May 30 • 24M

Abortion, Every Day (5.30.23)

Texas DAs will be fired if they don't prosecute abortion

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

A week after Nebraska’s governor signed an anti-abortion/anti-trans law into effect, the ACLU of Nebraska has filed a lawsuit to overturn the law—and block enforcement of it while the court hears their case. The lawsuit points out that Nebraska’s state constitution states that “no bill shall contain more than one subject,” and that the abortion and gender-affirming care ban obviously does. Mindy Rush Chipman, interim executive director of ACLU of Nebraska, said in a statement that “senators do not get to pick and choose which constitutional requirements they will follow when making laws.” The group is representing Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH) and chief medical officer, Dr. Sarah Traxler.

This made me yell out loud. You likely remember that Wyoming has passed both a total abortion ban and a ban on abortion medication specifically. The total ban was temporarily blocked, and the state is now in the midst of defending its abortion medication ban. In order to do that, Special Assistant Attorney General Jay Jerde has filed a document claiming that the ban doesn’t violate the state’s constitution because abortion isn’t health care:

“[The plaintiffs] do not explain how or why getting an abortion maintains or restores the body, mind or spirit of the pregnant woman from pain, physical disease, or sickness…If a pregnant woman…decides to get an abortion based solely on family, career, or financial considerations, then that decision is not a ‘health care decision’…”

Again, yell-out-loud infuriating. Jerde is clearly taking his cues from the anti-abortion movement’s talking point that “pregnancy isn’t a disease.” But pregnancy doesn’t have to be a ‘disease’ in order to make it dangerous or a clear issue of someone’s health. Especially in this country, with our abysmal maternal mortality rate. It was really that last bit, though—about “family, career, or financial considerations”—that made me want to throw something. Does anyone really believe that those are issues distinct from health? Especially for women?

Florida activists announced an effort earlier this month to pass a pro-choice ballot measure, a move that Democratic Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book told AED in March was likely “the only way forward.” Floridians Protecting Freedom—a coalition made up of groups like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and Florida Rising—need to gather nearly 900,000 signatures to move the measure forward.

Ballot measures in the state also now need 60% of voters to pass, as opposed to 50%. The hopeful news? Polling shows that 64% of Floridians believe abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances. You can donate to the group here.

Also in Florida, the Miami Herald looks at how both abortion clinics and anti-abortion centers are gearing up for the state’s 6-week ban to take effect. (The law can’t be enforced until the state Supreme Court comes down with a ruling on an existing 15-week abortion ban—which they’re expected to uphold.) Honestly, seeing how excited these anti-abortion activists are is a bit nauseating. One woman who works for a ‘sidewalk counseling’ group—otherwise known as the people who harass women outside of clinics—told the paper that the ban is necessary because it “helps women understand the consequences of sex, and to know their dignity as women.”

Annie Filkowski, now the policy director for Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, recounts visiting an anti-abortion center when she was a teenager—an experience that led her to work in reproductive rights. She says, “I fully walked in believing they were a medical center with medical professionals that would have to abide by HIPAA.” Instead, they threatened to call her school and her mother. Charming.

But anti-abortion centers aren’t just prevalent in anti-abortion states: This Los Angeles Times article looks at the groups in California and how they shame and lie to women. One Sacramento-based woman, for example, told reporters that she went to a center because of the free medical services and consultation on abortion. But when she got there, staffers questioned her about her “lifestyle” for over an hour:

“They shamed me so much in that room. Honestly, I had no idea what I was in for. I didn’t know places like this existed. I thought it was just in movies.”

I also wanted to flag this very telling bit from the executive director of Sierra Pregnancy and Health:

“Her clinic is a community resource, she said, pointing to 10,000 diapers and wipes given away in the last year alone and to items such as car seats and baby monitors that parents can ‘earn’ through taking approved parenting classes.”

First of all, gotta love the idea of making someone earn diapers. But what this group isn’t mentioning is that the vast majority of clinics don’t just require any parenting classes, but parenting classes that double as Bible studies.

Speaking of the ways that abortion bans and reproductive rights impacts everyone in every state: A Planned Parenthood in Oregon says they are seeing a continued increase of patients from out-of-state. That’s not shocking, of course—this has been the trend across pro-choice states. But Amy Handler, president of Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon, also told public radio station KLCC, “We’ve seen overflow patients from California, Portland, and Washington.”

The crisis brought on by abortion bans means it’s not just women leaving anti-choice states for care; women across the country will have to travel for abortions. It makes sense of course—we knew that pro-choice states were going to be overwhelmed with patients—but it’s still a big fucking deal.

Abortion, Every Day makes the connections that mainstream media misses. Help keep the newsletter going and growing by becoming a paying supporter:

In case you feel like developing a good old-fashioned rage headache: An Ohio-based columnist at The Washington Post decided to write a piece about how important it is for both sides of the abortion debate to be polite to each other. Gary Abernathy, who is anti-abortion, demonstrates how easy it is to have “calm” and “respectful” conversations by recounting a friendly interaction he had with a male pro-choice petitioner. Read the room, Gary. No one wants to hear about how awesome it is that two men were able to have a civil conversation about abortion and walk away at the end smiling. Maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t be congratulating yourself for making a devastating loss of women’s rights all about your ability to chat politely. Just a thought!

Also in Ohio, you know Republicans have been trying to change ballot measure rules to make it harder for voters for restore abortion rights. Today, the Ohio Capital Journal absolutely slams the GOP’s August special election as “a seismic sucker punch to the democratic way.” From writer Marilou Johanek:

“This is dirty play at its worst. Ohio politicians elected to serve the people want to rob them of their voice in the middle of summer when it’ll be easier to kill democracy because no one is paying attention.”

The state’s pro-choice ballot measure has also been attacked by anti-abortion groups, who are lying about what the amendment would actually do. They’ve already falsely claimed that it would allow minors to have gender-affirming surgery without parental consent—now they’re saying the measure would allow “late-term abortions.” This is exactly what I warned would happen in this column last month. Ohio’s pro-choice ballot measure actually restricts abortions after fetal ‘viability’ (which is a fraught term)—but that didn’t stop anti-choice groups from claiming otherwise. This is one of the many reasons why we can’t let them frame the debate! Why would we limit what we’re fighting for if they’re just going to lie about it anyway?

The Houston Chronicle editorial board has a piece calling on politicians to amend Texas’ abortion ban to include a clear exception for women’s lives. They point to the group of women suing the state and the nightmares they endured as a result of the law:

“The abortion debate in Texas has devolved to a shameful point. It's no longer about the lofty right of a woman to choose whether to give birth. It's about whether the state should force her to risk preventable illness and even death. The answer is obvious to anyone who truly values life.”

The issue, of course, is that any exception Republicans pass will be toothless. We saw what happened in Tennessee, for example, when legislators took months to find language that state anti-abortion groups would sign on to. When they finally came to an agreement, the amendment was so watered down they might as well have done nothing. (And you all know how I feel about incremental approaches.)

Also in Texas, lawmakers passed a bill this weekend that will allow for the removal of district attorneys who decline to prosecute abortion cases. It’s another shocking attack on democracy: prosecutors are elected officials who are meant to use their discretion when deciding which cases to pursue. House Bill 17 will allow the state to punish any DAs in left-leaning counties who don’t want to go after abortion-related ‘crimes.’ And because state prosecutors can’t be recalled or impeached, the bill characterizes declining to target certain cases as “misconduct”—a charge that does allow DAs to be removed.

In less depressing news, POLITICO did a deep-dive on how abortion impacted the state Supreme Court race in Wisconsin—an election with the potential to shape national politics, as well. Ben Wikler, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told POLITICO what surprised him most wasn’t that abortion was such a pivotal issue—but that it was pivotal in red, rural areas of the state:

“He referred to an internal Democratic poll conducted after the election, shared with me later by a Democratic operative in the state, that showed abortion, while slightly more resonant an issue for voters in the Democratic-leaning media markets around Madison, Milwaukee and Eau Claire/La Crosse, was the main vote driver for Protasiewicz in every market in the state. It was an issue that wasn’t just working for Democrats in big cities, but in rural areas, too.”

Wikler told the reporter that abortion was the issue that “blotted out the sun.” (I will refrain from my usual told-ya-so antics.)

Quick hits:

  • Even with the abortion rights protections in Michigan, doctors are still preparing for the possibility of a future without mifepristone;

  • U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin says the Republicans running against her reelection are out of touch on abortion and what voters in the state want;

  • An abortion provider is coming to a reproductive health desert in Western Maryland;

  • An op-ed at The Wichita Eagle reminds Kansas readers that “you don’t need to be anti-abortion and anti-gay to be a good Christian”;

  • And Insider has a rundown of what happened with South Carolina’s newly-passed 6-week ban.

In the Nation

We know that a federal abortion ban is a real possibility, despite how popular abortion rights are in the U.S. The continued attacks on democracy and the potential of a Republican president could pave the way for a broad—and quick—national attack. Law professor and author of “Roe: The History of a National Obsession,” Mary Ziegler, explains at the Boston Globe exactly how it could go down. The short answer? The Comstock Act.

“[Anti-abortion activists] realized that Republicans might not be willing to pass a ban on abortion at any point in pregnancy, but the Comstock Act, which makes it a crime to mail anything ‘designed, adapted, or intended for inducing abortion,’ could be made into a national abortion ban. After all, every surgical or medical abortion relies on things sent through the mail, like scalpels or pills.”

Make sure to read the whole piece—and be on the lookout for a Comstock Act explainer from us at AED very soon.

Just another reminder of how important access to abortion medication is: Abortion patients are speaking out in USA Today about how vital abortion medication access was to them. Layidua Salazar was in the middle of a deportation case when she found out that she was pregnant:

“I felt like I was drowning. When I confirmed my appointments and got my medication, I felt like I could breathe again. It felt like coming up for air.”

I missed this last week, but wanted to make sure to flag it: Vox has an important piece about a new abortion-related case that’s going to be in front of Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, whose previous ruling aims to end access to mifepristone. Doe v. Planned Parenthood—brought by an anonymous anti-abortion activist and backed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton—claims that Planned Parenthood tried to defraud Medicaid systems in Texas and Louisiana.

Vox’s Ian Millhiser reports that not only could the case cost Planned Parenthood millions of dollars—it could give the money to a radical anti-abortion activist at the Center for Medical Progress. (If the name sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the group whose leader lost a $2 million judgement after releasing deceptively-edited videos about the organization.) Here’s the kicker—the “anonymous” complainant is likely the very same same activist from Center for Medical Progress:

“Thus, in the Doe case, a central figure in an anti-abortion group known primarily for its illegal ‘investigation’ into Planned Parenthood, asks Matthew Kacsmaryk—arguably the most publicly anti-abortion judge in the entire federal judiciary—to seize a simply enormous amount of money from one of the nation’s leading abortion providers. And, should this activist prevail, a significant chunk of this money could go straight into their pocket.”

Nightmare. Absolute nightmare.

Quick hits:

Stats & Studies

A new study from the Guttmacher Institute found that nearly 20% of respondents reported having trouble obtaining birth control in the past year—either in terms of cost, insurance-related barriers, or delays to care. Guttmacher spoke to people in Arizona, Iowa and Wisconsin for the study.

One of the study’s authors, Liza Fuentes, says, “The bottom line is that a person’s income should not determine whether they have access to quality sexual and reproductive health care, but as our work and decades of research before it demonstrates, cost barriers continue to loom large for far too many people.”

Listen Up: AED Edition

I was so happy to get a chance to talk to the smart folks over at the Strict Scrutiny podcast again! I spoke with law professor and host Leah Litman about Abortion, Every Day’s investigation into the false abortion ‘complication’ reporting in Texas and how conservatives are coming up with new talking points to make their radical bans seem “reasonable.” (My segment starts at 1:04:28)

You Love to See It

The lead singer of Paramore, Hayley Williams, used a concert in New Jersey this weekend to tell the audience, “I’ll be happy to tell you I’m very fucking comfortable talking politics.” She then told the crowd, “If you vote for Ron DeSantis, you’re fucking dead to me. Is that comfortable enough for anyone?” That’s the kind of energy we love to see!

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