A reminder that Abortion, Every Day will not be publishing Friday, Feb. 17 through Tuesday, Feb. 21 so that I can take some desperately-needed days off. Thanks in advance for understanding!
In the states…
South Carolina Republicans debated a bill today that would make abortion a homicide punishable by the death penalty. This is from the Director of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic:
House Bill 3549 is written to give fertilized eggs “equal protection under the law.” That’s right—they define a person from the point of fertilization, which means that Republicans who believe that IUDs and Plan B prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg could argue that women who use those forms of contraception are murderers. The only allowance for women is that they’d be allowed to argue self-defense if they were “compelled [to have abortion] by the threat of imminent death or great bodily injury.”
If you’d like a list of legislators who are pushing this bill, you can find them here.
A Kentucky bill would also allow the state to charge a woman who has an abortion with murder—and is written in such a way that women could be arrested for ‘causing’ a miscarriage. House Bill 300, filed by state Rep. Emily Callaway, would have abortion criminalized identically “to the homicide of a person who had been born alive.” The bill says it wouldn’t allow for the prosecution of “natural or accidental” miscarriages, which (as was the case in Arkansas) leaves room for the targeting of women who are accused of some causing the end of their pregnancies. The ACLU in Kentucky called the legislation “absurd and offensive and dangerous.” Luckily, the bill doesn’t have widespread Republican support—they know that arresting women isn’t likely to go over well with voters.
Not done with the extremism yet: I’ve told you how Tennessee lawmakers are debating adding in a health and life exception to the state’s total abortion ban—and that the state’s most powerful anti-choice organization is against the move. They’ve been going back and forth with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes, claiming that they want there to be ‘objective’ standards for when a life-saving abortion is necessary (and apparently that hemorrhaging doesn’t fall into that category.)
Well, things got heated yesterday when Will Brewer of Tennessee Right to Life told a Republican panel that the group “would not consider this a pro-life law.” Brewer also told lawmakers that the organization would “score this negatively”—which prompted a response from House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who said the organization was trying to “intimidate our members.”
The bill, which advanced out of the panel, would remove the affirmative defense mandate in the ban—which requires doctors providing a life-saving abortion to break the law and then explain why it was necessary—and specifies several medical circumstances in which doctors would be legally permitted to provide an abortion including ectopic pregnancies and “to prevent or treat a medical emergency.”
The language that Tennessee Right to Life took specific issue with was allowing doctors to use “good faith” judgement in medical emergencies. Brewer made it very clear that the organization’s priority was punishing doctors, not protecting women:
“That's virtually un-prosecutable in a court of law if a doctor were to abuse this statute. Once one doctor is let off the hook in a criminal trial, a doctor who abused the nature of this law, it would be open season for other doctors who wanted to perform bad-faith terminations to do so.”
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Some shitty news out of Utah: I’ve been telling you about the legislation Republicans are pushing to change the rules around injunction standards as a way to remove the block on the state’s abortion ban. That bill was given final approval by the Legislature yesterday. Planned Parenthood Association of Utah president Karrie Galloway responded, “It should be alarming to everyone that legislators are willing to weaken the democratic structures of the state to change court orders that they disagree with.” (Related: The impact of this legislation goes beyond abortion, family violence experts in the state have pointed out that it will make it harder to help abused children and domestic violence victims who need emergency protection orders.)
Another bill in Utah—scheduled to be heard in a House committee this afternoon—would close all abortion clinics in the state, mandating that abortions only be performed in hospitals. Not a great day for Utah women.
There is really important legislation being pushed in California that everyone should care about: Assembly Bill 793, citing abortion rights and gender-affirming care, would protect citizens from dragnet surveillance. Essentially, normal search warrants ask for information about a specific person—and in California, there are laws prohibiting tech companies from sharing private reproductive health data. But law enforcement has a workaround: They can get a ‘reverse warrant’ which compels tech companies to give them information about all the people who were at a certain location, or who looked up a particular keyword online.
That means cops could see all the people who were in the vicinity of an abortion clinic, or who did a Google search for abortion medication. Protections from reverse warrants have been enacted in New York, Massachusetts, and Missouri—and now California might join them.
Obviously, we need protections like this the most in states where abortion and gender-affirming care are being criminalized: The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting digital privacy, points out that Google alone had more than 5,700 reverse demands between 2018 and 2020 from states with anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ laws. But the more pro-choice states raise the alarm and lead the way, the better.
Reproductive rights activists in Virginia have responded to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s opposition to a bill that would prohibit search warrants for women’s menstrual data on period apps and electronic devices. Tarina D. Keene, executive director of REPRO Rising Virginia said, “The Youngkin Administration’s opposition to this commonsense privacy protection measure shows his real intentions—to ban abortion and criminalize patients and medical providers.”
Also in Virginia, Washington County was successful in approving zoning restrictions for abortion clinics—one of the many ways that towns and counties are seeking to ban abortion (or make them impossible to get) despite state law.
A new poll shows that nearly 60% of North Carolina voters support maintaining or expanding the states’ access to abortion—while less than 35% want greater restrictions. Another good reminder that Republicans pushing abortion bans are doing so against voters’ wishes.
Axios has an overview of what’s happening with that Ohio ballot measure that pro-choice groups are working on;
A bill seeking to codify abortion rights in Montana got its first hearing today;
In the nation…
Democrats are pushing President Biden to take more action on abortion rights. Led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Mazie Hirono, lawmakers sent a letter outlining eleven steps that the White House could take to protect and expand reproductive rights. The recommendations included increasing Title X funding, ensuring veterans can receive abortion care, protecting access to medication abortion and strengthening HIPPA regulations to protection patient privacy.
And it looks like something may actually be happening on that last piece of guidance: It seems that the Biden administration is working on an abortion-related proposal to modify HIPPA rules. There’s a Department of Health and Human Services/Office for Civil Rights meeting scheduled tomorrow to discuss “The Proposed Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule to Support Reproductive Health Care Privacy.” Bloomberg Law reports that OCR director Melanie Fontes Raine declined to give specifics on what the rule said, but told them that “the Office for Civil Rights has a statutory mandate to ensure nondiscriminatory access to health care; part of that mission is to promote privacy and protect health information.” I’ll keep you updated as I find out more!
Jezebel got ahold of audio from a book-signing event where former Vice President Mike Pence said, “we need to” ban abortion medication;
Bloomberg gives an overview of the fight over abortion medication and the possibility of doctors using a miso-only protocol if mifepristone is banned;
And ABC News highlights where possible GOP presidential candidates stand on abortion.
Keep an eye on…
Republicans in several states—like South Dakota and Oklahoma—are pushing bills they say will ‘clarify’ their extreme abortion bans. As we see more and more of this, please remember that their clarifications don’t mean shit, and are little more than a PR stunt.
You love to see it…
This news out of California is unintentionally hilarious and truly made my day. You might remember that Gov. Gavin Newsom has been putting billboards in anti-abortion states to let women know that they can come to California for care. Naturally, this irritated anti-choice groups. So in response, they’ve decided to erect their own billboards—using the same font and color as Newsom’s billboards. I’m not sure if they think the visual similarity will trick women, though, because their message is…interesting:
Like come on! Amazing.