Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day (3.7.23)

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Abortion, Every Day (3.7.23)

Nearly half of the OBGYNs in Idaho are leaving, or thinking about leaving

In the states…

We knew this was coming, but that doesn’t make it any less devastating: Florida Republicans have introduced a 6-week abortion ban. (HB7 in the house and SB300 in the Senate.) The legislation has rape and incest exceptions, but like all ‘exceptions’—it is not usable. Victims would only be able to get care up until the 15th week of pregnancy, and would be required to “provide a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order” to prove that they’ve been attacked. The bill would also ban telehealth for abortion medication, requiring an in-person visit; and prohibit the shipping of abortion medication.

The language of the ban is also (deliberately) vague when it comes to punishment: It says that anyone who “willfully performs, or actively participates in” an abortion is guilty of a felony. Is the patient “actively participating” in abortion? Is the friend who lent her money for the procedure, or drove her there? Robin Marty, director of the West Alabama Women's Center and author of The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America, pointed out to me that that the language is similar to the kind used in Alabama’s bill, which allows any person involved to be charged.

Unfortunately, this legislation is pretty much certain to pass because of Republicans’ stronghold on Florida. And because so many women have been traveling to Florida from neighboring anti-abortion states, this legislation won’t just impact women in the state—but throughout the South. It will also put an incredible strain on the abortion providers in North Carolina and South Carolina, who are already inundated with out-of-state patients. There is no overstating the crisis that this will cause. (If you’re looking for a way to help, you can find a list of abortion funds by state here if you have the ability to donate.) I’ll keep you updated, of course, as I find out more.

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Five Texas women are suing the state after being denied abortions despite risks to their health and lives. The New York Times lays out the women’s stories and the harm that being denied care has caused:

“The women found themselves furtively crossing state borders to seek medical treatment outside Texas, worried that family and neighbors might report them to state authorities. In some cases, the women became so ill that they were hospitalized. One plaintiff, Amanda Zurawski, was told she was not yet sick enough to receive an abortion, then twice became septic, and was left with so much scar tissue that one of her fallopian tubes is permanently closed.”

You can read the lawsuit here, if you’d like, but I wanted to point out this one sentence that gets to something incredibly important, yet rarely discussed: “Since September 2021, millions of people of reproductive capacity in Texas and beyond have been denied dignified treatment as equal human beings.” Dignified treatment. As more and more of these horror stories have come out, anti-choice activists have pointed to the fact that these women are alive as proof that their laws work just fine. As if not dying is all we should expect in terms of care. What we don’t hear about often enough is the suffering, and yes—the lack of dignified treatment.

The lawsuit is also a good reminder of something I harp on a lot here: That exceptions aren’t real. These women’s conditions should have ‘allowed’ them to get care. But we all know the truth; that these laws are deliberately written as vaguely as possible in order to scare doctors out of performing any abortions at all. And this isn’t just an indication that exceptions for health and life don’t really exist, but any exceptions. After all, if fatally-ill women can't get abortions—do you really believe rape victims will be able to?

Meanwhile, Allie Phillips—the woman in Tennessee who shared her story of being denied an abortion despite her fetus having a fatal abnormality—gave an interview with a local television station. I have so much admiration for the people who are willing to do this, despite the threat of harassment and shaming. It’s an incredibly brave thing. Phillips says she’s talking about experience because, “If I can’t get politicians to change their minds, then at least I can get the minds of the citizens that vote for them to change.”

This crisis in care caused by abortion bans is only going to get worse. Dr. John Werdel, an OBGYN and medical director for women’s services at Saint Luke's Health System, points out in the Idaho Capital Sun today that a recent survey shows that more than 45% of OBGYNs are considering or actively working on leaving the state. And in just the last six months, he writes, three out of just six maternal fetal medicine doctors in the state have decided to leave. And it doesn’t stop here:

“Family medicine and generalist OBGYN physicians, who manage the vast majority of pregnant patients in our state, are also signaling a desire to limit their practice, retire early or leave Idaho. Recruitment of new physicians to Idaho has been virtually impossible since late summer 2022, which should be setting off alarm bells throughout Idaho.”

I’m reminded of this column from an Idaho OBGYN that I highlighted in the newsletter last month: Dr. Kylie Cooper wrote about her decision to leave the state, even though she knew that the exodus of doctors would contribute to an already-horrific maternal and fetal death rate: “I need to be able to protect my patients’ lives, their health and future fertility without fear of becoming a felon..I cannot continue to practice in a place where I do not feel safe.”

Also in Idaho: So much for free speech! Lewis-Clark State College has removed multiple pieces of artwork from an upcoming exhibition that deal with abortion because of the state’s law banning public funds from being used to ‘promote’ abortion. The show, ironically named “Unconditional Care: Listening to people’s health needs,” banned six different pieces of art, while a seventh was edited to remove any references to abortion. Katrina Majkut, an artist who embroidered images of abortion medication, said her piece was removed because school officials objected to the label next to the artwork that contained facts about abortion medication. They also objected to her use of the phrase ‘post-Roe America.’

embroidered images of an abortion pill bottle
Art by Katrina Majkut that was removed from an upcoming showcase at Lewis-Clark State College.

More censorship out of Idaho: The mobile billboards from Mayday Health that I told you about last week were banned from the state.

Some legislative updates: A pro-choice bill in Washington would prevent out-of-state prosecutions and civil cases against abortion patients and providers, as well protecting reproductive health data and preventing in-state law enforcement from helping other state’s abortion investigations. And in New Mexico, a bill to stop local governments from passing anti-abortion resolutions has advanced, and another bill seeking to protect abortion providers and patients from out-of-state subpoenas passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Salt Lake Tribune spoke with religious leaders in Utah who oppose abortion bans; I especially appreciated this thought from Steve Edwards of Temple Har Shalom:

“If you believe in the golden rule, just think about how would you feel if somebody came to you and said, ‘Your most private, personal moral decisions are going to be regulated by somebody else’s faith.’ You would be up in arms and you would be completely irate. Why would you do that to anybody else?”

Quick hits:

In the nation…

After Walgreens announced that it would not be dispensing abortion medication in certain states—some where abortion is still legal—there was well-deserved outrage directed at the company. Well, it seems they’re doing some damage control. Walgreens released a statement yesterday saying, “Walgreens plans to dispense Mifepristone in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so.” But that’s at odds with what it promised conservative state Attorneys General in places like Kansas—where abortion is legal, but the company has promised not to carry abortion medication. Given that they said nothing about reversing that decision to not carry abortion medication in 20 states, I think it’s safe to say they’ll just make the argument that it’s not really legal in those states since they’re being threatened by the state AGs.

In related news, The Washington Post published an article about people who have been denied legal medication from Walgreens in the past—including a miscarrying woman who was given a prescription for misoprostol, just to have her pharmacist refuse over his “ethical” beliefs, and a married couple who was refused condoms. And fellow Substacker Judd Legum at Popular Information has a must-read investigation into the company—including information about Walgreens’ large donations to anti-abortion politicians.

And this brought a smile to my face: After California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would not be doing any further business with Walgreens, shares in the company fell almost 2%.

This is wild. Apparently the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is in the middle of their Congressional Leadership Conference, with doctors heading to Congress today to advocate for various issues. But get this:

These lawmakers are so afraid of abortion, that they are willing to undermine the most basic American principles and democracy to ban it and silence anyone who might disagree with them.

Quick hits:

Keep an eye on…

Anti-abortion groups claiming that abortion medication is dangerous. Specifically, language like this, from a Newsweek op-ed by the President of March for Life: “Women who take the pills have a 53 percent increased risk of emergency room visits due to complications compared with women who undergo surgical abortions.”

Sounds ominous! But let’s actually dig in: We know that abortion is an incredibly safe procedure that almost never requires a hospital visit. In fact, one study shows that only 0.01% of emergency room visits among women of reproductive age were abortion-related, and another shows that less than 1% of abortions—.87%—were followed by a trip to an emergency room. (I’d challenge anti-choicers to compare these complication rates to the complication rates among childbirth!)

So if women are more likely to go to the ER after taking abortion medication, you’re still talking about a tiny number of women! Not to mention, there’s more of a chance that women will be nervous after having an abortion at home and will seek out care out of fear—not because something is actually wrong.

Which leads me to the final point: Please remember that an “emergency room visit” is not the same as getting treatment for something or having a serious complication! Half of the women who go to an ER after an abortion—again, which is already a minuscule number—are simply sent home because they’re fine. So anti-abortion activists using ER “visits” as an indicator of safety are being super disingenuous.

Updates & corrections…

Here’s something cool that I missed: In Illinois, Democrats are pushing legislation that would allow the state Attorney General to bring legal action against anti-abortion centers for lying to women or concealing information in an effort to keep them from obtaining an abortion. Definitely something to ask your local representatives to support if you live in Illinois. Thanks to Abortion, Every Day reader Paige for giving me the heads up!

I also wanted to clarify something about the ACLU’s new Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative that I wrote about last week. The ACLU’s initiative is actually a part of the Abortion Defense Network (which I also wrote about!)—not separate from it. Apologies for the confusion; I’m just grateful that we have so many amazing folks doing this work! (You can find more about the Abortion Defense Network here.)

You love to see it…

In Kansas yesterday, reproductive rights and LGBTQ activists gathered at the Statehouse for a ‘day of advocacy.’ Organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU invited citizens to talk to lawmakers about the issues they care about—namely, the attacks on bodily autonomy. Lauren Klapper, with Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, told the group that “showing up here to advocate for ourselves and our communities is an act of love, and it demonstrates the extent of our collective power.” And I loved this energy from youth organizer Rija Nazir, who spoke out against Republicans pushing anti-abortion laws after the state’s pro-choice ballot measure win:

“They think they can dismiss a historic turnout with a landslide win and pursue their own agendas. How democratic and patriotic is it to dismiss the results of a statewide election?”

That’s what I’m saying! Always love to see young people doing their thing.

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Jessica Valenti