Feb 2 • 15M

Abortion, Every Day (2.2.23)

Kentucky crisis pregnancy center used expired disinfectant on vaginal probes

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Jessica Valenti
Daily audio updates & commentary on abortion in the United States.
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In the states…

Hundreds of people showed up at the Nebraska Capitol building to protest as legislators met to hear testimony on a 6-week abortion ban. Lawmakers heard eight hours of testimony before adjourning without taking a vote. Democratic Sen. Megan Hunt told the crowd to keep coming back: “We need constant, prolonged, righteous outrage. They need to feel your energy.”

I told you this week about the bill that Wyoming Republicans are trying to pass which would ban abortion without exceptions for rape and incest—essentially, they’re supporting this new legislation because their trigger ban is currently blocked. The hope is that by passing HB152, they’ll have a ban that isn’t so easy for the courts to find unconstitutional. But some Republicans are concerned that in pushing for the new legislation—which would make the old ban moot—they’ll end up with no abortion ban at all.

But here’s the other super important thing to know about this bill: It’s the legislation that Republicans are using to declare that lawmakers have the same standing as the Courts to interpret the state constitution—which is a way for them to pass their abortion bans whether the courts agree or not. As you know, this has become a broad Republican strategy: Utah Republicans want to change the standards by which an injunction can be ordered as a way to remove the current block on the state’s abortion ban; and in Montana, Republicans have introduced legislation that gives them the power to declare that the state’s constitutional right to privacy doesn’t include abortion, no matter what the state Supreme Court says. And then there are the states like Missouri and Ohio who are trying to make it harder for voters to pass pro-choice ballot measures. They are going to do everything they can to bypass voters and the courts—because they know their bans are unpopular and unconstitutional.

But I do have some good news on this front: Ohio Republicans missed a key deadline for their proposal to raise the standards on ballot measures. That means pro-choice groups in the state who want to get abortion rights on the ballot in November can do so without the worry that they’ll need 60% of the vote, as opposed to a simple majority. (You may remember that Ohio pro-choicers have formed a coalition to get that ballot measure initiative going.)

This is so distressing: The Guardian has an account from a Kentucky whistleblower who worked at a crisis pregnancy center that puts women in danger by, among other things, using expired disinfectant on trans-vaginal ultrasound probes. (I gasped.) Read the whole investigation, it’s such an important look at how the lack of standards and regulations around crisis pregnancy centers lead to this sort of nightmare. The nurse who is now speaking out, Susan Rames, found out that not only was the disinfectant expired—it wasn’t even the correct kind, as the brand the center used didn’t have efficacy against HPV. So the center was essentially using a vaginal probe on multiple women that could have been giving all of them HPV, which can cause cancer.

Rames also realized that the lubricant gel staff used for trans-vaginal ultrasounds was actually only meant to be used externally on someone’s abdomen. When she raised her concerns with the center’s leadership, she was told that they “have to use their donations responsibly.” And because these centers are given so much leeway, even when Rames made complaints to the state nursing board and the state medical board, both declined to take disciplinary action against the center and its staff. Meanwhile, abortion clinics will be shut down if their hallways aren’t the right width.

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Speaking of how dangerous crisis pregnancy centers are; I told you last week about the disturbing comments from a Kansas crisis pregnancy center director who lauded the 9/11 terrorists as “principled”—well, he’s under some well-deserved fire. Scott Stringfield runs Choices Medical Clinic, which he set up on the same street as Trust Women—the former home of assassinated abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller. The folks at Trust Women are understandably horrified, and called out Stringfield for “endorsing terrorism.” (Which, let’s be clear—he was.) According to The Wichita Eagle, the anti-abortion group Kansas for Life—who invited Stringfield to talk at their event where he made the comments—“declined to answer whether the organization agrees with Stringfield’s comments about terrorists.” Charming.

Meanwhile, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of abortion providers in federal court against West Virginia’s abortion ban, arguing that the law is unconstitutional. The group is also asking the court to block the ban while their case is heard.

And a bill in Utah would allow pregnant women to use the HOV lane while driving—which we need to remember is not at all a move to help pregnant women but to further enshrine the lie of fetal personhood.

Quick hits:

In the nation…

If you follow the newsletter, you know that conservatives have been attacking abortion medication—which is used in more than half of abortions in the U.S.—both federally and on a state level. That’s why I’m so glad to be able to bring you the news (in an Abortion, Every Day exclusive) that U.S. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota and U.S. Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri are re-introducing their Protecting Access to Medication Abortion Act today. The legislation would protect current FDA guidelines so that women in states where abortion is still legal will always be able to access medication abortion—even through telehealth and mail-order pharmacies.

Sen. Smith calls the bill “a critical step to protect what remaining access exists to reproductive health care.” Rep. Bush says, “Anti-choice and anti-freedom Republicans have made it their mission to strip people of their reproductive rights and freedom,” and that their legislation would protect access to a medication that has been long-proven as safe. Love to see it!

In less exciting news, while national media has picked up on the story of 20 Republican state Attorneys General sending a threatening letter to CVS and Walgreens about abortion medication—so far, I haven’t seen any of those outlets mention the fact that the medication is also used for miscarriage management. This is a huge problem—any journalist covering abortion rights need to know, and report, the full story. Anything else is doing Republicans’ job for them.

Conservative media continues to push panicked stories about protesters outside of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s house. You know I won’t link to their websites, but I literally guffawed when I saw a headline from a popular conservative outlet that claimed a “Pro-abortion Street Mob Continues to Intimidate” Barrett. The street mob in question? Here ya go:

Truly terrifying!

Quick hits:

  • A new study shows that nearly 1/4 of Latina women may change their birth control because of abortion bans;

  • The 19th on why Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election has national implications;

  • And The Washington Post on the multiple states looking to make it harder to protect abortions rights by ballot measure.

Abortion, Every Day is compiled with the help of researcher Grace Haley.

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