In the states…
Just a heads up that this first story is hard to hear. NPR spoke to a woman in Texas who found out at 20 weeks that her fetus had anencephaly—part of her brain and skull were missing—but was forced to carry to term because of the state’s abortion ban. Samantha Casiano tried to find abortion care in other states, but the time, travel and money required made it impossible: “So she braced herself for five more months carrying a pregnancy that would end in a funeral.”
Casiano started working remotely because she didn’t want to hear comments about her growing belly, and had a difficult time even going to her doctor’s office:
“I don't want to sound hateful, but I don't want to see all these pregnant women and I'm over here carrying a baby—I love my baby, but she should be at rest by now. I just keep thinking that over and over again—my baby should be at rest, I shouldn't have to put her through this.”
She says she tried to come to terms with the tragedy by looking into donating her daughter’s organs—but babies with anencephaly don’t qualify for organ donation. “So I was like, 'OK, I don't see a purpose in this,’” Casiano said. At 33 weeks, Casiano went into early, painful labor. They had to raise money for the funeral service—one funeral home quoted them $4,000. There are no public funds for infant funerals in Texas.
The response from Texas Alliance for Life? “Texas laws are working as designed,” Amy O'Donnell, director of communications, said. At least they’re being honest, I suppose. As more and more of these stories come out, anti-abortion activists and legislators have continually blamed doctors or claimed that their laws actually allow for the kind of care these women were denied. Now they’re just shrugging their shoulders and admitting that this was the point the entire time.
Also in Texas: Back in February, I told you about a bill there seeking to ban pro-choice websites—legislation that would also allow citizens to sue internet service providers who don’t comply. Today, Rolling Stone ran a piece about the legislation. None of the internet service providers they reached out to provided comment, but the reporter did speak to some of the websites that would be banned by the bill. (Incredibly, the legislation calls out specific websites by name, including Aid Access, Hey Jane, Plan C Pills, and others.)
Kiki Freedman, founder of Hey Jane, said, “To me, the most disturbing part of it is just how extreme these legislatures are willing to go in terms of throwing out other fundamental rights in order to attack access to health care.”
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You’re going to love this. (And by love, I mean you’re going to want to throw your phone across the room.) In Florida, where Republicans just passed a 6-week ban, lawmakers are trying to preempt criticism and voter outrage by claiming the law was actually a concession: Florida House Speaker Paul Renner told POLITICO that the 6-week ban was a “compromise” because other Republicans wanted a total ban. I don’t think that messaging is going to go the way they think it will.
Idaho’s governor signed the ‘abortion trafficking’ legislation this week, which makes helping teenagers obtain abortions a crime punishable by two to five years in prison. That means an older sister or an aunt who helps a young woman get care would be labeled a ‘trafficker’. And the law doesn't just criminalize taking a teenager out-of-state: If your niece gets abortion medication shipped to her, for example, and you drive her to the post office to pick it up—that's 'abortion trafficking'. Legal experts are also concerned that the new law could criminalize abortion funds in other states who help young people with logistics and funding.
Also in Idaho, Attorney General Raúl Labrador says that the state’s ban doesn’t just ban doctors from providing abortions in the state, but criminalizes physicians from referring patients for abortion care out-of-state, as well. In a letter to Republican Rep. Brent Crane, Labrador writes that the law, “prohibits an Idaho medical provider from either referring a woman across state lines to access abortion services or prescribing abortion pills for the woman to pick up across state lines.” Health care providers in the state are suing over the guidance.
From Rebecca Gibron, president of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest:
“Banning abortion wasn’t enough for anti-abortion extremists in Idaho; they now want to ban where you go, what information you’re legally allowed to obtain, and even what health care providers can say.”
In Iowa, the state Supreme Court will hear arguments next week over Gov. Kim Reynolds’ request to reinstate a 6-week abortion ban, which is currently blocked. Reynolds’ office is arguing that the injunction should be lifted because Roe is no precedent. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls says, “They’re going to stop at nothing to try and prevent Iowa women from being able to access safe and legal abortion.”
Tennessee abortion rights advocates have written an op-ed in Albany, New York’s Times-Union about how New Yorkers can help women in other states. Specifically, they’re asking us to support a bill before the state Assembly, A1709, which protects telemedicine medication abortion. They point out that New York only offers protections to abortion providers who provide care within the state, not those who deliver abortion medication out-of-state.
“Focusing on laws that prioritize travel serves far too few women and monopolizes in-person appointment times that should be reserved for women suffering from severe complications or life-threatening fetal abnormalities.”
In New Hampshire, legislators are hearing testimony on bills that would codify abortion rights through the second trimester and repeal any criminal penalties for abortion providers. OBGYN Dr. Danielle Albushies urged lawmakers to ensure doctors won’t face criminalization. “Please allow us to do our job to provide compassionate, up-to-date care to our patients without having to be in fear of criminal penalties, so pregnant patients have the best chance of having the best outcomes,” she said.
We’re continuing to see local efforts to ban abortion in pro-choice states, with varying degrees of success. In Edgewood, New Mexico, the town is considering an ordinance to ban abortion medication (even though the governor just signed a bill banning local governments from restricting abortion against state law); Moore County Board of Commissioners in North Carolina voted to adopt an anti-abortion resolution; and an effort in Bellevue, Nebraska to hold a special election banning abortion in the city has failed.
In better local news, the Sacramento City Council in California banned loudspeakers outside of abortion clinics—which should give you a sense of the kind of harassment ‘activists’ direct at patients: “Protesters often play baby crying noises on loud speakers, call patients and staff ‘baby killers,’ and stand on scaffolding to they can see over the privacy fencing, clinic staff have said.” Charming.
Finally, this is interesting. You probably remember Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indiana doctor that gave a 10 year-old rape victim from Ohio abortion care. Dr. Bernard was later the target of a state-funded harassment campaign led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who went after Dr. Bernard’s license. Well, just as a key hearing is coming up this month against Dr. Bernard, a whopping four of the attorneys who were working on the case in Rokita’s office have suddenly resigned. The AG says the the resignations are unrelated to the case, but I’m not so sure…
Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is expected to veto a similar ‘born alive’ bill;
The Cut writes about North Carolina Rep. Tricia Cotham, who has changed parties and given Republicans the votes they need to override a veto on abortion rights;
In the nation…
If you missed my column yesterday, “Abortion’s Dead Center,” please check it out! I wrote about how politicians and activists on both sides of the issue are catering to a middle that largely no longer exists, and why now is the perfect time for pro-choicers to get out of their defensive crouch:
“The consequences of widespread abortion bans are no longer theoretical. We don’t have to ask voters to imagine how bad it would be if abortion was restricted, we can simply point to the nightmare already in progress: Cancer patients being denied care, mothers forced to carry dead and dying fetuses, states losing half of their OBGYNs. That sort of horror is immune to talking points.”
Today, Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times gets into something similar, writing that conservative lawmakers believe that they’re losing because of their poor messaging rather than Americans being justifiably horrified by the consequences of abortion bans:
“But you can’t message away forced birth. Republicans’ political problem is twofold. Their supporters take the party’s position on abortion seriously, and now, post-Roe, so does everyone else.”
Democrats have had months to prepare for the likelihood that Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk will rule against the FDA and abortion medication—so why do so few of them a plan about what to do if and when that happens? I was furious reading this piece from reporter Jennifer Shutt, who wrote that the Senate Democrats she spoke to “appear lukewarm about pursuing reproductive rights legislation,” even in the face of a potential ban on mifepristone:
“Democratic senators who spoke to States Newsroom saw little future in Congress for a response to a ruling that affects access to medication abortion, part of a larger debate over reproductive rights that has stalled in Washington.
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chair of the chamber’s Democratic Policy & Communications Committee, said “we’ll see” when asked if Senate Democrats would move a bill on medication abortion, if the judge rules to revoke access.”
The only Democrat who said anything resembling a plan of action was Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who said that Democratic leaders need to ensure Americans know that the FDA has the authority “to ignore the ruling that is coming out from this judge in Texas, who…after all the states’ rights discussion is going to say, on a national basis, that he wants to override the FDA.” You may remember that Sen. Wyden gave a speech in February calling on the agency and the Biden administration to dismiss a ruling against mifepristone. (We’ve also seen specific responses laid out by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who wasn’t interviewed for this piece.)
I just don’t understand why there isn’t more advice and action being laid out by Democrats—or the White House. The only things we’ve heard from the Biden administration are various iterations of ‘don’t worry.’ Well, I’m worried!
Meanwhile, CNN looks at how Democrats are (successfully) utilizing ballot measures to protect or expand abortion rights. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told CNN, “We should put the right to choose on every ballot across the country in 2024—not just with the candidates we choose, but with referendum efforts to enshrine reproductive rights in states where right-wing politicians are stripping those rights away.” And not that you needed one, but here’s your regular reminder that abortion wins elections.
A coalition of 22 state Attorneys General are calling for increased access to contraception, urging the Biden administration to rescind a Trump-era rule allowing employers to deny birth control coverage based on moral objections;
The Atlanta Voice on the danger that abortion bans pose to Black women, in particular;
And Religion News Service on how Black clergy and religious leaders are thinking about abortion.
NPR has a short segment on the medical students who are having to travel from anti-abortion states to places like Washington to get abortion training. I’ve embedded the story below, if you’d like to listen:
Keep an eye on…
Anti-abortion groups making themselves the victims. A few days ago, I told you about protesters at Virginia Commonwealth University who interrupted a speech by Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins. (The organization, which is frequently quoted in mainstream media outlets, believes hormonal birth control is an abortifacient.) After a physical incident broke out, Hawkins and conservative media went on a tear claiming that they had been attacked by “antifa and transgender activists.” Which is…quite something. Well, it turns out that the physical altercation started when Hawkins’ bodyguard assaulted the college students. You can watch the video here. (Twitter no longer allows Substack to embed tweets, sadly.)
The short version: A well-funded, national organization had an employee physically attack college students and then launch a bigoted smear campaign against them. Sounds about right!
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