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Abortion, Every Day (9.13.23)
Republican running for Kentucky Governor agreed to criminalize contraception
In today’s issue: Some wild news out of Kentucky in “In the States” and updates on Tuberville and spending bills in “In the Nation.” I look at depressing conservative tactics in “Anti-Choice Strategy: Glorifying Dying for Pregnancy”; give you some new reading on travel restrictions in “In-State Confinement”; and news on record-breaking ad spending in “2024.” I have more on the lawsuits in three states in “Care Denied”; some rare good news today in “The Care Crisis”; and finally an abortion billboard that made me smile in “You Love to See It.”
In the States
I wrote last week about how Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is attacking his Republican opponent, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, on his anti-choice extremism. It’s a definite change of political pace, and a sign of how powerful abortion rights has become. I have two big pieces of news on this race today: The first is that Planned Parenthood Action Kentucky has announced they’re planning to support Beshear’s campaign in a big way. State director of the organization, Tamarra Wieder, says that while the group has played a smaller role in past campaigns—they spent $177,000 in the last gubernatorial cycle—their level of support this year will be “robust” and “surprise a lot of Kentuckians.”
“Cameron has done everything he can to obstruct access to abortion so we will do everything we can to make sure that Cameron is not elected,” Wieder said. As they should, especially given this second piece of news (which is inexplicably buried at the bottom of NBC News’ piece on the race): Cameron believes hormonal birth control is abortion. Or at least, he’s agreed to treat it as such.
In a 2023 questionnaire from Northern Kentucky Right to Life, Cameron affirmed that he would codify personhood from the moment of fertilization, support legislation that prohibits state funding for abortion, and criminalize anyone who provides abortion care or even pays for an abortion. Here’s the kicker: The organization defines abortion to include “the so-called ‘morning after pill,’ Norplant, Depo Provera, or the so-called ‘standard birth control pill.’”
That’s right, the Republican candidate for governor in Kentucky agreed to criminalize hormonal birth control. That seems extremely fucking noteworthy! It also gets at exactly what I was writing about it in my piece about the “GOP’s Plan to Ban Birth Control” and their tactic of redefining certain types of contraception as abortifacients.
Abortion, Every Day consistently predicts conservative strategy before the mainstream media—help the newsletter keep warning Americans about the threat to abortion rights by signing up for a paid subscription:
Remember how Missouri’s pro-choice ballot measure was blocked by Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who claimed that the state auditor’s cost estimate for the amendment was incorrect? And how Bailey tried to pressure the Republican, anti-abortion auditor to change the estimate to billions of dollars? Well, even though the state Supreme Court forced Bailey to eventually sign off on the estimate—which needed to happen in order for abortion rights advocates to start collecting signatures—Republicans are back at it again. This time, two GOP lawmakers and an anti-abortion activist have filed a lawsuit arguing that the $51,000 cost estimate is way too low. They want the estimate amended to be millions of dollars. They will do anything, anything, to keep abortion out of voters’ hands.
In less infuriating legal news from Missouri, the religious freedom legal challenge against the state’s abortion ban continued on in a hearing today, with abortion rights advocates seeking to block the state from enforcing the ban. I’ll keep you updated as I find out more on this one.
In Virginia, you know abortion rights are going to be the central issue for 2024—and that Republicans are terrified. It makes sense, then, that state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant is taking cues from the anti-abortion movement’s language war, claiming that the 15-week abortion ban she supports isn’t a ‘ban’ at all. From her campaign website:
“Abortion should remain legal for up to 15 weeks. After 15 weeks, there should be reasonable exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother, and in cases of severe fetal anomalies. Not a ban, but legislation that reflects compassionate common sense.”
Not a ban, huh? They are nothing if not predictable.
I can’t remember the last time we had good news out of Texas! Chandler, the city I mentioned yesterday considering passing an ‘anti-trafficking’ ordinance targeting people leaving the state for abortion care, rejected the policy. In more good local Texas news: A majority of the San Antonio City Council supports a $500,000 “Reproductive Justice Fund” that would in part be used to help people get out-of-state abortions.
Finally, Michigan Radio gets into the new legislation that would repeal some of the anti-abortion TRAP laws in Michigan—including one onerous paperwork requirement that ends up canceling 150 abortions a month. (This of course, is the point; Republicans want to make abortions too difficult to obtain, even when they’re legal.) The state has a 24 hour-waiting period and an ‘informed consent’ form:
In practice, the two have been combined into a single form, accessible only through a state website, that patients must sign within a specific time frame (no more than two weeks, but no less than 24 hours, before their appointment), print, and bring to their appointment.
If they don’t, or if they fill the form out incorrectly, the appointment can’t proceed. That happens to at least 150 patients each month at Planned Parenthood of Michigan clinics alone, according to PPMI.
So glad that these laws are going to go. Imagine being forced to deny someone care because they filled out a form wrong.
The Washington Post on how abortion rights will impact Virginia’s election;
Truthout on the Florida Supreme Court Justice who is married to a co-sponsor of the state’s 6-week abortion ban;
Yahoo News on why Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz is being attacked by Republicans before she’s even heard a single case;
NBC News on how Alabama is shutting down birthing centers in the middle of a maternal health crisis.
In the Nation
Apparently abortion doesn’t just win elections—but political negotiations: Republicans have given up on trying to pass the agriculture spending bill that they inserted anti-abortion policies into. POLITICO reports that GOP leaders thought that putting in the language would help them, but it only “helped to seal the demise of what is usually among the easiest appropriations bills for Congress to pass, drawing fierce and rare pushback from more than a dozen moderate Republicans.” Womp womp.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who has been holding up hundreds of military nominations and promotions in protest of the Pentagon’s abortion policy, apparently has no idea how military appointments work! When reporters asked Tuberville what he thinks about Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retiring on October 1st, Tuberville responded that Milley wouldn’t go anywhere until someone else is confirmed. Reporters had to remind Tuberville that Milley is required to leave.
Watch MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace be as flabbergasted as the rest of us about “the depths of his ignorance.”
Even GOP leaders are calling on Tuberville to cut it out: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday, “I think holding these non-policymaking career military [officials] who can’t be involved in politics at all is a mistake.”
Still, Tuberville refuses to block down. Yesterday, the Alabama Republican said, “I think they’re starting to believe that I meant what I said,” and called for a vote on the Pentagon’s abortion policy. Which, as a reminder, simply allows for time off and travel reimbursements for service members who need to leave the state their stationed in for abortion care. If you’d like a detailed run-down on everything that’s been happening with Tuberville’s ‘protest’, The New York Times has a piece today about the backstory and impact.
Speaking of the Times, I’m glad to see they had a huge piece on ballot measures this week, but if you’re an Abortion, Every Day reader, you’ll have known all of this stuff months ago. (Seriously, reading it is like reading a compilation of AED emails!)
The Atlantic on how “the Supreme Court could send the U.S. back to the 1950s”;
STAT News on the risk to PEPFAR funding;
Anti-Choice Strategy: Glorifying Dying for Pregnancy
For years, I’ve been writing about the anti-abortion movement’s obsession with dead women—specifically women dying during or for pregnancy. It’s not just that these groups and activists believe that the most noble thing a woman can do is die so that a fetus can live (though that’s certainly part of it). Conservatives are increasingly glorifying dying for pregnancy because they know that post-Roe maternal death rates are going to skyrocket and they want to make that as palatable as possible.
For the past few months, I’ve noticed story after story—most coming from conservative and Christian media—valorizing women who declined cancer treatment or other kinds of medical care so that their fetus could live. Now there’s another, related, kind of story coming out that may be even more dangerous: articles about women who were told they would die without an abortion, but lived.
This week, for example, Fox News published an article about a woman whose doctors advised her to have an abortion so she could receive chemotherapy and radiation for an aggressive brain tumor. She declined, had her baby, and is still alive—though her prognosis is not good. Obviously, I am glad that this young woman made the choice that was right for her and her family. But I’m distressed to think about a trend of articles that make women think they’ll beat the odds if they just forgo an abortion.
I want to live in a country that sees women’s lives as valuable beyond their ability to have babies. But right now, it seems like that’s too much to ask.
“To the politicians pushing anti-choice laws, women dying isn’t collateral damage—it’s just our job. They believe that if we were real mothers and real women, we’d give up anything for pregnancy: Our education, our finances, our safety, our health and even our lives.”
“Yes, They Want You Dead,” Abortion, Every Day, March 2022
I have two important reads for you today on the Republican war on women’s right to travel. First, check out Moira Donegan at The Guardian, who consistently writes exactly what I’m feeling. The whole column is a must-read, but Moira begins with the most vital question of all:
“How free can any woman be in a country where her right to control her body and family depends on the jurisdiction where she happens to live?”
If you’re looking for more of the legal nitty-gritty, this Vox piece is a good explainer. It gets into how the restrictions are unconstitutional, how the fact that they’re unconstitutional may not matter to this Supreme Court, and who the laws will actually impact the most:
“If a man drives his pregnant girlfriend through Mitchell County on the way to an abortion clinic in New Mexico, how is anyone other than the two of them supposed to know where they are headed? But the law could wind up deterring women in abusive relationships, or other patients whose acquaintances or family members learn that they are seeking an abortion. Indeed, according to the Washington Post, Dickson suggested that ‘a husband who doesn’t want his wife to get an abortion could threaten to sue the friend who offers to drive her.’”
We always knew these laws would enable abusive assholes. Now, even conservatives are admitting as much themselves.
Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie got called out on MSNBC on Tuesday, when he said, “in my state of New Jersey, it’s abortion up to nine months.” Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski pushed back, saying, “It’s not an abortion at nine months.”
“You can come back and bring me the evidence of women across the state of New Jersey having abortions in the ninth month. It’s not happening, Chris. C’mon.”
The exchange happened as Republicans increasingly lean on myths around abortion later in pregnancy—an attempt to paint Democrats as the real extremists in a moment when women are going septic and raped children are being denied care.
CNN reports that political ad spending for 2024 is set to break records, with projections at $10.2 billion. That number comes from the ad tracking firm AdImpact, which pointed to abortion rights ballot measures as one major reason the spending has been driven up. From AdImpact:
“Ohio’s abortion-related ballot measures have already seen over $30M in 2023 and numerous other states are attempting to get the issue on the ballot in 2024. Election results and spending totals in Kansas during the 2022 cycle demonstrated that abortion can drive political advertising spending even in states considered safely red.”
Finally, a new poll shows that young women are much more likely to identify as liberal, whereas their male counterparts are more likely to call themselves conservatives or “to align with MAGA Republicans.” That’s not entirely surprising, of course—and it lines up with the kinds of misogynist backlash we’re seeing with a new generation of men who grow up online—but wow do I wish younger men would get on board.
Abortion, Every Day reported yesterday on the new complaints filed in three states—Idaho, Tennessee, and Oklahoma—by women who were denied abortion care despite risks to their health and lives. Some of those women are speaking out about their experiences today:
In The Guardian, Jillaine St. Michel of Idaho talks about what it was like to find out her wanted pregnancy was doomed—and to have doctors who couldn’t help. St. Michel says that all that her doctors were legally allowed to do was hand her a sheet of paper with a list of clinics in nearby states.
“It wasn’t a shameful thing that we did. It almost feels liberating to share the truth, to share our experience, because I do want people to know how these laws are affecting women across the country.”
St. Michel shares a similar sentiment in a piece she wrote for the Idaho Statesman, where she says that she’s speaking out now and suing “so that my daughters will know that their mother, and all other women, are deserving of this essential human right.” Also in the Idaho Statesman, another plaintiff from the state, Jennifer Adkins, says it plainly: “It isn’t safe to be pregnant in Idaho.”
“That law forced me to carry a baby for months that was never going to live, and easily could have killed me.”
And Oklahoma complainant Jaci Statton spoke to Tulsa World about being denied an abortion—and being told to wait in the hospital parking lot “until I started to die.”
The Care Crisis
Some rare good news: A new clinic is opening in Cumberland, Maryland, on the border of West Virginia. The hope is that the clinic will help to close part of the care gap in the area. From Katie Quiñonez, executive director of the clinic:
“The Women’s Health Center of Maryland will be the western most abortion provider and gender-affirming hormone provider in the state of Maryland. And it will be the only nonprofit reproductive health care center in mountain Maryland…It’s really our sincere hope that Women’s Health Center of Maryland will be that regional access point for abortion care and hope to alleviate the intense demands the existing abortion providers that have been able to continue to provide that care in their states.”
The Women’s Health Center of Maryland opens today.