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

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The Week in Abortion

9.4.23 - 9.8.23

To make navigating the newsletter easier, I’m going to start including links at the top to different sections if you’d like to skip around to the issue you’re most interested in. (I think this will be particularly helpful in the daily reports.) This is the first time I’m trying out the feature, so please forgive me if it’s glitchy; I’ll get the hang of it eventually!

Today we’re starting off strong with Pro-Choice Wins and the resulting Republican Panic. Then I go over a few Abortion Ban Lawsuit Updates, and tell you more about The GOP’s Plan to Ban Birth Control. The newsletter ends with analysis of the ongoing Care Crisis, and the restrictions on travel that I’m calling In-State Detention.

Pro-Choice Wins

Caring about abortion rights can be exhausting and discouraging, so I figured let’s start with some good news today!

In Michigan, Democrats introduced the Reproductive Health Act—legislation will repeal most of the state’s anti-abortion TRAP laws. The RHA would do away with the 24-hour waiting period in the state, as well onerous restrictions on clinics, and the ban on Medicaid-funded abortions. (It won’t repeal the state’s parental consent mandate, sadly.)

In California, the state is poised to pass a law that would protect people who break abortion bans in other states, making the state a safe haven for those “seeking refuge from prosecution or imprisonment.” SB 345 was approved by the California legislature this week and is headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature. From California Sen. Nancy Skinner, who introduced the legislation:

“…California is fighting back. With SB 345, California doctors, midwives and others can provide the essential health care their patients need, regardless of the patient’s geographic location, confident that California will protect them from malicious prosecution by other states.”

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission dismissed Republican complaints against state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz—a setback for the state lawmakers seeking to remove the judge from abortion rights cases. That doesn’t mean Republicans won’t still move to impeach Protasiewicz, but we’ll take our good news however we can.

Finally, not a pro-choice win as much as a good omen: Kentucky Democrats don’t usually focus on abortion rights, but Gov. Andy Beshear is attacking his Republican opponent, Daniel Cameron, on his anti-choice extremism.

Republican Panic

Let’s keep the good news going: Republicans across the country are running scared on abortion rights. Because it’s not just that abortion keeps winning elections; but that the GOP keeps losing them. They know they have to do something different, and quickly.

That panic presented in a few different ways this week—from candidates switching up their abortion rights talking points to the GOP considering doing away with the term ‘pro-life’ altogether.

In Colorado, for example, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Republican challenger, Russ Andrews, has been proactively talking about his position on abortion as a way to set himself apart. (He believes abortion should be legal until 22 weeks.) He even told a reporter, “I don’t mean to sound like one of those men telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.”

In Virginia, Republicans are trying to downplay their support of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s 15-week abortion ban. And former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers in Michigan—a Republican running for U.S. Senate—is trying to reassure voters about his abortion stance: He said this week that he wouldn’t support any national legislation to restrict abortion that are “inconsistent with Michigan's law.” (Michigan has some of the most pro-choice policies in the country.)!

But the best indication of just how scared Republicans are right now is that they’re giving serious consideration to doing away with the term ‘pro-life’. That’s right, the term that we’ve been told, for decades, won conservatives the abortion language war! Apparently Senate Republicans heard a presentation this week on polling that shows Americans interpret ‘pro-life’ to mean against abortion in all cases. In other words: voters can see their extremism a mile away.

The problem for Republicans is that they’ve been ramping up their messaging around ‘exceptions’ as a way to make voters believe that they’re not all-or-nothing rabid misogynists. But the reason ‘pro-life’ doesn’t resonate with voters isn’t because Americans are misinformed about the GOP’s abortion position; it’s because they’re watching, in real time, what those beliefs have done to real people every day since Roe was overturned. As Emily’s List spokesperson Christina Reynolds told NBC News, “Their messaging was not the problem, their position is the problem.”

“Republicans have unleashed great suffering in order to force women into pregnancy. That is a material reality, and it cannot be undone with a simple turn of phrase. Women are living with the consequences of their actions, and now so must they.” ~Sarah Jones, New York Magazine

In response to all this, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America vice president E.V. Osment told the National Review that the polling just demonstrates that Republicans need to “speak with clarity and specificity on what it means to be pro-life.”

That means the GOP’s focus on so-called exceptions are going to ramp up, and Democrats need to start calling out the fact that these exemptions are not real. They need to go beyond simply saying they’re difficult to access or contain too many hurdles, and tell the truth: abortion ban exceptions don’t exist.

For previous Abortion, Every Day coverage of ‘exceptions’, see below:

Abortion Ban Lawsuit Updates

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments this week in the legal challenge against the 15-week abortion ban, which will determine the future of the state’s recently-passed 6-week ban. (For background on the case and its implications, click here and here.) Florida’s Supreme Court is stacked with judges appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Justice Charles Canady is married to a co-sponsor of the 6-week ban. And so it’s not surprising that questions from the Court indicated that they’re open to undoing decades of precedent to enforce the ban. Chief Justice Carlos Muniz even took the time to call Roe v Wade “an abomination.”

Montana abortion providers are suing the state over a new TRAP law that puts onerous and unnecessary requirements on clinics. Abortion rights are protected in the state constitution, and so the law is a way for Republicans to get around that protection by trying to chip away at access.

The legal challenge against Missouri’s abortion ban, citing religious freedom, had its first hearing this week. The plaintiffs are pointing out that legislators “openly invoked their religious beliefs” while adopting the ban and “imposed those beliefs on others who don’t share them.” A Missouri prosecutor is also suing over the state’s abortion ban, arguing that the criminal penalties violate the state constitution and that it’s unclear how state attorneys are meant to interpret the law.

And in Wyoming, Republican lawyers for the state have responded to a legal challenge against the state’s ban by refusing to answer any questions about the law, claiming to do so is too “burdensome.” (You know what’s burdensome? Forced pregnancy!) The state is seeking to prevent the plaintiff’s eight experts from testifying.

The GOP’s Plan to Ban Birth Control

You know that I’ve become a tad bit obsessed with Republicans’ strategy to ban contraception, and how the GOP is hoping that their chipping away approach will go unnoticed. This week, we saw one of their long-term tactics—redefining certain types of birth control as abortifacients—in action.

Oregon Right to Life filed a suit seeking an exemption from the state law that requires insurance plans provide contraception coverage. Their claim is that emergency contraception and certain kinds of IUDs aren’t birth control at all, but abortifacients. (They call them “abortifacient ‘contraceptives’.”)

That’s why interviews like this at Fox News, where Mike Pence said that he “fully” supports access to contraception, mean nothing. Because I am willing to bet that when Pence says ‘birth control’, he doesn’t mean IUDs and the morning after pill. This has become a common tactic with conservatives: slickly claiming to support contraception while crossing their fingers behind their back, knowing that they don’t actually mean all kinds of birth control.

Take Students for Life, for example, who says on their website that they have no interest in banning birth control—but they also clearly state elsewhere that they characterize most forms of contraception, even birth control pills, as ‘abortions’. So when they say they want to ban ‘abortion’, they’re also talking about the pill!

We’re also seeing this tactic on the ground: A new report about anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers in Ohio showed that the groups relayed misinformation across the board, including saying that birth control “causes an abortion.”

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The Care Crisis

The post-Roe care crisis has left few places untouched, but we saw the impact most starkly this week in Oklahoma and Idaho. In a piece from The New York Times about the impact that bans are having on doctors and maternity care, we found out that more than half of Oklahoma’s counties are considered maternity care deserts—and that 75% of the state’s OBGYNs are either leaving or considering leaving the state. Imagine what the maternal and infant death rates are going to look like in a state that loses 75% of its OBGYNs. That’s catastrophic.

In Idaho, nearly 50% of OBGYNs are leaving or strongly considering leaving, and only a handful of maternal fetal medicine specialists remain in the state. The state has also seen multiple hospitals shut down their maternity wards, a direct result of abortion bans and institutions being unable to recruit or retain doctors. And as I reported back in April, the state has disbanded their Maternal Mortality Review committee.

And so it’s not shocking that new new data this week shows that Idaho patients are streaming into neighboring states for abortion care at an unprecedented rate. Clinics in Washington, Oregon and Montana report massive surges of Idaho patients; and four girls in Washington who won an award for developing an app to help out-of-state patients find a safe place to stay, report that they did so after volunteering at a shelter and noticing how Idaho women were there to get abortion care.

In-State Detention

The kind of massive out-of-state travel we’re seeing from Idaho and other anti-choice states is why conservatives are so eager to restrict women’s right to travel. (For a recap on Republican moves to detain pregnant people within their states, click here.) A new study from the Guttmacher Institute this week, for example, showed huge upticks in the number of abortions performed in border states—with the biggest increases in states like Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina and Florida.

Conservatives know that people are getting abortions regardless of the state law—whether it’s by ordering abortion medication online or traveling to another state—and they’re desperate to stop it. But because of the negative press following the news from Alabama and Texas, Republicans are remaining pretty mum about their in-state detention strategy. So a couple of things to watch out for in the coming months:

  • Language using the term ‘tourism’, like this column at The American Conservative that mentions “interstate abortion tourism.” The term, which I first flagged in July, is meant to make traveling for abortion care seem as nefarious as possible—Republicans want to make it seem as if pro-choice states are making tons of money trying to bring in abortion patients. It’s also incredible dismissive, as if having to leave your home and travel hundreds of mile for healthcare is a sightseeing trip.

  • Increasing restrictions on minors, like the ‘trafficking’ law in Idaho. When Republicans introduced the law, calling it a simple piece of ‘parental rights’ legislation, I warned (for months!) that they would never stop at teenagers. As is so often the case, minors are the canaries in the coal mine. So be on the lookout for Idaho-type trafficking laws targeting young people, and other kinds of chipping-away policies on the right to travel.

Before I go, let’s end on a positive note: Last night I sent the Abortion, Every Day community an appeal to help out the organizations on the ground in Alabama doing the very difficult work of protecting pregnant people. This morning, I saw a tweet from Robin Marty of the West Alabama Women’s Center who says she woke up to a massive influx of donations. You all are the best. Thank you.

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