Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day (3.23.23)

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Abortion, Every Day (3.23.23)

Tennessee Republican admits women's lives are secondary to fetuses

In the states…

Good news out of Wyoming: A judge temporarily blocked the abortion ban that had been made into law just a few days earlier, allowing abortion care to resume in the state. Teton County Judge Melissa Owens says, “Wyomingites voted into law that they have a fundamental right to make their own health care decisions.” The way that Republicans tried to get around Wyoming’s constitution, which says everyone has a right to make their own healthcare decisions, was by stating in the legislation that “abortion as defined in this act is not health care.” Owens responded that “the Legislature cannot make an end run around essentially providing a constitutional amendment.” (You may remember that Republican lawmakers were trying to use this bill as a way to give legislators increased power to interpret the state constitution—a blatant unconstitutional power grab.)

Also in Wyoming, an arrest was finally made in the arson attack against a Casper abortion clinic. The 22 year-old woman, who is unsurprisingly anti-abortion, faces up to 20 years in prison. The attack on Wellspring clinic left it with nearly $300,000 in damages.

Tennessee’s Attorney General has sent a letter to Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid warning them against dispensing abortion medication in the state. As you know, other Republican state AGs have been threatening pharmacies over the medication, leading to Walgreens caving to pressure and announcing that they wouldn’t carry the pills in certain states—even in those where abortion is legal.

But what’s notable about this letter is that AG Jonathan Skrmetti didn’t just direct the companies not to dispense mifepristone, but any “abortion-inducing drugs.” He wrote that Tennessee “has unequivocally elected to prohibit elective abortions and to strictly regulate the use of abortion inducing drugs such as mifepristone.” (Emphasis mine) The language is deliberate: Women and girls have already been denied legal prescriptions for a variety of medications in anti-choice states under the guise that they cause abortion, and Republican AGs in multiple states have been conflating mifepristone with other kinds of medication. (We just saw this happen in Texas, for example.) The goal is to confuse, overwhelm, and make broad declarations about what constitutes an abortifacient.

Also in Tennessee, there was a pretty telling moment this week as lawmakers debated a (fake) abortion ban exception that Republicans claim will protect women’s health and lives. State Rep. Andrew Farmer—who inexplicably thinks that babies grow in “bellies”—said that the legislation will “protect the lives of babies” and that “if we can protect lives of mothers, we’re going to do that as much as possible.” I’m glad, at least, they’re saying it out loud: Our lives come second.

I’ve been writing a lot this week about the anti-democratic attacks on abortion in Ohio, and how Republicans are working overtime to ensure that voters in the state don’t have a say on the issue. If you’re looking for a comprehensive and scathing run-down, consider reading this piece in the Ohio Capital Journal:

“The political strategy to try to defeat Ohio’s proposed abortion rights amendment is wildly obvious: Manufacture hysteria over a slippery slope legal fallacy about parents rights, and use all levers of power at every level to stack the deck against Ohio voters and in favor of right-wing extremists.”

Axios also has some details on the Ohio abortion rights fight, if you want even more info.

Speaking of anti-democratic attacks and ballot measures, you may remember that Republicans in Mississippi were trying to reinstate the initiative process in the state with a special provision stating that it couldn’t be used to allow voters a voice on abortion rights. Now, the entire process has been killed after a key Republican lawmaker decided that he didn’t want it to go anywhere. Sen. John Polk said ballot measures weren’t necessary because “every four years, everyone has an opportunity to change who represents them.” Naturally, he made sure to say that he liked the ban on abortion initiatives.

I told you earlier this week how Republicans in Oklahoma were proposing a rape and incest exception to the state’s abortion ban as a preemptive move to weaken any future pro-choice ballot measure. (That’s how scared they are of voters having a say.) Today is the last day that amendment can move forward, so it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

The horror stories coming out of Texas have been incredibly difficult to read, but I’m still so grateful to the Texas Observer for keeping track of the ongoing health crisis in the state. This week, they speak to the doctors who have to negotiate when they’re legally allowed to give a woman abortion care:

“Even when a doctor believes an abortion is medically necessary to save a woman’s life, often the best advice that lawyers can offer to that doctor is that it ‘probably’ is legal, [Attorney Blake] Rocap said. ‘When the penalty is 20 years to life, ‘probably’ is not good enough.’”

Meanwhile, in more dystopian insanity: Nebraska Democrats are pushing legislation to give women immunity from being criminalized over pregnancy outcomes. State Sen. Jen Day introduced a bill that states women can’t be arrested or prosecuted “for any offense relating to the outcome of such person's own pregnancy, including experiencing a stillbirth or miscarriage, the intentional termination of a pregnancy, or any other pregnancy outcome that does not result in a live birth.” We’ve seen women charged with murder for having stillbirths, so we know isn’t an overreaction—but it’s a mind-fuck nonetheless.

Republicans say that they want to curb unwanted pregnancies, but often fail to do the most basic shit to stop them. In Indiana, where there’s been an effort to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control, some Republican lawmakers are suddenly iffy about why women need more access to contraception at all. The bill, which would allow pharmacists to dispense birth control to adults, had been quickly advancing until today—when several lawmakers at a Senate Health and Provider Services committee hearing started grilling those testifying in support of the legislation.

From the Indianapolis Star:

“They were not convinced this bill would lower the numbers of people with unwanted pregnancies who would seek an abortion and if a lack of access to contraception exists. [One politician] also heavily questioned why a pharmacist should supersede a physician in this case and doubted if there was a physician shortage like advocates described.”

Legislators also heard testimony from religious groups who opposed the bill because it treated “pregnancy like a disease.” (I wrote about this particular claim just last week.) In light of all this, the committee chair decided to hold the bill for a week. Typical.

Doctors continue to speak out against abortion bans across the country: In North Carolina, Dr. Avanthi Jayaweera writes not just about the moral and medical implications of restricting care—but what these bans are doing to states’ ability to retain and recruit new doctors:

“Restrictions on health care are not only bad for medicine, but are pushing strong doctors-in-training away from our state. In fact, medical trainees are already starting to look at other states for residency instead of North Carolina. We’re already facing a physician shortage, the last thing we need is to push doctors away to other states.”

OBGYNs in the state are traveling to Raleigh this week to urge legislators against passing further abortion restrictions. North Carolina doctors have been some of the most vocal in the country: More than 1000 physicians recently signed onto a letter opposing abortion bans, with many rallying in front of the General Assembly to do the same. And last month, the North Carolina Medical Society released a new policy supporting abortion “as an essential part of comprehensive reproductive medical care,” and opposing “government, institutional, or corporate interference in individuals’ ability or right to access reproductive health and support services.”

Let’s get into some good news: In Hawaii yesterday, the governor signed sweeping pro-choice legislation: The law protects abortion providers from out-of-state prosecution; allows minors to obtain abortions without parental consent; repeals an old requirement that abortions be performed at hospitals; and allows physicians assistants to perform surgical abortions during the first trimester.

And in Massachusetts, the Board of Registration in Pharmacy issued guidance to pharmacies in the state that they have to maintain a supply of “family planning medications,” including abortion medication—and that neglecting to fill prescriptions will result in a state investigation. (What a welcome change from states like Tennessee, where.) From Gov. Maura Healey:

“At a time when states are rushing to ban medication abortion and some pharmacies are irresponsibly restricting access to it, we are reminding Massachusetts pharmacies that they have an obligation to provide critical reproductive health medications, including Mifepristone. It’s safe, effective, and legal.”

Quick hits:

In the nation…

As we wait for the decision on abortion medication from Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, experts and activists have been discussing the various ways that Americans could still access mifepristone despite the ruling. (A reminder that Abortion, Every Day researcher Grace Haley wrote a terrific explainer on it all.) Today, Reuters spoke to food and drug lawyers and scholars and how the FDA might be able to “delay or soften the blow” of a ruling against mifepristone. They say that the agency’s process could allow for dragged out hearings while the drug remains on the market, and that should Kacsmaryk order them to withdraw medication from the market, the FDA could even outright refuse. None of this would come without political and legal consequences, obviously—but it is an option.

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Accurate data on abortion is harder to get than ever—not just because of the different reporting requirements in different states, but because of the increase in the number of women who are self-managing the end of their pregnancies at home on their own. In October, I told you about national reporting effort #WeCount; in just those few months post-Roe, they found that 10,000 people weren’t able to get the legal abortions they wanted. That’s why I really appreciated this piece from Undark that checks in with the project, and looks at the hurdles to getting an accurate picture of what exactly is happening on the ground. Definitely worth a read.

Quick hits:

You love to see it…

Keep an eye out for a special email from me tonight or tomorrow: I had the opportunity to talk with Florida Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book about what’s happening with the state’s 6-week abortion ban and what we can do to help. The short version? She says “we need to wake the fuck up.” I couldn’t agree more.

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Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day
Daily audio updates & commentary on abortion in the United States.
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Jessica Valenti