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

11.27.23 - 12.1.23
17

Criminalization

One of the worst stories I covered this week was out of Ohio, where a woman is being charged with ‘abuse of a corpse’ for how she handled her miscarriage. You can read about the case in detail here.

What’s important to remember is that women’s pregnancy outcomes were being criminalized even before Roe was overturned—primarily in cases similar to this one. If/When/How’s latest report, for example, outlines how prosecutors use charges like “those related to handling or disposal of fetal remains…unlawful practice of abortion or medicine, child abuse or endangerment, and homicide.”

Since Abortion, Every Day raised the alarm, coverage of the case has exploded. (A TikTok I did this week reached over 1.5 million people.)

While this kind of criminalization has been happening for decades, we can expect to see a lot more of it now that prosecutors have been emboldened by abortion bans. They believe that by targeting those who are most marginalized—and by painting them as callous or otherwise unsympathetic—that people won’t care. It’s vital we don’t let that happen.

For legal help, call If/When/How’s Repro Helpline: 844-868-2812

For medical advice, contact the Miscarriage & Abortion Hotline: 833-246-2632

In other criminalization news this week, the Oklahoma Attorney General wrote guidance he claims will make it easier for doctors to provide life-saving abortions without fear of prosecution. But the language he uses leaves a lot of room for interpretation:

“Moreover, when a situation where the mother’s life is at risk arises, or where the life exception has been cited, district attorneys should generally refrain from prosecuting when no pattern or trend exists, or where evidence of criminal intent is absent or unclear.”

As I reported this week, what constitutes a “pattern or trend” is being left entirely to law enforcement. Essentially, any doctor who performs more than one abortion using the state’s life exception could be targeted—which means that doctors might delay life-saving care out of fear that they’re contributing to a ‘pattern’ that puts them at legal risk.

One last bit of criminalization news, and this time it’s good: Charges have been dropped against a South Carolina woman who was arrested for taking abortion medication. Thank goodness.

All About Arizona

Abortion rights news in Arizona moved quickly this week: Just days after an Abortion, Every Day story about state Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery went viral, the judge recused himself from the case that will determine abortion rights in the state. The short version is that Montgomery—who protested in front of Planned Parenthood and wrote on Facebook that the group was responsible for “the greatest generational genocide known to man”—initially refused to recuse himself despite his obvious bias.

A week earlier, Montgomery had even wrote an order outlining why he wasn’t biased and wouldn’t step down from the case. But AED found a stunning detail in that order that made the judge’s prejudice (and sketchiness!) even more obvious. For the full story, check out my story from Friday.

Ballot Measure Updates

Speaking of Arizona, anti-abortion activists there are trying to make a proposed pro-choice ballot measure sound as radical as possible. But for some reason, they’re using the all of the same failed talking points that anti-abortion groups used in Ohio: like claims that the amendment would eradicate parental consent or allow abortion ‘up until birth’. Given that a poll shows that 62% of Arizona voters approve of legalizing abortion access in most cases, these groups are going to have their work cut out for them.

By the way, we’re also seeing the same recycled talking points being used against a pro-choice ballot measure in Nebraska. I don’t know why anti-choice activists haven’t figured out that their messages aren’t working, but I’m not going to complain.

Abortion rights have been protected in Montana’s constitution since 1999, when the state Supreme Court ruled that women’s health decisions were part of a right to privacy. But since Roe was overturned, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte has been attacking abortion rights nonstop attack—that’s in part why pro-choice groups in the state want to pass a pro-choice ballot measure.

Chris Coburn, a spokesperson for Montana Planned Parenthood, told the Montana Free Press that “just because abortion is currently protected under rulings made by the Montana Supreme Court, that does not mean abortion rights are secured.” (Find out more about the measure at the Daily Montanan.)

Missouri has multiple abortion rights ballot measures in the works—including some that were written by a Republican strategist who says she wants to find a ‘compromise’ on the issue. This week, those amendments were criticized by sexual assault survivor advocacy groups in the state over proposed exceptions that would require sexual violence victims to report their attack in order to get care.

Quick hits:

Attacks on Democracy

We can’t talk about ballot measures without talking about Republicans’ war on democratic norms. This week, we got a close-up look at the lengths that they’ll go to in order to stop voters from restoring or protecting abortion rights: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose admitted that he worked with anti-abortion groups on the language for Issue 1’s ballot summary! (Remember, when Ohio voters went to decide on the ballot measure, they didn’t actually see the text of the amendment—just LaRose’s summary, which was incendiary and false.)

LaRose let the information slip during a GOP event earlier this month, where he said he consulted with three anti-abortion groups—Susan B. Anthony Pro Life America, the Center for Christian Virtue and Ohio Right to Life—as he crafted the summary.

In the months leading up to the vote on Issue 1, LaRose claimed he was objective, and said his summary was “fair and accurate.” Never mind that he was conspiring with anti-choice leaders who spent millions of dollars and months of activism to oppose the measure. This really goes to show how strongly voters feel about abortion rights—and how incredible Ohio activists are, who won by huge margins despite all of these completely ridiculous hurdles.

As I wrote this week, though, what happens in Ohio next will be a bellwether for the rest of the country. Right now, Republicans are working overtime to figure out a way to overturn the will of the people and Issue 1—if any of their strategies work, they’ll be exported to other states.

Oh, and if you ever had any doubts about the connection between anti-choice ideology and misogyny, consider that one of the Republicans threatening to strip the judiciary of its power to enforce Issue 1 was the sole vote against repealing a spousal exception for rape. Rep. Bill Dean said, “I personally don’t believe that a man, if he’s married and has physical relations with his wife, that can be considered rape.”

The Republican attacks on abortion rights ballot measures in Missouri continue on: Lawmakers in the state pre-filed legislation this week, including four Republicans who pre-filed four different bills that would “modify requirements to pass a constitutional amendment.” (HJR 91, HJR 76, HJR 86, HJR 81)

As Missouri Independent columnist Janice Ellis put it, “The abortion issue stands to be one of the biggest tests of how well our democracy works. Or, doesn’t.”

That’s not just true in Missouri. Look at what happened in Arkansas this week, where the anti-abortion Republican Attorney General rejected the language of a proposed abortion rights amendment. Attorney General Tim Griffin argued that the language of the measure wasn’t clear—nitpicking multiple supposed issues down to the amendment’s name. Griffin is one of the AGs who fought to get access to women’s out-of-state abortion records, and threatened Walgreens over abortion medication. He’s also been a keynote speaker at organizations like Americans United for Life and is endorsed by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

Speaking of anti-abortion Attorney Generals interfering in the democratic process, let’s talk about Florida. Right now, Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody wants the state Supreme Court to reject the language of a proposed abortion rights amendment. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the new poll showing that 62% of Florida voters say they’d vote ‘yes’ on the measure if it was on the ballot. (Including most Republicans!)

State Updates

This week, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case brought by women who have been harmed by the state’s abortion ban. The suit, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) on behalf of 22 women, seeks to change the state’s law around abortion access for those facing dangerous and complicated pregnancies. (To learn more about the Texas case, read CRR’s detailed outline of the case and the stories of the women bringing the suit here.)

Lawyers for Texas claim that the plaintiffs have no standing because they’re not currently pregnant. As the Houston Chronicle put it, the state is arguing that “the past is in the past, and their concerns moving forward are hypothetical.”

As if that wasn’t awful enough, the lawyer for the state couldn’t answer a justice’s question on acrania—because she didn’t know what it was. Beth Klusmann laughed nervously and said, “You’re testing my medical knowledge here,” before asking the justice if it was a fetal anomaly.

Not only is it Klusmann’s fucking job right now to know about fatal fetal abnormalities, but several plaintiffs had pregnancies that were diagnosed with acrania! That includes Samantha Casiano, who vomited on the stand while recounting being forced to give birth to a baby that was missing parts of her brain and skull. Did Klusmann tune out this testimony? It’s just so callous and awful.

We saw Idaho’s ‘abortion trafficking’ law come back into the news this week, with Republican Attorney General Raúl Labrador appealing a decision that blocks enforcement of the law while it’s being battled out in court. I’m keeping a particular eye on how arguments about free speech play out in the case: Labrador claimed in his filing that a judge “erred” in finding that the ‘abortion trafficking’ law violates First Amendment rights. He argues that the law only criminalizes conduct.

But pro-choice activists are worried that Labrador will target abortion funds that give information about abortion medication or out-of-state options to minors, because they know Labrador interprets abortion law broadly. He’s even said that Idaho’s abortion ban makes it illegal to provide out-of-state referrals because doing so would constitute “assisting” in performing an abortion. (He had to rescind his claim after abortion providers brought a lawsuit.) And so it’s not unreasonable to believe that the AG will define “conduct” in the broadest possible way in order to go after pro-choice groups.

Also in Idaho, the state is asking the Supreme Court to let its total abortion ban to be fully enacted—they don’t want pesky federal law forcing them to give women life-saving abortions.

I’m also keeping an eye on Mississippi, where Democrats are pushing legislation to protect access to contraception. Conservative lawmakers don’t like voters knowing that they oppose certain forms of birth control, and this bill might force their hand. Already, state Sen. Joey Fillingane—who wrote Mississippi’s abortion ban—claimed that the legislation would legalize “morning-after abortions.”

This week, the Mississippi Free Press reports that Republican Gov. Tate Reeves may also be opposed to the legislation. They point to a 2022 “Meet the Press” appearance where Tate refused to answer whether he would sign a bill to ban contraception. (!!)

In better news…

2024

We saw more news this week on Donald Trump’s plan to campaign as a ‘moderate’ on abortion rights. Rolling Stone reported that Trump is downright gleeful that the anti-abortion leaders who tried to push him to commit to a national ban now have no “leverage”—and that the disgraced former president has mocked them as “disloyal” and “out-of-touch.”

President Joe Biden’s campaign is already hard at work dispelling that myth, and Hillary Clinton tweeted this week about Trump’s plan, “He thinks women are going to fall for this?”

My worry is that white Republican women who oppose abortion bans are looking for a reason to vote for Trump—and that his plan my work on them. I think there’s a way that Trump’s obvious apathy for the issue actually works in his favor. If Republican women think abortion isn’t important to Trump, they may also believe that he won’t further restrict it or push for a national ban.

Stats & Studies

  • According to data from the Institute of Labor Economics, birth rates increased in every single state with an abortion ban—with bans blocking at least 1 in 4 women who wanted an abortion from getting one.

  • ABC News reports that progress for women’s health is on a serious backslide: women in their 20s and 30s are more at risk of suicide, dying in childbirth, and being killed than women of previous generations.

  • UCLA’s Center on Reproductive Health, Law, and Policy reports that only half of California pharmacists know that teenagers can purchase the morning-after-pill, and over 13% believe that teens needed parental consent in order to do so. (They don’t.)

  • A new study reports that nearly two-thirds of residents in family medicine programs are training in states with abortion restrictions, and that nearly one-third are training in states with heavy abortion restrictions or outright bans.

Extra Credit

If you haven’t read this ProPublica piece yet, make some time for it! Reporter Kavitha Surana investigated the influence that anti-abortion groups have over state lawmakers—and how that power was used to stop multiple states from passing exceptions for women’s health. This is something I tracked when it was happening in Tennessee, and it’s so incredibly important we’re paying attention to it everywhere.

You can also listen to Surana talk about her article on NPR’s “Here and Now.”

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