are going to have less access to training because of abortion bans, “Ramping up that training for lots of different kinds of providers in the states and the spaces where that can happen, I think, is a really key strategy.” The program, which is awaiting final approval from the school, will also be open to out-of-state clinicians.

Such an important move.

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Jessica Valenti