Mar 30 • 20M

Abortion, Every Day (3.30.23)

Missouri Republican: Cats deserve medical privacy, women don't

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

Let’s talk some more about the near-total abortion ban being proposed in North Carolina. Abortion rights advocates have responded, calling out the ban as dangerous. “This is the kind of attack on abortion we have feared and prepared for in North Carolina,” said Liz Barber, Senior Policy Counsel for the ACLU.

Now, we know that the bill will be vetoed by North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper—but Republicans in the state are just one seat short of a supermajority and have the ability to override Cooper if they can get a Democrat on board or as a no-show vote (as they did yesterday around gun laws). Experts in the state seem to think that the ban isn’t likely to pass, but I don’t think we should be taking anything for granted.

In the meantime, if you’re in the mood for a rage migraine, let’s take a look at the four Republicans sponsoring the bill:

The Florida Senate could vote on the 6-week abortion ban today. A reminder that if the bill passes, as it is expected to, millions of people will lose access to abortion—the state has as many people in it as the populations of Greece and Sweden combined. As Republican lawmakers aim to speed the ban through, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is covering her bases with the state Supreme Court, urging Justices to upend legal precedent around abortion and privacy protections in order to uphold an existing 15-week ban. Her brief argues that the state constitution’s right to privacy does not extend to abortion.

In response to the seemingly-inevitable ban, an OBGYN in Tampa published a column laying the consequences of such a law plain: “I believe a six-week abortion ban will kill patients.” From Dr. Robyn Schickler:

“Doctors are at the point where we have to say, ‘Yes, you will die if you don’t have an abortion. Yes, I am capable of providing an abortion. No, I am not allowed to provide that abortion because some politicians don’t like it, but here’s a state you can travel to instead.’ Or better yet, ‘Maybe I can do it, but I need to ask a lawyer before I’m allowed to save your life.’ Because that’s what a sick, scared patient will need in order to receive treatment — to wait for permission from a lawyer.”

Republicans in multiple anti-abortion states have been proposing what they call exceptions for women’s health and lives—bills that will actually do very little, if anything, to protect pregnant people. It’s a move happening in direct response to polls showing how furious voters are with abortion bans; conservative lawmakers are hoping that the empty legislation will convince their constituents that they really do give a shit.

The latest attempt comes out of Idaho, where doctors have made clear that Republicans’ bill will do nothing to change the reality of women’s care in the state. Maternal fetal medicine specialist Dr. Lauren Miller, says, “Imminent death is the only exception that we see out of this current version that was passed.” Imminent death. She also pointed out that there are multiple conditions—like kidney or heart disease—where pregnancy can exacerbate a condition and have it lead to early death within a few years. But because it’s not immediate, doctors would be unable to act.

“And now they’re trying to make it look like something happened, when in fact, this makes no meaningful change for my day-to-day life as a physician,” she said. This all comes in the wake of Idaho losing OBGYNs—nearly half are leaving or considering leaving—and being unable to recruit more to the state because of its abortion ban.

Also in Idaho, abortion rights advocates are responding to Republicans’ ‘abortion trafficking’ bill—legislation that would make it a crime to help a teenager obtain an abortion.

Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, says, “That would mean people who might otherwise be really important supports would ask, ‘Can I be the supportive auntie or sister or friend in a situation where I want to be a support to this person?’” The legislation, which unfortunately passed the state Senate today, would leave the young people who often need the most support with even fewer choices.

Oh, and by the way: Idaho just declined to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage in the state.

Just a week after Ohio House speaker Jason Stephens said he didn’t support holding a special August election to raise the standards on ballot measures, the Republican now says it’s a “possibility.” As you know, Ohio Republicans in the state have been pushing to require 60% of the vote to pass a ballot measure as opposed to a simple majority—an effort that has ramped up as pro-choice advocates came closer to getting abortion in front of voters this November. The Columbus Dispatch editorial board came out against the August special election today, writing that “this entire effort slaps voters in the face and betrays our democracy.”

Missouri Republicans are moving to do the same rule-changing around ballot measures; lawmakers began debating the issue in the Senate yesterday. Also in Missouri, the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out a some state-level Republican hypocrisy that managed to shock even me: State Sen. Justin Brown, a cosponsor of Missouri’s abortion ban, voted to block the enforcement of ordinances against cat declawing because, he said, lawmakers shouldn’t have the right to interfere in cats’ private medical decisions. This quote is straight out of the fucking Onion: “It interferes with the patient-client relationship with the practitioner. I think that needs to be between the practicing veterinarian and the owner of the pet.” I’m going to need someone to sedate me, seriously.

We’ve been paying close attention to the Wisconsin state Supreme Court race because of the impact that it will have nationally. The vote is next week, and in anticipation of the election more than 300 doctors and medical professionals are urging voters to support Judge Janet Protasiewicz. In a letter and a full-page ad in Tuesday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the doctors wrote how access to abortion is critical for patients’ health and well being:

“Like most Wisconsinites, we simply don't want politicians in our emergency departments or exam rooms. Regardless of circumstance, we believe decisions around abortion are private, and should be made between women and their trusted doctors, not by politicians or judges.”

Let’s get into some good news. In Maryland, voters will decide in 2024 whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution—a ballot measure expected to pass easily in the pro-choice state. A recent poll found that nearly 80% of voters wanted to see a state constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights.

And in Connecticut, Democrats have introduced a bill that would ban state contracts with, or any payments to, businesses that refuse to dispense medication related to reproductive healthcare, including abortion. The legislation wouldn’t just have Connecticut refuse to do business with a company that won’t distribute abortion medication in their state—but any state. Love it.

Anti-abortion activists who pretended to be fetal researchers in order to meet with and secretly record abortion providers will go on criminal trial in California. The activists released heavily-edited versions of the conversations—which were illegally recorded—that led to harassment and death threats against Planned Parenthood doctors and staff. Planned Parenthood has already won a $2 million judgement against the two defendants in a federal court.

Quick hits:

  • In Wyoming, Wellspring Health Access has amended their lawsuit against the state’s abortion ban to also include the ban on abortion medication;

  • Wisconsin is the latest anti-choice state to consider expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage;

  • Rewire on Tennessee’s move to give $100 million to anti-abortion centers;

  • And Salon on the lie of the ‘born alive’ bill in Kansas.

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In the nation…

Really terrible news: Today, a federal judge in Texas reversed an Obamacare provision that required health insurers to cover preventative care—including pregnancy care and cancer screenings. Fellow Substacker Chris Geidner has more at Law Dork, where he points out that at least the contraceptive coverage mandate stands for now. (The plaintiffs are expected to appeal in order to get that birth control coverage reversed, as well.)

A new study shows that abortion restrictions and bans could impact 20% of pregnant cancer patients in the country—making them unable to terminate a pregnancy that puts their health and lives at risk. Researcher Dr. Chinmayi Aryasomayajula, who presented her findings at an annual meeting on women’s cancer, said, “Cancer in pregnancy has been shown to be associated with not only higher odds of maternal morbidity and mortality, but also with higher odds of obstetrical complications.”

In the wake of Walgreens caving to conservative pressure around abortion medication, we’ve been waiting for other major retail pharmacies to clarify their positions. This week, in an interview at an Axios event, CVS CEO Karen Lynch called out the country’s abysmal maternal health numbers as “unacceptable,” but declined to give more than a broad, safe answer on abortion medication. Lynch said that CVS will “dispense drugs that are FDA-approved where legally permissible.” That doesn’t really tell us much because Walgreens decided that what was ‘legally permissible’ didn’t stop with actual state law—but with what Republican Attorneys General dictated. I was disappointed that the Axios reporter didn’t push Lynch at all on this.

ProPublica, which has been doing a terrific job with their abortion coverage, held an online panel with law professor Mary Ziegler and Tennessee OB-GYN Dr. Nikki Zite. You can watch the full event below, or read some of the highlights here.

A Kansas abortion provider wrote for The Daily Beast about what a ban on mifepristone would mean for the patients who travel from out-of-state to get care. From Dr. Jennifer Kerns:

“One patient recently came to my clinic seeking a medication abortion. She finished her work shift in eastern Texas at 6pm and drove 11 hours through the night to reach the clinic in Wichita, Kansas, by the morning. After receiving the medications—mifepristone and misoprostol—she drove back that day—all to minimize the costs of being out of work, staying away from home, and paying for childcare.”

If this patient had to use a misoprostol-only protocol, Dr. Kerns writes, the hurdles to care would be even greater. Misoprostol on its own causes cramping and bleeding soon after taking the medication; so anyone traveling from out-of-state would likely have to stay put during the process. That means more nights in a hotel, increased childcare costs, and more lost wages for the time they’re not working.

Quick hits:

  • The Defense Department continues to blast Sen. Tommy Tuberville for holding up military promotions over the department’s abortion policy, with Tuberville now claiming “we’re gonna work it out”;

  • POLITICO on the increase of abortion-related shareholder proposals;

  • RollCall on the “flat funding” of Title X and the impact it’s having on doctors and patients;

  • And USA Today on the FDA’s consideration of over-the-counter birth control pills.

Listen up…

Slate podcast What’s Next has the story of one of the Texas women suing the state after being denied care:

Keep an eye on…

Conservative activists’ continued efforts to sow doubt around reproductive health data. I’ve told you before about anti-abortion groups coming out to claim that the numbers on maternal mortality can’t be trusted—a way for them to preempt the inevitable increase as statistics start to account for our post-Roe reality. Now I’m seeing them make noise about abortion reporting, as well. The want to call any research into question that shows the horrific impact of abortion bans.

You love to see it…

This week, Democratic lawmakers launched the Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment. Led by Reps. Cori Bush and Ayanna Pressley, the group aims to get the ERA passed and “establish constitutional gender equality as a national priority.”

And if you’re looking to take action beyond your normal abortion fund donations or local activism, I absolutely loved this thread of ideas on how to support clinics and to declassify anti-abortion centers on sites like Yelp and Maps. Really good stuff:

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