Jun 5 • 24M

Abortion, Every Day (6.5.23)

Nikki Haley's 'compromise': No death penalty for abortion

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

As we wait for the Florida Supreme Court to come down with a decision on the state’s 15-week abortion ban—a decision expected to pave the way for the 6-week ban to go into effect—pro-choice advocates are pointing out that one of the Justices has a major conflict of interest. Justice Charles Canady is married to State Rep. Jennifer Canady, who co-sponsored the state’s 6-week ban! Peter Joy, judicial ethics professor at the Washington University School of Law, says that Canady should recuse himself—but so far, no such luck.

This isn’t the first time Florida’s Supreme Court has come under fire for its anti-abortion leanings: last year, the Chief Justice gave an anti-abortion group a private tour of the courthouse, and an anonymous court employee said, “I was told all the people [on the tour] are members of the anti-abortion group who came to see the place where abortion would soon be abolished in Florida.”

The Republican attacks on democracy continue on in Missouri, where Attorney General Andrew Bailey refuses to sign off on the state auditor’s cost estimate of a pro-choice ballot measure—a transparent move to hold up the process and make it harder for activists to gather the signatures necessary to push the measure forward. Bailey wants the state auditor, Scott Fitzpatrick, to claim that restoring abortion rights would cost the state billions of dollars before he gives his perfunctory sign-off.

The ACLU is suing in order to get Bailey to do his fucking job; and now Fitzpatrick has filed a legal brief as well. Fitzpatrick is anti-abortion, but in emails obtained by the Missouri Independent, the auditor told Bailey he was unwilling to lie in order to stop the measure. Until Bailey okays the cost estimate, though, abortion rights advocates can’t even begin to collect signatures. The case will go before a judge this Wednesday.

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Speaking of undemocratic attacks on ballot measures: Ohio Republicans can’t seem to decide whether to keep pretending that their move to raise the standards on ballot measures has nothing to do with abortion. For months, they claimed that requiring 60% of the vote instead of a simple majority was about preventing out-of-state special interests from changing the state constitution. State Rep. Brian Stewart said that it was a “conspiracy theory,” for example, that Republicans wanted to change the rules to stop Ohioans from restoring abortion rights. Later, a leaked letter from Stewart showed that it was all about abortion.

In March, Senate President Matt Huffman defended Republicans’ August special election by telling reporters, “If we save 30,000 lives as a result of spending $20 million, I think that’s a great thing.” But then last week, Huffman held a meeting with lobbyists where lawmakers advised “don’t say abortion…the focus will be on protecting the constitution from special interests.”

The most recent example of Ohio Republicans flip-flopping on their strategy, though, comes from Secretary of State Frank LaRose. He claimed for months that raising the ballot measure standards were just about protecting the state from—you guessed it!—special interests. But The Columbus Dispatch reports that at a recent event, LaRose gave up la ruse (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself):

“Some people say this is all about abortion. Well, you know what, I’m pro-life. I think many of you are as well. This is 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution. The left wants to jam it in there this coming November.”

I don’t know how many different ways they can admit that this is about banning abortion against the will of voters, but it seems clear they’re going for a record!

Republicans in North Carolina know that their recently-passed abortion ban is going to drive OBGYNs out of the state—and it looks like they anticipated that exodus in the legislation itself. North Carolina Health News points out that the law dropped a rule that required certified nurse-midwives to only be allowed to practice under the supervision of a doctor. Nurse-midwives have been lobbying for this kind of change for years, but they didn’t have anything to do with the particular provision in the state’s new abortion ban. Catherine Moore of the North Carolina Board of Nursing, for example, says they weren’t consulted or contacted about the language in the legislation (which was copied from a 2014 bill).

So why would Republicans suddenly be interested in allowing nurse-midwives to practice without a doctor’s supervision? Because they’ve watched other anti-choice states like Idaho and Texas lose more and more OBGYNs who are unwilling to work in a state where they can’t give their patient the standard of care (and could go to jail of they do). But making it easier regulation-wise for nurse-midwives doesn’t mean that that they’ll be eager to work in North Carolina.

Midwifery student Mariama Morray planned to practice in North Carolina, she told reporter Rachel Crumpler, but her future in the state “is looking very bleak.” She said the abortion ban cancels out any benefit of removing the physician supervision requirement.

Last week, POLITICO did a deep-dive on the role that abortion played in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election. MSNBC spoke to reporter David Siders about the piece, if you want to watch the short segment.

What was interesting about this interview, I thought, was the question Alicia Menendez asked about why they saw abortion being a top election issue for voters not just in more liberal areas of the state—but in every area.

The framing of her question seems to be that there must be another reason that voters cared about abortion—like government overreach—rather than it just being about abortion itself. How many elections does abortion need to win before people realize that Americans are pro-choice? It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that! (Related: The Associated Press has a piece about how Wisconsin Democrats are taking this opportunity to stay on offense.)

Earlier this year, I told you about the California legislation seeking to put an end to ‘reverse warrants’, in part as a way to protect abortion patients. Reverse warrants are a way for law enforcement to get around prohibitions against the sharing of reproductive health data—instead of asking tech companies for a particular person’s private information, they can get information about all the people who were at a certain location, or who looked up a particular keyword online.

Hayley Tsukayama of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told CalMatters, “Instead of finding the needle in the haystack, it’s saying give me the haystack and maybe the needle will be in there.” And Democratic Assemblymember Mia Bonta, who proposed the legislation, says, “With every technological advancement, there is an opportunity for abuse. None is scarier than the potential for the abuse to invade personal and private healthcare decisions.”

Law enforcement agencies have come out against the bill, it still advanced late last week after Bonta agreed to narrow the legislation’s scope to be specific to abortion- and gender-affirming care.

More than 600 doctors in Indiana have signed onto a letter supporting Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who was recently fined by the state medical board for supposedly violating a patient’s privacy. (In reality, she was the target of a state-funded witch-hunt after speaking up about the horrors of abortion bans.) The letter was published in the weekend edition of The Indianapolis Star, and noted that “to punish a physician for fulfilling her professional and legal obligations sets a very dangerous and chilling precedent for each one of us, regardless of medical specialty.”

In Iowa, where Attorney General Brenna Bird stopped funding for emergency contraception for rape victims—the majority of which goes to children—nurses are speaking up about what that means on the ground. Shannon Knudsen, a sexual assault nurse examiner, told the Des Moines Register, “I’m just trying to be positive and optimistic, but a 12-year-old patient who I meet on the exam table and the first words they say to me are ‘Could I be pregnant?’ That’s concerning.”

Bird has come under fire for the decision, which her office says is part of a broader effort to cut down on costs. This weekend, for example, the editorial board of the Des Moines Register pointed out that “the burden of what Bird is doing falls mostly on Iowans who are poor,” and wrote that a “victim's options certainly should not turn on whether she's lucky enough to have good health insurance, income, savings or private support.” But Bird won’t directly answer if her plan is to resume the program, which, in a recent year, reimbursed more than 3,000 children for the care they received.

Andrea Grimes—who publishes a fantastic Substack that puts out a weekly roundup of abortion news and action items—wrote at MSNBC this weekend about the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. (You may remember him as the guy who sued the federal government for the right to deny women life-saving abortions.) Grimes gets into Paxton’s history of voter suppression, the “smug snarking from some blue staters about getting what you vote for,” and the national implications of it all:

“We no longer live in a political landscape where it makes sense to divide ourselves into safe-blue and dangerous-red states; solidarity from coast to coast absolutely must be the play going forward. America is now one nation under a hyper-right, Republican-appointed Supreme Court majority poised to make the wildest dreams of white supremacist Christian nationalists come true. And on many of Republicans’ biggest-ticket items, even folks living in liberal and lefty geographies won’t be immune to the repercussions.”

Quick hit:

In the Nation

At the ACOG Annual Clinical & Scientific Meeting last month, doctors discussed how to best protect their patients in a post-Roe world. OBGYN Jamila Perritt, president of Physicians for Reproductive Health, for example, told the audience how they should be thinking about how they chart patients’ information. “I think about every person’s chart that I document as something that will be weaponized against them should this go to court,” she said. And Nisha Verma, assistant professor and OBGYN at Emory University, pointed out that clinicians aren’t mandatory reporters for self-managed abortion. “It should not be something that we are doing,” she said.

Perritt also urged physicians to refuse to participate at all with law enforcement who may reach out about patients:

“You get to refuse to collude. You hold the power in this situation, certainly significantly more power than the person you are caring for. When the police come to your hospital and ask you to turn over your records, you can say no.”

This headline The New York Times immediately irritated me: “In a Contentious Lawmaking Season, Red States Got Redder and Blue Ones Bluer.” The piece not only did the typical ‘both sides’ bullshit with Republican attacks on human rights and Democrats’ efforts to protect them—but then we language like this:

“In some Republican states, lawmakers also took aim at the powers of Democratic officeholders or sought to limit local control in liberal-leaning cities…Republicans moved to severely restrict or ban access in several states…despite intraparty fights about how far to go.”

The article characterizes gerrymandering and the expulsion of two Tennessee legislators—inarguably assaults on voters—as a war on Democrats, instead of an attack on democracy itself! I’m so tired, you guys.

Quick hits:

  • The Guardian reports that major corporations, including Amazon and Google, donated money that went to anti-abortion groups;

  • And Religion Dispatches reminds us that “blaming young people for the fall of Roe is like holding firefighters accountable for arson.”

What Conservatives Are Saying

I’ve been warning for a while about the way that anti-abortion activists are trying to co-opt feminist language, and our latest example comes in this op-ed at The Hill:

“After all, the pro-life position is a fundamentally progressive one: it is arguing for the greater consideration and inclusion of a historically marginalized human group (in this case, the unborn) by the body politic. To contend that a voiceless, powerless person is comparable to people with voices and power (including the comparatively powerful person in whose body the child is housed) is the best and purest of progressivism.”


Former Vice President Mike Pence filed paperwork today declaring his presidential campaign. Pence is the favorite of anti-abortion organizations—he’s the only candidate who has been open about wanting to ban abortion across the country and don’t zero flip-flopping on the issue.

Speaking of equivocating! Nikki Haley did a morally reprehensible town hall at CNN this weekend, where she lied about abortion and refused to answer whether she would sign a federal ban. (CNN did a fact-check on some of Haley’s comments on abortion, but there was nothing about her absolutely disgusting statement about teen girls’ suicidal ideation being somehow related to trans rights.)

Haley said, for example, that Roe allowed abortion “anytime, anywhere for any reason”—which just isn’t true. She also tried to downplay how much power a president would have over abortion rights, saying, “Don’t let anyone in the media, don’t let any political party tell you that a Republican president can ban abortion laws in our country.” (It’s almost as if she knows that Americans don’t want abortion banned!)

But we know that’s not true, either: A Republican president, for example, could decide that the Comstock Act should be enforced to prohibit the shipping of abortion medication and tools—which would be a backdoor abortion ban.

Haley also did two things that we’ve been flagging quite a bit here at Abortion, Every Day: First, she used the word ‘consensus’—language that I’ve pointed out is the term anti-abortion activists are using in lieu of ‘ban’. She also is reframing what ‘the middle’ is:

“I think we can agree on the fact that contraception should be accessible. And I think we can all come together and say that any women who has an abortion shouldn’t be jailed or given the death penalty. Can’t we start there?”

That’s the big compromise? Women should be able to get birth control and not get the death penalty? Fucking terrifying. (Oh, and by the way, access to birth control is incredibly not something that conservative groups will sign up for: In the Washington Examiner, anti-abortion activist Lila Rose criticized Haley for her support for contraception, saying it “creates a culture where abortion is the backup plan.”)

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