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Abortion, Every Day (7.12.23)
Pence: Women should be forced to carry dying fetuses
Hey, it’s Grace Haley, Abortion, Every Day’s researcher. I’ll be bringing you the newsletter every Wednesday this month. Writing this newsletter today made me cry a little bit, so I hope everyone gives themselves a moment to take care. Let’s get started:
In the States
A moment we knew was coming, but is still heartbreaking nonetheless: late last night the GOP-controlled Iowa state legislature passed an abortion ban that restricts abortion around 6 weeks when ‘cardiac activity’ is detected, and before many even know they are pregnant. This comes after a rare 14-hour special legislative session, despite public outcry and testimony. If you have a moment, please listen to testimonials from the hearing. The anger from Iowans is palpable:
The bill includes a few ‘exceptions’—which we know are unusable and act only as PR for Republican legislators (Abortion, Every Day has an explainer on this strategy here). In one of the many moments of cruelty during the hearing, anti-abortion Republicans voted down an exception for children 12 and under.
Abortion advocates worry that the law’s vagueness over how the bill should be enforced will contribute to the post-Roe landscape where doctors are confused and afraid of the type of care they are legally able to provide, which in many cases leads to no care being provided at all.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve reported on how Gov. Kim Reynolds called this special session for the sole purpose of passing one of the most restrictive bans in the country. The bill heads to Reynolds' desk on Friday, where it will potentially go into effect once it's signed, depending on what comes from the legal challenges being filed this week (ACLU already filed a lawsuit this afternoon). Abortion remains legal in Iowa until then.
All of the Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana are booked until August 1, when the state’s 10-week abortion ban goes into effect. In their statement, Planned Parenthood said that they are helping patients book appointments in states where the procedure is legal and will continue to do so come August. These patients include those from Kentucky and Tennessee, as Indiana has been a hub for patients living under abortion bans in nearby states.
Advocates are also preparing to push forward more legal challenges to the Indiana ban. Although the ACLU’s first challenge to this bill failed in court, abortion groups are organizing narrower claims as alternative challenges to the ban. A court case challenging the law under the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act is still in the courts.
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This is notable: The Texas state legislature quietly passed a bill writing in more exceptions to their abortion ban by including two new scenarios: ectopic pregnancies and premature rupture of membranes. This move shows how the state is responding to the 14 women who are suing Texas because the ban interfered with the care they needed for their pregnancy complications.
We’ve tracked moments during the legislative process in anti-abortion states that attempt to “clarify” language in bills to try to account for the endless list of complications that can go wrong in a pregnancy—but that often only make the legislation worse. (Using terms like ‘clarify’ also allows Republicans to make it seem as if their laws were fine to being with.)
The truth is that women across the country are denied care even when their conditions are explicitly written in abortion bans, and the only changes made are done with the express agreement of anti-abortion groups—who would never agree to amendments that would allow for abortions. (For a good example of this, check out some of our coverage on a similar add-on provision in Tennessee.) This is one more moment that shows how pregnancy is too complicated to legislate, and exceptions only divide women into those who deserve access to health care and those who don’t.
The Austin American-Statesman argues that the way Texas Republicans snuck this by shows how they didn’t want to call attention to the fact that women have come close to dying (and most likely have died) because of the ban. And lest we forget: Texas is suing the Biden administration for the right to deny emergency lifesaving abortions, so it’s hard to take these exceptions at face value.
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach hired the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to represent the state in the case challenging what information abortion clinics must provide to their patients. As you may recall, ADF is the same organization that played a key role in Dobbs and brought forward the lawsuit seeking to ban mifepristone. Advocates say that this move signals a strategy to garner national attention for this case, as Kansas was the first state to overwhelmingly vote in favor of abortion rights through ballot measure.
On Monday, Jessica wrote about the Nebraska mom who pleaded guilty to abortion charges after helping her daughter self-manage an abortion. (The then-17-year-old also pleaded guilty and faces two years in prison.) Today, TechCrunch gets into the role that the teen’s Facebook messages played in her arrest and prosecution—and how Meta made a conscious decision to comply with the investigation:
“Meta, which owns Facebook, could have challenged the legal order to hand over private messages to police, as it and other tech companies sometimes do on various grounds, but it didn’t.”
The case is a good example of how abortions will be prosecuted post-Roe, and how anything from location data to period tracking apps could be used to target those who end their pregnancies in anti-choice states.
New Mexico House Republicans released a form this week that gives parents and legal guardians the ability to opt their children out of certain school curriculum. The policy also requires prior notice before the children are given access to or information on LGBTQ+ topics, abortion, contraception and family planning. House Majority Whip Reena Szczepansk said that she thinks the form will “sow confusion among parents, students and teachers.”
We’ve been following Gov. Katie Hobbs’ move in Arizona to effectively decriminalize abortion by stripping district attorneys of their power to prosecute such cases. Those DAs have made some noise about filing a lawsuit against Hobbs, and now Arizona PBS reports that Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said she will ignore Gov. Hobbs' executive order. This is the same Rachel Mitchell who, a year ago, said abortion criminalization concerns were “fearmongering.” Now she’s fighting to be able to prosecute abortion cases.
Some much-needed good news: California’s shield law received a 6-3 vote in its Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, bringing it one step closer to passing. The bill would protect abortion providers from retaliation from states with abortion bans. Abortion providers have hope in the law because it acts as a tele-health abortion shield law that could allow doctors to “send prescriptions to a pharmacy that would mail the pills rather than stocking and shipping the medications themselves.” It will now head to the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.
Lyz Lenz artfully describes the rage that comes from being an Iowan and watching the ban pass last night;
The New Republic has a good explainer on the anti-democratic course Ohio anti-abortion advocates are taking ahead of the August election to change ballot measure rules;
The Tennessean shares stories from Tennessee doctors on the similarities between their practices in 2023 and those of 1973 from life before Roe;
And Reuters reports that a Texas judge ordered the US government to pay $2.2 million in fees to religious nonprofit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in abortion lawsuit against the DHHS.
In the Nation
We’ve followed how Sen. Tommy Tuberville from Alabama is blocking the promotions of hundreds of military leaders as a way to protest the Pentagon’s policy that covers travel costs for abortion procedures for service members and their dependents. When justifying his anti-abortion activism on CNN this week, he also doubled down on his controversial defense that white nationalists aren’t inherently racist. He told CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins: “They call them that. I call them Americans.”
On Tuesday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, warned that this procedural hold could “have a far-reaching impact across the US armed forces” and national security. His chairmanship confirmation is one of the many held up in Tuberville’s blockade. Another includes the highest-ranking position of the US Marine Corps, which is currently operating without a Senate-confirmed commandant for the first time in over 150 years.
Anti-abortion activism over this Pentagon abortion travel policy extends to the House as well. In a memo obtained by Politico, the House Freedom Caucus has threatened to tank a procedural vote before debate begins on a Pentagon policy bill if two controversial anti-abortion and anti-trans amendments aren’t included in the legislation.
Deadline on how the WGA strike is linking abortion rights and labor rights together to demand more protections for their abortion-seeking workers;
Science Magazine reports that abortion bans drive academics out of abortion-restricted states and keeps qualified applicants from applying to these institutions.
National and state context is bleeding together as anti-abortion political leaders gear up for the 2024 election. Take Iowa as an example: It will be the first state to hold Republican caucuses. Several GOP presidential candidates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, will be featured at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa on Friday as Gov. Kim Reynolds signs their 6-week ban into law.
Let’s talk about Pence for a moment: Pence’s nonprofit spent thousands of dollars on ads and texts in Iowa asking viewers to call their legislators to vote in support of the 6-week ban. Pence is the favored candidate of the anti-choice movement, and he is the only major candidate who supports a 6-week federal ban so far. But the former vice president took that anti-choice extremism to a new level this week: In a recent interview, Pence said that abortion should be banned even when pregnancy isn’t viable.
This is the worldview the anti-abortion movement is upholding: the most ‘pro-life’ candidate says women should be forced to carry dying fetuses. As Texas writer Andrea Grimes tweeted today, now would be a great time for journalists to start asking how these politicians plan to enforce national abortion bans.
Stats & Studies
More research was published this week that shows how abortion is safe and popular:
Safe: A new study from npj Digital Medicine reviewed tele-health options for medication abortion and found that telemedicine increased access to abortion care, especially for people in remote rural areas of the country as well as those worried about privacy and stigma. Researchers found that telemedicine abortion services were just as effective, safe and comparable to in-clinic appointments.
Popular: A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that the majority of adults in the US, including those living in states with abortion bans, want abortion to be legal in some capacity. The poll shows that 73% of US adults believe abortion should be legal through at least the initial stages of pregnancy. The findings also reaffirm how personal these bans are: One in 10 adults in the US say they know someone who has either been unable to get an abortion or who has been forced to travel for abortion care over the past year.
It’s important to note the polling from Gallup earlier this year that showed how more Americans are open to unrestricted abortions during the second and third trimester, despite the ways the new AP/NORC numbers are being covered by the mainstream media. Women’s support for legal third trimester abortions more than quadrupled over the past year.
New data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows that abortion increased in the state by 20% after Dobbs and half of that increase came from out-of-state patients;
NBC News designed a map that shows where you can get birth control from a pharmacist without a doctor's prescription.
Anti-Abortion Strategy: Exceptions
Charlie Kirk (conservative activist and Turning Point USA founder) hosted Lila Rose (president and founder of the influential anti-abortion group Live Nation) on his podcast for the Roe anniversary earlier this summer, and they laid out a vision for the next goals of the anti-abortion movement: ban medication abortion, spend more money in state-level races for outspoken pro-life candidates, defund Planned Parenthood, pressure executive branch resolutions in a GOP-controlled White House, call on Congress to pass fetal personhood legislation using the 14th amendment, and get rid of medical and rape exceptions from current abortion bans.
In the interview, Lila Rose discussed the importance of taking advantage of this post-Roe moment by putting grassroots pressure on local politicians to remove exceptions from abortion ban legislation, calling it Republicans’ “duty” and “responsibility.”
The movement is focusing on creating pathways towards fetal personhood, and removing exceptions is a new frontier for that vision. As I mentioned earlier in this newsletter, Abortion, Every Day has reported that exceptions are deliberately designed to be unusable—and politicians wield them as a form of PR to gain support for abortion bans. They need moderate voters to believe that supporting an anti-abortion candidate is not a vote for a total abortion ban, but the rhetoric from and to their own communities show that exceptions are only a trojan-horse tool to bring us one step closer to fetal personhood.
Correction: I attributed comments from an interview this weekend with Kristan Hawkins (of Students for Life) and Dr. George Delgado to the episode I mentioned above. Hawkins and Delgado talked falsely about IUDs as abortifacients in this podcast at 30:26 —a goal that the movement has been explicit about, which we have been covering for months.