Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day
The Week in Abortion

Paid episode

The full episode is only available to paid subscribers of Abortion, Every Day

The Week in Abortion

10.2.23 - 10.6.23
To skip ahead in the newsletter, click on the section headlines: In Clinic Violence, a recap of the shooting at a Montana Planned Parenthood and how you can help. In Anti-Choice Language Watch, I go over the latest two terms that the GOP is trying to redefine. In This Week’s Trends, a short recap of a few other anti-choice strategies. November News highlights elections to watch out for, and some quick hits of the research we saw this week in Stats & Studies. I take a look at what’s happening in Florida in Attacks on Democracy, and flag some of this week’s most important stories in State Updates. Finally, we end on a positive note with all of the Good News we’ve seen over the last few days.

Clinic Violence

The suspect in the attack against a Montana Planned Parenthood is still at-large, after firing two shotgun rounds into the clinic building. From Planned Parenthood of Montana communications coordinator, Mary Sullivan:

“Our focus is on our team, our patients, and ensuring safety by coordinating with law enforcement. Our doors will remain open and Planned Parenthood of Montana will never step back from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that Montanans rely on and trust.”

The attack at the Helena clinic comes in the wake of Republicans ramping up their violent anti-abortion rhetoric—and as violence and harassment against clinics have increased across the country. (For data, check out the National Abortion Federation’s 2022 ‘Violence & Disruption Statistics’.)

As I reported yesterday, the shooting happened in the same week that Republicans introduced legislation to repeal the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act—which makes the obstruction of abortion clinics and violence against them a federal crime. In addition to their move to repeal the FACE Act, Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists have been working to weaken buffer zone laws—trying to remove clinic protections that stop protesters from being able to get too close to the staff or patients. Essentially, conservative lawmakers and groups have been trying to make it easier for anti-choice activists to harass and intimidate abortion providers and staff.

For images of the suspect and car in the Planned Parenthood shooting—as well as how to get in touch with law enforcement—click here. Please send this to anyone you know in Montana.

Anti-Choice Language Watch

Conservatives were paying their usual rhetorical games this week, with a focus on two terms: ban and ‘late’ abortion.

For nearly a year, Republicans have been moving away from the word ‘ban’, replacing it with terms like ‘standard’ or ‘consensus’. They’re even trying to get reporters to stop using ‘ban’, claiming that the word is biased. This week in Virginia, Republicans took things to the next level. An ad from state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavan, who supports Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal for a 15-week ban, says straight out that a ban is not a ban:

The other phrase we saw an increased focus on this week was ‘late abortion’ or ‘late term abortion’. On Tuesday, I flagged a new paper from the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI)—the ‘research’ arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. (You can guess why research is in scare quotes; their is nothing scientifically credible about this group.)

The paper, titled “Why We Need Federal Limits on Late Abortion to Protect Both Mother and Child,” argues for a national 15-week ban—defining ‘late’ abortion as anything after 12 weeks into pregnancy. There’s even a section on “extremely late” abortion, defined as ending a pregnancy after 20 weeks.

Now remember, ‘late abortion’ is not a medical term. It is a made up idea, which makes it that much easier for anti-abortion groups and legislators to change what it means at will. I first flagged this strategy back in May, when the president of March for Life Action, Jeanne Mancini, characterized care after 12 weeks as “dangerous and extreme late-term abortions.”

And, of course, this comes at the same time that Republicans are lying about ‘abortion up until birth’ and hyper-focusing on abortions later in pregnancy. If the GOP is successful in changing what Americans think of as ‘late’ abortion—or if they’re able to hide how their legislation defines ‘late’—I don’t need to tell you how bad the consequences will be.

This Week’s Trends

It wasn’t just strategies on language that we saw this week from conservatives. Here are a few other tactics to watch out for—click through on the links for more information on each trend:

  • The GOP desperately wants Americans to believe that there’s a ‘middle ground’ on abortion—whether it’s the lie that a 12-week ban is a ‘compromise’ (as one Florida Republican claimed this week), or that candidates like Nikki Haley are ‘reasonable’ on abortion. The most important question Abortion, Every Day asked this week about this trend is whether or not pro-choice groups will play into the GOP’s hands.

  • We got more insight this week into the way conservatives plan to criminalize those who get abortions. The short version is that they’re going to charge patients with something other than an illegal abortion, focusing on different charges so they can claim that they’re not arresting people for abortion.

  • Anti-choice activists have been trying to pass abortion ban ordinances in small towns as a way to instill fear in local communities (and maybe bring a case all the way to the Supreme Court). This week, a border town in Illinois took center stage.

  • Finally, we got a close-up look at how at how abortion bans and ‘bounty hunter’ mandates like the one in Texas enable domestic abusers. Which, of course, was never a bug—but a feature.

November News

We’re inching closer to vital elections for abortion rights in multiple states. This week, we saw news out of Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.

Ohio: Anti-abortion activists protested this week in Ohio in anticipation of voters deciding on the pro-choice ballot measure there. They also placed op-eds in key state papers to spread misinformation about the amendment. As expected, they’ve been claiming that enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution would allow for minors to get abortion- and gender-affirming care, and that it would legalize abortion ‘up until birth’. And as I reported on Friday, Attorney General Dave Yost issued a (very biased) legal analysis of the amendment that bolstered those false claims. Just as worrying, Yost argued that the state’s opinion on abortion should trump doctors’—even in cases where a patient’s health or life is at risk.

This all follows months of Republicans trying to stymie the pro-choice measure through lawsuits and legislation. For some background on the state GOP’s multiple attacks on democracy, click here.

Virginia: Virginia is the only Southern state that hasn’t banned abortion since Roe was overturned, and so Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal for a 15-week ban has turned the upcoming election into a referendum on abortion rights. Democrats have been putting out ad after ad reminding voters about the potential ban, and warning them about Republicans’ anti-abortion extremism. In response, their GOP opponents are claiming that Democrats are exaggerating or lying about their beliefs. And, as I mentioned in “Anti-Choice Language Watch,” Republicans are so worried about seeming extreme on abortion, that they’re putting out ads saying that Youngkin’s 15-week ban is not a ban.

It’s clear why the Virginia GOP is worried: A poll this week reports that most voters say Roe being overturned will play a major factor in who they vote for, and that 57% of voters believe that abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances.

And so abortion rights groups in the state are working hard to get the word out: Planned Parenthood Virginia is on track to knock on 70,000 doors before the election, and the organization says that they’ve seen double the number of volunteers this year. Meanwhile, Youngkin raised over $4 million this week from billionaire donors. (Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker responded by accusing Republicans of “trying to buy an abortion ban in Virginia.”)

Whether or not Youngkin can bring home the legislature for Republicans also has consequences beyond Virginia: the governor is being pushed by prominent conservative donors to consider a late entry into the presidential race. But if Youngkin can’t bring home a Republican-run legislature this November—one that can ban abortion—his chances are pretty much shot.

Pennsylvania: Total spending in the state Supreme Court election has surpassed $4.5 million, with millions more expected. The race—between Democrat Dan McCaffery and Republican Carolyn Carluccio—won’t change the makeup of the Court. But if Carluccio wins, the liberal majority would be narrowed—and Democrats are thinking about their long-term strategy. After Democrats in Wisconsin took control of the state Supreme Court by focusing on abortion rights, Pennsylvania Democrats are hoping for a similar win.

Back in August, Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle told POLITICO that abortion would be “the single biggest issue” in the race:

“Just a few months ago, in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, abortion was the single biggest reason why Democrats won by over 10 points. I could see something similar happening in Pa.”

As such, abortion rights groups in the state have spent record amounts of money to run ads against Carluccio, highlighting her anti-abortion extremism and ties to anti-choice groups. (Carluccio is claims the ads mischaracterize her views.)

Kentucky: Abortion has become a central issue in the gubernatorial race in Kentucky. And while it’s not a close race—Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has a double-digit lead over Republican Daniel Cameron—it’s been an interesting look at how abortion rights plays in a conservative state where Democrats would usually avoid talking about abortion. But in Kentucky, Beshear has been hitting Cameron on his anti-abortion extremism, and Cameron has been flip-flopping on the issue—seemingly unable to hit a sweet spot with talking points for voters.

Stats & Studies

We saw lots of new reports this week on abortion, from data on the OBGYN exodus out of anti-choice states to how digital privacy for reproductive health is impacting young people:

  • A new report from the ACLU found that 21% of American students are concerned that the surveillance technology used by their schools could identify students who are looking for reproductive health care, like abortion or birth control.

  • A study from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice and the National Partnership for Women & Families found that 43% of Latinas of reproductive age—nearly 6.7 million people—live in states that have banned or are likely to ban abortion.

  • And research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology reports that OBGYNs are avoiding states with abortion bans: residents who were set to practice in conservative states were actually eight times more likely to change their plans than residents who planned to practice in pro-choice states.

Attacks on Democracy

If you’re a regular reader, you know that Republicans have been undoing democracy across the country in an attempt to keep voters from making their voices heard on abortion rights. We’ve seen it in Ohio and Missouri—really in any place where pro-choice groups are pushing ballot measures. This week, the focus is on Florida, where Floridians Protecting Freedom have had more than 400,000 signatures validated by the state in their effort to get an amendment on the ballot in 2024.

They’ve collected enough signatures for a state Supreme Court review, where the Court will have to approve the measure’s language before it can head to voters. But there’s some concern that the Ron DeSantis-stacked Court could quash the initiative altogether.

The ACLU of Florida, for example, has criticized Florida’s Supreme Court for striking down other proposed amendments, saying that the Justices used “inconsistent” decisions and “inappropriate judicial discretion.” (In the last five years, the Court has struck down four out of nine citizen initiatives.) And University of Florida law professor Jonathan Marshfield told the Tallahassee Democrat that “because the state Supreme Court selection process is so heavily tied to the governor’s office, we have genuine reason to be suspicious about the extent to which the court is going to push back on [initiatives counter to the governor’s agenda].”

We’ve already seen the way that Florida Republicans are willing to attack democratic norms: Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended a prosecutor who said he wouldn’t go after abortion cases, and they’ve raised the standard on ballot measures to require 60% of the vote. And the ballot measure fight is happening at the same time that the Florida Supreme Court is set to decide on a challenge to the state’s 15-week abortion ban—a ruling that will determine the future of a newer 6-week ban.

All of which is to say: Abortion, Every Day will be paying close attention to Florida.

State Updates

  • Idaho doctors can now be arrested and prosecuted for providing emergency abortions, after a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (All three judges were appointed by Donald Trump).

  • Colorado pro-choice groups are moving ahead with an abortion rights ballot measure to enshrine protections in the state constitution and to end the prohibition on state funds being used for abortion.

  • Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs filed a brief with the state Supreme Court this week, urging justices to uphold the block on the state’s 1864 total abortion ban.

  • Wisconsin anti-choice groups filed complaints with the state medical board against abortion providers. The move comes after activists’ attempts to have the doctors arrested and prosecuted failed. (For an interview with the president of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin over the group’s decision to resume abortion care, click here.)

  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Yelp are suing each other over Yelp’s labeling of crisis pregnancy centers as places that don’t typically provide medical services. (Paxton says Yelp is misleading consumers and wants the company to pay civil penalties of $10,000 per violation.)

  • And Florida Democrats introduced legislation to protect people who self-manage their abortions from criminalization.

“We are on a winning trajectory. It may be that the day will come when people say the birth-control pill was a mistake.”

-Alan Sears, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, saying the quiet part out loud in the New Yorker.

Good News

In New York, New York City public hospitals will now offer abortion medication via tele-health, making them the first public health system in the country to do so. Patients can get the pills by going to NYC Health & Hospitals virtual clinic here.

Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell announced the creation of a “Reproductive Justice Unit” in her office this week, naming Sapna Khatri as executive director. Khatri says she plans to focus on reducing the harm done by crisis pregnancy centers, protections for reproductive health data, and advancing comprehensive sex education in schools across the state.

In Mississippi, the Mississippi Abortion Access Coalition published an Abortion Patient Bill of Rights for abortion-seekers in the state. The goal is to combat stigma and shame, and to educate people about how they can get care—whether it’s by self-managing an abortion or traveling to another state.

And finally, women who have been denied abortions are stepping up to create change so that no one else has to go through what they did. In Tennessee, Allie Phillips—who had to travel to New York for abortion care after finding out that her pregnancy wasn’t viable—is running as a Democrat for House District 75. And The Meteor reports that Nancy Davis—the woman in Louisiana who was denied care even though her fetus was missing parts of its brain and skull—also plans to run for office.

Davis recently had a three-hour phone conversation with Phillips about their respective experiences, and told The Meteor that “I do plan on running for something this year.”

“Seeing the lack of empathy that was shown to other women and other families, it really had me outraged,” she says.

If you missed my New York Times column this week about conservatives’ attempts to redefine ‘abortion’—and just how dangerous it is—check it out here.

Listen to this episode with a 7-day free trial

Subscribe to Abortion, Every Day to listen to this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.

Abortion, Every Day
Abortion, Every Day
Daily audio updates & commentary on abortion in the United States.
Listen on
Substack App
RSS Feed
Appears in episode
Jessica Valenti