In the States
Let’s start with some good news for a change: Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, a Republican, signed new abortion protections into law yesterday. The law prohibits state agencies from aiding any out-of-state abortion-related investigations—a way to protect patients who traveled to Nevada for care. The law also stops medical licensing boards from punishing or discriminating against abortion providers.
This is great news, because it wasn’t entirely clear that Gov. Lombardo—who identifies as ‘pro-life’—would sign the legislation. The law codified an existing executive order from the former governor, and at one point Gov. Lombardo had said he would repeal the order. Later, he promised to uphold voters’ wishes. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro released a statement yesterday thanking the governor “for following through on his commitment to ensuring that Nevada won’t participate in prosecutions of women who come here to exercise their reproductive rights.
A good news, bad news situation: The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down two anti-abortion laws because they require a “medical emergency” before a woman can obtain an abortion to save her life. That said, abortion is still banned in the state unless there’s a risk to the pregnant person’s life.
The court ruled that the laws were unconstitutional based on a previous decision that affirmed “an inherent right of a pregnant woman to terminate a pregnancy when necessary to save her life.” That ruling, from March, said that “absolute certainty [of a woman’s death] is not required, however, mere possibility or speculation is insufficient.” It’s pretty fucking depressing to think about judges debating how close to death a woman needs to be to justify giving her care, but there’s where we are at the moment.
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This is important: I’ve been warning for a few months that Republicans were trying to redefine abortion: instead of a medical intervention to end a pregnancy, they want abortion to be an intention. We’ve seen legislation in Idaho and Kansas stating treatment of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion, for example. Essentially, if you wanted to be pregnant it’s not an abortion.
In keeping with the trend, Wisconsin Republicans have introduced a package of bills, including one that would reclassify abortion as the “intentional” ending of a pregnancy. We know that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers will veto the legislation, but it’s incredibly important that we’re paying attention to the strategy here—and the language Republicans are using.
The Associated Press reports that the legislation states that “medical procedures designed to save a pregnant woman's life but could harm the unborn child don't qualify as abortion as long as the procedures aren't performed with the intent of killing the child…” (Emphasis mine.) And the conservative organization Wisconsin Family Action (WFA) released a statement applauding the measure, saying that treatment for miscarriage or ectopic pregnancies aren’t abortion because “such procedures are not about intentionally killing an unborn baby.” (Again, pay attention to that word ‘intention’.)
I’m sure you can understand why, in addition to just being false, this is massively dangerous—if abortion is based on a feeling or intention, it opens the door to broader criminalization. If a woman has a stillbirth but did a Google search for abortion right after she found out she was pregnant, for example, that could be used to argue that her stillbirth wasn’t a stillbirth after all.
The other thing to note—and we’ve seen this kind of legislation in other states, as well—is that the legislation lists inducing labor and c-sections as acceptable procedures to end a dangerous pregnancy. They claim these medical interventions aren’t abortions and will give the fetus the best chance of survival; which means that they want to force women with doomed pregnancies into complicated surgeries rather than just give them abortions. A nightmare.
And on the off chance you weren’t entirely convinced that banning abortion is about punishing women, consider the ‘abortion abolitionists’ gathered in Alabama yesterday. The (mostly male) activists, who believe women should be prosecuted for having abortions, were there to support the legislation I wrote about earlier this month: A bill that would allow anyone who has an abortion—or a miscarriage the state says was caused by “recklessness”—to be charged with murder.
One activist from Operation Save American said that even though abortion is banned in the state, “the massive loophole is that women are immune from punishment.” And a pastor said, “these women are not victims.” It was always, always, about punishment.
I wrote earlier in the month about how South Dakota abortion rights advocates were battling it out with a county auditor who wanted to limit where they could collect signatures for a pro-choice ballot measure. Rick Weiland, co-founder of Dakotans for Health, called it “voter suppression and another attack on direct democracy.” I have a bit of an update: The group was granted a temporary restraining order while a judge considers the case. In order to move the ballot measure forward, activists need to gather a little over 35,000 signatures—but they say they’re aiming for 60,000 to ensure the measure isn’t invalidated on any technicalities. Fingers and toes crossed.
Finally, I’m sure that you remember this devastating piece from ProPublica about a woman in Tennessee who was denied an abortion despite a risk to her life and ended up requiring a hysterectomy. Mayron Hollis has given an interview to ABC News about her experience if you’d like to read it here. (You can also find her GoFundMe here.)
And a new billboard outside of the airport in Orlando, Florida, tells people to “TURN AROUND! Ron DeSantis is attacking your reproductive rights. Head to Michigan for Patient-Doctor Medical Decisions.”
In the Nation
Despite all the Republican messaging claiming that 12- and 15-week abortion bans are the reasonable “middle ground” that Americans want, anti-abortion groups are already planning on how to make recently-passed restrictions in multiple states even stricter. Conservatives aren’t exactly announcing that move, naturally—best that Americans, who are overwhelmingly pro-choice, don’t know what they’re up to. But in a call with the Daily Caller News Foundation, the Vice President of Political Affairs at Students for Life, Dustin Curtis, said the following:
“In states such as North Carolina and Nebraska, SFLAction will certainly be returning to improve the 12-week bills passed this session. We’ll be working for ‘Life at Conception‘ in these states, but also hope to see more protections for the pre-born in target areas such as New Hampshire, Virginia, Iowa, and Maine among others.”
I know you know this, but it’s worth repeating: They were never going to stop with 12-week bans. And the idea that this was ever about what was ‘reasonable’ or about what Americans want is just absolute bullshit.
Over the last month, there have been reports that President Joe Biden was considering not moving Space Command headquarters (now in Colorado) to Alabama because of the state’s abortion ban. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has said that abortion law “is not part of the decision criteria,” but Republicans aren’t buying it. NBC News reports that lawmakers have submitted a draft bill to block funding for any more Space Command growth while it’s in Colorado:
“Two congressional officials said the bill would prohibit the command from spending money on constructing, leasing or modernizing facilities until the secretary of the Air Force formally selects and publicly announces the location of its permanent headquarters, which the Trump administration said would be in Huntsville, Alabama.”
This comes at the same time that Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville has been holding up military nominations and promotions because of the Department of Defense abortion policy—which allows service members to take paid time off to get abortion care in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the health of the pregnant person.
The Nation has an interview with writer Eyal Press, who wrote earlier this month in The New Yorker about the tension between Planned Parenthood and state and local activists. It’s worth checking out, but I wanted to highlight this quote—which I think is true for all movements:
“This issue is so polarized…it has created a code of silence, not just among advocates and providers but also among journalists and progressive news outlets who feel that, even if you know there are issues with Planned Parenthood, it’s not the right time to air them. It will not benefit the movement. But movements benefit by reflecting on what has gone wrong and what might go right. I am a hundred percent supportive of the mission of Planned Parenthood. What I ask is, can they go further?”
Just a few days ago, I told you about the organizations calling on Slack to offer end-to-end encryption for their messages—which they point out could be used to prosecute abortion patients. Well, today that coalition of groups—including abortion rights organizations—drove a mobile billboard outside of the company’s headquarters in San Francisco to protest their lack of action. Caitlin Seeley George of Fight for the Future told Gizmodo, “Abortion funds and reproductive rights groups use Slack to help people get the care they need, but without end-to-end encryption, their messages could become a target for law enforcement to enforce anti-abortion laws.”
The Marshall Project interviewed retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer about, among other things, abortion;
And The Daily Beast on why abortion rights is a men’s issue.
Stats & Studies
A new two-year study from the National Asian and Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and Ibis Reproductive Health found that nearly half of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) surveyed didn’t know where they could access abortion medication if they needed it, and that over a third had never heard of the medication.
The report points to multiple factors for the gap—from cultural stigma and taboos around sex and abortion, to barriers to care like lack of language options at reproductive health clinics. The interim executive director of NAPAWF, Isra Pananon Weeks, told The Guardian, “A lot of this stuff isn’t new, it just becomes more glaring.” You can read the full report here.
Leaked audio of a meeting between Republican pollster Ryan Tyson and donors of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis show that the governor’s supporters are worried about abortion. One donor said, “My Republican friends who have daughters and wives are upset” and asked for “talking points.” Tyson responded by saying that DeSantis has “articulated the best position for a Republican on abortion,” which is that “if there are ways the federal government can be helpful to protect life” that’s great but “the best way is on the state level.” Which is a very…non-answer answer. Most interestingly, Tyson brought up Biden’s age, which he seemed to think would be a deciding factor even for voters for whom abortion is a top issue.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, has had a hard time with questions about abortion in the past—getting tripped up by questions on his position on a federal ban. At an Axios event, Sen. Scott avoided directly answering whether he would support a 6-week national abortion ban, instead saying, “I would certainly have a 15-week limit.” His comments come just a few weeks after saying he’d support a 20-week ban. Given that Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America has made a 15-week national ban their line in the sand, I’m guessing Scott decided to simply fall in line.
And as Republicans already have their eyes on Iowa, an influential evangelical activist in the state has said that Trump hurt his chances with evangelical voters because of his comments about a 6-week ban being “too harsh” and Republicans fucking themselves on the midterms over abortion. The Washington Post has more.
Keep An Eye On
Attacks on professors. We’ve seen the way that right-wing media has been increasingly targeting college professors around LGBTQ issues and abortion, and this article from the conservative publication Campus Reform is a perfect example. The shocking “news” in the piece is that a professor at Johns Hopkins University wrote an article about the attacks on abortion rights. That’s it.
There’s some dog-whistling language, of course, highlighting how the professor has called abortion ‘healthcare’ and used the term ‘pregnant people’—but there is nothing particularly newsworthy about the idea that a professor wrote a paper. Campus Reform, though—who dramatically writes that they “contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly”—wants it to be newsworthy. And that’s what scares me. We’re at the point where a professor simply writing about abortion—in a pro-choice state, no less!—is enough to make her a target of conservative media attacks.
What Conservatives Are Saying
You are probably as sick as I am of the word ‘reasonable’—Republicans just can’t stop using it when talking about their abortion bans. Today, Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life Action, continues the trend in an ope-ed at The Hill. It’s a lot of what we’ve become accustomed to—claims that recent bans are reasonable and commonsense. But Mancini wrote something else that I think is important:
“North Carolina just passed protections for the unborn at 12-weeks, limiting dangerous and extreme late-term abortions in the state.”
She is characterizing abortions after 12 weeks as “extreme late-term abortions,” a new and dangerous talking point. First of all, we know “late-term” is not medical language, but made up anti-abortion rhetoric. But calling anything after 12 weeks “late” is new—and it’s something we should keep an eye on.
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