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Access Without Apology: The Ohio Proactive Abortion Agenda

miracle-headshot.jpegBy Jaime Miracle, Deputy Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio

Last month, pro-choice Ohioans and legislators gathered outside the Statehouse as we have done time and again. But this time something was different. We weren’t there to talk about the myriad attacks on access to abortion pending in the Ohio General Assembly. Instead we were there to talk about a new proactive agenda — one that would remove barriers to abortion in our state.
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November 20, 2015


"The High Cost of Reproductive Coercion," Atima Omara, American Prospect: While "contraception can be transformative," it "can also be used as a tool to abuse and control women" through what is known as "contraceptive coercion, or birth control sabotage -- and it's more widespread than you think," Omara writes. According to Omara, the National Domestic Violence Hotline "defines reproductive coercion as what happens when one partner strips the other of the ability to control his or her own reproductive system," such as by "sabotaging birth control methods" or "forcing a partner to continue a pregnancy or have an abortion against her will." She cites research showing that reproductive coercion occurs "[o]ften enough ... to arouse concern among advocates, health-care providers, and policymakers alike" and "can hit lower-income women particularly hard." Omara touches on the difficulties of legislating the issue, citing a Michigan "'abortion coercion' ban (HB 4787, HB 4830)" that "seemed like a step in the right direction until [conservative legislators] rejected all amendments ... that would have also made it a crime to coerce a woman not to have an abortion and force her to carry a pregnancy to term against her will." Futher, she writes, "Legal remedies have also hit roadblocks," noting that the U.S. legal system does not "distinguis[h] between consenting to sex or sex acts and consenting to sex acts without contraception" and "focus[es] instead on 'generalized consent.'" There is "no single legal group [that] focuses specifically on prosecuting reproductive coercion in the U.S.," Omara writes, adding that while "[t]his dynamic might change if policymakers on both sides of the aisle worked together on the issue ... the swirl of issues complicating reproductive coercion -- domestic violence, poverty, reproductive rights -- present built-in political challenges" (Omara, American Prospect, 11/17).

What others are saying about sexual and gender-based violence:

~ "Study: Grassroots Feminism Is The Best Strategy For Combating Gendered Violence" Kim Milan, Feministing.


"Anthony Kennedy's Right to Choose," Dahlia Lithwick, Slate 's "Jurisprudence": "Ever since the [Supreme Court] announced on Friday -- after eight years of silence on the issue --that it was going to hear a major abortion case, all eyes have been fixed on Justice Anthony Kennedy," who "will certainly be the decisive vote in Whole Woman's Health v. Cole this summer," Lithwick writes. She explains that some abortion-rights supporters "are heartened by the fact that Kennedy voted to grant a stay preventing" the parts of the Texas law (HB 2) at issue in the case "from immediately going into effect." However, Lithwick also notes that "many court watchers note that Kennedy is not a fan of abortion and that it's a mistake to believe he teeters at the center on this issue." Lithwick touches on "Kennedy's paternalism in Gonzales v. Carhart, his last major abortion opinion, in 2007," in which he wrote that "'it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.'" She writes that while "Kennedy clearly believes that vulnerable women should have lots of information and hedge against any possibility of future regrets in making their difficult choices ... it strains credulity to imagine that he will happily accept the argument that the best way to ensure that brooding, uncertain women make good decisions is to ensure that they cannot make any." Further, "even if the choice-affirming Justice Kennedy doesn't have much confidence in the powers of Texas women to make good choices, it's hard to imagine that he would be perfectly sanguine about the fact that the 'health reasons' offered up by the state to justify the new regulations in no way correlate to better health outcomes," she writes. Lithwick concludes, "So perhaps the hardest question for a Justice Kennedy who believes that autonomy rests in the power to make wise, well-informed choices will be whether he is willing to tolerate transparently pretextual rationales for the Texas rules, under the guise that legislatures always know what is best for maternal health" (Lithwick, "Jurisprudence," Slate, 11/17).

What others are saying about the Supreme Court:

~ "Evil Laws -- The Texas Abortion Case," Bennett Gershman, Huffington Post blogs.


"The Rise Of Self-Abortions In Texas Prove We're Now Fighting a Pre-Roe Battle," s.e. smith, Bustle: Citing a new report that found up to 240,000 Texas women might have tried to self-induce abortions, smith writes, "[W]hat's going on in Texas shows us that pre-Roe conditions aren't something that could happen if can't defend abortion rights. They show us that they're already happening, and the question is not so much how we can retain the rights we have and slowly claw back horrific legislation, but how we can reclaim abortion access." Smith explains that "[a]bortion is functionally illegal and/or inaccessible in multiple U.S. states as a result of" targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP laws. According to smith, "When combined with continuous terrorist attacks against abortion clinics, providers and patients alike are terrified to be involved with abortion services." Smith notes that while "[l]ack of access to abortion may not be the same thing as outlawing it ... it has a similar effect": Women "are forced underground if they want to terminate pregnancies" when abortion care is illegal or when they "cannot access legal abortions due to TRAP laws, terrorism, or other barriers." Noting that the Supreme Court has agreed to review parts of Texas' antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), smith writes, "The issue isn't necessarily whether Roe is in a state of erosion, but whether the new cas[e] hitting the Supreme Court can affirm abortion rights, reiterating what the court said" in Roe v. Wade (smith, Bustle, 11/19).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "The Number of Self-Induced Abortion Attempts in Texas Reveal We're on The Wrong Side of History," Hope Racine, Bustle.

November 3, 2015


"There's Now Only One Abortion Provider for Every Million Wisconsin Women," Jenn Stanley, RH Reality Check: "Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin ... suspended abortion services at its Appleton North Health Center" on Oct. 14 due to a staffing shortage, "leaving the state with three abortion providers, all located in Madison and Milwaukee," Stanley writes. According to Stanley, the clinic currently is referring abortion patients to the Madison and Milwaukee clinics, although its "separate family planning center in Appleton will remain open," and it hopes to resume providing abortion services in about six months. However, Stanley notes that "[t]he distance to and volume of patients at the state's remaining clinics are immense hurdles for providers and patients seeking care." She cites census data showing that since the clinic suspended abortion services, "there has been one clinic per 1 million women in the state." Stanley cites Sara Finger, executive director for Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, who said, "'The environment in the state is too restrictive and too discouraging for there to be adequate services available for women throughout the state.'" According to Stanley, conservative state lawmakers have "introduced a number of anti-choice measures in recent years," including a blocked admitting privileges law (Act 37) and a 20-week abortion ban (AB 237SB 179). Stanley concludes by quoting PPW President and CEO Teri Huyck, who said, "'With only four clinics (including Appleton) in Wisconsin and ongoing efforts to further reduce access to abortion, abortion access is threatened'" in the state (Stanley, RH Reality Check, 11/2).

October 30, 2015


"When Will SCOTUS Rule on HB2, Texas' Strident Anti-Abortion Law? The State Is Sneakily Chipping Away at Women's Rights in The Meantime," Josephine Yurcaba, Bustle: It is "unclear" when the Supreme Court will consider the legal challenges against Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights bill (HB 2), but "the state has continued to sneakily curtail or invade the rights of women since the [Supreme] Court issued" a stay on the contested parts of the law, Yurcaba writes. According to Yurcaba, "Because of the confusion surrounding which Texas clinics have closed their doors" under various HB 2 provisions, "two clinics in El Paso, Texas, have reported that women appear to be crossing the border for do-it-yourself abortions." This has led to some women who obtained medication abortion drugs in Mexico contracting infections and seeking out treatment at clinics in Texas and New Mexico. Yurcaba notes that "abortion clinics often don't have admitting privileges at a hospital ... because the complication rate of abortions is so low," but complications reported from these women could foster "the dangerous misconceptions surrounding abortion in Texas." Meanwhile, state officials have as part of their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood ordered the organization's clinics to submit "thousands of patient documents concerning patients billed to Medicaid who had had abortions where any part of the fetus was removed and preserved for research use," Yurcaba writes, noting that "Planned Parenthood officials have said the move is a total violation of patient confidentiality." She writes, "Pro-choice organizations say that because Texas can't make abortion illegal, it's doing everything in its power to make it inaccessible" (Yurcaba, Bustle, 10/29).


"GOP Lawmaker: Colorado Officials Are 'Science-Deniers' for Reporting IUDs Reduce Abortions," Jason Salzman, RH Reality Check: Colorado "Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt [R], a vociferous opponent of abortion rights, called Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) officials 'science-deniers'" after they "released data last week showing teen birth and abortion rates have dropped nearly 50 percent from 2009 through 2014," Salzman writes. According to Salzman, the gains come from "a program that provides free or reduced-cost intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) to teenagers and low-income women." Salzman quotes Klingenschmitt, who claimed that the LARCs provided through the program were taxpayer-funded abortifacients, a claim that counters "the widely accepted scientific definition" of pregnancy. Salzman explains that "pregnancy occurs after a zygote (fertilized egg) implants in the uterine wall, and because these methods of contraception work prior to implantation, they do not cause abortions." However, Salzman notes that despite the program's "unmitigated success, state [conservative] lawmakers defunded the pregnancy-prevention program." According the latest state data, the program has distributed "36,000 IUDs and implants," to Colorado residents, "raising the use of such contraception from 4.5 percent of the clinics' clients in 2009, when the program started, to 29.6 percent in 2014 (compared to 7.2 percent who use IUDs and implants nationally)," Salzman writes. According to Salzman, the program has "procured more private funding to run a scaled-back program for another year" (Salzman, RH Reality Check, 10/27).

October 23, 2015


"Abortion Clinics Are Burning, But No One Seems To Care," Callie Beusman, Broadly: "[M]ost national media outlets didn't report on [recent] attacks" against abortion providers "and even fewer still connected them," Beusman writes, referring to recent incidents in California, Illinois and Washington state. She notes that NARAL Pro-Choice America is urging the Department of Justice to investigate such instances as domestic terrorism, but, citing the fallout of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, she notes that any "outrage" over the issue seems to be "reserved for outlandish claims about harm done to fetuses." She writes that the claims made in the videos "were quickly and thoroughly picked apart," but conservative lawmakers nonetheless launched efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, clinic protests were reported "nationwide," and "abortion providers witnessed an escalation in hateful and intimidating rhetoric." Meanwhile, Beusman points to a Media Matters review that "found that 'cable news shows and leading newspapers around the country remained largely silent on arson attacks that targeted Planned Parenthood clinics following the release of'" the misleading videos. Further, she quotes David Cohen, author of "Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Story of Anti-Abortion Terrorism," who noted that antiabortion-rights extremists "'are taking extreme, violent measures'" and that "'[t]his terrorism has been a regular part of anti-abortion extremism for decades.'" She writes, "The irony here is palpable, to say the least: Abortion providers are merely trying to help women access essential health care in full compliance with the law, whereas extreme opponents of abortion are resorting to violence, to intimidation, and to flat-out lying in order to advance their agenda" (Beusman, Broadly, 10/20).

October 16, 2015


"How 'Best Practices' in Neonatal Care Endanger Mothers Seeking Drug Treatment and Their Babies," Britni de la Cretaz, RH Reality Check: "Women who give birth to babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) are being criminalized -- and their babies are suffering as a result," de La Cretaz writes, citing cases of women being arrested after giving birth to infants with NAS in Alabama and Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. She writes, "Women, particularly poor women and women of color, are having their babies taken by child protective services, sometimes while they are thrown in jail, for an alleged addiction that needs treatment, not punishment." De la Cretaz notes that the protocols for treating infants with NAS are "hard" on both the woman and the infant, and they "may actually contribute to or exacerbate NAS symptoms in babies" by separating them from their mothers. According to de la Cretaz, recent research suggests that infants display fewer NAS symptoms when they are permitted to stay with the woman with a "rooming in" model of care. This care model also is less expensive, she writes, citing a 2013 study finding that "rooming-in decreased the average cost of a mother's hospital stay by half." De la Cretaz expresses optimism that even conservative lawmakers who "are championing policies that criminalize women for using drugs -- whether those drugs are licit or illicit" might be swayed by these cost benefits. "Rooming-in, breastfeeding, and skin-to-skin contact have been shown to drastically improve the outcomes for babies with NAS and decrease the number of babies being diagnosed with it too," de la Cretaz writes, adding "Lives depend on these new protocols being implemented in hospitals around the country, and it can't happen soon enough" (de la Cretaz, RH Reality Check, 10/13).

What others are saying about criminalizing pregnant women:

~ "Whose Bodies Should Government Control?" Sally Kohn, The Atlantic.


"California Becomes the First State To Crack Down on Misleading 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers,'" Alex Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Last week, "California became the first state to pass a law [AB 775] regulating the nearly 170 anti-abortion clinics in the state," but just "48 hours later, two clinics had already sued California Attorney General Kamala Harris [D], deeming the new law unconstitutional," Zielinski writes. According to Zielinski, the law "requires clinics commonly referred to as 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers' (CPCs) to inform their patients about how they can obtain affordable birth control, abortion, and prenatal care" and, "[i]f the CPC does not have a medical license, staff must inform each patient that their ... clinic is not licensed to provide health care." She explains that the CPCs claim the law violates their free speech rights, an argument that "has been the key to shutting down similar laws in the past" in Austin, Baltimore and New York City. However, Zielinski notes that advocates are optimistic about the California law, which was crafted to "mee[t] all constitutional requirements" and "is backed by the state's attorney general, who is responsible for upholding the constitution." She concludes by citing Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, who noted that CPCs "'may claim this is a free speech issue, but it's really a public health issue ... When women are looking for trustworthy health care, they should get it. Right now, they're not" (Zielinski, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/13).

What others are saying about crisis pregnancy centers:

~ "The United States' Deceptive Anti-Abortion 'Pregnancy Centers' Are Going Global," Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "A New California Law Targets Crisis Pregnancy Centers -- but Will It Work?" Christina Cauterucci, Slate's "XX Factor."


"Can Doctors Keep up With the Growing Demand for Trans Health Care?" Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Equal access to health care and coverage for transgender patients is quickly becoming a reality," Zielinski writes. For example, she cites the grocery store chain Kroger's decision to "offer its roughly 400,000 employees full health coverage for trans-related surgeries and drug therapy in 2016," as well as proposed Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) regulations "that would prohibit discrimination in health coverage on the basis of a person's gender identity." Yet despite these advances, "a general lack of comprehensive research, academic instruction, and cultural competency leaves many health care professionals empty-handed," Zielinski writes, noting, "At times, the best information comes from trans patients themselves -- a burden that can discourage them from returning for needed check-ups." According to Zielinski, "One of the biggest barriers to trans coverage lies in the technical details," with "[s]ome health care [providers] ... wary of treating trans patients at all because they don't want to wade into complicated insurance processes." She writes that "to understand these issues, along with the more trans-specific procedures, health providers need a stronger source of medical research to lean on." Zielinski adds, "Until federal and academic research catches up with trans health needs, case-by-case regulation -- sparked by patient complaints -- may be the fastest way to reform and educate both health providers and insurers" (Zielinski, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/15).

Calif. Gov. Signs Bill To Rein In Crisis Pregnancy Centers' Misinformation; CPCs File Lawsuit

October 13, 2015 — California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) last week signed a bill (AB 775) that aims to prohibit crisis pregnancy centers from disseminating certain misleading information, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The law is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2016. Meanwhile, two CPCs on Saturday filed suit over the law (Walsh, Sacramento Bee, 10/11).


The new law comes after an undercover investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice California found that CPCs provide pregnant women with misleading and false information.

There are about 200 CPCs in California, and many of them are not licensed to provide medical care. The centers often operate through private funding, while some receive federal funding that has been set aside for abstinence education programs.

Details of Legislation

The California measure, which was introduced by Assembly members David Chiu (D) and Autumn Burke (D), expands protections in a 2011 San Francisco ordinance (212-11) that bars CPCs from disseminating misleading information.

The legislation requires licensed facilities that provide services related to pregnancy and family planning to let women know about how and where they could access affordable and timely abortion, contraception and prenatal care services.

Further, the legislation requires unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy- and family planning-related services to tell patients the facilities are not licensed and that they have no staff members who are licensed providers. Such facilities will be required to disseminate a notice to patients at the facility and in any digital or print advertising materials stating, "This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services" (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/27).

CPCs that do not comply with the law will be subject to a $500 fine for the first offense and a $1,000 penalty for any offense thereafter. The state attorney general, county counsels and city attorneys will have the authority to enforce the law.


California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) said the legislation "ensures that all women have equal access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, and that they have the facts they need to make informed decisions about their health and their lives."

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said, "Anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers are ground-zero in the fight for reproductive freedom, and Gov. Brown and the California Legislature can be proud of leading the first successful statewide effort to ensure that no woman is tricked into walking through doors of a [CPC] to be manipulated and shamed again."

Similarly, NARAL Pro-Choice California Director Amy Everitt called the legislation "historic" and said it "sets (a) precedent for (the) nation," adding, "This is what it looks like to respect women: Empower us and trust us to make the best decisions for ourselves and our families."

CPCs File Lawsuit

Immediately after Brown signed the measure into law, two religiously-affiliated CPCs -- A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic in Marysville and Crisis Pregnancy Center of Northern California in Redding -- filed a lawsuit requesting a temporary injunction to stop the law from taking effect.

The two CPCs claim the law violates their rights to free speech and their exercise of religion under the First Amendment (Sacramento Bee, 10/11).

Ark. Supreme Court Overturns Ruling Criminalizing Woman for Drug Use During Pregnancy

October 13, 2015 — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a conviction in a case in which a woman had been given a 20-year prison sentence after she delivered an infant who had methamphetamine in his system, AP/WREG reports (Taylor, AP/WREG, 10/8).

Case Background

Arkansas law makes it a crime to "administer or cause to be ingested, inhaled or otherwise introduced" a controlled substance into another individual in a way other than it has been prescribed (Willems, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 10/9). Melissa McCann-Arms was convicted under the state law after she and her infant tested positive for methamphetamine after she gave birth in November 2012. A lower state appeals court upheld the conviction. In that ruling, the court said even if the statute does not apply to fetuses, the infant received methamphetamine in the time between delivery and when the umbilical cord was cut.

Ruling Details

The latest ruling, by the Arkansas Supreme Court, reverses the conviction and dismisses the case, AP/WREG reports. The court held there was no evidence that McCann-Arms had introduced methamphetamine into her infant's system by having the infant inhale the drug or ingest it (AP/WREG, 10/8). Further, the court said there was no scientific or medical evidence that McCann-Arms transferred the drug to the infant via the umbilical cord after delivery (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 10/9).

"The jury would thus have been forced to speculate that Arms was 'otherwise introducing' the drug into the child at that point," the court wrote, adding, "When a jury reaches its conclusion by resorting to speculation or conjecture, the verdict is not supported by substantial evidence."

In addition, the court noted that Arkansas law does not criminalize bodily processes that passively result in a substance transferring from a woman's system into the fetus' system. "The courts cannot, through construction of a statute, create a criminal offense that is not in express terms created by the Legislature," the court ruled (AP/WREG, 10/8).

Concurring Opinion

Chief Justice Howard Brill wrote in a concurring opinion that for the conviction to stand, the law would need to explicitly include the term "unborn child," according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Brill further noted, "No one would dispute, for example, that the statute prohibits a parent from feeding a child marijuana-laced brownies," adding, "Likewise, no one would reasonably contend that a nursing mother suffering from nasal congestion who ingests a controlled substance such as ... pseudoephedrine should be prosecuted if the substance is transferred into her milk and absorbed by her infant."

Moreover, although an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution says it is state policy "to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution," the amendment is not "self-executing" and it is up to the state Legislature to apply the amendment to its legislation, Brill said. He also noted that groups advocating on behalf of McCann-Arms -- including medical and social science experts, as well as women's rights groups -- said a conviction could discourage pregnant women with substance use issues from seeking medical treatment.

Attorney Says Ruling Should Help Other Women Convicted Under Law

Farah Diaz-Tello, McCann-Arms' attorney during the appeal, said, "The Legislature has had ample opportunities to consider this issue and has declined to make a law that criminalizes women for giving birth after using a controlled substance."

She added, "This ruling should give (other women) grounds for postconviction relief because this ruling acknowledges that the law was not intended to be used that way. What [those women] did was not a crime." According to the Democrat-Gazette, two other women in the same county have been convicted under the same law and given 20-year prison sentences (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 10/9).

Federal Judge Rejects Request To Delay Hearings in Ariz. Medication Abortion Challenge Case

October 13, 2015 — A federal judge on Friday rejected a request to delay hearings on a challenge to an Arizona law (SB 1318) that requires doctors to provide medically unproven information to women about medication abortion, AP/ABC 15 Arizona reports (AP/ABC 15 Arizona, 10/9).

The underlying law took effect on July 3, but the medication abortion provision has been on hold pending a legal challenge.

Law Details

Among other provisions, the law's medication abortion restrictions would require physicians to tell women the medically unproven statement that administering high doses of progesterone could reverse a medication abortion. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no medically accepted evidence that medication abortion can be reversed.

Lawsuit Background

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law on behalf of Planned Parenthood Arizona and several other Arizona providers, requesting that the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona block the medication abortion provision from taking effect.

According to the lawsuit, the measure violates physicians' rights under the First Amendment by requiring them, "unwillingly and against their best medical judgment," to convey "a state-mandated message that is neither medically nor scientifically supported." In addition, the suit argues that the law violates patients' rights under the 14th Amendment because it requires them to receive "false, misleading and/or irrelevant information."

The lawsuit notes that while some doctors have "experimented" with administering high doses of progesterone, such practice "does not constitute credible, medically accepted evidence that the experimental practice is effective or safe."

In July, Arizona's health director asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/9).

Latest Developments

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Steven Logan denied an offer from the state attorney general's office that would have let Logan grant a preliminary injunction on the provision until a full trial on the law is held at a later time. According to Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, that offer would have removed the need for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 21.

Logan in an order Friday said he will not delay hearings in the case and that the full trial for the challenge will begin on Oct. 21. Logan reserved three days for the lawsuit.

David Brown, an attorney with CRR, said he did not expect the judge's decision, but that the change to the timeline should not harm the challenger's ability to present their case (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 10/9).

Dan Pochoda, an attorney for the ACLU of Arizona, supported the judge's decision (ABC 15 Arizona, 10/9).

Op-Ed Blasts Efforts To Ban, Restrict Fetal Tissue Research Following CMP Videos

October 13, 2015 — "Fetal-tissue research is collateral damage in the war against Planned Parenthood, and it has already been banned or severely restricted in six states," Katha Pollitt writes in an opinion piece for The Nation.

Pollitt explains that fetal tissue research has helped develop vaccines for "polio, mumps, measles, chicken pox, hepatitis, [and] rabies" and now is being used to develop treatment for "Parkinson's, HIV, breast cancer, diabetes, [and] the flu." Meanwhile, she notes that several conservative lawmakers who in 1993 voted to "lif[t] President Reagan's ban on federal funding for the research ... are now baying for Planned Parenthood's blood in the wake of the videos secretly recorded by anti-choice activists." She writes, "It's amusing to see them try to square that vote with their newfound abhorrence for what it legalized."

Pollitt details efforts in several states to restrict fetal tissue research. For example, she notes that "Nebraska and Wyoming ban the transfer of fetal tissue, and New Jersey and California are considering laws that would limit suppliers' ability to recover costs." Meanwhile, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in August "issued a temporary rule requiring abortion clinics to report the destination of fetal tissue to state health officials," while "North Carolina has just passed a bill criminalizing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses (already illegal under federal law)" and "defund[ing] Planned Parenthood's teen-pregnancy-prevention programs." Further, "the Wisconsin state legislature is debating not just banning the sale of fetal tissue (already illegal, see above) but making research using tissue from any fetus aborted after January 1, 2015, a felony [AB 305]," Pollitt writes.

Pollitt cites a conversation with Robert Golden, dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, who said, "Those who claim that fetal tissue is unnecessary 'are not talking to leaders in the field.'" According to Pollitt, Golden explained that, "[b]esides the threat to researchers currently using fetal tissue in their work ... there would be a chilling effect going forward; why would top scientists come to Wisconsin?" In fact, according to Golden, the Wisconsin bill might fail "because business-oriented conservatives recognize the potential damage to Wisconsin's burgeoning biotech industry," Pollitt writes (Pollitt, The Nation, 10/8).

October 13, 2015


"Arkansas Urges Roberts Court To Rethink 'Roe,'" Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: The fetal viability standard, which "has been the one immovable legal fixture holding ... back" state attempts to restrict abortion access, could be at risk in this Supreme Court term, now that "Arkansas filed a petition ... with the Roberts Court urging it to step in and uphold an Arkansas law [Act 301] that bans abortions at 12 weeks' gestation," Mason Pieklo writes. She outlines the state's appeal, noting that Arkansas essentially "wants the Roberts Court to overturn Roe v. Wade while pretending it's not overturning Roe v. Wade." She explains that Arkansas is "fram[ing] their request as an incremental one," by asking the Supreme Court "to explain just why fetal viability has been a legal standard for the past four decades." However, "the State of Arkansas is not really looking for the Court to explain the nature of pregnancy," but instead is asking the high court "to confirm the power of the government to regulate it," Mason Pieklo writes. According to Mason Pieklo, the state is suggesting that the viability standard be replaced by the "judicial standard of 'reasonableness,'" arguing that "a woman who misses her window of 'reasonableness'" could "surrender [her] newborn to the state without facing criminal prosecution" under the state's safe haven law. However, citing statistics on the state's foster care system and health indicators for pregnant women, Mason Pieklo explains that the "state is not equipped to handle" such a system. She notes that while it is not clear if the Supreme Court will consider the Arkansas case, "[i]t's entirely clear ... that conservatives plan to keep trying to erode abortion rights all the way through the 2016 election, providing a steady drumbeat of anti-Planned Parenthood, anti-choice propaganda for the Court's deliberation" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 10/9).


"One State Finally Cracked Down on Deceptive Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers," Molly Redden, Mother Jones: "California on Friday became the only state to target anti-abortion pregnancy centers with a law (AB 775) cracking down on deceptive practices some have used to prevent or dissuade women from having an abortion," Redden writes. She writes that the law marks "the first time reproductive rights groups have succeeded in pushing regulations on crisis pregnancy centers across an entire state; only a handful of cities or counties have passed similar laws." According to Redden, the law "requires pregnancy-related service providers that are not medically licensed to disclose that fact to patients" and mandates that "reproductive health clinics, including [CPCs], that are licensed ... provide patients with information about California's financial assistance for family planning services, prenatal care, and abortion." Redden notes that Amy Everitt, director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris helped draft the law to protect it from First Amendment legal challenges, which have been used to overturn similar laws. According to Redden, abortion-rights opponents tend to argue "regulating [CPCs] is a violation of their right to express opposition to abortion," while "[r]eproductive rights advocates counter that the regulations are permissible because states have some latitude to regulate speech that is deceptive or coming from professionals licensed by the state." Redden notes that "Everitt is confident the law would survive a court challenge" and she "hopes the new law will become a national model" (Redden, Mother Jones, 10/12).


"Jailed for Using Drugs While Pregnant," Ada Calhoun, The Atlantic: In a recent victory for women's rights advocates, a U.S. District Court in Wisconsin denied a state request to throw out a case brought by Tammy Loertscher, "who had been jailed for 18 days after admitting to having used drugs early in her pregnancy," Calhoun writes. She notes that the case "is now heading to trial." According to Calhoun, there has been an increase in recent years "in prosecutions of women on the grounds that their [fetuses] must be protected," with "[w]omen who are found to have used drugs during pregnancy" -- including prescription medication -- at risk of being "subject to child welfare involvement, jail time, or both, depending on the laws in their state and the prosecutors in their county." She writes that Loertscher "is one of the few to fight back," having filed a lawsuit in 2014 contending that the 1997 Wisconsin law under which she was prosecuted is unconstitutional. Calhoun notes that the lawsuit "raises legal and moral questions," including whether such laws, by "punish[ing] pregnant drug users far more harshly than non-pregnant ones ... effectively make it a crime to be pregnant" and whether "these fetal-protection laws [are] effectively anti-abortion laws." She writes that the "stakes of Loertscher's lawsuit are high," noting, "Though there are no specific statistics on the number of" prosecutions under the Wisconsin law, "if the single-year numbers provided in a report from Wisconsin's [Department of Children and Family] are representative, then since 2005, as many as 3,000 pregnant women may have been prosecuted for 'unborn child abuse' in Wisconsin" (Calhoun, The Atlantic, 10/12).