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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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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.

May 27, 2016


"Victims of Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting sue clinic for poor security," Christina Cauterucci, Slate 's "XX Factor": Victims of the "the 2015 terrorist attack at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood ... are suing the health clinic for what they say was inadequate security, making the clinic negligent and liable for the deaths and injuries wrought by gunman Robert Lewis Dear," Cauterucci writes. According to Cauterucci, the suit was filed on behalf of Samantha Wagner, who was one of nine individuals injured at the clinic, and the wife of Ke'Arre Stewart, who was one of three individuals killed during the shooting. The "suit alleges that the Colorado Springs facility should have anticipated a potential attack, considering the 'long history of violence' perpetrated against abortion providers, and should have instated more and better security measures to prevent an anti-abortion extremist like Dear from gaining access to the clinic," Cauterucci writes. Further, she writes that the lawsuit "suggests that the facility should have better secured its entrances, better trained its employees for emergency situations, hired an armed guard, posted warnings about 'the risk of physical harm, injury or death associated with entering (Planned Parenthood) properties,' and built perimeter fencing to keep out violent terrorists." Citing a report from the National Abortion Federation, Cauterucci writes that "Stewart and Wagner are right" in saying that "[v]iolence at abortion clinics is on the rise, largely due to a spike in the prevalence and extremism of anti-abortion rhetoric." However, she explains that the "Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood did not discount the possibility of an attack," noting that the "the clinic's preparations helped staff and law enforcement officials respond quickly to minimize the harm Dear could cause." For example, she writes that a staff member who received active shooter training notified the police of the attack and shepherded staff and visitors to a safe room, while law enforcement was "able to use live feeds from the clinic's interior surveillance cameras to direct officers at the scene." Nonetheless, according to Cauterucci, some still "have found reason to blame Planned Parenthood for the attack." She adds, "Though plenty of Planned Parenthood clinics do have metal detectors, bulletproof glass, and steel doors with buzzers, they shouldn't have to." She writes, "Patients shouldn't have to feel like they're entering a prison when they're just showing up for a doctor's appointment. Doctors shouldn't have to sneak into their offices or check in with armed guards to give proper care to their patients." Citing the "rhetoric of genocide and hellfire" used by abortion-rights opponents and by Dear, Cauterucci concludes, "The answer to anti-abortion terrorism is a crackdown on the political and rhetorical enablers of anti-abortion terrorism, not more guns in exam rooms" (Cauterucci, "XX Factor," Slate, 5/24).


What others are saying about clinic violence:

~ "Arson indefinitely shutters a California Planned Parenthood clinic," Alex Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Colorado Planned Parenthood attack victims speak out about losing loves ones -- this is their important message for the organization," Noor Al-Sibai, Bustle.


"Abortion rights at stake: Purvi Patel and the fate of pregnant women in Indiana," Eesha Pandit, Salon: "[On] Monday, the Indiana State Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the feticide and child neglect conviction of Indiana resident, Purvi Patel" who "is facing 20 years in prison," Pandit writes. Pandit notes that during oral arguments, "Patel's attorney, Lawrence Marshall, co-founder of the Center on Wrongful Convictions and a professor at Stanford University," argued that "the state is trying to have it both ways, by using these mutually exclusive charges to prop each other up." She continues, "This, [Marshall] argued, makes for an insufficient argument in each charge, and unjust and unfair conviction of Patel." Pandit points to "[o]ne notable exchange during the hearing [that] focused on what exactly constituted a legitimate feticide charge," noting that the "court's ruling on this matter has wide implications for abortion care in the state, and in other states that have or are considering similar feticide laws." According to Pandit, the "judges pushed back" on the state's argument that the state feticide law "implies that any person who causes the death of a fetus, including the woman herself, is subject to a feticide charge." The judges, Pandit wrote, said under "such a broad reading a woman's conduct such as smoking or drinking while pregnant, not to mention any other actions not expressly exempt by the legislature, could make her a criminal if her pregnancy didn't result in a healthy and viable baby." Pandit writes, "The implications of such a reading of the law are staggering. Women who have abortions or miscarriages could be subject to prosecution if any of their conduct can be interpreted as endangerment -- even conduct they might not know to be dangerous." She cites Farah Diaz-Tello, senior staff attorney at National Advocates for Pregnant Women, who explained that such laws did not specifically exempt pregnant women because they were enacted "'before jailing people who have abortions or pregnancy losses was even considered as possibility.'" Pandit also points to Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, who touched on the lawsuit's racial undertones. Yeung noted, "Prosecutors painted Purvi Patel as a monster and included racially tinged rationale," such as doctors' descriptions of Patel's "'flat affect.'" Pandit writes, "If we open up the application of feticide laws to such dubious evidence of guilt, every pregnant person in Indiana could be subject to jail time if their pregnancy does not result in a healthy birth" (Pandit, Salon, 5/25).

What others are saying about criminalizing pregnancy:

~ "Woman sentenced to 20 years for having an abortion appeals her ruling," Jacqui Germain, Feministing.

May 6, 2016


"Yes, blue state abortion clinics are closing, but the reason isn't so simple," Robin Marty, Care2: Marty discusses a recent FiveThirtyEight article by Madeline Schwartz that "took a detailed and data-driven look at abortion clinic closures" and found that abortion clinics face challenges staying open even in states that are considered 'friendly' toward abortion rights. However, Marty notes that "this isn't a case of red versus blue states, but the consolidation of abortion access into urban areas that can sustain patient loads -- regardless of which state these areas are found in." Marty writes that Schwartz's analysis "veers somewhat off course" in its classification of "what exactly comprises" a state 'friendly' to abortion rights. For example, citing the case of New Jersey, Marty writes that "an anti-abortion administration can have as much effect on the culture of a state as [Legislature-approved] restrictions do, especially when ... New Jersey providers still are unable to perform second trimester procedures without expensive building upgrades." According to Marty, "[I]t is economic factors that are closing most clinics -- either because ... states have passed regulations that increase the cost of running a clinic or building a new clinic, or because [providers] have been ... balancing their low fees and customer loads to try to keep their doors open." She continues, "As a result, the pattern of clinic closures really ... [is] an urban versus rural one." To demonstrate this, Marty cites the Bloomberg data that Schwartz analyzed. She writes, "Whether a state is ... hostile to or accepting of abortion rights ... the clinics that are closing tend to be those outside of big metro areas, or those in metro areas where there are many other clinics to compete with, as opposed to clinics operating singly or in a small number in big cities." Marty notes that while it is alarming that clinics in states considered 'friendly' to abortion rights are closing, "what is more alarming and is lost in the analysis is that abortion access is dwindling regardless of the landscape of a state, as clinics disappear and consolidate." She concludes, "The accessibility of obtaining an abortion is increasingly less reliant on how many clinics are open, and more upon which cities have the providers, how long it takes to travel there, and how many hours or days a patient must wait both to get an appointment or, even worse, to make separate trips due to [mandatory delays]. It is the consolidation of abortion services that matters far more" (Marty, Care2, 5/4).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "The latest anti-abortion bills double as devilishly good P.R.," Nora Caplan-Bricker, Slate's "XX Factor."

April 29, 2016


"Oklahoma finds an absurd new way to make it impossible to get an abortion," Bob Cesca, Salon: Cesca writes about recent personhood legislation at the state and federal level, noting that antiabortion-rights lawmakers likely will continue to propose such legislation "as time goes on, chiefly due to the fact that it's the ultimate anti-choice stab at ending legal abortions, while leading us closer to prosecuting women who retain control over their uteruses." Cesca highlights a recently passed bill (SB 1552) in Oklahoma "that would strip doctors who perform abortions of their medical licenses" with one limited exception: "cases of life-threatening complications for pregnant [women]." According to Cesca, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) is an abortion-rights opponent who likely will sign the legislation, "leaving only the courts to overturn it." Cesca adds, "It's unlikely that a legislative solution will present itself, either, since [liberal lawmakers] in Oklahoma ... [are] outnumbered two-to-one." Cesca notes that the bill, if enacted, "would completely ban abortion in the state." He touches on how the abortion rate has "dropped by nearly half over the last 20 years," in part because of "a menu of anti-choice laws on the books there," such as biased counseling requirements, a 24-hour mandatory delay before abortion, restrictions on abortion coverage, laws hindering a minor's access to abortion care and a 20-week abortion ban with limited exceptions. Cesca writes, "The new law waiting for Governor Fallin's signature is more clever than these since it doesn't outright ban abortions, but rather punishes doctors for 'unprofessional conduct,' according to the text of the bill. Put another way, it doesn't ban abortion, it just eliminates the facilities in which to have one." According to Cesca, laws similar to the Oklahoma legislation "are multiplying faster than they can be thwarted," particularly as conservative lawmakers at the state level "grow more successful and more unaccountable." He concludes, "And while they do, the window for prosecuting women and medical professionals will widen" (Cesca, Salon, 4/26).


What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "How limiting women's access to birth control and abortions hurts the economy," Michele Gilman, The Conversation/Huffington Post blogs.


"Why I'm done shutting up about my abortion" Emily Krempholtz, Bustle: Nearly a year after receiving an abortion, Krempholtz writes about her experience and the fear that kept her quiet for so long. She states, "There was never a question in my mind whether I was making the right choice for me, and I will forever stand by that ... So why have I been so afraid to talk about it?" She notes, "Three out of 10 women will have had an abortion by age 45," but "[m]ost women who have terminated a pregnancy are reluctant to openly talk about it for many reasons, among them the fact that abortions are still considered so socially taboo that many of us fear backlash from friends and family (even those friends who might think of themselves as pro-choice)." Krempholtz writes that she felt lost for months following her abortion, adding that she would constantly see stories about the Planned Parenthood "'controversy'" that arose last summer following the release of misleading videos targeting the organization's fetal tissue donation program. She writes, "I felt unsafe in my own private world, and I felt that speaking out would incite a barrage of judgment." She wrote "I don't regret my abortion, but I do regret that I, a woman who usually has no trouble speaking her mind, and certainly no trouble publicly defending the pro-choice movement, am so afraid to speak of my own experience." She states, "I won't do it anymore," writing, "Having an abortion made me feel so alone, so afraid. But finally telling my friends made me realize I didn't have to be. Abortion stigma is designed to make us feel isolated, but we are not." She adds, "My abortion was the right decision for me, and I shouldn't have to defend that decision to anyone. I shouldn't have to talk about it -- my reasons, my situation, any of it -- if I don't want to, but I also should not be made to feel afraid of the consequences of speaking out" (Krempholtz, Bustle, 4/28).

April 22, 2016


"Culture wars cost red states in more ways than one," Steve Benen, MSNBC's "The MaddowBlog": Benen points to a trend in conservative states in which antiabortion-rights lawmakers enact laws they know will not withstand a legal challenge, resulting in substantial legal fees paid for by state residents' tax dollars. For example, according to Benen, "When [conservative] policymakers in North Dakota passed a 'fetal heartbeat' bill in 2013 [HB 1456], they almost certainly knew they were inviting a lawsuit the state would inevitably lose." The law, which essentially prohibited abortion care at six weeks of pregnancy, "was never actually implemented," Benen writes, explaining that it was struck down by federal and appellate courts, "just as everyone expected." He continues, "The rulings ended the legal controversy, except for one final detail: legal fees." Benen cites a Slate article explaining that the state agreed to a $245,000 settlement, making conservative lawmakers' decision to enact the law "an expensive test, paid for by North Dakota taxpayers who probably could have come up with better uses for that money." Similarly, Benen highlights Alabama Gov. Bob Bentley's (R) decision last year to sign a bill that would have "cancel[ed] Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contract," even though Bentley "probably realized he couldn't legally take such a step." Benen writes, "It didn't work; the courts sidedwith the health organization; and Alabama taxpayers had to finance a $51,000 settlement. That's money Alabama could have used for some other purpose, were it not for Bentley's little culture-war experiment." These "culture war fights" are not just "a waste of time," but also a "waste of money, all of which come[s] from taxpayers," Benen continues, noting, "States like North Dakota and Alabama are facing plenty of real challenges, and the public is best served when their elected officials invest their time and energies into meaningful policymaking" (Benen, "The MaddowBlog," MSNBC, 4/19).

What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:

~ "GOP's Planned Parenthood investigation outed as a total sham: Republicans on the committee now openly participating in anti-Planned Parenthood protests," Sophia Tesfaye,

April 15, 2016


"Judge tells women who fear they could die if they don't get an abortion to go away," Ian Millhiser, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "A lawsuit seeking to protect women who could be seriously injured or even killed if they are unable to terminate their pregnancies will not move forward," Millhiser writes, citing a dismissed lawsuit challenging the application of "the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health, a set of instructions for health providers published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which include strict limits on which reproductive services may be provided to women." According to Millhiser, under the directives, which ban abortion care, "women may be prevented from aborting a life-threatening pregnancy that has no possibility of maturing into a viable fetus." He explains, "The ACLU sued Trinity Health Corporation, a multi-state, Catholic hospital group that adheres to the restrictions contained in the directives ... on behalf of some of its members who are currently pregnant, including at least one who 'had a history of severe pregnancy complications requiring the directly intended termination of the pre-viability pregnancy' and who 'lives in a county where the only hospital was a Trinity Hospital.'" ACLU in the lawsuit "argued that denying such emergency care to women violates two federal laws," Millhiser writes. However, U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain dismissed the case. Millhiser writes, "Drain reasoned that the ACLU's claim that some of its members are likely to be injured by Trinity's refusal to provide them with the full range of emergency care 'too speculative.'" Noting that Drain's ruling cited a Supreme Court ruling that "denied relief" to a chokehold victim because the victim "had to show that police were likely to choke him again in the future," Millhiser states that "it will be difficult to challenge policies like Trinity's ban on medically necessary abortions -- or, at least, to bring such a challenge before a woman suffers a potentially serious injury." According to Millhiser, the Trinity case "highlights an increasingly widespread problem for women who need emergency obstetric care." He notes that about "one in six patients in the United States are treated in Catholic Hospitals, and about a third of these hospitals are located in rural areas where there may not be other hospitals nearby," meaning "women may not have access to a nearby hospital willing to provide medically necessary care, and even those that do may not know to seek such a hospital out until it is too late" (Millhiser, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 4/12).



"Utah doctors are baffled on how to perform new fetal anesthesia requirement," Robin Marty, Care2: "States throughout the country have long been replacing the medical best practices with their conservative legislatures' own weird and scientifically inaccurate 'facts' when it comes to sexual health, reproduction and abortion," Marty writes, highlighting a Utah law (SB 234) that requires physicians "to provide anesthesia to a fetus that according to almost all medical science cannot actually feel pain at 20 weeks, despite the claims of anti-abortion legislators." Marty explains that "doctors aren't sure" how to meet the law's requirements, "especially since most post-20-week abortions in Utah are done for fatal fetal anomalies." Marty points to one physician, Cara Heuser, who told NPR that some women who terminate pregnancies at 20 weeks "'choose to have their labor induced.'" However, according to NPR, Heuser under the Utah law "'can't put a laboring mother under general anesthesia, so [she] is at a loss for how to proceed in these situations, how to do what she thinks is best for patients and still comply with the law,'" Marty writes. Marty also cites comments from Leah Torres, a doctor in Salt Lake City, who "finds herself struggling to discern how to meet the new legal requirements." In a CNN opinion-piece, Torres noted, "'The law does not tell me how to provide this anesthesia'" and the options that come to mind for complying with the law are not only costly, but they "'carry far more risk than current evidence-based practices in abortion care.'" According to Marty, Torres unsuccessfully sought answers from the governor's office for two days before finally speaking with the Utah governor's general counsel, who "'was able to answer [zero questions]'" Torres had about the law. Noting that state senator who wrote the law is an accountant, Marty concludes, "With a governor and an accountant deciding the state's medical best practices, no wonder doctors have no idea how to successfully provide medical care and still keep within the state's vague new laws" (Marty, Care2, 4/12).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "When abortions are hard to get," Rachel Cohen, American Prospect.