Mar 1 • 19M

Abortion, Every Day (3.1.23)

Iowa bill would force libraries, schools & colleges to block pro-choice websites

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

Anti-abortion lawmakers are just getting bolder and bolder: Iowa Republicans have introduced a bill to ban all abortions in the state (a previous ban is currently blocked). The legislation isn’t just a run-of-the-mill abortion ban, however. It mirrors recently-proposed bill in Texas that would make pro-choice websites illegal and allow citizens to sue each other over ‘aiding and abetting’ abortion. You can read the full bill here, but here are the highlights:

  • It would require public libraries, schools and colleges block any website that gives out information about abortion, including abortion funds, abortion providers, sites that sell or direct women to abortion medication or “enables those who provide or aid or abet elective abortions”;

  • Citizens could sue anyone who aids or abets abortion, including internet service providers who don’t block access to pro-choice websites;

  • Anyone who mails or receives abortion medication in the mail would be punished by five years in prison;

  • Abortion funds would be prosecuted under the RICO Act;

  • And it declares that fetuses are entitled to the “full and equal protection of the laws that prohibit violence against other human beings,” language that has been used in bills seeking to classify abortion as homicide.

Here’s something else, related to this week’s conversations about conservatives’ efforts to redefine abortion: The Iowa bill lays out something they call a “medically indicated separation procedure,” which they insist is not an abortion, but a medical intervention “necessitated by a medical emergency.” So…it’s an abortion. This is important, because they’re trying to codify the idea that certain abortions aren’t abortions.

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Speaking of Republicans trying to just make up words: In Idaho, where lawmakers have been trying to limit out-of-state travel, a bill that would criminalize bringing a minor over state lines to get an abortion was introduced in the House State Affairs committee. While a previous version of the bill called it ‘human trafficking’, the latest version says that it is ‘abortion trafficking’. Quite a term! What this means is that a grandmother or aunt who brings a beloved teenage family member for abortion care in a nearby pro-choice state could face anywhere from two to five years in prison.

Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt assured the committee that her bill was “more of a parental rights piece of legislation.” It’s a smart move: Parental rights are all the rage at the moment, and it’s an insidious way to start limiting interstate travel without raising too many red flags. But as I’ve written before, this won’t end here with teens—it’s just how things start.

Meanwhile, North Carolina Republicans are in talks about how exactly they want to restrict abortion. House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters that they’re discussing legislation to ban abortion after 12 or 13 weeks of pregnancy, and that while nothing has been solidified, “there's a consensus to do something.” We’re likely to see something in a few weeks.

Conservatives across the country have been attacking Minnesota Democrats for passing the PRO Act, which enshrines abortion rights in the state. Republicans claim that it allows abortion up until the moment of birth (their go-to attack on any reasonable abortion protections). That’s why I appreciated this piece from Minnesota Public Radio, which does a good job explaining why later abortions are necessary—and how they’re far more complicated than conservative talking points would have people believe. You know how I feel about all of this; pregnancy is far too complicated to legislate. Maternal fetal medicine specialist Dr. Rachel Pilliod says the same: “You just cannot imagine all scenarios. And I think that's the real tricky part of trying to identify each and every single scenario and to legislate it.” Definitely worth the read (or listen).

You know that Missouri Republicans have been trying to amend legislation that extends postpartum Medicaid coverage so that it won’t apply to women who have abortions. That legislation is still lingering around, but the better news is that a different bill extending Medicaid was unanimously approved by a House committee yesterday—this version doesn’t have any restrictions related to abortion. State Rep. Ashley Aune said, “I genuinely feel that women and mothers across the state are going to benefit greatly from this.”

In Texas, where Republican lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would outlaw websites that share information about abortion, doctors already feel a strain on their freedom of speech. OBGYNs in the state told NPR that people are afraid to talk about abortion—nervous that they might be getting set up to be criminalized or held civilly liable if they give patients advice on the procedure or where to get it. One doctor says, “I have colleagues who say cryptic things like, 'The weather's really nice in New Mexico right now. You should go check it out.' Or, 'I've heard traveling to Colorado is really nice this time of year.’”

Other doctors won’t say anything at all for fear of legal reprisal. Dr. Eve Espey, chair of the OBGYN department at the University of New Mexico relayed the story of a patient whose fetus was developing without a skull—a fatal condition:

“That was a doctor who didn't tell her, 'Go get care out-of-state,’” says Espey. “She was an immigrant. It took her six weeks to figure out she could travel to New Mexico for an abortion and get the logistics and finances together to be able to go.”

Because of the delay in care, the woman ended up hemorrhaging and needing a hysterectomy. You can listen to the whole segment below, it’s chilling to say the least:

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In Florida, abortion clinics have asked the state Supreme Court to block the 15-week abortion law, arguing that “plain text and historical context place beyond doubt that Florida’s privacy clause protects against governmental interference in all aspects of a person’s private life, including decisions about pregnancy.” This comes after state Attorney General Ashley Moody has asked the court to rule that the privacy clause does not apply to abortion.

And in Ohio, one of the many states where Republicans have been doing everything that they can to keep abortion out of citizens’ hands, pro-choice groups are eager to get their ballot measure in front voters this November. They don’t want to wait and give Republicans a chance to increase the percent of votes necessary to pass a ballot measure—you probably remember that lawmakers are working to change the standard from 50% to 60%. Dr. Laura Beene of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights says, “This might be one of our last opportunities to get this done.”

Colorado Democrats will be introducing a bill to shield abortion providers and patients from out-of-state criminalization and lawsuits. Meanwhile, abortion clinics, providers and medical professionals in the state are preparing for a possible negative outcome in the lawsuit against abortion medication: Pro-choice states like Colorado have already seen a huge surge of out-of-state patients, and have beens struggling to keep up. If mifepristone is banned, more women would be seeking abortion procedures—which Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains says will lead to longer wait times and “additional financial and logistical burdens.” I imagine this will be the case for lots of pro-choice states, especially those surrounded by states with abortion bans.

One of our favorite legislators, Nebraska’s Sen. Megan Hunt, is pushing two constitutional amendments to protect abortion rights in the state. The proposed amendments would declare that individuals have a right to reproductive freedom, including abortion. They would also prohibit the state from penalizing or prosecuting any pregnancy outcome—whether it’s abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, etc. This kind of language is actually incredibly important, because we’ve seen how extremist prosecutors have used abortion legislation to target women who have had stillbirths and miscarriages. (Pregnancy Justice is a terrific organization if you’re looking for more information on this.)

Quick hits:

In the nation…

As we wait for a ruling on abortion medication, more research has come out showing just how much Americans support access to the pills. Data for Progress reports that nearly 60% of voters oppose reversing the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, and that 46% believe the pills should be available through telehealth, mail delivery, and pharmacy pickup—with no requirement to visit a physician in person.

I wrote earlier today about how Republicans across the country are working hard to keep abortion rights out of voters’ hands. The Associated Press has a related piece some of the moves conservatives are making in the wake of ballot measure losses, but they stop short of calling them what they are: Efforts to disempower voters. Instead, the AP characterizes them as conservatives “changing tactics.” That’s one way to put it!

The Wall Street Journal has published a photo essay to accompany a story they did earlier in the month about the weeks-long waiting times for abortions in pro-choice states because of abortion bans elsewhere. It’s interesting, but I’m still pretty furious that the publication agreed to call anti-abortion centers ‘pregnancy-help centers’—going along with conservatives efforts to rebrand the organizations that are well-known for lying to women.

Quick hits:

  • The Intercept on the shady groups behind the attacks on abortion medication;

  • The Washington Post gets into what would happen should the ruling come down against the FDA;

  • And NPR is looking for stories from people on how abortion restrictions and bans have impacted their ability to get care, if you or anyone you know wants to reach out. (You can also always reach out to me!)

Listen up…

The Daily covered the lawsuit against the FDA over abortion medication today. You can listen below:

What conservatives are saying…

In a Fox News interview, a representative from the Alliance Defending Freedom—the group suing the FDA over abortion medication—claims that they didn’t do any judge shopping to land Matthew Kacsmaryk for the case. Denise Harle says, “We're very confident that any judge who looks at the FDA regulations and what the FDA actually did is going to rule for us.” It’s a total coincidence that they ended up with a radically anti-abortion judge!

(For the actual truth on how conservatives are bending and breaking rules to ban abortion against Americans’ wishes, check out the column I published today.)

You love to see it…

The ACLU has launched a new project, the Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative, which will establish a network of defense lawyers prepared to represent health care providers, patients, or anyone else who might be prosecuted for abortion-related ‘crimes’. (Another organization was just founded that does the same: Abortion Defense Network.)

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