Around the Blogosphere

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.
More »



May 6, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

"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

FEATURED BLOG

"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.

ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT:

"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

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).

FEATURED BLOG

"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.

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.

FEATURED BLOG

"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.

April 1, 2016

FEATURED BLOG

"The FDA just removed one of anti-abortion lawmakers' favorite talking points," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Thanks to a policy change from the Food and Drug Administration announced on Wednesday, it may get harder for anti-choice lawmakers to rely on unscientific information to restrict women's access to the abortion pill," Culp-Ressler writes. She explains that FDA on Wednesday updated its "previous guidelines for mifepristone -- which were first issued back in 2000 and have since become outdated." According to Culp-Ressler, in the years after the drug was first approved, "[m]edical professionals quickly confirmed that it's just as safe and effective when prescribed at lower dosages and later in pregnancy," which she writes "expands access [to] the abortion pill because it allows patients to take the pill at a lower price and during a bigger window of time." Based on this scientific evidence, "doctors stopped following the official FDA label and started prescribing mifepristone differently than directed," Culp-Ressler continues, noting that "more than 80 percent of providers" as of 2001 "were no longer using the FDA-approved protocol." Noting that such off-label use of drugs is "very common" because re-labeling is a slow and often expensive process, Culp-Ressler writes that "major medical groups like the American [Congress] of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have for years opposed using the outdated FDA protocol." However, according to Culp-Ressler, "anti-abortion lawmakers -- who have mounted an incremental strategy based on chipping away at abortion from all angles -- were quick to exploit the discrepancy between the official FDA label and the real-world medical practice." They enacted laws -- under the guise of protecting women's health -- that required providers to adhere to the outdated label, Culp-Ressler writes, noting however that "[t]he FDA's label change essentially removes this talking point from the anti-choice playbook." She quotes Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, who said, "'Actual [medical] practice will not change ... What will change is that politicians can no longer deny women access to this safe and effective method of early abortion care by insisting on an out-dated regimen'" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/30).

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."