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Abortion, Every Day (9.18.23)
Republican 'maternity homes' force women to attend Mass & say prayers
In the States has lots of updates, including something on Indiana AG Todd Rokita and his never-ending harassment campaign of an abortion provider. I report on a chilling story in Keep An Eye On about anti-abortion ‘maternity homes’. Some angry words on The Media’s Trump Problem and the resulting 2024 mess. Republicans are trying to sound pro-choice in What Conservatives Are Saying. Finally, hear from a Tennessee woman in Care Denied and get your hopes back up with You Love to See It.
In the States
Planned Parenthood clinics in Wisconsin resumed abortion care today, even though the state’s ban hasn’t been repealed yet. Michelle Velasquez, director of legal advocacy and services at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin told the Wall Street Journal that they believe the potential for prosecution has declined. “In our view, we have absolute legal ability to provide abortion services,” she said.
As I reported last week, Planned Parenthood’s decision comes after a ruling that the challenge against the 1849 ban could move forward because, the judge said, the law isn’t actually an abortion ban at all—but “a feticide statute only.” (Meaning it only applies to an attack on a pregnant person that ends the pregnancy, and not abortion.)
Between that ruling, the fact that the state Attorney General is pro-choice, and that liberals have control over the state Supreme Court for the first time in decades—Planned Parenthood clearly feels like they’re on firm legal footing. Republicans, of course, are pissed. Last week, Wisconsin House Speaker Robin Vos accused Planned Parenthood of breaking the law, saying, “it’s just another reminder that some people flub the law whether it’s the law on the books or not.” If you need abortion care in Wisconsin, click here.
Last week, Abortion, Every Day reported that Daniel Cameron, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Kentucky, signed a pledge to criminalize birth control. Thanks to that coverage, Cameron has been forced to explain why he agreed in a 2023 questionnaire to outlaw abortion—defined in the document as including “the so-called ‘morning after pill,’ Norplant, Depo Provera, or the so-called ‘standard birth control pill.’”
Despite the fact that this false definition of abortion was very explicitly stated in Northern Kentucky Right to Life’s questionnaire, the Republican told the Lexington Herald-Leader, “It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest I oppose or want to criminalize birth control or contraception.” Yes, how dare we take his word and pledge seriously! In what I’m sure is completely unrelated news, Cameron also now says that he’d consider signing a law that allows for abortion in cases of rape and incest.
Related: After a week of urging national media outlets to pick this story up, Rolling Stone finally did so—but without a mention or link to to the newsletter. Thanks to Jezebel for their coverage, which actually cited me. (Maybe I sound bitter, but this stuff matters to independent outlets!)
Abortion, Every Day catches the stories that the mainstream media misses. But an independent feminist newsletter can’t do it alone! Help support the work by signing up for a paid subscription:
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who spent over a year using state resources to attack the abortion provider who treated a 10 year-old rape victim from Ohio, is now going after the doctor’s hospital. As you likely remember, Rokita went after Dr. Caitlin Bernard’s medical license after she mentioned the girl’s case to a reporter—without including any identifying details—to demonstrate the real life horror of abortion bans. Rokita honed in on Bernard as punishment for speaking up, and to ensure a chilling effect on other doctors in the state.
This week, Rokita filed a suit against Indiana University Health and IU Healthcare Associates, claiming that they also violated the girl’s privacy: “Rather than protecting the patient, the hospital chose to protect the doctor, and itself.” (Funny how we’re supposed to believe that Rokita cares about a child who he would see forced into pregnancy.)
I also have to wonder about the timing of Rokita’s suit: It came just a few days before the Indiana Supreme Court’s disciplinary commission filed a complaint against the Republican AG. The commission says Rokita violated professional conduct rules—including confidentiality requirements!—during his harassment campaign against Bernard.
As we get closer to Ohio voters deciding whether to protect abortion rights in the state constitution, the campaign for the pro-choice ballot measure released this heartbreaking ad about a couple who were unable to get care despite a fatal fetal abnormality:
Meanwhile, as women and families share the stories of very real harm done by abortion bans, anti-abortion activists are trying to distract voters with anti-trans bigotry and lies. Case in point: In a speech this weekend, the head of Ohio Right to Life said the pro-choice amendment in Ohio would allow for abortion “through all nine months of pregnancy.” This is why—as I’ve written many, many times before—it doesn’t make sense for pro-choice activists to include ‘viability’ restrictions into ballot measures as a way to stave off Republican attacks. Conservatives are going to say whatever they want about it, regardless.
When three South Carolina Republican women opposed a near-total abortion ban, they knew it meant that their seats might be challenged. In July, Sen. Sandy Senn told The Post & Courier that she wouldn’t have been able to look in the mirror if she did anything else. “I’m not going to go willingly back to the 1950s, I'm just not,” she said. Now, as predicted, Senn is being challenged by State Rep. Matt Leber, who is attacking her over abortion. Senn responded to the news by saying, “Any competition is healthy, and I will tell you that I also expect other challengers.” I’d say that the message is clear to Republican women: speak up about abortion, and we’ll oust you.
One more bit of South Carolina news: In response to state Sens. Margie Bright Matthews (a Democrat) and Katrina Shealy (a Republican) calling for the state to put abortion rights directly to voters, the president of Democrats For Life of South Carolina has written a letter to the editor opposing the move. Hayden Laye writes that abortion should be illegal whether it’s “popular or not.” Which is just another reminder that anti-abortion activists quite literally don’t give a shit what voters want.
Axios on Florida’s post-Roe uptick in abortions;
Truthout on California’s new abortion rights protections;
A rundown of the anti-abortion TRAP laws that Michigan Democrats are trying to repeal;
Keep An Eye On
Abortion, Every Day has reported previously about conservatives’ plan to establish a “national network” of maternity homes that would be run by anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists claim that the centers would help pregnant women, but the truth is that these are religious groups targeting marginalized people—like those without homes—to exert control over their lives and bodies.
In fact, the groups we’re meant to believe are a saving grace for needy women actually act more like domestic abusers: implementing curfews, taking away screen time and making women ‘earn’ the privilege of leaving through “good behavior.” And, like anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, these groups force women with no other place to go to attend religious services. In North Dakota, for example, Gianna & Pietro Molla Maternity Home—which is state funded—requires residents to “attend Sunday Mass, take part in a nightly prayer and participate in grace before meals.” What makes this even worse is that most of the women this organization serves are Native American. (A community that hasn’t exactly had the best experience with religious residential programs.)
As we see increased funding for these ‘homes’, it’s incredibly important that we’re raising the alarm on what they actually do—and who they actually serve. Because it’s not women.
The Media’s Trump Problem
Apparently the mainstream media learned nothing from the Trump years. Check out this NBC News headline teasing a “Meet the Press” interview with the disgraced former president. (Not necessarily related, but the headline was changed after I tweeted angrily about it.)
I don’t have to tell you how incredibly dangerous and false it is to paint Trump—a sociopathic liar—as a moderate on abortion. Just like I don’t have to tell you that writing a headline that sounds more like a Trump press release than journalism is bad fucking form.
But what I found most infuriating was that in the same interview that NBC News claims Trump wants to “bring the country together,” he insisted that abortion providers “kill the baby after birth” seven different times. (A CNN fact check of the interview found that of all the topics that Trump lied about, abortion was the issue on which “he was most dishonest.”)
Reporter Kristen Welker pushed back appropriately on this inflammatory and dangerous claim—but somehow that headline was still the takeaway. And that’s what makes me afraid. Trump knows how unpopular abortion bans are and he’s using that to his advantage: He’s taking credit for Roe being overturned, while depicting himself as a reasonable negotiator who can come up with a ‘compromise’ on abortion. But if mainstream media outlets are doing his campaign’s work for him—and framing his bullshit as anything other than lies—we have a real problem.
Also noteworthy: Instead of answering questions about the real life impact of abortion bans, Trump kept talking about finding “a number” that everyone could be happy with. (Meaning number of weeks into pregnancy abortion should be banned.)
In fact, he used the term ‘numbers’ a whopping fourteen times during the back-and-forth about abortion. As I’ve written before, there’s a reason that Republicans want the conversation to be about 6 weeks vs 15 weeks—the more we’re talking about numbers, the less people are thinking about cancer patients and raped children being denied care. So when anti-abortion politicians try to make this an issue of ‘weeks’, it’s imperative that we’re bringing the conversation back to people’s real lives.
The one honest thing Trump said about abortion during his “Meet the Press” interview? When Welker asked him whether he though abortion restrictions should be at the state or federal level, he answered, “I don’t, frankly, care.”
Speaking of Trump and abortion, the former president also said that Republicans “speak very inarticulately” about abortion. And in the two speeches he gave this weekend for Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, Trump said, “a lot of politicians who are pro-life don’t know how to discuss this topic.”
“If they don’t speak about it correctly, they’re not going to win,” he said—once again driving home that Trump sees this as a messaging problem more than anything else.
In response, multiple Republicans—from fellow candidates to pundits—are hitting back against the former president. Mike Pence said in a statement, “Donald Trump continues to walk away from the pro-life legacy of our administration,” and told Jake Tapper said that Trump “wants to marginalize the right to life.”
Conservative pundit and writer Ben Domenech blasted Trump in an op-ed today, writing that “he undermines everything that pro-lifers have been working towards for years.” Also in a column today, Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner called Trump’s abortion position “self-aggrandizing and nonsensical.” And in response to Trump’s comments about DeSantis’ 6-week ban being a “terrible mistake,” Kristen Waggoner, CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, tweeted that “Governors who protect life should be applauded, not attacked.”
Interesting that so many conservatives came out at basically the exact same time against Trump and his abortion stance…
Ron DeSantis accused the Pentagon of promotion ‘abortion tourism’ by allowing service members to take time off if they need to leave the state for care;
What Conservatives Are Saying
You know I’m obsessed with conservatives’ refusal to use the word ‘ban’, and the way that the anti-abortion movement is even trying to get reporters to stop using the term by claiming it’s ‘biased’. I’ve got to tell you—Republicans are getting bolder by the day with their war on language. Just check out this CNN report on Virginia Republicans, and how Republican David Owen, running for Virginia House, described his support for a 15-week ban:
“Owen said he supports ‘a woman’s right to choose’ up until 15 weeks, with exceptions—a notable public usage of the language of ‘choice’ by a Republican. ‘So nobody knows what the makeup of the legislature is going to be, but whatever it is, I’m not going to vote for a ban. I’m at 15 weeks,’ Owen said.”
A woman’s right to choose? I’m not going to vote for a ban? Sounds downright pro-choice!
CNN also reported that Republican state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant said something similar: “I don’t support an abortion ban. Period.” If Dunnavant’s name sounds familiar, it’s because I told you last week about what her campaign website says about abortion:
“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.”
Again, it’s almost framed as if she’s pro-choice. That’s how afraid Republicans are.
“I’ve had a lot of pro-life people come to me and say, ‘your story has changed my mind. I never thought about it like that.’ I feel like stories like mine can reach more people.”
This is why Republicans are so desperate to keep these stories out of the media and the courts. (Remember how Texas tried to stop the women suing them from testifying??) They don’t want Americans to know the real life impact of abortion bans. As Center for Reproductive Rights lawyer Marc Hearron added, “People are brave and they’re coming forward and telling their stories—and the public is listening.” Indeed we are.
You Love to See It
Abortion rights activists in Missouri have launched a new website, AbortionHelpMO.com, to ensure that people in the state know that they can get abortion care out-of-state if they want to. Right By You and Missouri Abortion Fund, the groups behind the website, say that it will provide “accurate, stigma-free information about abortion access with the primary goal of letting them know that it is possible to leave the state for care.” Depressing that we need a website to let folks know they’re allowed to travel, but necessary and very, very smart all the same.