In the states…
The House Judiciary Committee in Arkansas was scheduled to discuss a bill that would classify “causing the death of an unborn child” as a homicide. I’m not using the word ‘abortion’ here for a reason—because while the legislation would certainly make abortion prosecutable as a homicide, it goes far beyond that. HB 1174 says that it’s a crime to end a pregnancy by “wrongful act, neglect or default,” language so broad that women who have had miscarriages could be prosecuted for murder if the state decides that they somehow ‘caused’ it. (The bill even specifies that “accidental miscarriage” is not prosecutable, which means that legislators believe there is such a thing as a miscarriage that is not accidental.)
So if a woman miscarries and the state decides that it happened because she lifted a heavy box, or didn’t take her prenatal vitamins—they could charge her with murder. I wrote about this bill back in January, but it’s worth repeating: There is no limit to what a zealous prosecutor could argue ‘caused’ a miscarriage or stillbirth. In fact, cases like this have already been brought forward before Roe was even overturned—for reasons ranging from alleged drug use, refusing medical interventions like a c-section, even a suicide attempt.
But there’s more. Because this bill defines human life from fertilization, women could also be charged with murder for using Plan B or IUDs—which conservatives believe prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg—or undergoing IVF. In fact, legislators removed language that would prevent the prosecution of women who use contraception or IVF:
I’m tired of hearing that we are being hysterical when we point out legislation like this; I’m tired of being told that this bill and bills like it will never pass. The bill in South Carolina that would make abortion punishable by the death penalty—a story that Abortion, Every Day broke last month—has twenty one cosponsors. This is real, this is happening.
Medical students in North Carolina are making clear that if abortion rights are banned in the state—they’re leaving right along with them. The News & Observer spoke to students at UNC-Chapel Hill about the possibility of Republicans passing further abortion restrictions, and like med students and doctors across the country, they don’t believe they’d be able to do their jobs under such laws. Katherine Poulos, a student from North Carolina, says, “I don’t want to leave, but you know, the general consensus is that a lot of us will, and that’s unfortunate.” And resident physician Avanthi Jayaweera says, “What these state lawmakers are saying is that they’re going to prevent us from providing the best care to our patients…Frankly, that is against against everything that we stand for as physicians.”
Every state with an abortion ban is seeing OBGYNs and medical students leaving. For those who stay, however, there’s a different problem: How to learn to provide abortions—necessary not just to be able to give adequate care but in order to be accredited—in a state that won’t allow it. In Texas, for example, residents are forced to travel out-of-state to learn abortion care, something that they themselves have to pay for. The Texas Observer reports that some doctors are even taking out loans to be able to do so. The biggest concern, however, is that by having to travel and limit their exposure to the procedure, Texas doctors won’t be prepared for complicated or emergency care:
“When young doctors lose the opportunity to develop these critical skills, it could translate into a loss of institutional knowledge throughout the field as older doctors retire. [Dr. Cece] Cheng described it as a domino effect: Doctors who stay in Texas for their training won’t be able to train the next generation on how to perform abortions.”
Terrifying on so many levels.
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In the wake of yesterday’s news that Tennessee conservatives are pretending to add a health and life exception to their abortion ban, please read this devastating piece of journalism from ProPublica about how the state’s law impacted one woman and her care. It is not an easy read, and there are graphic images—please know that going in. There’s too much to relay here, it really does require a full read, but this particular excerpt just took my breath away:
“She squeezed her thumb in her fist as [Dr. Barry] Grimm explained that Vanderbilt couldn’t offer an abortion that would try to preserve her uterus—only a hysterectomy that would end the pregnancy and extinguish any chances she could ever get pregnant again. Grimm told ProPublica it was his understanding that ending the pregnancy this way would comply with the law’s provision for avoiding irreversible impairment to a major bodily function. Other doctors involved in her care confirmed they felt their only option for providing an abortion was to sterilize her.”
Again, despite Republican grandstanding, please know that Tennessee lawmakers’ amendment to the abortion ban will not protect women’s health and lives and is in no way an exception. (Even though I see it’s already being reported as such.)
In less horrific news, the proposal to enshrine abortion rights in Ohio’s state constitution cleared another hurdle yesterday, and advocates in the state can now start collecting the required 413,000 signatures to get it on the ballot in November.
Also in Ohio: The state Supreme Court agreed to review a judge’s ruling blocking enforcement of the state’s abortion ban. They will not be ruling on the constitutionality of the ban, but whether the state’s Attorney General can appeal that block on enforcement, and whether abortion clinics have the standing to challenge the state’s ban. As you know, one of the judges who will hear the case—a fill-in appointed by the Chief justice—served on the board of an anti-abortion center.
Arizona Republicans want child support payments to start during pregnancy, a move that has nothing to do with helping parents and everything to do with establishing fetal personhood;
A judge has ruled that North Carolina Republicans can defend the state’s abortion medication restrictions in federal court;
The Los Angeles Times on how California continues to push abortion protections in an effort to be an abortion sanctuary state;
MSNBC on the two very different abortion lawsuits in Texas right now;
And South Dakota updated its legal code to reflect that abortion is now illegal in the state.
In the nation…
After it was revealed that Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who will be ruling on the lawsuit against abortion medication, a coalition of media organizations urged him to to put up a public notice of tomorrow’s hearing, citing the First Amendment:
“Restrictions on the ability of the press and public to attend judicial proceedings can be justified only by a compelling governmental interest and, even then, such restrictions must be narrowly tailored to advance that interest…No such compelling governmental interests are present here.”
In related news, TalkingPointsMemo has the transcript of the call where Kacsmaryk asked lawyers to keep tomorrow’s hearing from the public.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senators have once again sent a letter to Walgreens pushing the company to carry and dispense abortion medication and to “communicate clearly about this.” The sixteen Senators—including Sens. Patty Murray, Debbie Stabenow, and Tammy Baldwin—also wrote to CVS and Rite Aid urging the same, and to other major pharmacies asking them to indicate whether or not they plan to dispense abortion medication (while also relaying their frustration that the companies have so far remained mum.)
In response to the lawsuit brought by a Texas man alleging three women helped his ex-wife obtain an abortion, digital privacy rights groups are once again calling on internet companies to step up their game. Axios reports that Fight for the Future is pushing Meta, Twitter, Google and Apple to make end-to-end encryption the default for their services. (Read more about end-to-end encryption here.) But remember, the sad truth is that the majority of abortion-related prosecutions happen because someone snitches—so the other important piece of protecting yourself should you ever break an abortion law is limiting who you tell.
CBS News on how abortion providers are preparing for a ruling on abortion medication;
Donald Trump gives a non-answer when asked if he supports a federal abortion ban;
And on the international front, Polish abortion rights activist Justyna Wydrzynska has been convicted of illegally dispensing abortion medication.
If you missed this NPR segment about the consequences of Texas’ abortion ban, you should definitely check it out. Though as is always the case, it’s a difficult listen. One woman shares how she had to leave the state for care after her water broke at 19 weeks:
“I had to come up with a game plan with my OB in case I went into labor on the flight. And I made sure that I bought us front-row seats so I could be close to the bathroom in case it happened.”
The segment also talks to doctors in the state and (unfortunately) an anti-abortion asshole. I’ve embedded the audio below, if you’d like to listen.
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