In the states…
You know how crisis pregnancy centers are horrific fake clinics that lie to women and put their health and lives in danger? Well, the governor of Tennessee wants to give them $100 million. During his state of the state address, Gov. Bill Lee said that the “pro-life is much more than defending the lives of the unborn,” and that the state had a “moral obligation” to fund the centers. If his proposal is successful, it would make Tennessee one of the top (if not the top) state funders of anti-abortion centers.
But it’s not just crisis pregnancy centers that we need to worry will keep women from legal and vital health care: Nearly half of the hospital beds in Washington are in Catholic-affiliated institutions, The Seattle Times reports. That means no matter what state law says, these hospitals don’t need to provide women with the care that they need and are legally entitled to receive. The good news is that Democrats are pushing the Keep Our Care Act, which would allow the state’s attorney general to have more oversight of health care mergers, in order to ensure that they wouldn’t diminish state residents’ right to care, including reproductive health care. If the attorney general found that such a merger would limit those rights, the state could reject the deal.
Ohio Republicans are still trying to push for a change to ballot measure rules in the state. I told you last week that Republicans missed a key deadline to raise the standards on ballot measures to require that they get 60% of the vote, rather than a simple majority. Republican House Speaker says their proposal could still end up on the November ballot, so that’s definitely something we should be keeping an eye on.
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Meanwhile, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey spoke to ABC News about the twenty state Attorneys General who sent a threatening letter to CVS and Walgreens about shipping abortion medication into their states. You can watch it below if you can stomach it. And while reporter Linsey Davis pushes back on some of Bailey’s claims that they’re just trying to protect women’s health, I really wish that someone would question these AGs about how the medication is also a standard treatment for miscarriages, and how restricting the pills would cause a crisis in care.
I told you about Republicans in Arizona trying to enshrine fetal personhood via bills they say would help women (like allowing pregnant people to drive in the HOV lane)—something similar is happening in Utah. Republican Gov. Spencer Cox, in his state of the state address, said he is proposing “a first-of-its-kind tax credit for all children—the born and the unborn.” As reporters at The Salt Lake Tribune point out, that means in a woman’s tax return, her fetus would be counted as a child. Which, of course, is another way to try to restrict abortion.
At an anti-abortion rally yesterday, Iowa Republican Rep. Luana Stoltenberg said she plans to introduce a total abortion ban. At the same event, state Attorney General Brenna Bird said, “My job is to uphold the law and to protect the rights and freedoms of all Iowans, born and unborn.”
And in Wyoming, a bill to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage was not even heard by legislators after Republican House Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Chip Neiman, refused to allow it on the floor for debate. Ana Marchese, director of Healthy Wyoming, said, “The people of Wyoming deserve better. We will keep fighting to be heard.”
The Guttmacher Institute, which does invaluable work, has put out a new policy analysis in response to the attacks on medication abortion showing which states would be most impacted by restrictions on the pills. While all states would be harmed, Guttmacher identified 10 states that “would experience a particularly sharp drop in the share of women of reproductive age who live in counties with an abortion provider, resulting in the most severe impact.” Those states are Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington.
Maryland Democrats are introducing legislation to ask voters in 2024 if they want abortion rights enshrined in the state constitution;
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach sent a letter to a Walgreens executive warning them not to ship abortion medication (just days after 20 state AGs sent a similar letter);
A New York City Council Member has been funneling discretionary funds to a crisis pregnancy center;
And Oregon is investigating twelve health insurance providers who failed to fully comply with the state's Reproductive Health Equity Act, which requires reproductive health services to be provided without out-of-pocket costs.
In the nation…
The State of the Union is tonight, and I’ll be paying close attention to what President Biden says about abortion. (I may turn on a live chat, so keep an eye on the Substack app if you’re interested!) First Lady Jill Biden has invited a Texas woman who almost died as a result of the state’s abortion ban as her guest to the address. (It seems as if several women impacted by abortion bans will be in attendance, which is absolutely the right thing to do.) I shared Amanda Zurawski’s story last October—she ended up in the ICU with sepsis after being denied treatment for a doomed pregnancy. You can listen to her talk about her experience below:
So this is interesting: A federal judge has said that pro-choice advocates could argue that there is a constitutional right to abortion protected by the 13th Amendment—which bans slavery and “involuntary servitude.” U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, in a pending case against anti-abortion activists accused of blocking access to a clinic, said that the Dobbs decision only said that the 14th Amendment didn’t include a right to abortion—which left the possibility of arguing that other Amendments could protect reproductive rights:
“[I]t is entirely possible that the Court might have held in Dobbs that some other provision of the Constitution provided a right to access reproductive services had that issue been raised. However, it was not raised.”
The judge also pointed to previous legal scholarship making the argument that the 13th Amendment protects abortion rights. (Of course, right on cue, conservative media started calling what is a valid argument a potential “loophole” in the law.)
Related: Earlier this year, Howard University School of Law professor Lisa A. Crooms-Robinson made this argument in a NBC News op-ed, writing, “We need a new plan, and the 13th Amendment might be the answer.” Crooms-Robinson pointed out, however, that “this plan would have to put Black people at the center of their legislative efforts in ways that Roe’s original privacy-based right did not.” This excerpt, in particular, I think is interesting and goes further than a lot of the 13th Amendment arguments I’ve seen in the past:
“To be clear, this is not a claim that forced pregnancy, which occurs when abortion is not an option, and the absence of the full spectrum of other reproductive justice rights is analogous to slavery. Nor is it a plea for equality regardless of sex or gender. Rather, it is a direct claim that a law protecting Black people’s reproductive health is essential to Black freedom because enslavement denied Black people rights, including those recognized in Roe.”
Poppy Noor at The Guardian continues to do fantastic work (you probably remember her as the reporter who first published the images of early pregnancy and abortion)—her latest article is about a study showing that Google targets low-income women with crisis pregnancy center ads. The research from the Tech Transparency Project shows that ads are much more likely to reach low-income women, who are the most likely to be hurt by the anti-abortion groups’ tactics—which include lying to women about how far along they are, or telling them they’re likely to miscarry and to not spend the money on an abortion.
Katie Paul, the director of the Tech Transparency Project, told Noor that as a result of targeting poorer women, “Google may delay these women from finding an actual abortion clinic to get a legal and safe abortion.” Total nightmare.
This is disappointing: Apparently the Justice Department is using a law meant to protect abortion clinics to go after two people who spray-painted the side of a crisis pregnancy center building. The DOJ is using the FACE Act—which makes it a crime to prevent people from obtaining reproductive health services or to damage property of a reproductive health clinic—to prosecute the two activists, who spray-painted “If abortions aren’t safe then neither are you” and “We’re Coming for U” on a crisis pregnancy center wall. This is the first time the FACE Act would be used to go after abortion rights proponents, and the first time it would be used in defense of a clinic that isn’t medical and doesn’t offer reproductive health care. Honestly, I think this is bullshit. Federal charges for graffiti? That’s not even in the same universe as harassing and threatening women trying to get healthcare.
Higher education groups are trying to decide whether to hold their annual conferences in states with anti-abortion or anti-LGBTQ laws;
NPR on Gen Z’s political power, including on abortion rights;
The group bankrolling a $20 million Super Bowl ad campaign with videos about how Christianity is diverse and inclusive is actually a radical anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion foundation that donated more than $50 million to the nonprofit whose case overturned Roe;
The 19th has an explainer on the lawsuit against the FDA over abortion medication;
And make sure to check out this piece at Jezebel, which interviewed multiple abortion providers who say they will move ahead with a misoprostol-only protocol if mifepristone is banned via that suit against the FDA.
If you’re interested in legal podcasts, In the Public Interest has a conversation with Planned Parenthood’s VP of Public Policy Litigation, Helene Krasnoff, and the Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Dr. Kristina Tocce. If you’re into deep dives, you might like this one.
Keep an eye on…
I’ve written a lot about conservatives’ cultural campaign against birth control, and whew do I have a doozy of an update on this one: Misogynist extraordinaire Jordan Peterson has a daughter, Mikhaila Peterson, who hosts a podcast and has been making the conservative media rounds lately. Her most recent appearance was on Fox News, where when asked why less men were participating in the workforce, she blamed…the birth control pill. Seriously:
“I think one thing that people don't talk about at all is the birth control pill, and I think that's majorly impacting relationships between men and women negatively…Women choose more feminine men when they’re on the pill. And for some reason, people aren’t talking about that. That’s crazy. That could impact people generationally easily.”
It’s totally ridiculous and easy to laugh at, I know. But please know that this bizarre talking point is gaining steam on the right, and more and more people are picking up on it. We’ve gotta pay attention to this stuff, no matter how silly it sounds.
You love to see it…
I’m sorry, I know we did the TikTok roundup yesterday, but I had to share this from clinic escorts in Orlando, Florida, which had me absolutely dying laughing at 1AM last night:
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