Abortion, Every Day (8.30.23)
Indiana hospitals won't provide abortions to rape victims—despite the state's exception
Hey, it’s Grace Haley, Abortion, Every Day researcher, and I am bringing you today’s newsletter. I learned a new term I wanted to share with you, ‘vasecto-yummies; eligible bachelors who are made attractive by their vasectomies.’ Will it be 2024’s Merriam-Webster Word of the Year? You know where my vote stands! Anyways, let’s get started–
In the States
Well, this is awful: Indiana’s recently-enacted abortion ban has an exception for rape, but hospitals in the state are denying abortion access to survivors anyway. (It’s almost as if abortion ban exceptions aren’t real!) When the Indiana Capital Chronicle surveyed eight of the largest health systems in the state, only one didn’t rule out the possibility of treating rape victims—“though it included few details on its policies.”
Three of the hospitals, all of which are religiously affiliated, flat out said they wouldn’t provide abortions to rape victims. Religiously-affiliated hospitals are often the only hospital patients have access to, especially in rural areas, and that number is growing given the maternal care crisis and the mass exodus of doctors from states with abortion bans.
Advocates for rape victims in Indiana say they’re not holding out hope that hospitals will help their clients with abortion care—instead they’re working to help survivors “find a way out of state.”
Important Comstock news: The New Mexico Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case trying to strike down “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” ordinances—abortion bans passed by local governments in spite of state law that protects abortion access. This comes after New Mexico’s Attorney General sued several of these towns earlier this year, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two bills into law that override the ordinances.
As you may recall from our Comstock Act reporting, these ordinances (passed by 67 cities and two counties) weaponize a 19th century law to prohibit the delivery of abortion supplies and medications, and sometimes abortion outright. They are part of a broader anti-abortion campaign across the country seeking to use these ordinances to revive the 1873 law and bring it before the Supreme Court. As the author of these initiatives put it, “I want to see abortion outlawed on every square inch of this planet. And if we ever have colonies on Mars, then there, too.” We’ll keep you updated as the case develops.
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The Silver State Hope Fund (an abortion fund) and the ACLU are challenging Nevada’s ban on Medicaid covering abortions as a violation of the state's Equal Rights Amendment. They argue that Medicaid’s coverage restrictions deny the majority of Silver State Hope Fund’s clients from getting the health care they need, which in turn reinforces sex-based inequalities. From the Silver State Hope Fund’s statement:
“Nevada’s Medicaid policy has forced organizations like Silver State Hope Fund to step in where the state has failed to provide funding to pregnant Nevadans to cover abortion-related costs, but this shouldn’t be how the system works. Every human deserves dignified access to health care, including abortion care, regardless of their sex, gender, or income level.”
More in abortion fund news: the Yellowhammer Fund filed a motion for summary judgment earlier this week in their case against the Alabama Attorney General. Earlier this summer Alabama healthcare providers filed a lawsuit against state AG Steve Marshall, in an effort to stop him from prosecuting anyone who helps people leave the state for abortion care.
The suit points to a radio interview Marshall gave, in which he said volunteers who helped a Louisiana woman travel out-of-state for an abortion would face “conspiracy” and “accessory” charges in Alabama. (Marshall is a big fan of broadly interpreting laws in order to punish people for abortion: In January, Jessica wrote about his plan to get around the state’s prohibition on criminalizing women who have abortions by using a ‘chemical endangerment’ law to prosecute those who take abortion medication.)
The Alabama groups are seeking a ruling that makes clear the state can’t prosecute anyone who provides referrals or helps get an out-of-state abortion appointment. The judge scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to consider Marshall’s motion to dismiss.
The mother of the Mississippi 13-year-old who was raped and denied an abortion spoke to reporters after their story went viral, and her anger is gutting:
“I’m a grandma so young, she’s a mother so young. Her body done changed. She’s no longer a kid in the body. She had to endure child labor before her time. That traumatized me.”
Some much needed good news: Several Iowa counties will be paying for sexual assault victims' emergency contraceptives—a response to state Attorney General Brenna Bird’s decision to pause state funding for the reimbursements. We noted earlier this week that Johnson County was considering covering the medication following Polk County’s lead last month. The Des Moines Register reports today that even more counties seem to be following suit. The move will provide free emergency contraception, and in rare cases, abortion, to victims of rape and sexual assault in these counties.
As expected, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked lawmakers in a speech earlier today to repeal “politically motivated, medically unnecessary restrictions,” on abortions, including the 24-hour wait period for patients. We reported this week that abortion rights advocates have been calling on Whitmer to move to repeal the old TRAP laws—especially given that abortion was enshrined in the state Constitution via ballot measure earlier this year.
Finally, the oldest abortion clinic in Colorado is celebrating their 50th anniversary (woo!) and are marking the milestone by incorporating more gender-inclusive language into their mission, offering mobile breast cancer screenings and creating the REAL Youth Council, named for reproductive justice, education, advocacy and leadership. Happy Birthday, Boulder Valley Health Center!
Anti-abortion group ‘Texas Right to Life’ is behind the push to change legislation over when and how hospitals withdraw life support in the state;
And GOP political operatives filed a new initiative with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office to add rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities and the health and safety of the mother exceptions to the state’s abortion ban.
In the Nation
Republicans are still in disarray over their national strategy on abortion, but some are signaling that the party should follow Trump’s lead. For example, Former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon hosted Donald Trump on her podcast earlier today, and attributed her 2022 loss to ignoring Trump’s advice on abortion during the campaign. Dixon said Trump told her to “pivot” and make room for exceptions—something Trump has been hitting on frequently himself, in an attempt to come across as more reasonable on abortion than the other presidential candidates.
After last week’s GOP primary debate, Dixon also called for “consensus” on Fox News, saying that “we’re all going to go after this 15-week ban” and that it's pivotal for the party to come to a “consensus” about a national ban. (Which she again credits to Trump.) Abortion, Every Day has been following the GOP’s “three exceptions” rule that has taken on new energy in recent weeks alongside the 15-week national abortion ban.
Also in the interview, Dixon critiqued Democrats’ use of “attack ads” because abortion was not “a fair issue for them to attack on.” Considering the incredibly real nightmare abortion bans have unleashed on millions of people in GOP-controlled states–seems more than fair!
Yesterday, we noted that Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who has been blocking military nominations and promotions in protest of the Pentagon’s abortion policy, suggested that the candidates needed to be better vetted. “This has given me more time to look more closely into the background of some of these nominees, and I have deep concerns about some of them,” he told Alabama Today.
Jessica predicted that this signaled Tuberville and the GOP are looking for a reason beyond abortion to justify his actions. Right on cue, conservative media is now attacking the nominated military officers, claiming that they “make up one of the wokest slates of nominees in history,” and arguing that Tuberville’s blocks are not just about abortion.
The anecdote about someone being born after “multiple abortion attempts” that Gov. Ron DeSantis used during last week’s presidential debate was further debunked by ABC News (The New York Times also looked at the claim this week);
House Rep. Randy Weber introduced a bill that would make abortions performed offshore illegal and specifically cites Abort Offshore—a business that many questioned was even real last year and whose site is defunct;
And a look at the pilots who are transporting abortion-seekers and abortion care providers across state lines to access health care.
Anti-Abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers
A new must-read investigation from Garnet Henderson at Rewire News Group estimates that anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers spend over $1 billion per year on their efforts to deceive and manipulate abortion-seekers across the country. Documents show how their financial structure is a far cry from the “small volunteer-run efforts” these organizations present themselves as.
For example, crisis pregnancy centers have over $800 million in assets and hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on staff salaries. Even the amount spent on material goods and services is questionable. From the report:
“In a tally of material goods and services, the report claims that CPCs provided 731,884 pregnancy tests at a value of nearly $6.6 million. That’s $9 per test. While some digital pregnancy tests do cost that much, hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices use simple paper test strips. Anyone can buy those for less than 40 cents per test.”
As organizations like Equity Forward have pointed out, women are often forced by these centers to ‘earn’ material goods like diapers and formula by attending religious parenting classes.
The anti-abortion movement likes to present crisis pregnancy centers as a small (cheap) volunteer-run alternative to government financial support for medical and social services amid the maternal mortality crisis. But Henderson’s reporting reveals something very different—and outlines how the centers spend the millions they raise from private donors and grants bankrolled by tax-payers.
Yet Republicans still claim that the centers simply can’t afford to have real medical staff: Louisiana Republican state Sen. Beth Mizell, who wrote one of these bills, said in a recent interview, “If I had put a requirement on the bill that they had to have a licensed medical provider [at crisis pregnancy centers], I wouldn’t have had buy-in from the pregnancy resource centers because that’s too much of a financial burden on them and that’s not the role of the center.”
We know these funds will just continue to grow. Legislators in states with some of the strictest abortion bans in the country are passing policies that pour millions into crisis pregnancy centers through state grants and welfare programs—and incentivize wealthy donors and corporations to make charitable contributions to these centers through tax credits. And remember, the 19th* and Stateline recently reported that these tax credit policies “are structured to make donations to pregnancy resource centers far more lucrative for donors than contributions to other types of charities.”
And as we’ve noted previously, the anti-abortion movement also plans to use the centers to run a national network of ‘maternity homes’—a true nightmare all around.
2024 Strategy: Bait and Switch
On the campaign trail, you’re going to constantly hear this phrase from Republican women trying to win over the votes of moderate women voters: “The best way to prevent abortion is to prevent pregnancy.” It’s part of a GOP election strategy outlined by The New York Times where Republican women—especially vulnerable Republicans in competitive elections—are trying to distract voters from their anti-abortion positions by focusing on contraception.
As Democratic candidates make abortion central to their campaigns, Republicans’ concerns over appealing to women voters are growing. Their distraction strategy relies on appearing to embrace birth control during heated debates on abortion—an attempt to counter alienation brought by the GOP’s celebration of Dobbs.
We’ve seen it in the ways House Republicans talk about the Orally Taken Contraception Act, which they pitched earlier this summer. Abortion rights advocates have pointed out that the legislation essentially meaningless; it’s only use is the cover it gives vulnerable Republicans to distract from their dangerous treatment of reproductive health. (It’s also worth noting that Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America refused to endorse the bill, a sign that the movement is not willing to support anything that comes near birth control.)
Even Nikki Haley used this strategy during the abortion portion of the GOP presidential debate, bringing up access to contraception to distract from the fact that she supports a national abortion ban. Quite simply, Republican women are using birth control as a way to court moderate women voters and shift the conversation away from abortion. Even more dangerously, they’re attempting to redefine the middle: By saying birth control should be legal, they are showing us that denying access to birth control is on the table to begin with.
But the most insidious part of this strategy is buried in the NYT article:
“The legislation adopts the language of abortion opponents, suggesting that pregnancy begins at the point of fertilization rather than when a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. Oral contraception is defined in the bill as a drug that ‘is used to prevent fertilization.’”
As Jessica wrote in our first part of a series on the conservative war on birth control, the notion that pregnancy begins at fertilization rather than implantation is a tactic to redefine certain types of contraception—like IUDs and the morning after pill—as abortifacients. This bill enshrines that idea. In other words, the legislation Republicans are using to prove that they’re moderate on reproductive health actually redefines contraception as abortion.