Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day (3.17.23)

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Abortion, Every Day (3.17.23)

Pro-Life Wisconsin: Carrying a doomed fetus to term is "vital to healing"

In the states…

I reported earlier this week that Wisconsin Republicans introduced a bill that would add rape, incest, health and life exceptions to the state’s 1849 abortion ban—just to have it putter out in days. (The move was more about PR than actually getting something to pass.) But if you want to know just how ‘pro-life’ anti-abortion organizations are, consider what they said when faced with the mere possibility of adding protections for women’s health and lives.

Pro-Life Wisconsin released a statement saying that abortion “is never medically necessary to save the life or improve the health of the mother,” a false claim repeated by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. And this one really made me want to throw something: In response to language that would have allowed abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, Pro-Life Wisconsin said that they “have known of numerous women who have brought their babies to term and cherished the brief but precious moments of their child’s life,” and that being forced to carry a doomed fetus to term “is vital to healing.” And apparently that’s something that they get to decide for women.

Before Florida Republicans advanced a 6-week abortion ban yesterday, lawmakers heard hours of testimony—mostly from women begging them not to strip them of their reproductive rights. Testifying about the onerous requirements for rape and incest victims to get abortion care, one woman spoke about not reporting her sexual assault to the police “because she wanted to get as far away from the situation as possible,” and how she didn’t find out she was pregnant until she was 10 weeks along. She was able to get an abortion “because in 2015 we didn’t have these restrictions.” She started to cry as she left the committee room. This is what these laws are doing to women.

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I’ve been writing a lot about Tennessee’s abortion ban, and Republicans’ new claim that they are adding in an exception for women’s health and lives that would allow doctors to provide abortions to miscarrying women. (You can read why that’s just not true here.) But nothing can relay the horror of the state’s law better than the women themselves who have been impacted by it. In the Los Angeles Times yesterday, law professor Jennifer Shinall wrote about her experience trying to obtain a dilation and curettage (D&C) after miscarrying.

This was Shinall’s third miscarriage, and her doctor worried that without the procedure—which they could use to collect pregnancy tissue for examination—they wouldn’t know exactly what was going wrong or help her to have a baby.

“But performing a D&C was easier said than done. My doctor had thousands of hours of training in the procedure, and she could have done it in the office the same day. But the healthcare system for which she worked now prohibited it without excessive documentation. Before she could even schedule the D&C, I would need three ultrasounds over the next two weeks to prove that my baby was still dead.”

After weeks of waiting, Shinall started to bleed on the morning of her last ultrasound—which meant she didn’t have enough pregnancy tissue left to be examined. “After a painful waiting period, my husband and I were left without answers regarding what went wrong in this pregnancy,” she says. Now Shinall isn’t sure if she wants to try to get pregnant again at all for fear that she’ll have to go through the torturous, unnecessary process all over again. And remember, Shinall’s fetus didn’t have a heartbeat—imagine what the state forces miscarrying women to go through when that’s not yet the case.

If you’re not worried about doctors leaving anti-abortion states—not just OBGYNs, but all kinds of physicians—you really should be. Dr. Angela Bangs in Idaho told Boise State Public Radio about her experience at a conference where medical students learn about residency programs; she was staffing a booth for the medical school at the University of Washington:

“Students, clutching spiral notebooks, would walk up to her table, and without introducing themselves first, would ask, pointedly, ‘What’s the status of abortion and the ability to provide them in your state?’

Bangs was surprised at how often this process repeated itself; more than half the students who asked her questions asked about Idaho’s abortion laws.”

And after interviewing over 400 students, another residency training in Idaho expects that 20% of applicants won’t train in the state because of the abortion ban, and that they’re losing some of their best applicants as a result. “Idaho will suffer for this,” the program’s CEO said.

I have a little bit more information on the Ohio anti-abortion group launching a $5 million ad campaign against the pro-choice ballot measure expected to be in front of voters in November. Protect Women Ohio (PWO) was put together by various anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ organizations, including Ohio Right to Life, Citizens for Christian Virtue, and Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio. Their plan is to pepper the state with advertisements over the next few weeks—right as pro-choice groups are collecting the over 400,000 signatures they need to move the ballot measure forward.

In what’s becoming an anti-abortion trend, the ads from Protect Women Ohio use anti-trans talking points—falsely claiming that the ballot measure would allow teenagers to get “sex change surgery” without parental consent. Anti-choice groups know that abortion rights are incredibly popular, and the hope is that by tapping into anti-trans bigotry and fear they may have a fighting chance.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio, responded to the initiative by reminding us that these groups are “desperate, absolutely desperate” to confuse voters “because they know a very strong majority of Ohioans disagree with their plans to ban abortion and agree with this amendment which would put those decisions where they belong.”

Amanda Zurawski, one of the women suing Texas after being denied an abortion despite a risk to her health and life, has an op-ed in The Dallas Morning News. Zurawski shared her story of ending up in the ICU with sepsis, which can be deadly:

“What I needed was an abortion, a standard medical procedure. An abortion would have prevented the unnecessary harm and suffering that I endured. Not only the psychological trauma that came with three days of waiting, but the physical harm my body suffered, the extent of which is still being determined. I needed an abortion to protect my life, and to protect the lives of my future babies that I hope and dream I can still have one day.”

Incredibly grateful for Zurawski and the women like her who are coming forward to share their stories. No one should have to go public with their most vulnerable moments in order to remind politicians that women are human beings—it’s a nightmare. But every time someone shares their experience of being denied care because of an abortion ban, it gets that much harder for conservatives to claim that their laws aren’t impacting women.

In better news, Democrats are unveiling a bill in California today that would protect doctors from prosecution if they ship abortion medication to out-of-state patients. State Sen. Nancy Skinner, the bill’s author, says, “Our health care practitioners should be protected for treating their patients regardless of where their patients are geographically.” The legislation would prohibit physicians from being extradited, having to pay fines, and would allow them to sue those who try to stop them from providing abortion care.

One of Abortion, Every Day’s favorite legislators, Sen. Megan Hunt of Nebraska, has been pushing legislation that would allow voters to decide on abortion rights. Yesterday, the state held hearings on the two amendments. Hunt told the legislative committee, “If we deny them the opportunity to vote on this, I think that’s very telling about where the public actually stands on the issue.”

Quick hits:

  • New Mexico’s governor signed legislation that prohibits local governments from trying to restrict abortion;

  • Nevada Democrats have introduced legislation to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution;

  • A bill requiring some Michigan employers to cover abortion care passed the Senate;

  • Lawmakers in Washington are hearing public comment today on legislation that would stop insurance companies from charging anyone copays for abortion care;

  • Some more information on the Colorado bills seeking to protect abortion providers and patients;

  • And a Florida nurse wrote about the “dystopian” 6-week abortion ban in the Miami Herald.

In the nation…

Abortion medication providers are starting to come out in advance of Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling to say they’re going to continue providing mifepristone regardless of what he decides. From long-time abortion providers like Trust Women and Whole Woman’s Health to newer telehealth providers like Hey Jane, the consensus seems to be that providers won’t stop dispensing mifepristone unless they’re forced to by the FDA. Which the absolute right decision.

Make sure to read Mary Ziegler, law professor and author of “Roe: The History of a National Obsession,” in The New York Times today about corporations’ responses to abortion restrictions. Ziegler writes that “the corporate culture wars are just beginning, and if Walgreens is any indication, Republicans might have the upper hand.”

One of the most common anti-abortion messages is that pregnancy is not a medical condition—in fact, the lawyers trying to ban abortion medication are relying in part on the argument that “pregnancy is not a disease.” And so I really appreciated this piece from Christina Cauterucci at Slate about the way that the anti-choice movement disregards how incredibly dangerous pregnancy is—especially in America and especially now:

“It does not suit their interests to view pregnancy as anything other than a magical, mysterious, religiously significant period in which a woman’s body is given over to the needs of her fetus and the desires of the broader society in which she once took part. Their ideology rests on the treatment of pregnancy and childbirth as conceptual topics, easily debatable and containable, such that a legislator who has never taken so much as a sex ed class can write a physician’s dos-and-don’ts list into the penal code.”


Quick hit:

  • The Cut looks at how medical students and residents are dealing with their post-Roe reality;

  • The Kansas City-Star on Erin Morrow Hawley, one of the lawyers fighting to ban abortion medication (aka the wife of Republican Sen. Josh Hawley);

  • And TIME has a rundown of what the potential Republican presidential candidates for 2024 think about abortion rights.

Listen up…

The Washington Post’s podcast gets into what’s happening in the abortion medication case; and NPR has a segment about what’s happening with Walgreens caving to conservative pressure on the pills, as well as one on the abortion medication lawsuit.

Keep an eye on…

Republicans are trying to earn some good will by pushing legislation to make birth control easier to access. This week the Iowa Senate passed a bill to make contraception available over-the-counter at pharmacies, and Wisconsin Republicans are pushing for the same—something Senator Melissa Agard says is an example of “Republicans taking good ideas from Democrats and rebranding it as theirs.” So please, let’s not let them take credit or use bills like these to distract from the very real harm their abortion bans are doing.

This newsletter was compiled with the help of researcher Grace Haley.

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