Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day (8.31.23)
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Abortion, Every Day (8.31.23)

The GOP ramps up attacks on out-of-state abortion travel
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In the States

Republicans want to make it illegal for women to leave the state for abortion care—and I’m tired of people claiming that saying so is hyperbole. Let’s just look at what’s happened this week in abortion travel issues. Since July, I’ve been telling you about the case against Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who is being sued by the ACLU, abortion providers and the Yellowhammer Fund. The suit is a response to a radio interview Marshall gave where he said volunteers who helped a Louisiana woman travel out-of-state for an abortion would face “conspiracy” and “accessory” charges in Alabama. The groups are seeking a ruling that makes clear that the state can’t prosecute anyone who provides referrals or other help to people getting out-of-state abortions.

Marshall is fighting back against the suit by arguing very plainly that helping anyone to travel out-of-state for an abortion is a “criminal conspiracy” not protected by free speech. From Marshall’s motion to dismiss:

“[I]t is well settled that speech used to conduct a crime receives no constitutional protection; the same is true for the right to associate…Likewise, the right to travel, to the extent that it is even implicated, does not grant Plaintiffs the right to carry out a criminal conspiracy simply because they propose to do so by purchasing bus passes or driving cars.”

And while Marshall claims that “there’s nothing about that law that restricts any individual from driving across state lines and seeking an abortion in another place,” he’s arguing that anyone who helps someone to do so is a criminal! What constitutes aiding and abetting travel? Lending someone your car? Giving them gas money? Changing their flat tire? It’s absurdity and it’s terrifying.

I’m not done talking about criminalizing travel yet: A county in Texas has passed an anti-abortion ordinance that makes it illegal to drive anyone from or through the county in order to get a legal abortion in another state. To do so would be “abortion trafficking.” Like so many Texas abortion laws, citizens could take civil action against anyone found in violation of the ordinance.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that this is part of a broader anti-choice tactic meant to create legal challenges that conservative lawyers like Jonathan Mitchell—architect of Texas’ bounty hunter law—hope to bring all the way up to the Supreme Court. (Grace wrote about this strategy & its connection to the Comstock Act yesterday.)

The point is: they are already coming after out-of-state travel. And like everything else they do, it won’t be a singular law banning women from leaving the state—it will be this slow chipping away process that’s already in effect.

More from Texas and their attacks on democracy: As I wrote earlier this week, a new law goes into effect in the state tomorrow allowing for the removal of district attorneys who decline to prosecute abortion cases. Today, Rolling Stone spoke to one of the prosecutors in the state likely to be targeted by the new law. Mark Gonzalez, the district attorney for Nueces County, is one of five Texas DAs who signed onto a letter promising not to use their office to “prosecute personal healthcare decisions.”

Gonzalez told Rolling Stone that it’s the most marginalized people in Texas impacted by the state’s abortion ban:

“I promise you: If there’s somebody that has a lot of means and their daughter gets pregnant, or they’re a victim of rape, or incest, they’re gonna take them to New Mexico. The only people that are going to be left with no real options are those who are of a lower economic status, and those of color.”

A conservative group has petitioned to remove Gonzalez as DA for “incompetency,” and a trial to determine whether he’ll keep his job begins in September. This is just another part of the war on democracy: removing elected officials who don’t go along with conservatives’ extremist agenda.

Grace told you yesterday about new ballot measures in Missouri seeking to add rape and incest exceptions to the state’s abortion ban, and to legalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Just to expand a bit: All of the six initiative petitions were filed by Republican strategist Jamie Corley. If Corley’s name sounds familiar, that’s because she’s been writing op-eds quite a lot this year in opposition to abortion bans—including this one at POLITICO warning Republicans that going after medication abortion is a “political dead-end.”

Corley told the Missouri Independent, “The current abortion law makes Missouri look draconian, punitive and unsafe for families,” and told the Associated Press that she wanted a ballot measure that is “actually passable.”

While it seems as if Corley is acting in good faith with these measures, they aren’t exactly fantastic: the proposed ‘exception’ for rape, for example, would only apply if a victim has reported the assault to a crisis hotline. (We also know that exceptions aren’t real—they really only serve as a way for Republicans to make themselves look better without actually meaningfully changing abortion access.) And you know how I feel about 12-week ‘compromises’.

Still, it will be interesting to see how this plays out—and if Missouri Republicans throw up the same kind of insane hurdles they have for the broader pro-choice amendment seeking to restore abortion rights in the state.

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More on the war on ballot measures: Conservative media is on the attack in Ohio, where voters will decide on a pro-choice ballot measure this November. Anti-abortion activists and publications continue to claim that the amendment would allow children to have abortions and gender-affirming surgery. They’re taking any little quote they can and running with it—like at the National Review, which ran a whole-ass article based on a singular quote for a pro-choice activist about how they want to “work” on a policy for minors with unsafe parents. (Which is…reasonable??) And in the wake of the lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose—who wrote an inflammatory and inaccurate ballot summarythe Washington Examiner claims that the issue is simply a fight over the term “unborn child.”

Meanwhile, as Ohioans gear up to cast a vote on abortion rights in November, abortion funds in the state are struggling to stay afloat. The Abortion Fund of Ohio reports that they’re helping a record number of patients: they’ve worked with more than 2,200 patients this year so far, more than double the number of people they funded in 2021. The group is seeing patients from as far away as Texas and Florida, who travel to Ohio because the state’s ban has been blocked—which means care is still available up until 22 weeks. Because of a waiting period in the state, though, it means that those traveling from out-of-state have increased lodging costs and logistical hurdles.

And while the fund has a bigger revenue than in past years, interim executive director Maggie Scotece says, “A huge chunk of that money goes right out the door, back to patients.” Also, Scotece says, “as finances for the average Ohioan get tighter, it is harder for our community to show up in that way for us.” To support the Abortion Fund of Ohio, click here.

Pennsylvania abortion advocates and providers are seeing similar problems as patients from around the country come to the state for care. Signe Espinoza, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, says, “Throughout this fiscal year, there’s an estimated 74% increase in abortion patient volume.”

A woman in Tennessee gave birth in a jail cell after being denied care, CBS News reports. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said that the woman and her baby are in stable condition, but didn’t explain why she wasn't brought to the hospital earlier. This is what a ‘pro-life’ state looks like. Just as a reminder: Tennessee Republicans fought for months over including an exception for the life of the pregnant person. (When they finally added something in, it was watered down to nothing, thanks to the lobbying efforts of Tennessee Right to Life.)

Virginia Democrats are leaning hard on abortion rights—and for good reason. J. Miles Coleman of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics told The Center Square that since Dobbs, Democrats have been performing incredibly well:

“Every time there’s been a special legislative election for a Senate seat or a House seat—or a referendum like we saw in Ohio—the Democratic and pro-abortion rights side has almost always run ahead of what Biden received in 2020.”

Indiana abortion provider Dr. Caitlin Bernard has decided not to appeal the decision by the state medical board to reprimand her for a supposed privacy violation. As you probably remember, Bernard was the target of a year-long harassment campaign by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita after she spoke out (without violating privacy rules) about a 10 year-old rape victim who was forced to leave her home state of Ohio for abortion care.

This was punishment, plain and simple—and a warning to any other doctors who might shine a light on the consequences of abortion bans. I’m glad this nightmare is over for Dr. Bernard, and I think we all owe her a debt of gratitude.

Quick hits:

In the Nation

While American women were sobbing and devastated over the leak that Roe would be overturned, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was flying on a private jet. Yes, seriously. The Washington Post reports that Thomas disclosed three 2022 trips on billionaire Harlan Crow’s jet—including one he claims was to protect his safety after the leak of the Dobbs decision. Honestly, fuck that guy.

Five anti-abortion activists who pushed their way into a DC clinic waiting room in 2020—blocking its doors with furniture, ropes and chains—were found guilty this week of violating the FACE Act. The leader of the group, Lauren Handy, was also found in possession of five fetuses (!!!) though she hasn’t been brought up on charges for that.

A lawyer for the five activists filed an emergency motion yesterday to get them released while they await sentencing, arguing that Handy is “a prominent national nonprofit leader” and that their crime wasn’t violent. What’s also notable is that Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America released a statement in support of Handy and the 4 others, claiming that the group did a “vital public service” and should be “recognized for their heroism.”

This is important (and scary): SBA Pro-Life America is arguably the country’s most powerful anti-abortion group, and they’re explicitly lauding domestic terrorists. Their statement also comes at a time when violence against abortion clinics and providers is on the rise across the country.

Quick hits:

  • News21 on how hospital mergers with Catholic institutions endanger reproductive rights;

  • States Newsroom on the ballot measure attacks we’re seeing across multiple states;

  • And the deputy executive director of the Fairness Project writes at The Hill about the danger to direct democracy.

2024

Finally a few pundits are pointing out that Nikki Haley is not at all ‘moderate’ on abortion, despite attempts to frame herself as such. Paul Waldman at The Washington Post points out something I’ve been hammering on since the debate: that Haley “is on record supporting a national ban, even if she acknowledges it wouldn’t pass.” And over at New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore (who quotes Abortion, Every Day), calls Haley an “opportunist.” He also reports that the polls showing the former South Carolina governor doing well in early states actually come from the Trump and DeSantis campaigns—who are likely trying to damage each other.

Quick 2024 hits:

  • NPR on how a new generation of Republicans wants the party to reach out to younger voters (good luck with that!);

  • In Newsweek, the president of the conservative group FreedomWorks writes that abortion “is a losing battle for Republicans”;

  • And The New York Times has more on Tudor Dixon’s interview with Donald Trump that Grace reported yesterday—including Trump’s belief that candidates need to focus on ‘exceptions’ in order to avoid pissing voters off about abortion.

Abortion Rights Trade-Offs

I’ve written a lot about how vital it is that we don’t base our policies on bad-faith attacks from the anti-abortion movement. Most recently, this has been an issue with ballot measure initiatives and the notion of ‘viability’—pro-choice groups are including restrictions after ‘viability’ in the language of their measures as a way to pre-empt attacks from conservatives who claim the amendments would allow abortion ‘up until birth’. My position has always been that they’re going to make that claim anyway (and they have), so we should fight for the policies we actually believe in.

Now we’re seeing something similar play out in Michigan over parental consent. Yesterday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spoke in support of the Reproductive Health Act, which would repeal some of the anti-abortion TRAP laws still on the books. (Voters recently enshrined abortion rights in the state constitution and so Democrats are doing a lot of legislative clean-up.) As I’ve reported, the legislation would get rid of Michigan’s 24-hour waiting period, would end the prohibition on using Medicaid funding for abortion, and would remove onerous and unnecessary regulations on clinics. What’s notably missing from the legislation is the repeal of Michigan’s parental consent law.

From Loren Khogali, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan:

“We know that this an area that is just more complex, that often requires more education, more explanation. We continue to advocate around parental notification, and we will continue to do so even if a bill is introduced that does not include it. We know that we have to improve access to abortion and reproductive health care for young people in Michigan.”

It’s disappointing news; young people are some of the most marginalized among us, and deserve to be protected. But I imagine that the move isn’t so much about abortion rights in Michigan itself, where voters made clear how they felt—but instead is about the upcoming ballot measure vote in Ohio (and initiatives in other states).

Anti-abortion activists have spent millions of dollars to claim that Ohio’s pro-choice ballot measure would allow minors to have abortions and gender-affirming surgery without parental consent. If Michigan repealed their parental consent law after passing a pro-choice ballot measure, it would give conservatives the ammunition they need to say that an amendment in Ohio would lead to the same. So I understand the strategy, I really do. But here’s the thing: Just as was the case with ‘viability’, anti-abortion activists don’t care about the truth and are out in force today claiming that Michigan Democrats are trying to eradicate parental consent.

Conservative media outlets like Hot Air and Life News are running headlines (I won’t link to them) that say Whitmer wants to do away with parental consent, and the president of Right to Life Michigan released a statement suggesting the same. They get around the truth by pointing out that repealing parental consent has “been included in prior versions of the Reproductive Health Act.”

As I’ve said many times over, I’m not an activist doing work on the ground in these states—so I can’t pretend to know the best route here. And I’m sure that if the repeal of parental consent was actually included in Michigan’s Reproductive Health Act they conservative coverage around the same thing happening in Ohio would be massive. But it’s also hard to see pro-choice groups making moves based on anti-abortion attacks that are going to happen no matter what. Would love to know what you all think.

The Care Crisis

The Guardian spoke to Texas doctors about what their work and lives have looked like since abortion was banned in the state—as you can imagine, it’s pretty stark. Dr. Jessica Rubino describes having to turn away a patient who was experiencing kidney failure, and having to tell people she couldn’t help them unless they were about to die. “The law forced me to be a bad doctor,” she said.

Kathy Kleinfeld in Houston says she and her colleagues have become “dystopian travel agents” helping patients leave the state, and that they still have to explain to them that it’s not illegal for them to do so. “SB 8 was meant to be a fear tactic that paralyzed care and instilled anxiety in patients, and even after Dobbs, we are still seeing its impact,” she said.

Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, who told The Guardian, “I really don’t have words to describe the deep, deep pain I feel,” said that the post-Roe response from the Biden administration “has been a limp handshake.”

“We want to see tangible, bold action to restore or at least prevent the further erosion of reproductive rights. We need unwavering support—not a leader who can barely say the word ‘abortion’.”

But the quote that chilled me to the bone was from Andrea Gallegos, who manages Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services, who says she feels like they’re “waving our hands on top of a burning building, trying to warn everyone else that this is what it’s going to look like for the rest of the country soon.”

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