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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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April 22, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

"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

FEATURED BLOG

"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).

 

FEATURED BLOG

"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.

April 12, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

"This one-liner from Cecile Richards captures our feeling on the Republican war on women," Lauren Holter, Bustle: Holter writes about Planned Parenthood Federation of American President Cecile Richard's interview last week with Fusion news anchor Alicia Menendez. According to Holter, Richards during the discussion "summed up her feelings on [conservative lawmakers'] war on women in one simple sentence: 'I'm just honestly so sick of men telling us what to do with our bodies.'" The statement speaks to the "issue of conservative politicians limiting women's access to health care and reproductive services" and "feel[ing] more qualified than women and their doctors to make [women's] health care decisions," Holter writes. She notes that a "total of 396 anti-abortion bills were introduced across the country in 2015, 57 of which were enacted across 17 states, meaning the pervasiveness of [conservative lawmakers targeting women's health care] reaches far beyond the presidential race and even Congress." Holter continues, "[T]he war [conservative lawmakers] have waged on women's rights is really about telling women what to do -- taking away an entire gender's autonomy. While [conservative lawmakers] tout religious and moral reasons for limiting abortion access, it all boils down to this simple principle." This "recent surge of anti-abortion legislation seems to contradict [conservative lawmakers'] basic ideologies of small government and personal privacy," Holter adds, noting, "Nothing's more invasive than deciding what goes on in a woman's uterus." According to Holter, Richards during the interview also demonstrated her frustration with "men think[ing] that they have the right to dictate women's choices" by stating, "'The people of America don't like it when politicians put their own personal politics ahead of people's health.'" Holter concludes, "Above all else, reproductive rights are simply about giving women power over their own lives. No matter how you feel about abortion, feminists can agree that women deserve to decide their own life choices without unsolicited input or prodding from men" (Holter, Bustle, 4/11).

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"Pregnancy, drug use, and why prison is not the solution," Marianne Mollmann, Huffington Post blogs: A New Hampshire bill (S 515) that would "redefine opioid use or addiction in 'custodial parents,' including pregnant women, as child abuse is making its way through the legislature, despite vocal objection from the state's medical community," Mollmann, a senior researcher with Physicians for Human Rights, writes. According to Mollmann, the bill comes as state lawmakers "increasingly seek to hold women criminally responsible for not having healthy pregnancy outcomes." She notes that since the start of 2016, "at least eight state legislatures have introduced bills to redefine legal personhood as starting at 'fertilization' or 'conception.'" She explains that while such "personhood" bills are medically unsound and logistically impossible to implement, supporters of "punitive pregnancy-related provisions have ... successfully advocated for the growing surveillance of pregnant women from marginalized or stigmatized communities through social services, and in particular through medical providers." Mollman cites documentation by National Advocates for Pregnant Women that shows a "growing arsenal of state laws that treat drug use and addiction in pregnant women as a form of child abuse." She writes, "Because health care providers in all states must report child abuse to the authorities, this reframing forces doctors and nurses to breach patient confidentiality for pregnant women who admit to struggling with drug use or addiction. The predictable result is a breakdown in the therapeutic relationship at best, and at worst, a reluctance to seek care at all for the women who arguably need it the most." Mollman notes, "Many of these bills are pushed through without consulting the medical community, which is the case for the bill currently pending in New Hampshire," adding that medical professionals are expected to "testify to [the New Hampshire bill's] predictably disastrous effects on the provision of addiction treatment and child welfare." She explains that while "both child abuse and drug addiction are serious matters, which require appropriate state support," efforts to "redefine drug use or addiction as child abuse in pregnant women ... disregard the medical and psychological needs of both abused children and pregnant women." Mollman contends, "Advocates of such legislation are attempting to transform the fiction of fetal personhood into law by appropriating the problem of child abuse and punishing pregnant women in need of treatment for substance dependency or addiction." She concludes, "Whether the conversation is about ... abortion, treatment for substance use disorder, or any other medical intervention, decisions about care are best made by the patient in private consultation with her doctor" (Mollman, Huffington Post blogs, 4/11).

April 5, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

"Should states be allowed to defy the FDA? The governor of Arizona thinks so," Ian Millhiser, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": One day after FDA "announced a change to federal guidelines regarding a drug commonly used to induce abortions -- a change that brings the agency guidelines in line with what is now widely viewed as best medical practice ... Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed legislation [SB 1324] requiring abortion providers to follow a previous, outdated protocol," Millhiser writes. "If this new law survives, it would subject many women to additional risk and discomfort without a corresponding medical benefit," he continues, citing "[a] practice bulletin issued by the American [Congress] of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society of Family Planning [that] advises against using the older protocol because the newer method of administering the drug 'is as effective' and 'results in significantly fewer adverse effects.'" Millhiser notes that while requiring abortion providers to adhere to the outdated FDA guidelines "is actually a fairly common restriction pushed by anti-abortion groups in state legislatures," the new "Arizona law is a particularly virulent form of this fairly common abortion restriction because it contains a provision that locks the law in place even if the FDA updates its guidelines." Millhiser continues, "It is likely that abortion providers will challenge this law in court, and the fact that the state law purports to overrule the FDA's judgment could give them a powerful legal argument," noting that "a court may decide that the FDA guidelines preempt the state's attempt to force doctors to use the outdated regimen." Moreover, "abortion providers will also have a strong argument that the law is unconstitutional," Millhiser writes, explaining that while a past Supreme Court decision "did say that judges should give 'state and federal legislatures wide discretion to pass legislation in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty,' the FDA's new guidelines help clear up any remaining uncertainty about whether the outdated regimen should be preferred to the new regimen" (Millhiser, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 4/4).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "The newest Arizona abortion legislation is yet another extreme example of states policing women's access," Cate Carrejo, Bustle.

~ "Study: Utah's forced 72-hour waiting period dissuades few, raises abortion care costs," Nicole Knight Shine, Rewire.

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"This is what it's like to be an abortion provider in the Bible Belt," Becca Andrews, Mother Jones: Andrews discusses "Trapped," a recent documentary that "navigates the grim reproductive rights landscape in the South, with its complex relationship between religion and abortion." According to Andrews, Dawn Porter, the director of the film, decided to make the documentary after visiting "the last remaining abortion clinic" in Mississippi and seeing "the conditions for staff members at the facility." The documentary draws its name, "Trapped," "from insidious laws known as TRAP laws -- Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers -- that target abortion providers through unnecessary regulation," Andrews notes. She writes, "The heroes of [the] film are the women who run clinics in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, as well as [Willie] Parker, who works with several clinics in the Southeast to provide [abortion care]." She continues, "After nearly every legislative session, a new law threatens to close down these clinics, and all the owners struggle to remain open as they make their way through anti-choice protests and daunting piles of paperwork." Andrews notes, "It's hardest of all to answer the phone calls from desperate women who must be denied services because the clinics are overbooked and, in some cases, have only one doctor." The documentary "is steeped in religion," Andrews continues, pointing to both those who oppose abortion rights based on their religious views and those, "including the documentary's protagonists," who believe that "providing abortion care is one expression of Jesus' commandment to love one another." According to Andrews, the documentary also highlights the dangers abortion providers face, such as one scene in which clinic staff in Alabama pray together to "prepare to endure an Operation Rescue anti-abortion demonstration." Moreover, "[w]hile filming, Porter and her team experienced some of the safety concerns that many abortion providers must face on a daily basis," Andrews continues, noting that abortion-rights opponents "looked Porter up and began posting her name on their websites" and "screamed at her as she visited the clinics." However, noting that providers such as Parker continue to provide abortion care despite safety concerns, Andrews writes that "Porter learned from Parker to not let fear dictate her life" (Andrews, Mother Jones, 4/2).

 

April 1, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

"New Utah law mandates anesthesia in certain abortions, defying medical ethics," Christina Cauterucci, Slate 's "XX factor": In signing a bill (SB 234) that requires physicians to administer anesthesia to a fetus when providing abortion care at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) "defi[ed] testimony from medical experts who warned that it would force women to take unnecessary health risks to satisfy the political whims of conservative legislators," Cauterucci writes. She explains that not only is the law based on scientifically unfounded claims regarding fetal pain, but the move to "[l]egislat[e] doctors' medical decisions is a reckless, dangerous game that puts women's lives at risk." According to Cauterucci, "Anesthetic drugs increase the likelihood of complications and negative health outcomes of a very safe procedure; subjecting women to anesthesia against their wishes or their doctors' recommendations is cruel." Moreover, Cauterucci points out that while "[c]onservatives have long invoked specters of ... government-controlled robot doctors," lawmakers through this legislation have "literally told doctors what drugs they must administer to women during a specific medical procedure." Even the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Curt Bramble (R), "admitted that he didn't know whether his bill would require an anesthesiologist or whether special drugs or medical equipment were needed to comply with the new law," Cauterucci writes, adding, "Of course he didn't -- he's not a doctor!" Cauterucci continues, "Unfortunately, lack of medical knowledge is no injunction against passing dangerous medical legislation," citing other state laws that "force doctors to lie to abortion-seeking patients." Further, according to Cauterucci, "Forcing doctors to use anesthesia in Utah could make it even more difficult for them to serve their patients safely and expediently" and make it "harder for abortion providers to fund full-time positions and attract employees willing to take a job that might be legislated out of existence at a moment's notice." Cauterucci concludes, "As [the law] stands, it's nothing more than risky medical meddling and a punishment and shaming tactic against women who have ... abortions" (Cauterucci, "XX factor," Slate, 3/29).

 

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Zika's spread across the United States changes the narrative around abortion," Alex Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Periods for Pence is why you should tell Indiana's governor about your menstrual cycle," Karen Yuan, Bustle.

ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT:

"Anti-choice witch-hunts: The movement turns to McCarthyist tactics to intimidate women and doctors," Amanda Marcotte, Salon: "Every time you think [antiabortion-rights activists and legislators have] hit a new low, they find another layer to dig down to when it comes to novel ways to make women and their families suffer," Marcotte writes, noting the latest "tactics are so invasive and cruel that even Joe McCarthy might have thought they're going a little too far with it all." She cites a "hair-curling" story reported by Sharona Coutts at Rewire in which abortion-rights opponents in Mississippi took a 17-year-old pregnant young woman "across state lines, to a crisis pregnancy center, where she was tricked into signing a phony legal document promising not to get an abortion." Marcotte notes that when the young woman decided to terminate her pregnancy, antiabortion-rights activists used the document, as well as antiabortion-rights lawyers falsely claiming to represent the girl, "to harass and terrorize this girl, her mother, and the doctors who were trying to help her get an abortion." "This embrace of McCarthyist tactics of stalking and using threats of legal action as harassment isn't limited to this one case," Marcotte writes, adding, "Anti-choicers have been targeting multiple women, especially teenagers, with these phony documents and threats of lawsuit and arrest aimed at anyone who helps them get an abortion." Moreover, these tactics are "also spilling over into the realm of medical research," Marcotte continues, highlighting how one congressional investigation targeting abortion providers and fetal tissue research has "turned to legal harassment, through phony 'investigations,' that is putting a major chill on medical research involving fetal tissue," including work on Parkinson's disease and the Zika virus. She adds, "While congressional efforts, led by [Rep. Marsha] Blackburn [R-Tenn.], are focused on using McCarthyist intimidation tactics to scare doctors away from life-saving research, some states have moved to passing laws to eradicate this life-saving research," including six that "have banned it outright." Marcotte writes that McCarthyist tactics "aren't about logic so much as stoking an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, to keep the McCarthyists in power while everyone else [is] under a cloud of suspicion." She concludes, "It doesn't matter if the supposed threat is communism, female sexuality, or science. The game is ultimately about power and fear and the pleasure that sadistic reactionaries get out of inflicting suffering on others" (Marcotte, Salon, 3/31).

What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:

~ "The history of abortion rights in red states will come as a surprise," Lauren Holter, Bustle.

~ "Spoiler alert: Women are already being punished for having abortions," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Donald Trump's 'punishment' talk exposes abortion foes' true face," Peter Montgomery, Daily Beast.

March 22, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

Two new offensive ways to attack abortion rights," Robin Marty, Care2: Noting that since 2010 more than 200 abortion restrictions have passed in state legislatures, Marty highlights two new types of antiabortion-rights measures that have been proposed in Iowa and Oklahoma. Marty writes that while "Oklahoma has passed many anti-abortion restrictions over the last five years," the latest measure (SB 1552) that "has been progressing through the Oklahoma legislature ... would strip the medical license of any doctor who performed an abortion." According to Marty, "If SB 1552 were to ever be enforced, there would be no doctor who could perform abortions in the state for any reason, either in a clinic, an office, even an emergency in a hospital." She writes, "And there's a certain amazing irony in writing a bill that makes the act of performing a legal medical procedure be a catalyst for losing one's ability to practice medicine at all." Still, the Oklahoma measure is "not the most offensive way offered to stop abortion so far this month," she notes, writing, "In Iowa, one state legislator tried to reclassify abortion as a 'hate crime'" in a proposed amendment to a bill (SF 2284) that would "add gender identity and gender expression to the list of protected classes covered by the state's hate crimes law." Marty notes that even though the Iowa amendment was rejected, and the Oklahoma measure, if ever enacted, would certainly be struck down in the courts, these attempts to restrict abortion care indicate "a new frontier when it comes to attacking the right to terminate a pregnancy" (Marty, Care2, 3/18).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "New study shows how Texas law has increased abortion travel distances and costs," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing.

~ "Challenging the stereotype of the 'evil, irresponsible' abortion-seeker," Kathryn Francis, Ms. Magazine blog.

~ "Get your birth control from your dentist, advise Florida legislators who voted to defund Planned Parenthood," Christina Cauterucci, Slate's "XX Factor."


March 15, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

"The end of real choice in Texas: This is what would happen if SCOTUS doesn't intervene," Eesha Pandit, Salon: Noting that states have passed 471 abortion-rights restrictions in the past 15 years, Pandit discusses what is at stake in a legal challenge to provisions of Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2). Pandit explains that the Supreme Court in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling "upheld the basic right to abortion" but "also expanded the ability of the states to enact all but the most extreme restrictions on women's access to abortion by asserting that states could indeed pass restrictions on abortion access, provided they don't cause an 'undue burden' to the person seeking an abortion." Pandit points to the hypocrisy behind claims that these restrictions aim to protect a woman's health, citing an exchange between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller during oral arguments over HB 2. During the exchange, Pandit writes, Bader Ginsberg noted the inconsistency in the state's argument that the law did not impose an 'undue burden' on women living in El Paso, where the sole clinic would be shut down if the law took full effect, because women could travel to New Mexico to receive care at a clinic that did not meet Texas' standards. Pandit also cites Liza Fuentes, a researcher at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, who "paints a grim picture for what abortion access will look like in Texas if HB2 is allowed to stand, with the number of clinics dropping from 40 to 10 -- with farther distances to travel, meaning longer wait times and subsequently more expensive procedures." According to Pandit, "In the face of these insurmountable obstacles, some women in Texas are attempting to self-induce abortions." Pandit states, "This is the heart of the matter -- how much burden is too much burden to be able to exercise a right?" She writes that "the language of rights implies a person's agency, a kind of freedom," which means that "[t]he right to an abortion, implies ... that a person should be free to make the choice to have one." Pandit concludes, "Those who have the money and the means [to access abortion care] then, have the right. And those without, are hardly free to choose. If this isn't an 'undue burden',' then perhaps the words have ceased to mean anything at all" (Pandit, Salon, 3/14).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Trapped is a close look at just how absurd abortion-restriction laws have become," Christina Cauterucci, Slate's "XX Factor."

~ "Group calls out Wisconsin congressman whose 'concern for life ends' when 'the umbilical cord is cut,'" Ally Boguhn, RH Reality Check.

~ "Holding the line on abortion rights," B. Jessie Hill, American Constitution Society blog.

FEATURED BLOG

"Tennessee's war on women is sending new mothers to jail," Nina Liss-Schultz, Mother Jones: A 2014 Tennessee law (SB 1391) allowing the state to prosecute pregnant women for drug use was passed "as part of a push to combat an opioid addiction epidemic in the state," but the law has subjected pregnant women to fetal assault charges and arrests "for all illegal behavior" because it "contain[s] a section that allowed women to be prosecuted for harm done to their own fetuses," Liss-Schultz writes. She notes, "As a result of this law, women have avoided prenatal care and many avoid getting treatment for their drug use because they are afraid they'll be arrested." According to Liss-Schultz, "an estimated 100 women have been arrested under the law," while "the number of Tennessee babies affected by drugs who received no prenatal care skyrocketed." Although lawmakers maintain that the law was intended to "encourage drug-addicted women to seek treatment, the law "giv[es] pregnant women and new mothers the option of treating their drug problems or going to jail" -- and moreover, Liss-Schultz writes, pregnant women seeking treatment for drug use have limited options. She cites Allison Glass of Health and Free Tennessee, who explains that only 11 of the state's 39 "licensed residential detox programs in the state ... accept pregnant women," and most of the state's 12 licensed methadone centers "do not accept Medicaid." Liss-Schultz writes, "The result is a 1,000-person waiting list for residential programs at any given time, and lost hope for many women seeking care." Noting that the law "contains a sunset provision," she writes that state lawmakers this week will consider "whether to let the measure expire or pass a bill permanently prohibiting chemical endangerment in Tennessee." According to Liss-Schultz, women who have been affected by the law "will testify against the new bill, arguing that it has done more harm than good by criminalizing pregnancy and forcing drug-addicted [pregnant women] to avoid prenatal care and treatment for fear of prosecution" (Liss-Schultz,Mother Jones, 3/14).

March 11, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

"'Sex-selective' abortion bans are offensive and dangerous," Ying Zhang, RH Reality Check: Zhang, a family physician and abortion provider based in Washington state, discusses a recently expired state bill (SB 6612) that "aimed to criminalize doctors who knowingly perform an abortion sought on the basis of the sex of the fetus." She notes that while the measure will not advance further in this legislative session, "it remains concerning that this bill was even a consideration in the first place." Noting that seven other states have passed such legislation, Zhang explains that while supporters claim the laws "are necessary to prevent gender discrimination," the legislation actually "serves as a back-door way of restricting abortion access for women." Such legislation essentially forces physicians "to police patient decision-making," she writes, noting that under the bans, "a simple misunderstanding could result in denial of care for women with language barriers and undermine patients' trust in their physicians and in the health care system." Zhang also notes that such bans are based on false stereotypes about Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, even though U.S. census data show that "more girls are born to Asian-American families than to white families." Moreover, data from states where such bans have been implemented "indicat[e] that the bans did not affect sex ratios at birth." According to Zhang, such bans not only exacerbate barriers that immigrant and refugee communities already face, but they also "set a dangerous precedent for defining which reasons are acceptable for women seeking an abortion, thus opening the door to increasingly specific restrictions that will gradually chip away at care for more and more women." She concludes, "The bottom line is this: A patient's race or ethnicity should have no bearing on her ability to access health care or on a physician's ability to provide quality and compassionate medical services. And 'sex-selective' abortion bans create an unnecessary obstacle to accessing -- and providing -- that care" (Zhang, RH Reality Check, 3/8).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "What are herbal abortions? Doctors are speaking out against this incredibly dangerous practice," Lara Rutherford-Morrison, Bustle.

~ "Moderators ignore the anti-choice elephant in the room during Democratic debate," Alex Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Women are coming to D.C. from Texas and Colorado for abortions," Rachel Kurzius, DCist.

"A warning to the Supreme Court: The true lesson of Kermit Gosnell is that abortion restrictions get women killed," Daniel Denvir, Salon: Antiabortion-rights activists cite the case of Kermit Gosnell as justification for targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP laws) that "use the pretext of protecting women's health to shut down abortion clinics," but in reality, low-income women "were driven to Gosnell precisely because anti-abortion advocates have denied them access to affordable procedures," Denvir writes. Denvir explains that Gosnell was a physician who performed illegal abortions while "[s]tate regulators ... looked the other way ... despite repeated complaints." According to Denvir, "In a United States where abortions were available free and on demand, and where comprehensive sexual education and contraception were prevalent, Gosnell's business model would have been a bust." Denvir spoke with advocates and experts following the 2011 grand jury report in the Gosnell case, who explained "how [low-income] women, unable to afford an abortion often delay getting them, scrambling to put together necessary funds as their pregnancy progresses and abortions become more expensive and, ultimately, illegal." At the time, Susan Schewel, executive director of the Women's Medical Fund, said, "'I think that as abortion access becomes narrower and narrower and more and more limited, there will be more and more of these types of providers.'" Pointing to a recent New York Times analysis showing an increase in searches for self-induced abortion, particularly after "2011, when post-Gosnell abortion restrictions first arose," Denvir writes, "It appears that Schewel was right." Calling out contested provisions in Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that would shut down clinics under the guise of health protections, Denvir concludes, "Gosnell's true lesson is that the anti-abortion movement's supposed concern for women's health is a farce. Safe and affordable abortions, incorporated into mainstream medicine, are the best way to save women's lives" (Denvir, Salon, 3/8).

March 8, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

"Of this year's 353 abortion-restriction bills, 70 percent are based on lies," Christina Cauterucci, Slate's "XX Factor": "More than 70 percent of the abortion restrictions introduced in state legislatures so far this year are based on false information, according to a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families," Cauterucci writes. According to Cauterucci, "Because most of the bills cloak their desired outcome -- limiting women's access to abortion -- in pretexts about protecting women's health, legislators have had to justify their proposals on debunked medical claims and assumptions about abortion regret." Specifically, she notes the report found that "[m]edical lies crop up in 150 of the bills," such as a New York measure that requires providers to tell a woman seeking abortion care that the medically discredited statement that abortion can cause breast cancer. Further, "101 of the abortion restrictions proposed this year are based on deceptive, paternalistic claims about women's decision-making capabilities," Cauterucci continues, pointing to proposed legislation, such as mandatory delays and ultrasound requirements, that "infer that women cannot be trusted to make informed choices about their own bodies and futures without legal interference." She concludes, "The National Partnership's analysis is ominous, but it's even more frightening to consider how soon it'll be outdated" (Cauterucci, "XX Factor," Slate, 3/4).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "These 'bad medicine' laws are making it nearly impossible to get an abortion," Sarah Lipton-Lubet, Ms. Magazine.

~ "Searches on self-induced abortions are rising in the United States as reproductive rights are limited, which tells us more than you might think," Suzannah Weiss, Bustle.

~ "'Bad Medicine': Anti-choice laws ignore medical evidence," Nicole Knight Shine, RH Reality Check.

~ "The Supreme Court shamed the most anti-abortion court in the country with just 14 words," Ian Millhiser, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

FEATURED BLOG

"The future of abortion rights could be decided in this election," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: Mason Pieklo highlights the key role of the upcoming presidential election will play in selecting a successor for Justice Antonin Scalia by outlining the ideological divide among the current justices, particularly as demonstrated during Wednesday's oral arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the legal challenge against provisions in Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2). Mason Pieklo writes, "President Obama's nominees, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan, ... with their liberal colleagues Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, shredded both the conservative justices' questions and the State of Texas' entire case," Mason Pieklo writes. She points out how Kagan during oral arguments affirmed the "link between [HB 2's] provisions and clinic closures," while Sotomayor "show[ed] just how dubious Texas' claims are that either [of the contested provisions in HB 2] is about patient health." Noting that conservative lawmakers "refus[e] to approve any new Supreme Court appointments ... until after the presidential election becomes a little clearer," Mason Pieklo writes that the election will either allow conservatives "to keep control over the highest court in the land for decades" or enable "progressives ... to wrestle the Court back to center from its rightward drift through the 1980s and today." Noting that "[t]he repercussions [of HB 2] would ripple beyond Texas, affecting Louisiana, which would likely be left with only one clinic in the state, while Mississippi would have none left at all," and that "legislators everywhere else would feel emboldened to pass similarly restrictive laws to cut off abortion care," she writes that "quite literally everything [is] on the line for [abortion-rights] advocates in this case." She concludes, "So as much as progressives need Justice Kennedy's vote, what we need even more is another progressive woman on the bench" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 3/4).

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

~ "The 11 crucial things every woman in America needs to know about the 2016 Supreme Court abortion case," Kicker/Huffington Post blogs.

~ "HB2: The wolf in sheep's clothing driving women away from clinical abortion care in Texas," Jill Adams, American Constitution Society blog.

~ "Hey hey, ho ho, HB 2 has got to go," Linda Flanagan, Huffington Post blogs.

Featured blogs

Abortion, TRAP laws, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama "Is one-sixth a 'large fraction' when it comes to our constitutional rights?" (Cohen/Bingenheimer, RH Reality Check, 2/29); "Court ruling forces all but one of Louisiana's abortion clinics to close" (Dusenbery, Feministing, 2/26).

March 1, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

"Is one-sixth a 'large fraction' when it comes to our constitutional rights?" David Cohen/Jeffrey Bingenheimer, RH Reality Check: Cohen and Bingenheimer discuss a recent study that they conducted to determine whether one-sixth is a "large fraction" as defined by the Supreme Court's Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. According to the authors, the Supreme Court in Casey said "that an abortion restriction will be found unconstitutional if it constitutes an 'undue burden' on a woman's right to choose," noting that "an undue burden exists when the law is a substantial obstacle for a 'large fraction' of people who are subject to that restriction." The authors explain that they chose one-sixth as their unit of measurement because it represents the fraction of Texas women who "would face a serious obstacle in obtaining an abortion" under the state's omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), which is being challenged in the Supreme Court this week. In their study, the authors asked respondents whether "one-sixth" constituted a large fraction in several different scenarios, such as one-sixth of someone's personal savings or one-sixth of the pills in a bottle of Tylenol being poisoned. The authors found that participations' perception of "whether one-sixth is a large fraction depends heavily upon the baseline expectation in the scenario in which it is presented." Cohen and Bingenheimer write that the Supreme Court "has never specified what exactly a 'large fraction' is under the Casey test, so the everyday English understanding of the phrase matters." The high court "needs to take this study's findings into consideration," the authors write, concluding, "In particular, if the justices value a woman's constitutional right to choose to have an abortion, then one-sixth should be seen as a large fraction -- because our baseline expectation should be that few people have their constitutional rights denied" (Cohen/Bingenheimer, RH Reality Check, 2/29).

What others are saying about the abortion-rights movement:

~ "The Supreme Court decision that made a mess of abortion rights," Nina Martin, Mother Jones.

~ "4 facts that prove just how endangered abortion rights are," Suzannah Weiss, Bustle.

~ "Artist Chi Nguyen creating a giant quilt to represent all the women affected by Texas anti-choice bill," Emma Cueto, Bustle.

~ "What's at stake in the Texas abortion case? A fundamental right and truth in judging," Dorothy Samuels, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "Will the U.S. Supreme Court take precedent seriously on abortion?" Garrett Epps, The Atlantic.

FEATURED BLOG

"Court ruling forces all but one of Louisiana's abortion clinics to close," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: "As if to underscore just how high the stakes are" in the Supreme Court case challenging Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), "an appeals court ruled that Louisiana's own Texas-style [targeted regulation of abortion providers] ... is allowed to be enforced" while litigation challenging the requirement continues, Dusenbery writes. She notes, "Unless SCOTUS steps in, three out of four of [Louisiana's] abortion clinics must close." She adds, "With only one clinic left standing in Louisiana, the nearest abortion provider for many people in the state is the sole clinic in Mississippi, which is only open right now because enforcement of their Texas-style TRAP law has been blocked by the court until SCOTUS gives the final verdict on whether these kinds of laws pose an 'undue burden' on the right to choose." Further, "If that clinic were shut down, the nearest provider for many Louisiana and Mississippi women would be the five clinics in Alabama -- except that four of them would be shut-down if their Texas-style TRAP law currently blocked went into effect," she explains. Noting that a 4-4 tie in the Supreme Court's ruling on HB 2 "would mean abortion is inaccessible in a huge part of the South," and a loss would allow other states to enact similar restrictions, Dusenbery concludes, "this is what we'd call a must-win situation" (Dusenbery, Feministing, 2/26).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Texas's sham abortion laws," Eric Segall, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy's "ACS blog."

~ "How HB 2 left Candice 'choice/less' [Audio]," Jenn Stanley, RH Reality Check.

~ "6 in 10 women now subjected to abortion waiting period laws," Samantha Allen, Daily Beast.