Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day (3.22.23)

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Abortion, Every Day (3.22.23)

Multiple Republican bills seek to "redefine" abortion

In the states…

Let’s start with good-ish news: The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the state’s ban must allow life-saving abortions, with justices overturning the part of the law that prohibited as much. Mark Joseph Stern over at Slate has a good explainer of what the case means and how the ruling “preserved the possibility of finding a more expansive right to reproductive autonomy in a future case.”

Stern also points out that the court came awfully close to allowing the state ban life-saving abortions using the argument that the state has the right to choose fetuses over women: Justice M. John Kane IV wrote that fetuses “have no voice, say, or consideration” and that it should be states who “balanc[e] the developing life of the unborn against the life of the mother,” not the courts. It will never not be shocking to me that people can talk about women’s actual, real lives like this. It’s a good reminder that at the heart of all this, abortion bans are about just how many people in power don’t see women as fully human. You can read the full ruling here.

I told you yesterday about Ohio conservatives’ attempts to stop a pro-choice ballot measure from getting to voters in November. Anti-choice activists are suing to force abortion rights advocates to separate their proposed amendment into multiple ballot measures; if their suit is successful, it would mean that pro-choicers would have to start all over again and collect twice as many signatures.

I predicted that part of the timing of the lawsuit was about giving Republicans more runway to push legislation requiring ballot measures to have 60% of the vote to pass, as opposed to a simple majority. Right on cue, Ohio Republicans said yesterday that they want to get that proposal on the August ballot for a special election. Hearings began today for the resolution, with sponsor Rep. Brian Stewart feigning ignorance about why they want to push through the legislation so quickly, saying it’s “beyond my pay grade.”

Just a reminder: Rep. Stewart is the lawmaker who swore up and down that his effort to increase the standard for ballot measures was solely about stopping out-of-state special interests—and that any claim that the legislation had to do with abortion was a “conspiracy theory.” Later, of course, a letter that Stewart wrote to his Republican colleagues was leaked proving that it was always about abortion:

“After decades of work to make Ohio a pro-life state, the Left intends to write abortion on demand into Ohio’s Constitution. If they succeed, all the work accomplished by multiple Republican majorities will be undone, and we will return to 19,000+ babies being aborted each and every year.”

Almost as if they’re big fucking liars!

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Abortion rights advocates and providers in Wyoming are suing to block the state’s recently-passed ban on abortion medication—the first state law specifically targeting the pills. Julie Burkart, president of Wellspring Health Access, one of the groups bringing the lawsuit, says, “Wyomingites deserve access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including both surgical and medication abortion.”

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a separate attempt to block another abortion ban in the state that took effect without the governor’s signature. (A previously enacted abortion ban was blocked in 2022.) A judge will hear arguments today about whether abortions should be banned while the law is battled in court. Until that happens, Wyoming abortion providers are being forced to cancel their existing appointments. Dr. Giovannina Anthony said most of the women they contacted were crying as they were told the news. Only one, she said, was calm: “Because she said she had resources to travel and would travel as needed. The other patients all did not have that or that’s a major hurdle.”

Earlier this week, I reported on the Idaho hospital that shut down its labor and delivery ward—a decision that Bonner General Health administrators called a response to abortion restrictions, “bills that criminalize physicians for medical care.” (In light of the closure, women in the area will now have to drive more than hour away to deliver their babies.)

Today, The Washington Post reports that Republicans are not very happy about the hospital’s press release pointing to the state’s abortion ban, and claim that the “true culprit was a mismanagement of resources.” Dorothy Moon, the state’s GOP chairwoman, says, “This isn’t about abortion; it’s about making excuses for staffing issues.” And while a hospital spokesperson told WaPo that staffing issues were a major factor, “Idaho’s political and legal climate does pose as a barrier specific to recruitment and retention for OBGYNs.” A recent study, for example, showed that nearly half of the OBGYNs in the state are either leaving or seriously considering leaving—an exodus that will be deadly for women: The maternal death numbers in Idaho more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, and that was pre-Dobbs.

Also in Idaho, Republicans are proposing a bill to add rape and incest exceptions to the state’s total abortion ban. Like all exceptions, the language of the bill would make it essentially unusable: The law would require victims to report their attack to law enforcement and provide doctors with the police report. (The bill also tries to redefine abortion, more on that in the “Keep an eye on…” section.)

Wisconsin Democrats have proposed legislation to restore abortion rights as part of their ongoing efforts to repeal the state’s abortion ban. Here’s Sen. Kelda Roys—who you can also listen to in this Wisconsin Public Radio segment—talking about the bill:

The legislation isn’t likely to pass, but Democrats are doing what they’re supposed to be doing: Keeping at it, and not letting anyone forget the harm these bans cause. Republicans in the state have recently made a big show of introducing rape and incest exceptions to make it seem as if they’re trying to compromise—because they know Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers will veto any abortion legislation that isn’t a full repeal of the ban. At a press conference yesterday, Gov. Evers said, “It grows increasingly frustrating to hear people suggest there's room for compromise when it comes to restoring the constitutional rights and freedoms of Wisconsinites.”

In Florida, where Republicans are quickly advancing their 6-week abortion ban, the Orlando Sentinel editorial board calls the legislation “a new low.” Meanwhile, lawmakers in the state are also proposing an exponential increase in funding to anti-abortion centers, from $4.45 million to $25 million.

And Tennessee’s fake exception for women’s health and lives passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. If you want more background on why it’s bullshit, click here and here—and read this for some of the accompanying political context.

Kentucky lawmakers have proposed five abortion-related bills since the legislative session started—none of which even got a hearing. The ignored legislation included two different bills seeking to add rape and incest exceptions to the state’s total abortion ban; a proposed reversal of the ban that was more symbolic than anything; legislation that would classify abortion as homicide and make it punishable as such (the public outcry was too great); and a move to put an anti-abortion ballot measure in front of voters. You can guess why the Republican-controlled legislature didn’t let that last one go anywhere—a near-identical ballot measure was resoundingly defeated last year, and most conservatives are terrified to let voters anywhere near abortion.

An Indiana Senate committee will be discussing a bill today on whether to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. (Just a reminder that several anti-choice states are discussing similar bills to make contraception more accessible in a move by Republicans to earn back some of voters’ good will.

Quick hits:

  • The Kansas House passed a “born alive” bill that will actually hurt infants;

  • A Montana Republican who wants to ban abortion doesn’t know the difference between abortion medication and Plan B;

  • The Albuquerque Journal looks at anti-choice activists trying to ban abortion in small towns, even after New Mexico passed a law banning local governments from doing so;

  • And the ACLU spoke with the artists whose work was removed from an Idaho college art exhibit over what administrators said was a violation of the state law banning the “promotion” of abortion.

In the nation…

We all know that the lawsuit against abortion medication is bullshit, but this Slate piece really drives the point home. Specifically, the authors get into how the anti-abortion organization that brought forward the case unwittingly admitted their argument is bunk:

“But here, the plaintiffs have clearly admitted that a ruling in their favor won’t redress their harms. They’ve told the court, on the one hand, that patients, doctors, and their associations are harmed by medication abortion but, on the other hand, not to worry about clinic closings, patients losing care, and other negative effects of them winning their case because clinics have a slightly different medication abortion protocol they will use instead.”

Definitely take the time to read the whole piece; it's great stuff.

Meanwhile, Media Matters has a terrific (but infuriating) investigation that found the majority of media coverage on the abortion medication lawsuit excludes vital information about Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk. They report that 59% of articles from top publications and news wires didn’t mention Kacsmaryk’s history as a conservative legal activist; 53% didn’t report that Kacsmaryk is vehemently anti-abortion, and that 59% of articles didn’t mention how the anti-choice organization who brought the lawsuit intentionally sought out Kacsmaryk as a judge. Unbelievable.

And this is interesting: American Express shareholders are being asked to vote on an abortion-related proposal in May. They’ll be considering the “risks and costs” of complying with requests for customer data related to abortion from law enforcement in anti-choice states. Shareholders at pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly are considering similar votes.

Quick hits:

  • States Newsroom has a good explainer of some the legal arguments in the abortion medication suit and what might happen next;

  • The New Republic gets into possible scenarios should mifepristone be banned;

  • And Moira Donegan wrote about the increase in maternal mortality rates at The Guardian and made me cry in the process.

Keep an eye on…

Republicans trying to redefine ‘abortion’. This is something I’ve written and made TikToks about: Conservatives are desperate to be arbiters of what, exactly, constitutes an abortion. We know the definition isn’t flexible; abortion is a medical intervention to end a pregnancy. But that’s not stopping legislators from futzing with the definition.

This week in Idaho, for example, Republicans proposed a bill that would redefine abortion to exclude miscarriage treatment when the fetus’ heartbeat has stopped or the treatment of an ectopic pregnancy. Kansas Republicans are pushing a similar bill “revising the definition of abortion” to exclude treatment for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages where there is no fetal heartbeat, and any medical actions that aim to “increase the probability of a live birth.” That latter language is especially important (and distressing) because it’s part of a broader anti-choice move to force doctors to give women c-sections or have them give vaginal birth instead of normal, safe abortion procedures.

You may remember I wrote about a similar issue in Idaho this January, when the state Supreme Court wrote that doctors performing abortion “must remove that unborn child in a manner that provides the best opportunity for survival (e.g., vaginal delivery or cesarean delivery)” as opposed to a procedure like a D&C—even if the doctor understands that the fetus will not be viable.

But conservative efforts to redefine abortion aren’t just about the medical consequences of the language, but the cultural ones. In a moment when Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to abortion restrictions and bans, this is a move to control the cultural conversation and bring more people to their side.

You love to see it…

If you’ve ever thought about sharing your abortion story, this is a terrific media training from We Testify. And if you like We Testify’s work (and who doesn’t??) please be on the lookout for an interview I’ll be sharing this week with the organization’s founder and executive director, Renee Bracey Sherman.

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Jessica Valenti