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Living in the Crosshairs: Violence Against Abortion Providers Hurts Us All

cohen.jpgBy David S. Cohen, Professor of Law, Drexel University

In an ideal world, abortion providers would lead lives just like any other medical professional. However, in the highly charged environment we live in, abortion providers’ lives are different. Because of their work, providers have been murdered, shot, kidnapped, assaulted, stalked and subjected to death threats. Their clinics have been bombed, attacked with noxious chemicals, invaded, vandalized, burglarized and set ablaze. Individual abortion providers have been picketed at home and have received harassing mail and phone calls. Their family members have been followed where they work, their children have been protested at school and their neighbors’ privacy has been invaded.
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August 26, 2016


"Healthcare reforms must include abortion care access to be called 'universal'": Karen Middleton, Huffington Post  blogs: "In Colorado there is a 2016 ballot measure, Amendment 69, that has the good intention of universal healthcare, but a serious policy flaw that it cannot fund abortion care as written," Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, writes. Middleton explains that under a 1984 state constitutional ballot, Colorado "explicitly bans any public funds to be used for abortion care." According to Middleton, ColoradoCare, the universal coverage system proposed under Amendment 69, "would be established as a 'political subdivision' of the state, therefore prohibited from providing coverage for any abortion services to women except when continuing the pregnancy would endanger the life of the pregnant woman." As a result, Middleton writes, "More than 550,000 women of childbearing age in Colorado -- who, today, have insurance coverage for abortion services as part of their contracted benefits, will lose access to abortion coverage benefits if Amendment 69 passes." Middleton concludes, "While we strongly support the goal of improved healthcare for all Coloradans, and many of our members individually support the idea of universal health care, Amendment 69 not providing guarantees to affordable abortion access means it is not truly universal" (Middleton, Huffington Post blogs, 8/24).


"Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin shut down its Appleton North clinic & the reason why speaks volumes about reproductive rights," Claire Warner, Bustle: Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has shut down its Appleton clinic for security reasons, a decision that leaves "just three abortion providers ... in the state" and "speaks volumes about the current state of reproductive rights in the United States," Warner writes. She explains that Planned Parenthood "had clinics reassess their individual security standards nationwide" after a deadly shooting at a Colorado clinic and determined that "the Appleton location was unable to afford stricter safety regulations." She writes, "Now that the Appleton location has shut its doors, women in Wisconsin may have to travel hundreds of miles, potentially across state lines, to receive abortion services; the three remaining abortion providers in the state are located in either Madison or Milwaukee." According to Warner, the clinic's shutdown "exemplifies the obstacles facing abortion providers today: Even when they aren't operating under absurd restrictions imposed on them by state legislatures, abortion clinics are in danger of acts of violence from anti-abortion extremists." She concludes, "No medical facility should have to choose between providing services and ensuring the safety of their patients and staff, but that's exactly the decision Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin was forced to make ... even though abortions are absolutely legal in the United States" (Warner, Bustle, 8/25).

August 19, 2016


"Anti-choicers get even weirder: After losing in the Supreme Court, abortion foes turn to desperate distortion," Amanda Marcotte, Salon: Following a recent Supreme Court ruling that debunked the strategy of restricting abortion access under the guise of protecting women's health, abortion-rights opponents are focusing on two other strategies: "[F]irst, trying to trick people into thinking embryos are babies and then trying to trick people into thinking abortion is too medically dangerous to be allowed," Marcotte writes. She notes that while both these strategies "have failed ... before," even the "worst ideas can do some damage to abortion access ... before they finally sputter out politically." For example, she points to abortion-rights opponents in Texas who are trying to advance fetal burial or cremation regulations that would apply to pregnancies that end in abortion and miscarriage. Meanwhile, abortion-rights opponents still are "trying to scare people into thinking abortion is dangerous" by calling for additional data collection on abortion care, Marcotte writes, even though "[m]ore data will just prove even more resoundingly that abortion is safe." According to Marcotte, the tactic is "[s]o puzzling ... that there's reason to worry that these efforts are not about tracking the safety data at all, but about finding some back-door method for right-wingers to access women's private medical data for nefarious purposes." Marcotte concludes that "this kind of behavior is deeply worrisome," but it also demonstrates "the depths of desperation of the anti-choice movement" (Marcotte, Salon, 8/17).


"After Texas slashed its family planning budget, maternal deaths almost doubled," Nora Caplan-Bricker, Slate 's "XX Factor": A new study has found "[p]regnancy-related deaths nearly doubled in Texas between 2010 and 2012," an increase that according to the study authors, "is difficult to explain 'in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval,'" Caplan-Bricker writes. According to Caplan-Bricker, the "alarming development coincided with the state's decision to slash its family planning budget by two-thirds in 2011 -- an attempt to shut down abortion providers that ultimately forced 82 clinics ... to close," a move that limited "access not only to prenatal care, but also to ... birth control." Overall, according to the study, the state's maternal death rate increased from 18.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010 to 33 in 2011 and 35.8 in 2014, Caplan-Bricker writes, adding that while "Texas is an outlier, maternal mortality is a growing problem for the U.S. in general." She points to other findings in the study that showed "the rate of deaths per 100,000 live births for 48 states and the District of Columbia -- excluding Texas and California, which the researchers considered separately -- 'increased by 26.6 percent, from 18.8 in 2000 to 23.8 in 2014.'" The United States "is one of the only countries in the world where the problem of maternal mortality is getting worse, not better," Caplan-Bricker writes, noting that "the average maternal mortality rate in developed countries at 12 deaths per 100,000 live births." Noting that a Texas task force created to study pregnancy-related deaths is "due to make its first set of recommendations in September," Caplan-Bricker concludes, "common sense suggests that replenishing the millions of dollars in funding the state has drained from women's health clinics might be a good start" (Caplan-Bricker, "XX Factor," Slate, 8/18).

August 12, 2016


"A new documentary puts women's voices at the center of the abortion debate," Julia Felsenthal, Vogue: Felsenthal interviews Tracy Droz Tragos, the filmmaker behind "Abortion: Stories Women Tell," a documentary hitting theatres Friday that presents "a collection of stories from a number of women who live in Missouri, and a few who live in the neighboring state of Illinois." Felsenthal writes that Droz Tragos, a Missouri native, chose the state as the focus for her documentary because it is "often overlooked by the national media" despite having "just one abortion facility" and "some of the country's most stringent laws restricting abortion access." When asked about a recent Supreme Court decision striking down targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP) provisions in a Texas law (HB 2), Droz Tragos says though she is "'really comforted and relieved'" that the abortion-rights restrictions did not stand, "it's going to take a while for that to have a ripple effect, especially in places like Missouri that still have one abortion provider, still have the ... 72-hour [mandatory delay].'" Nonetheless, she hopes that the ruling against TRAP laws, which are linked to clinic closures, will enable more clinics to open in Missouri. Discussing the importance of women sharing their abortion experiences, Droz Tragos notes, "[T]here's power in just having a voice, and in shifting the conversation away from politicians, particularly male politicians, who I think should be more silent on the matter" (Felsenthal, Vogue, 8/11).


"Progress for Purvi Patel, but targeting of women of color continues," Nimra Chowdhry/Stephanie Zhou, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy's "ACS blog": "Women, specifically women of color, in the United States are being criminalized for their abortions," Chowdhry and Zhou write, citing a case in which an Indiana resident -- Purvi Patel, a South Asian American woman -- was convicted of feticide. The authors write that while an appeals court overturned Patel's "feticide conviction and downgrad[ed] her neglect of a dependent conviction from a class A felony to a class D felony," her "prosecution is not only a demonstration of anti-abortion animus leading to negative health outcomes for women across the country, but it is also an example of stereotyping of women of color, specifically the reproductive decision-making of Asian American women." For example, Chowdhry and Zhou explain that "the only two women in Indiana who have been prosecuted for feticide ... [are] Asian American," and state lawmakers have "twice debated and passed a certain type of ban [HEA 1337] on abortion care for Indiana women based on stereotypes about [Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)] women." Noting that these racist and sexist efforts "coincid[e] with a national anti-Asian bill similarly targeting AAPI women [HR 4924]," Chowdhry and Zhou conclude, "Rather than dedicating our scarce resources to the policing of women's pregnancies, lawmakers should expand access to quality, affordable and culturally competent healthcare" (Chowdhry/Zhou, "ACS blog," American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, 8/11).

August 5, 2016


"With more abortion laws blocked, have we turned a corner on access?" Robin Marty, Care2: Marty examines a changing tide in the fight over abortion rights by highlighting positive developments in a legal challenge to several abortion restrictions in Louisiana following a Supreme Court ruling striking down provisions in Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2). She explains that not only has the high court's ruling helped "put to rest" Louisiana's admitting privileges requirement "for good," but the state also has agreed not to enforce several antiabortion-rights laws being challenged by local providers -- including a 72-hour mandatory delay law (Act 97) and a ban (HB 1081) on a medically proven method of abortion -- pending a final ruling. According to Marty, the 72-hour mandatory delay "ruling ... is the biggest sign of a changing tide on abortion rights." Noting that no one has yet challenged mandatory 72-hour delay laws in other states, she explains that the "decision to do so" in Louisiana "shows a growing confidence on the pro-abortion rights side of the aisle." Marty writes, "As we get further from the Whole Women's Health decision, it is likely that even more of these laws will get challenged," concluding that "there is nothing to lose for abortion rights activists ready to win access back one state at a time" (Marty, Care2, 8/2).


"Florida tried to shut down women's health clinics. Then Zika came along," Nina Liss-Schultz, Mother Jones: Citing news of locally transmitted cases of Zika in Florida, Liss-Schultz questions, "How ready is [Florida] -- where almost two-thirds of pregnancies are unintended and the state government has attempted to block state funding for reproductive health clinics -- to take on Zika?" She explains that while Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has outlined several Zika response efforts, including plans to collaborate with OB-GYNs and distribute Zika prevention kits, Planned Parenthood clinics in the state have not yet "received any Zika kits from the Florida Department of Health, nor has it received any guidance from the department about how to serve pregnant women during a possible outbreak." Further, Liss-Schultz points to a recently signed bill (HB 1411) that "would block state funding for many reproductive health clinics." She notes that while the law "is not currently being enforced," Laura Goodhue -- a vice president at Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida -- noted that Scott "'has placed barriers on affordable health care, birth control, and contraception.'" In addition, Liss-Schultz writes that options are limited for pregnant women with Zika, as Florida "restricts public insurance coverage for abortion, ... prevents health insurance providers on the [Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) marketplace] from covering abortion, with no exception for fetal anomaly," and bans abortion care after 24 weeks (Liss-Schultz, Mother Jones, 8/5).

What others are saying about Zika:

~ "Some good news about Zika, for a change," Erica Langston, Mother Jones.

July 29, 2016


"Victory for Purvi Patel, but still a loss for reproductive rights," Robin Marty, Care2: While an Indiana appeals court's decision to reverse the 2015 feticide conviction of Purvi Patel "almost feels like a victory ... the decision is by no means a victory for reproductive rights and bodily autonomy -- and it definitely does not resemble justice," Marty writes. According to Marty, "Patel, who was accused and convicted of both feticide and felony neglect of a minor after giving birth to what doctors claim was a live fetus ..., will now have the feticide conviction thrown out and the neglect charge reduced." Marty explains that "feticide was never, ever intended to be applied to the pregnant woman herself," but "Indiana has a history of applying unreasonable charges to pregnant women in order to jail them for harm they may have caused to their pregnancies." She writes that both the lawsuit against Patel and against Bei Bei Shuai, an Indiana woman who was prosecuted after attempting suicide while pregnant, make obvious the state's "attempts to undermine legal abortion" by endowing fetuses with legal rights. Marty concludes, "The lesson that can be taken from the court's decision to strike the feticide charge but leave the neglect charge appears to be a simple one: Indiana will continue to pursue ways to punish and jail those who may possibly have induced their own abortion. The state just needs to decide exactly which charge will be the most successful" (Marty, Care2, 7/26).


"Patients deserve their doctor's best medical judgment, but Texas bureaucrats think they know better," Leslie Johnson, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas/ACLU's "Speak Freely": Johnson, a student at the University of Texas Southwestern medical school and president of the school's Medical Students for Choice chapter, discusses a booklet that Texas requires a woman to receive prior to abortion care. According to Johnson, the booklet is one of several ways "Texas politicians are working to corrode ... trust" between doctors and patients "by interfering in the doctor-patient relationship." She explains, "The booklet has long contained biased and intentionally misleading and inaccurate information about abortion," and seven embryological and fetal development specialists have determined that "nearly 49 percent of the booklet's statements concerning the first trimester are medically inaccurate." Moreover, Johnson writes that in the latest proposed revision of the booklet, the Texas Department of State Health Services plans to "ad[d] more scientifically inaccurate information about embryologic and gestational development." Citing research showing the safety of abortion care, Johnson concludes, "Quality, peer-reviewed information is what should be disseminated to our patients rather than politically charged and biased pseudo-science" (Johnson, "Speak Freely," American Civil Liberties Union of Texas/ACLU, 7/28).

June 28, 2016


"The Supreme Court exposed the anti-abortion sham of 'protecting women's health,'" Christina Cauterucci, Slate 's "XX Factor": "The Supreme Court struck down two Texas restrictions on abortion providers in a landmark case on Monday, offering the strongest affirmation of the constitutional right to safe, legal, accessible abortion since Roe v. Wade," Cauterucci writes. She adds, "Justice Stephen Breyer's majority opinion in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt is an unequivocal rejection of the mistruths at the heart of a fast-spreading rash of state abortion restrictions that shut down abortion clinics under the guise of protecting women's health." Cauterucci explains that the majority ruling exposed "every hypocrisy and self-contradicting argument" behind the state's claims that HB 2's admitting privileges requirement and ambulatory surgical center building requirement "were necessary to prevent abortion-related complications." She notes, "Breyer went beyond the undue burden finding to knock down the very justification of these laws, proving that the thin pretext of keeping women safe was a sham." According to Cauterucci, "the best part of Breyer's opinion is his contention that the undue burden HB2 placed on women's access to abortion actually negated any spurious health benefit a woman might gain from a provider's admitting privileges or a clinic's surgical-center qualifications." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's concurring opinion, Cauterucci writes, further confirms the high court's ruling that "the undue burden Texas created would cause unsafe, illegal abortions rather than curb the practice at all, a prediction that has already been borne out by research in Texas and around the world." She continues, "In an era marked by the rise of lawmakers who prioritize political games over facts when it comes to reproductive health, it's reassuring to see the court strike such a decisive blow against sham laws based on lies," concluding, "It's a major political win for the reproductive justice movement, but more importantly, it's a strong safeguard for the quality and autonomy of future women's lives" (Cauterucci, "XX Factor," Slate, 6/27).

What others are saying about Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt :

~ "Supreme Court's Texas decision is the greatest victory for abortion rights since Roe v. Wade," Samantha Allen, Daily Beast.

~ "The decision overturning Texas' abortion law will have a dramatic impact across the country," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "How you can help Texas abortion clinics right now, because SCOTUS' ruling doesn't mean the battle's over," Chris Tognotti, Bustle.



"Hell for abortion providers," Olga Khazan, The Atlantic: Following the Supreme Court's decision to strike down two provisions in Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), Khazan speaks to two former Planned Parenthood staffers, Karen Hildebrand and Carla Holeva, about the obstacles that shut down clinics in Odessa and Midland that were "struggling to s[t]ay open long before HB2 ... went into effect." According to Khazan, two clinics, as well as "80 other family-planning clinics in the state," shut down following Texas' decision to cut "public funding for any group associated with an abortion provider in 2011." Khazan writes that the experience of Hildebrand, former CEO of Planned Parenthood of West Texas, and Holeva, who worked in community affairs for Planned Parenthood, "helps explain how lawmakers across the country have been able to pass so many abortion restrictions in recent years," pointing to the "myriad legal, financial, and cultural obstacles they faced -- many of which are still the reality for abortion providers in Texas and elsewhere." For example, Khazan notes that Hildebrand and Holeva faced near-constant threats and harassment from abortion-rights opponents, protesters targeted patients at the clinic and sometimes even sent mail to their homes, and state restrictions on abortion care required Planned Parenthood staff to provide incomplete information about abortion care to "women covered by certain government programs," such as Title X. Khazan writes that following the two clinics' closures, "Midland women [now] live five hours from the nearest abortion provider," and "thousands of patients scrambled to squeeze into the remaining low-income health clinics in the area," spurring long waitlists for care. Khazan concludes by quoting Hildebrand and Holeva on their decision to work in an area "where so many antagonized them for so long," noting that both cited their motivation being the gratitude of patients and the "unshakable conviction that women have the right to an abortion" (Khazan, The Atlantic, 6/27).

June 24, 2016


"Whole Women's Health: Abortion stigma is sex discrimination," Danielle Lang, American Constitution Society blog: The Supreme Court should not only rule that provisions in Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) are unconstitutional because they "present substantial practical obstacles to access to abortion," but also because HB 2 and similar restrictions in other states "enforce an outdated vision of women's autonomy and role in society," Lang writes. According to Lang, such antiabortion-rights laws have "real consequences on women's health, women's identity and our society's ability to truly reshape itself to deliver on the promise of women's equality." Noting that the medical justification for the contested Texas provisions "is a complete farce," Lang writes, "Ultimately, the message sent by these laws -- which purport to protect women's health but do nothing to further medical safety -- is that women need to be saved from their own decisions to seek abortions." Citing Supreme Court precedent that prohibits states from "legislat[ing] to promote any particular view of women's proper role in society" or "protect[ing] women from choices outside of that role," Lang writes that Texas "cannot enforce laws, in the name of women's health, that do not further medical safety but rather seek to 'protect' women from their own self-determination and impose shame and stigma on women." She concludes, "Recognition of this basic point would be entirely consistent with the Court's sex discrimination precedent and would mark a welcome change in an abortion jurisprudence that seems ever less tethered to the women's rights it claims to protect" (Lang, American Constitution Society blog, 6/23).


"Will the court restrict abortion to the wealthy?" Caroline Fredrickson, The American Prospect: "As the Supreme Court prepares to decide on the blockbuster abortion case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, it's worth remembering that one of the ruling's main implications will be economic," Fredrickson writes, explaining that "women's control of their own fertility is a key driver of our nation's economic success." According to Fredrickson, abortion-rights opponents "have found a clever way ... to undermine legal access to reproductive health care" by passing "restrictions that raise the cost of abortion and contraception," thereby "target[ing] low-income women [and] eroding the gains of past decades." For example, Fredrickson points out how low-income women in Texas are disproportionately affected by clinic closures under HB 2 because they cannot afford the travel and lodging costs required to access abortion care elsewhere. Fredrickson concludes that "if the Supreme Court upholds Texas-style restrictions in Hellerstedt, the effect will be to make abortion completely inaccessible to far too many women" for whom the cost of access care will be prohibitive (Fredrickson, The American Prospect, 6/21).


"In June, dig deeper into abortion access for low-income women," Amie Newman, Our Bodies Ourselves' "Our Bodies, Our Blog": "This month, two important discussions about abortion access and the impact of specific anti-choice regulations called TRAP [laws] (targeted regulation of abortion providers) are happening in two very different spaces: one on PBS and the other in the Supreme Court," Newman writes. She explains that PBS is airing a documentary called "Trapped," which "looks at how abortion clinics are (or aren't) surviving as they battle the onslaught of harmful state TRAP laws." Meanwhile, according to Newman, "It's one of these laws -- HB2 in Texas -- that the Supreme Court is now tasked with either upholding or overturning in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt." She writes, "On the surface, the Supreme Court case and the film examine how these anti-choice regulations affect clinic closures ... Dig a little deeper, though, and you unearth the ways in which these laws sharply impact women at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder." Newman writes, "The more low-income women are stripped of their access to this critical reproductive health care, the more difficult it is for them to move up the income ladder and escape poverty." Newman concludes by calling for "abortion access laws that respect and value women as agents of their own lives, ... that care for vulnerable women's bodies" and "that respect all women's choices as they make them, even if they are different than what we would choose for ourselves" (Newman, "Our Bodies, Our Blog," Our Bodies Ourselves, 6/22).

What others are saying about access to care:

~ "A bishop in the exam room: When faith dictates health care instead of science," Erica Hellerstein/Josh Israel, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

Featured blog

"Abortion stigma and the politics of the closet" (Taylor et al., The Advocate, 6/16).

June 17, 2016


"Abortion stigma and the politics of the closet," Camilla Taylor et al., The Advocate: Taylor, counsel for Lambda Legal, and colleagues write about an amicus brief Lambda Legal filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a Supreme Court case challenging "two provisions of Texas's House Bill 2, an anti-abortion law enacted in July 2013 that, if allowed to go into effect, would force the vast majority of Texas abortion clinics to close." The lawsuit's "outcome is crucial to LGBT people," the authors explain, noting that not only do LGBT people require abortion access, but "landmark court victories for LGBT people share a common doctrinal foundation with precedents protecting the constitutional right to abortion; erosion of the right to terminate a pregnancy puts LGBT civil rights at risk." Moreover, the authors write that the "interconnected struggles for reproductive autonomy and LGBT liberation also share a common obstacle. People who have an abortion -- whether members of the LGBT community or not -- experience something familiar to all LGBT people: stigma." They note, "Although abortion is one of the most safe and common surgical procedures in the United States, two in three women who have had abortions anticipate being stigmatized if others find out." According to the authors, "This concern of being 'outed' as having had an abortion keeps 58 percent of those who have had abortions from sharing their stories with their families and friends." Citing the "tangible problems in health and interpersonal relationships" spurred by stigma, the authors add, "We also know that stigma associated with the exercise of a fundamental right -- whether it is the right to love the person of one's choice or the right to terminate a pregnancy -- interferes with a person's ability to come out of the closet to advocate on his or her own behalf in legislatures, in ballot fights, and in numerous other settings." They conclude, "Though the choice of whether or not to 'come out' of the abortion closet is a deeply personal one, LGBT people know all too well the political cost of remaining silent" (Taylor et al., The Advocate, 6/16).

What others are saying about the abortion-rights movement:

~ "Interview with a woman who recently had an abortion at 32 weeks," Jia Tolentino, Jezebel.

~ "Meet the woman fighting for abortion rights at the Supreme Court," Lilli Petersen, Refinery29.

~ "This 'New York Times' documentary crushes the negative stereotypes about abortion providers," Hillary Crawford, Bustle.

June 10, 2016


"I live in the land of DIY abortions. This is why I'm fighting for the right to choose," Taylor Crumpton, Glamour: Crumpton -- a student at Abilene Christian University and reproductive-rights advocate working with URGE, People for the American Way Foundation and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas -- discusses how Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) and similar restrictions across the United States are driving women to self-induce abortions. Crumpton explains that since Texas passed HB 2, portions of which are currently being weighed by the Supreme Court, "the number of abortion clinics in Texas dropped precipitously from 46 to 17." She notes, "None of those providers are in Abilene, where I'm an undergrad student. There are [antiabortion-rights] crisis pregnancy centers ... but the nearest abortion provider is more than 170 miles away." She adds that if the Supreme Court upholds the contested provisions, "there will only be 10 clinics to serve the 5.4 million people of reproductive age in the second largest state in the U.S.," and none of those clinics "will be located in the [lowest-income] areas in the state, which puts the reproductive health of Texas immigrant women at risk." According to Crumpton, "These restrictions place an undue burden on the majority of women in Texas who need abortion services." She cites research showing how the law has increased the cost of abortion care, as well as research showing how women who are unable to travel the long distance to a clinic or who cannot delay care in the face of long waiting periods have instead attempted self-induction. Pointing to abortion restrictions in other states, Crumpton concludes, "A number of ... states have also introduced bills similar to HB 2. These politicians are trying to make decisions about my body; they do not share or understand my life experiences. I cannot allow them to dictate my health and future ... The Supreme Court should not allow us to take a significant step backward now when it comes to reproductive rights" (Crumpton, Glamour, 6/8).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions: 

~ "PA lawmakers re-introduce bizarre double abortion ban," Women's Law Project blog.

June 3, 2016


"Purvi Patel, abortion, and the feticide playbook," Lynn Paltrow, Huffington Post  blogs: Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, writes about the case of Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman imprisoned under the state's feticide law for attempting to self-induce an abortion. According to Paltrow, Patel's conviction fits into a larger antiabortion-rights "feticide playbook," in which abortion-rights opponents draft laws "declaring that -- for the purposes of homicide and assault offenses -- a 'person' includes [a fetus] at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth." Abortion-rights opponents pass the laws by claiming "that the law[s] will ensure justice for the loss of fetal life and protect pregnant women against violence," Paltrow writes, explaining that the tactic has resulted in the federal government and 38 states enacting "feticide, unborn victims of violence laws, or expanded murder laws that define the 'unborn' as a person from the moment of fertilization." Paltrow continues, "Once the law is in place, it is only a matter of time before a prosecutor uses the law as a basis for arresting or otherwise punishing a pregnant woman or new mother, not protecting her." She explains that prosecutors "argue that it is hypocritical and unfair to treat fetuses as persons when attacked by third parties but not when they are harmed (or at risk of being harmed) by the pregnant woman herself." According to Paltrow, Indiana officials used this "playbook" against Patel, as have officials in multiple other states where women have been arrested under similar laws, including California, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah. Pointing to South Carolina and Alabama, Paltrow also notes that "[p]rosecutors in other states have successfully used the state's feticide law and its protection of the unborn to provide the legal precedent for using other criminal laws to punish pregnant women." She writes, "Pregnant women have been arrested even in states where the feticide law clearly explains that it may not be used to punish the woman herself." She adds that while some state courts "have eventually rejected this feticide bait-and-switch, this is small comfort to women who have spent months or years in jail as their cases worked their way through the criminal court system." Noting that feticide laws "effectively define women who have abortions, experience miscarriages, and stillbirths, or who disagree with a doctor's advice about cesarean delivery as criminals," Paltrow concludes, "Respect for pregnant women requires rejection of new feticide laws and repeal of any that directly or indirectly provide the basis for punishing pregnant women" (Paltrow, Huffington Post blogs, 5/27).


"The rise of the DIY abortion," Phoebe Zerwick, Glamour: As part of a series examining abortion restrictions, Zerwick discusses how and why "more and more women ... are opting for what's being called do-it-yourself abortions." She writes, "In the past five years, highly restrictive Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) state laws have shut down at least 162 clinics or stopped them from terminating pregnancies, and made both surgical and medica[tion] abortions incredibly expensive and time-consuming in many areas. As a result, some women are taking matters into their own hands, a phenomenon that, experts say, will only become more common if the Supreme Court upholds Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt when the ruling is handed down this summer," a case involving TRAP provisions in Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law. Zerwick cites a study that "suggested that up to 240,000 women in [Texas] alone had ... tried to end their own pregnancies." She continues, "And it's not just Texas," noting that out of 15 providers surveyed in over 10 states, "most ... said they knew of women trying to self-induce abortions" and "five had seen patients who had attempted it." Zerwick discussed the issue with experts, who said the methods women use to attempt self-inducing abortion vary, ranging from the use of herbs and supplements "to more extreme measures, like self-injury." According to Zerwick, many women try to obtain an abortion drug called misoprostol either online or in Mexico. However, she notes that while the drug is "100 percent legal ... when prescribed by a doctor," a medically supervised medication abortion also involves the use of mifepristone, a second, more highly regulated drug that increases the effectiveness of the process from about 80 percent to about 97 percent. On the one hand, Zerwick says that some "argue that taking misoprostol at home is actually a practical solution for women with little access to care, a position shared by the World Health Organization." However, she also notes that "[p]ills bought online or through a nonmedical source can be fake or contaminated." In addition, Zerwick notes that many of the providers she spoke with "stressed that most women who end their own pregnancies aren't doing it because it's a more empowered choice; they simply don't have other options." Zerwick questions, "What will that choice look like in 2017? 2027?" She concludes, "Even if the Texas law is struck down, the effort to pass more restrictions won't stop, especially if the next president fills the Supreme Court vacancy with a justice who opposes the right to choose" (Zerwick, Glamour, 5/31).

What others are saying about access to care:

~ "Terrifying (and true) facts about violence against abortion providers," Meredith Clark, Glamour.