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The Murphy administration on Wednesday approved lifting regulations on abortions that barred them from happening in a doctor’s office beyond 14 weeks of pregnancy and allowing as many as 15,000 nurses, physician assistants and midwives to perform the procedure. 

The new rules contain elements of a bill Gov. Phil Murphy supports to enshrine a woman’s right to abortion into law should the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which says a woman has the constitutional right to an abortion, be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But that bill Murphy supports, the Reproductive Freedom Act, includes many more protections and would expand access to birth control and pregnancy care, which he says are under threat.

“At a time when other states are creating roadblocks to reproductive health and abortion care, New Jersey is working to expand access to these vital services, especially for communities facing systemic, economic, and logistical barriers to care,” Murphy said in a statement.

The new rules were unanimously approved by the state Board of Medical Examiners and will take effect in the “coming months,” the Attorney General’s Office said.

The “outdated” restrictions had been under scrutiny after a state panel formed in 2018 examined state regulations concerning abortion.

The Attorney General’s Office said the board considered nationally recognized studies, which showed “certain” early abortions can be safely performed by non-physician clinicians and that over-regulation of abortion creates public health “harms” by disrupting access to care.

Once the rules take effect, nearly 12,000 advanced practice nurses, 4,500 physician assistants and 420 midwives could become authorized to perform abortions. The Reproductive Freedom Act would allow those workers to perform the procedure as well.

Sean P. Neafsey, the acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said the change will “play a role in expanding abortion access and residents will have enhanced choices and more timely access to essential reproductive health care.”

New Jersey does not have any restrictions on when a woman can have an abortion, but the board approved lifting a regulation that barred office-based abortions beyond 14 weeks.

In 2018, the majority of abortions nationally happened in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, while about 7% were done between weeks 14 and 20 and 1% were done after 21 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With a challenge to Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court, abortion rights have increasingly been a focus nationally, but also in New Jersey.

Murphy has said he wants the Legislature to send him the Reproductive Freedom Act to codify Roe v. Wade into state law, but the Republican nominee for governor, Jack Ciattarelli, said he opposes the types of expansion the medical examiners approved Wednesday.

“No one supports an abortion in months seven, eight and nine, let alone it having it performed by somebody other than an M.D.,” or medical doctor, he said at Tuesday night’s debate.

Ciattarelli did, however, say he supports codifying the right to abortion into state law.

Planned Parenthood praised the board’s action and said the “unnecessary barriers” will expand access to abortion at a time it faces legal threats. 

“It is more important now than ever before for New Jersey policymakers to ensure that everyone seeking abortion in our state continue to have access to the highest quality reproductive health care,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey spokeswoman Kaitlyn Wojtowicz said in a statement. 

“New Jerseyans deserve and demand access to the care they need so they can plan their families without barriers, fear, or interference from others. Today’s action brings us closer to achieving that goal.”

Source: https://eu.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2021/10/13/nj-expands-abortion-access-roe-v-wade/8440203002/

College students learning about abortion pills from Plan C advocates. (Plan C)

With the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the fight for access to the abortion pill has become a matter of life and death.

Twenty-one years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the abortion pill mifepristone for distribution in the United States. As states are now passing laws to ban abortion and the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the abortion pill is what will make a post-Roe world very different from the pre-Roe world, when thousands of women died each year from illegal abortions, and many more were left permanently harmed by unsafe and illegal abortions.  

Abortion pills are safe and effectivewidely accessible online and easy to use. A grassroots movement led by the organization Plan C is now working to ensure that women across the country know how to get abortion pills and how to use them.

On the 21st anniversary of FDA approval of the abortion pill, now is a good time to remember the courageous and tenacious people who fought for decades to make this life-saving medication possible.

How Did We Get the Abortion Pill?

The abortion pill mifepristone used in combination with another medication—misoprostol—can safely and effectively end a pregnancy. Mifepristone interrupts the flow of the hormone progesterone that sustains a pregnancy and misoprostol causes contractions to expel the contents of the uterus.

The French company Roussel-Uclaf developed mifepristone, known as RU-486, in 1980. Chemist Georges Teutsch first synthesized mifepristone and endocrinologist Étienne-Émile Baulieu arranged tests of its use for medical abortion. After extensive testing, the company applied for and obtained the French government’s approval in 1988 for the drug to be used for abortion. 

The same year, anti-abortion protests in France caused Rousel-Uclaf’s owner Hoechst AG of Germany to stop distributing mifepristone. The French government responded by ordering Roussel-Uclaf to resume selling the medication in the interest of public health.

French Health Minister Claude Évin famously explained at the time, “I could not permit the abortion debate to deprive women of a product that represents medical progress. From the moment government approval for the drug was granted, RU-486 became the moral property of women, not just the property of a drug company.”

Great Britain approved mifepristone for abortion 1991 and Sweden in 1992. But due to pressure from anti-abortion groups, including the U.S. National Right to Life Committee, Roussel-Uclaf and Hoechst AG declined to bring the drug to the U.S. market for fear of boycotts and lost profits. Instead, the company donated all rights for medical uses of mifepristone in the U.S. to the Population Council—a nonprofit that conducts international research on reproductive health.

The Population Council then tried to find a large drug company willing to develop the drug for the U.S. market. After threatened boycotts from anti-abortion groups, large drug companies refused, so in 1995, the Population Council gave the rights to distribute mifepristone to a small company named Danco Laboratories, formed specifically for this purpose. Danco then sought FDA approval of the drug for distribution in the U.S.

While widely known as an abortion pill, mifepristone is very effective for treating fibroids and may also be effective for treating endometriosis and depression. But politically motivated FDA restrictions limit access. (Robin Marty / Flickr)

After a long fight by anti-abortion activists to block the drug from the U.S. market, the FDA approved mifepristone for use within the U.S. in 2000, but placed the drug under a regulatory restriction called Subpart H, later called the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) drug safety program.

Under this restriction, the FDA prohibited retail pharmacies from stocking and distributing mifepristone, instead requiring mifepristone to be dispensed in a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital registered with the drug manufacturer. The FDA allowed use of mifepristone only in the first seven weeks (or 49 days) of pregnancy and required patients to take the medication in the doctor’s presence. This meant patients had to make three visits to their healthcare providers to obtain the medication.

At the time they approved the drug in 2000, the FDA refused to reveal the names of the manufacturer or the FDA employees involved in approving the drug, citing fear of anti-abortion violence. The threats were so serious the agency had to increase security at its offices.

Evidence accumulated about the safety and efficacy of the abortion pill, but the medication remained heavily restricted, although advocates and medical professionals called for the FDA to remove its restrictions on the drug.

In 2016, during the final days of the Obama administration, the FDA finally loosened restrictions on mifepristone by extending the time period during which the drug could be used to 10 weeks (or 77 days), allowing a lower dose of the drug (from 600 mg to 200 mg)—meaning fewer side effects—and allowing fewer visits to the doctor. 

Also in 2016, the FDA approved a research study on telemedicine abortion a research exception to the REMS restriction called TelAbortion, run by Gynuity Health Projects. Under the study, clinicians are able to provide medication abortion care by videoconference and mail the pills to patients.

Despite the ongoing FDA restrictions on mifepristone, the use of medication abortion has increased significantly over time. In 2017, mifepristone accounted for approximately 40 percent of all recorded abortions and 60 percent of abortions performed up to 10 weeks gestation—although the rate is likely higher because of self-managed abortion, which is not recorded.

While widely known as an abortion pill, mifepristone is very effective for treating fibroids and may also be effective for treating endometriosis and depression. Yet the drug is not available to use for these serious conditions because of the politically motivated REMS restrictions, which have made research on its usefulness in treating these conditions difficult to conduct.

Advocates Demand More Access to Abortion Pill

Reproductive health advocates argue that the REMS restriction is based on politics, not medical evidence. Whereas REMS is meant to restrict dangerous drugs, mifepristone is an extremely safe drug. In fact, mifepristone is six times safer than Viagra—which the FDA does not restrict under the REMS program. 

Advocates are pursuing multiple strategies to challenge the REMS restriction, including challenging the FDA restrictions in court, lobbying the FDA to remove the restrictions, reinterpreting the REMS restrictions to be less restrictive, expanding the TelAbortion research exemption to the REMS restriction, and supporting self-managed abortion.

When COVID hit, the Trump administration lifted FDA restrictions on most drugs so patients could access them without in-person visits to doctors, but not the abortion pill. So advocates and health care providers sued. In July of 2020, a Maryland federal court ruling suspended the FDA requirement that patients make in-person visits to medical providers to get the abortion pill. U.S. District Court Judge Theodore Chuang ruled the FDA requirement of in-person visits during the pandemic imposed a “substantial obstacle” to abortion health care that is likely unconstitutional. Judge Chuang’s order allowed doctors to mail mifepristone to their patients. 

But the Trump administration appealed the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, twice. The second time, on January 13, 2021, six members of the Supreme Court granted a Trump administration request to reinstate an FDA rule requiring patients seeking medication abortion to make an unnecessary in-person visit to their health care provider just to pick up the medication and sign a form. Justices Sotomayor, Kagan and Breyer dissented.

With President Joe Biden in office, the FDA issued new guidance on April 12 lifting a restriction on mifepristone for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Then on May 7, the Biden administration announced that the FDA would undertake a review of the REMS restrictions on mifepristone. The announcement came as part of a joint legal filing in the ACLU lawsuit Cheslius v. Becerra, challenging the restrictions.

But while the FDA now allows qualified providers to mail the abortion pill to patients—at least for now—19 states prohibit medication abortion via telemedicine and mailing pills.

The Difference Between Pre-Roe and Post-Roe: The Abortion Pill

As states are adopting a record-breaking number of abortion restrictions, the Supreme Court has allowed a six-week abortion ban to go into effect in Texas, and the court has agreed to hear a case involving 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi, the abortion pill is more important today than ever before. Thanks to the abortion pill and innovative organizations committed to reproductive health and bodily self-determination, a reversal of Roe v. Wade would not send us back to the pre-Roe world of coat hangers and hospital wards full of deathly ill women.

A rally for reproductive rights in Ambler, Pa., in May 2019. (Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr)

Advocates are educating women about how to buy abortion pills online, receive them by mail, and use them at home, and evidence suggests that women are doing just that. Recently-published research reveals that Aid Access received 57,506 requests from people in the U.S. seeking abortion pills between 2018 and 2020, before the pandemic began. Online demand for abortion pills surged when the pandemic hit in early 2020, especially in states that closed abortion clinics such as Texas, where requests for abortion pills made to Aid Access increased by 94 percent.

The week after the Texas ban went into effect, traffic to the website of the abortion pill advocacy group Plan C spiked 2,357 percent — with 30 percent of those new visits coming from Texas. Online abortion clinic Aid Access, which prescribes abortion pills mailed from India for $150, also saw vastly increased traffic on their website—from less than 2,000 hits per day before the ban to about 10,000 on September 1 and then 30,000 on the September 2.

While the FDA still considers it “illegal” for overseas pharmacies to ship medications into the US, this is done all the time and the FDA has a policy of non-enforcement about importation of medicines for limited use (up to a 90 day supply). 

According to Elisa Wells, Plan C co-director:

“Aid Access is set up to comply with all the requirements in the places that they operate: Dr. Gomperts is licensed as a physician, so providing care legally. She writes a prescription for the patient, who then submits it to the pharmacy. The pharmacy is licensed to fill the prescription. And, because the doctor and pharmacy are both offshore, they feel protected from prosecution in the states that don’t allow telemedicine abortion.”

Self-managed abortion—when someone ends a pregnancy outside of a clinical setting, such as by buying abortion pills online—is not illegal in most states.  Only five states have explicit criminal prohibitions against individuals self-managing abortion: Arizona, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Delaware and Nevada. New York repealed their criminal prohibition on self-managed abortion in 2019. And while thirty-eight states have feticide laws that equate pregnancy termination with murder, most explicitly exclude pregnant women from criminal penalties. Last February the American Bar Association adopted a resolution against the criminalization of self-managed abortion and pregnancy loss.

But some overzealous prosecutors across the country have tried to criminally prosecute women for self-managing abortion. In response, the reproductive justice lawyers network  If/When/How has launched a nationwide Repro Legal Defense Fund (RLDF)—a first-of-its-kind resource to support women and others investigated, arrested or prosecuted for self-managed abortion. RLDF provides money for bail and legal representation. If/When/How also has a Repro Legal Helpline—a free, confidential helpline for callers to get legal information or advice about self-managed abortion. 

On September 17, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill banning the abortion pill after seven weeks of pregnancy and prohibiting mailing abortion pills in the state. But Abbott is spitting in the wind. No one will be able to stop women from obtaining abortion pills if they are determined to find them and use them. And strong evidence suggests they are.

Source: https://msmagazine.com/2021/09/27/fda-approval-abortion-pill-anniversary-medication-abortion-biden-texas-ban/?fbclid=IwAR0PkgefDnFICvXYKoL1jwzPHSq0uxo4_zRoqOFQz8nKgMgZZ-ivflTs4Rs

After the passage of Senate Bill 8, getting an abortion in Texas, which was already extremely difficult, became almost impossible.Photograph by Jordan Vonderhaar / Getty

In addition to helping people get to abortion appointments out of state, volunteer groups have been inundated with requests to deliver Plan B pills and pregnancy tests.

Amanda Bennett was in the Texas legislature this past May, on the day that Senate Bill 8, a near-total ban on abortions, was passed by the state’s House of Representatives. Bennett, a twenty-nine-year-old pro-choice activist, had gone to the capitol to protest the legislation. She recalled the eerie calm that day—there wasn’t much debate over the law, which prohibits abortions upon detection of fetal cardiac activity (starting as early as six weeks into a pregnancy) and does not make exceptions for survivors of rape or incest. Many observers assumed that the law would soon be struck down in court. “It wasn’t anything like Wendy Davis’s filibuster,” Bennett said, referring to the Texas state senator’s thirteen-hour attempt to block S.B. 5, an earlier antiabortion bill, in 2013. “It just passed quietly. I honestly think even some of the Republicans thought it was purely symbolic.” But, nearly four months later, the Supreme Court refused to strike down the ban, and getting an abortion in Texas, which was already extremely difficult, became almost impossible.

Bennett is a member of the Bridge Collective, a small group of volunteers in Austin who drive people to their abortion appointments. She joined the organization in 2016, a couple of years after moving to the city, from Chicago, to study public policy at the University of Texas. Back then, she wanted to be a diplomat. But she developed an interest in abortion rights after talking to a college friend who had volunteered as an abortion-clinic escort—someone who helps patients enter and exit the facilities, which are often mobbed by protesters. “From talking to her, I realized that it was just luck that I’d always had access to birth control, and that my birth control had never failed,” Bennett recalled. At first, she worked part time for Fund Texas Choice, a group that helps people pay for travel costs, such as bus or plane fare, to get to abortion clinics both inside and outside the state. She quickly realized, however, that she wanted to do something more hands-on, so she signed up to be a driver with the Bridge Collective.

The number of abortion clinics in Texas has been on the decline for a long time, owing to targeted restrictions on abortion providers, or so-called trap laws, which impose hard-to-meet standards that often result in clinics having to shut down. (These range from building specifications—hallway widths or operating-room dimensions—to requirements regarding locations and relationships with nearby hospitals, which can be especially difficult for rural providers to fulfill.) In the past several years, Texas went from having more than forty surgical abortion clinics to a total of nineteen. The Bridge Collective serves people within a hundred-mile radius of Austin, where some of the remaining clinics are clustered. But even Austin locals need help getting to their appointments. “If you’re getting sedation, you can’t drive yourself,” Bennett explained, adding that “all the appointments are during the workday, and Austin has terrible public transportation.”

Bennett’s driver training was on a weekend, and the volunteers included men, women, and nonbinary people. In their regular lives, they were social workers, small-business owners, food-service workers, students, and retirees. (Bennett works at a digital-security company and has flexible hours, leaving her time to volunteer.) The trainees learned about the different types of appointments that they might be taking their passengers to: the ultrasound and consultation, which is required by Texas law before a patient is able to get an abortion; the medication abortion, which usually means going to the clinic, where a doctor will administer the first pill, and then stopping at a pharmacy afterward to pick up an additional prescription; and the in-clinic procedure, a surgical abortion that can sometimes take two days. They were also coached on matters of empathy. “Everyone having an abortion is thinking about the experience differently,” Bennett said. “Some people might talk about their ‘baby.’ Others talk about their ‘pregnancy.’ ” Drivers are taught to mirror their passengers’ language.

After the training, Bennett started driving. Once a month, she would get into her Ford hatchback and ferry someone to an abortion appointment. The passengers were surprisingly diverse: middle-aged moms from the Austin area; young people from Central Texas; soldiers from a military base in nearby Killeen, who are unable to get the procedure on the base owing to restrictions in the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for most abortions. “Sometimes people, when they do this, imagine, I’m going to be helping young women,” Bennett said. “But, really, people of all reproductive ages have abortions.”

The conversations in the car vary. “With some people, it’s like an Uber drive,” Bennett said—there’s a brief exchange, and then they ride in silence. For others, it’s the opposite. “I might be the first nonjudgmental person they get to talk to outside the clinic,” she explained. Bennett has heard tales from her passengers of rape, medical troubles, failed relationships, and child rearing. (Two-thirds of patients who seek an abortion already have children.) She also hears about her passengers’ dreams and goals. “Some people talk about finally making a decision for themselves,” she said, “or prioritizing themselves for a change.”

Money is almost always an issue. Abortions cost a minimum of five hundred dollars, and, in Texas, insurance doesn’t cover the procedure. Many people fail to get abortions because they can’t come up with the money. “The response to that is, ‘Well, a kid is way more expensive than an abortion,’ ” Bennett said. “But that doesn’t make five hundred dollars materialize when you need it.” Her passengers sometimes ask her to stop at an A.T.M., and often seem anxious because they’re short on cash.

In 2019, Bennett became one of the Bridge Collective’s core members, meaning that she started training and coördinating other drivers. This past August, there was a flurry of activity, as patients scrambled to get to clinics before S.B. 8 went into effect, on September 1st. Since then, the Bridge Collective’s core members have been scrambling to figure out their next chapter. Bennett said that calls for rides haven’t entirely stopped, but being an abortion driver now is much more complicated: it used to mean taking a short trip around the Austin area, but now it can entail taking someone to and from the airport, or driving six hours to Oklahoma, and then staying at a hotel overnight. In addition, the Bridge Collective has received hundreds of requests for Plan B pills and pregnancy tests. Its members have begun delivering these items and other safe-sex supplies to people in the Austin area, and the group plans to expand the service to college campuses and other cities throughout Texas. “We’re just exhausted,” Bennett said. “But we’re going to keep helping people. Because people need help.”

Bennett has also been fielding calls from well-meaning blue-state residents who are looking to provide aid in Texas. She suggests that they look closer to home. “They’ll say things like, ‘I wish I could do the kind of work that you do, but I live in New York.’ It’s, like, people in New York still need help getting abortions! Can you walk into a pharmacy and get abortion pills?” Even in New York, the answer is no, which means that abortion drivers are in demand.

Source: https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-activism/how-texas-abortion-volunteers-are-adapting-after-sb-8?fbclid=IwAR38qETaeehxGeUnhJ408fv5_w5FKDNwwKlsQcliW9YxM8IHynMOGxMqXiU

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center today.
 Alex Wong/Getty Images

The legal fights in Texas and Mississippi aren’t the only major abortion cases in the pipeline right now. We’re tracking them all.

For court watchers and abortion rights enthusiasts, it has been a long couple of weeks. First, the Supreme Court allowed a six-week abortion ban with bounty hunter-style enforcement to take effect in Texas. Then the Supreme Court announced a hearing date for the much anticipated Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which will decide the fate of Mississippi’s 15-week ban and Roe v. Wade itself. To say it has been a whirlwind is an understatement.

But the legal fights in Texas and Mississippi aren’t the only major abortion cases in the pipeline right now. There are a number of potentially critical lawsuits making their way through the lower courts—and one at the Supreme Court—and we’re here to track them all.

Here are five cases we’ve got our eye on right now.

Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center

You may know Daniel Cameron as the man who declined to recommend homicide charges for the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor. But, as Susan Rinkunas reported for Rewire News Group, Kentucky’s Republican attorney general is also the reason why the Supreme Court will hear an abortion-related case this month—the first abortion-related case in this new term under its 6-3 conservative supermajority. The Sixth Circuit initially blocked the law; Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who is pro-choice, then decided to drop the case altogether. But that didn’t stop Cameron from intervening, hoping to bring the case all the way up to the Supreme Court.

The case is about a law banning the most common abortion procedure used after 15 weeks of pregnancy, known as dilation and evacuation (D&E). “If the Supreme Court sides with Attorney General Cameron, then he will get to pursue his goal, which is to overturn the underlying decision striking down the abortion ban,” the ACLU’s Alexa Kolbi-Molinas told Rewire News Group.

If Cameron is able to intervene and the law gets upheld, it could effectively ban abortion after 15 weeks in a state that has just two clinics and multiple restrictions, including a 24-hour waiting period and bans on insurance coverage of the procedure. Both clinics are in downtown Louisville, which means access is limited for people in other areas of the state.The plaintiff in the case is EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the state’s only independent abortion clinic and the only one that provides care after 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Current status: Oral arguments will be heard today

Reproductive Health Services v. Parsons

In 2019, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion bills into law. It is structured like a Russian nesting doll: It includes bans within bans, so that as soon as one is struck down, another is ready to go.

HB 126 includes gestational bans at eight, 14, 18, and 20 weeks, as well as “reason bans,” which prohibit performing an abortion if the reason given for the abortion is based on sex, race, or fetal diagnosis. The law also makes it harder for patients to obtain abortion care out of state because it requires them to comply with Missouri’s informed consent standard, and it forces young people to notify their parents of their abortion decision. And it includes a trigger provision that would immediately ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

The gestational and reason bans were struck down as unconstitutional in the district court and the Eighth Circuit, but the other provisions remain in effect, further limiting access in the state.

Current status: The Eighth Circuit, which already struck down the reason and gestational bans, decided to rehear the case on its own, without an appeal from the parties—which is incredibly unusual. Why? Because they felt like it? Who even knows anymore. For more on how that September 21 hearing went, Rewire News Group’s senior editor for law and policy, Imani Gandy, live-tweeted the whole thing.

SisterSong v. Kemp

This case is about Georgia’s six-week ban, which, like Texas’ six-week ban and every other six-week ban, is a pre-viability abortion ban and is therefore—say it with us—unconstitutional. In 2019, the Center for Reproductive Rights sued Georgia on behalf of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective as well as a number of other providers and advocates in the state.

In July 2020, the district court granted a permanent injunction striking down the law. The state then appealed that decision up to the 11th Circuit. If you had asked us two months ago what was going to happen, we’d have said a six-week ban will never survive. But with Texas’ six-week ban getting the stamp of approval from the Supreme Court, (then getting blocked by the district court then getting reinstated by the Fifth Circuit—it’s been a long few weeks) the floodgates have opened for lower courts to let similar laws go into effect. And last month the 11th Circuit issued a stay on SisterSong v. Kemp until after the Supreme Court rules in the Mississippi case, by which point those floodgates will likely be wide open.

Current status: After the 11th Circuit heard the case on September 24, it decided to wait to make a decision until after the Supreme Court issues its Jackson Women’s Health decision next year.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic v. Wilson

In February, South Carolina lawmakers passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country: a six-week ban that, like Texas SB 8, doesn’t allow for an exception in the case of rape or incest. In March, a federal district court granted a preliminary injunction against the law just as an emergency order blocking the law was set to expire.

Current status: The case is on the docket at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which, we’d feel a lot less itchy about if the Supreme Court hadn’t given abortion access the kiss of death by approving Texas’ six-week ban in September.

Isaacson v. Brnovich

In April, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona signed SB 1457, a law that includes a reason ban prohibiting abortions in cases of fetal diagnosis or anomaly, and a “personhood amendment” that classifies fetuses, embyos, and fertilized eggs as people under Arizona law.

In August, the ACLU of Arizona announced it would join the Center for Reproductive Rights to represent two Arizona physicians, the Arizona Medical Association, National Council of Jewish Women Arizona, and the Arizona National Organization of Women in challenging the law.

Current status: The district court held a hearing on September 22. On September 28 a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the reason ban but allowed the personhood amendment to go into effect. The Arizona attorney general has filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/10/12/these-5-cases-could-finish-off-abortion-rights-for-good-after-dobbs-v-jackson-womens-health/

Supporters of reproductive choice take part in the nationwide Women’s March, held after Texas rolled out a near-total ban on abortion procedures and access to abortion-inducing medications, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. October 2, 2021. REUTERS/Veronica Cardenas

The type of anti-abortion law enacted by the state of Texas last month is deeply unpopular with Americans, according to a new poll from the PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist. The novel legal strategy empowers private citizens to file civil suits against anyone who aids a person getting an abortion, rather than rely on a state agency to bar the medical procedure.

It’s one of several restrictive abortion laws that are making their way through the courts. Two of them, from Kentucky and Mississippi, will be considered by the Supreme Court this term, which begins Monday.

Breaking down the numbers

abortion lawsuits horiz

Graphic by Megan McGrew

  • 74 percent of Americans said they oppose a law that allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or others who provide any assistance. This majority holds across party lines: 90 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of independents don’t support such a law.
  • 18 percent of Americans support the rule, including 33 percent of Republicans, 18 percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats.
  • Women are more likely than men to oppose the law (79 percent vs. 68 percent), and the same is true of people younger than 45 compared to those 45 and older (77 percent versus 71 percent).

lawsuits bar horiz

Graphic by Megan McGrew

Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll, said that attitudes toward abortion have stayed relatively consistent. “There is a very significant consensus among Americans. Our debate generally tends to be at the extremes, so it tends to get framed as an all or nothing. And I think that there’s a consensus among Americans that abortion should be legal, but with significant restrictions,” she said.

This consistency holds when it comes to enforcing abortion restrictions, she added. While this particular question has not been asked before, previous polling had similar results when it came to enforcing or criminalizing abortion, she said.

Poll respondent Joan Garnand, a Tennessee Republican, said she is completely opposed to abortion, and does not like this type of law because it could encourage opportunists to file lawsuits (those who sue and win can collect $10,000, and their legal fees can be reimbursed). She said she would support a law where the biological father or family could sue because they are directly connected to the terminated pregnancy.

Eric Johnson, a Republican who lives in New York, said he generally supports all anti-abortion laws, but he found the citizen enforcement component of Texas’ law too extreme. He added that abortions can’t simply be illegal, but that there need to be better options for people, like financial incentives, birth control access and a better foster care system.

Where Americans stand on abortion

Texas is far from the first state to attempt to make abortion illegal after six weeks, the earliest point at which cardiac activity may be detected and before some people even know they are pregnant.

  • In this poll, about one in three Americans support a law that outlaws abortions once there is cardiac activity — sometime after six to eight weeks — while 58 percent are opposed.
  • Those numbers are virtually unchanged since June of 2019, the last time a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll asked the same question.
  • Gallup, which has been tracking views on abortion since 1975, published a poll in May that found 32 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal under any circumstance, 48 percent think it should be legal under certain circumstances and 19 percent think it should be illegal in all circumstances. According to a Pew Research Center poll from the same month, 59 percent of U.S. adults think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 39 percent think it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Carvalho said that it is important to note that while the majority of Americans are against banning abortion between six to eight weeks, a portion of them may be against it because they do not think abortion should be legal at all.

What’s next

The Supreme Court begins a new term on Monday with a more conservative bench, and the future of abortion rights on the line.

The justices will hear arguments later this month in Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, regarding a Kentucky law requiring that a fetus die in utero before a procedure known as “dilation and evacuation” can be performed during the second trimester. The court is not ruling on the law’s constitutionality, but examining a specific question: Whether the Kentucky attorney general can bring the case to the Supreme Court when no other state actors will defend the law. Law experts and abortion rights advocates say that decision could set the tone for future cases.

“It will give some indication about whether and to what extent the court is willing to basically overlook normal rules of procedure and ordinary processes in its eagerness to rule against abortion rights,” said Leah Litman, a constitutional law professor at the University of Michigan and podcast host of the Supreme Court-themed podcast Strict Scrutiny.“[The court’s] authority comes from the public’s willingness to accept its decisions and the public’s belief that the court is legitimate.”

On Dec. 1, the court plans to hear arguments in its biggest abortion case of the term, over a Mississippi law than bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks — a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which prevents states from imposing an “undue burden” on someone seeking an abortion.

Litman said Roe v. Wade could be overturned, but the high court could also allow states to ban abortions before viability without saying it overruled the landmark decision. “That would be extremely destabilizing to the law and open the floodgates for a bunch of abortion restrictions that are definitely not allowed now.”

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion would be instantly illegal in a dozen states and greatly restricted in several others. The Texas law has already effectively ended abortions in that state and so far the Supreme Court has refused to block the law, due to its unique enforcement mechanism.

In the meantime, a federal judge will decide whether to halt the Texas abortion ban after the Biden administration argued in court on Friday that it violates women’s constitutional rights. Abortion providers in the state say damage has already been done — people have been forced to go to other states for find medical care, and even if the law is knocked down, physicians may be hesitant to resume their services. Legislators in other states, like Florida and Missouri, have said they plan to introduce similar abortion bans with civil enforcement.

“The practical effect of these laws will be to prohibit abortions, even though the Supreme Court hasn’t said and won’t necessarily say Roe was overruled,” Litman previously told the PBS NewsHour.

Around the nation, thousands of people, many of whom were motivated by the Texas law, joined a Women’s March on Saturday to protest abortion restrictions and urge the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade.

“No matter where you live, no matter where you are, this moment is dark,” Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson told a crowd at the “Rally for Abortion Justice” event in Washington, D.C.

Litman said it’s hard to know if support for legal abortion will influence justices on the current bench, given its more conservative makeup. But how the court rules on such cases could affect public confidence.

“[The court’s] authority comes from the public’s willingness to accept its decisions and the public’s belief that the court is legitimate. And if that’s no longer the case, the court’s institutional authority is at risk,” she said.

Source: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/most-americans-oppose-abortion-laws-that-let-private-citizens-sue-new-poll-says

Abortion is now incredibly difficult to access in Texas, and that’s especially true for young people, who already faced significant hurdles even before SB 8 went into effect.
 Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women’s March

If you’re under 18, it’s possible to access abortion in Texas, but thanks to the harmful laws and legal chaos, it’s extremely difficult.

UPDATE, October 8: SB 8 was temporarily blocked Wednesday night as part of the Department of Justice lawsuit. Attorneys for Texas have filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit, asking for an emergency stay of the district judge’s order.

It’s been about a month since the Supreme Court more or less put its stamp of approval on Texas SB 8, which bans all abortions after six weeks with no exception for rape or incest, and only allows abortions to be performed after the six-week mark in the case of medical emergency.

To make matters worse, anyone who helps someone get an abortion—from the abortion provider, to the person who drives them to their appointment—can be sued for a minimum of $10,000 by absolutely anyone in the country.

By allowing SB 8 to go into effect, the Supreme Court has set a precedent that any state in the country can pass a similar ban, and while their decision didn’t technically overturn Roe v. Wade, a six-week ban is about as close to an outright abortion ban as you can get.

What does this all mean? Especially for young people? We’re here to break that down.

First of all, abortion is still legal in the state of Texas, and in neighboring states like Oklahoma. In fact, it’s still legal in the whole country. That’s the good news.

The bad news is abortion is now incredibly difficult to access in Texas, and that’s especially true for young people, who already faced significant hurdles even before SB 8 went into effect. Statistics show that in Texas, there are 24 births for every 1,000 women between age 15 and 19, and the state has the highest average of repeat teen births. Teen pregnancy and birth present many challenges and are often associated with poor educational and health outcomes.

To be clear, teen pregnancy is not the problem; the problem is barriers to education and care. Language around teen pregnancy and parenting too often is stigmatizing and centered on prevention, but young people, like pregnant people of any age, can be great parents if that’s what they choose and if given the support they need. They should be given resources to make the parenting decisions that are best for them. Texas is doing the opposite.

For starters, in order to have an abortion right now in Texas you have to catch your pregnancy really early; six weeks pregnant is typically two weeks after your missed period. That gives you, at the absolute maximum, a two-week window to get an abortion. But statistically speaking, young people detect their pregnancies later, and this makes sense. It takes a while to understand your cycle, and no matter what age you are, there are so many things that can make your period late–changes in diet, sleep, stress, or environment can all delay a period or make it start early.

Texas is one of 37 states that require young people to either involve a parent or obtain a judicial bypass to access abortion, which means that young people who can’t get a parent to approve their abortion have to go to court. That delays the abortion even more. Now let’s make one thing clear: Young people are entirely capable of making their abortion decisions however they are most comfortable, whether that involves a parent or not. And statistics show that in states without parental involvement laws, the majority of young people involve a parent regardless, and almost all young people involve a trusted adult in their abortion decision.

But for young people who can’t involve a parent, parental involvement laws only present further challenges; these are often young people in foster care, or whose parents have been deported or incarcerated, or who live in abusive households. And for these minors, the delays caused by the judicial bypass process will make it nearly impossible to get an abortion in Texas before that two-week window has passed.

As if that’s not bad enough, Texas also enforces a 24-hour mandatory waiting period for all abortions, adding another day’s delay.

The TLDR: If you’re under 18, it’s possible to access abortion in Texas, but thanks to a bunch of harmful laws it’s really really hard.

What to do if you need an abortion in Texas

Put in a call to Jane’s Due Process, a Texas-based nonprofit that works with young people to help them access abortion and other reproductive health care, including by providing support for minors going through the judicial bypass process. They have a 24/7 hotline that you can call or text: 866-999-5263. Jane’s Due Process can also help you find contraceptive services, so if that’s something you want to consider to help protect you against unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, they’ve got you covered.

“SB 8 is so devastating for minors because, on top of the complicated and time-consuming process of getting a judicial bypass, SB 8 would make it nearly impossible to get a bypass and get an abortion in a six-week time frame. I found out I was pregnant as early as I possibly could and I still had the abortion past six weeks,” said Veronika Granado, a youth advocacy fellow with Jane’s Due Process.

You might be eligible to access a medication abortion, which you can find more information about here. If you have questions about the risks of self-managed abortion, you can contact the Repro Legal Helpline online or at 844-868-2812, or the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline, which is a free service.

Consider your traveling options. Traveling out of state is challenging for many reasons. For young people, the possibility of missing school, finding and paying for transportation, and finding somewhere to stay all complicate the option of traveling to a neighboring state with fewer abortion restrictions. Not to mention the complications added by a global pandemic. But if you can consider traveling, here’s what you need to know:

  • New Mexico has almost no abortion restrictions, including no parental consent law.
  • Oklahoma has a whole host of abortion restictions, including parental consent, a ban on telemedicine for medication abortion, and a mandatory ultrasound and waiting period. And while they don’t have an abortion ban now, lawmakers recently passed a six-week ban that will go into effect in November unless it is blocked by the courts.
  • Arkansas also has a number of abortion restrictions including a ban at 22 weeks’ gestation, a mandatory waiting period and mandated counseling, as well as a parental consent law.
  • Louisiana has a ban at 22 weeks’ gestation, mandatory counseling, a waiting period and ultrasound law, and a ban on telemedicine among other harmful restrictions.
  • If traveling further is an option, there are many states you can fly to where abortion is more accessible. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced that pregnant people from Texas would be welcomed in her state with open arms; states like Maine and California allow young people to have access to abortion without parental consent.

How to pay for your abortion. Check out the National Network of Abortion Funds; they have funds in every state that can help cover the costs of your abortion, including travel and lodging. You can also call your local clinic and ask them about any funding sources they might be able to connect you with, and the National Abortion Federation has a hotline that can help with abortion referrals and financial assistance.

More questions? AbortionIsLegal.org has got you. Find resources for paying for abortion, medication abortion options, and locating a clinic at their website.

Finally: Take a deep breath. Things are really scary right now, but there are a lot of people on your side: advocates working tireless to fight these laws and to help pregnant people access abortion care, and abortion providers in neighboring states ready to welcome patients to their clinics.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/10/05/what-teens-need-to-know-about-texas-sb-8-and-accessing-abortion/

(Reuters) – A day after a federal judge blocked Texas’ near-total abortion ban, at least one provider in the state said it had resumed services on Thursday for patients seeking to terminate pregnancies beyond the law’s limit of about six weeks.weeks of pregnancy.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, told reporters that since the law went into effect on Sept. 1, the provider with four clinics in Texas had put patients on a waiting list if their pregnancies had advanced beyond the legal limit.

“So those folks were able to come in and we did provide them with abortion care today,” Hagstrom Miller said during a call on with reporters.

She did not say which clinics had resumed services or how many abortions they had provided.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin on Wednesday blocked here the state from enforcing the law while litigation over its legality continues. The Republican-backed measure empowers private citizens to enforce the ban, and Texas immediately appealed the ruling to the conservative-leaning Fifth Circuit Appeals Court.

The law has become a flashpoint in a national battle over abortion rights as Republican lawmakers in other states try to pass similar legislation here. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Mississippi case testing Roe v. Wade, its landmark 1973 decision that established the nationwide right to abortion access.

Drexel University law professor David Cohen said Texas clinics that resume their previous abortion services while the law is blocked will be in a “very precarious position.” A clause in the law says providers can still be sued if the law goes back into effect after being struck down by a court.

Cohen said that even if Pitman’s injunction against the law were upheld by the Supreme Court on appeal, it could still be dissolved by a subsequent decision overturning Roe v. Wade, because that decision was the basis for Pitman’s ruling.

Hagstrom Miller said the retroactive clause was concerning for many medical professionals.

“Any abortion you provide, even with an injunction, could be seen as criminal a year from now, six months from now – and you could be held accountable for every one of those. It’s pretty daunting to think about that,” she said.

Anti-abortion advocates said that if Pitman’s ruling is reversed on appeal, they will sue providers who have resumed abortion services.

“As this case develops, if there’s an opportunity for lawsuits or for enforcement in the future, that’s something that the pro-life movement is very interested in,” said John Seago, legislative director for anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life.

Other Texas abortion providers acknowledged they were worried about the state’s vow to appeal the injunction to a conservative-leaning appeals court.

“Given the state’s appeal, our health centers may not have the days or even weeks it could take to navigate new patients through Texas’s onerous abortion restrictions,” the leaders of Planned Parenthood South Texas, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and Planned Parenthood Greater Texas said in a joint statement.

Molly Duane, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas clinics fighting the law, said abortion providers were in a difficult situation.

“There are independent providers across the state that are working to reopen full services and are doing so wary of the fact that the Fifth Circuit may take away this injunction at any moment,” she said.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-abortion-texas/texas-abortion-provider-resumes-services-after-judge-blocks-near-total-ban-idUSKBN2GX2AB?fbclid=IwAR15PxvTK0TVkuNfntCeT_DL5AbAVI-yUHDJSakB3njPJDu16LZ8IYRDXzY

Demonstrators rally against anti-abortion and voter suppression laws at the Texas State Capitol on October 2 in Austin. Montinique Monroe / Getty Images

“This Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” Judge Robert Pitman wrote.

WASHINGTON — The status of abortion access in Texas was once again thrown into uncertainty Wednesday night after a federal judge issued an order halting enforcement of what he described as the state’s “flagrantly unconstitutional” 6-week abortion ban.

The immediate effect of US District Judge Robert Pitman’s 113-page ruling — and whether it will mean that providers can, or will, resume performing abortions — is uncertain. Just over an hour after Pitman issued his order, Texas filed notice that it would petition the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to intervene; the state is expected to ask the appeals court to put Pitman’s order on hold as quickly as possible, which would leave the law, SB 8, in place.

Pitman’s ruling came less than a week after he heard arguments on the Justice Department request for an injunction blocking the law. He refused to grant Texas’s request to pause his decision to allow state officials time to appeal, writing that Texas had “forfeited the right to any such accommodation by pursuing an unprecedented and aggressive scheme to deprive its citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right.”

“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” Pitman wrote. “That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”

Abortion providers released statements praising Pitman’s ruling but suggesting they were not sure yet if they could begin scheduling abortions that SB 8 had made illegal. The law includes a section that says doctors who perform abortions or other people who assist a pregnant person based on a court decision that is reversed later on cannot rely on that original order as a defense if they’re sued. Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas released a joint statement saying that, “While the Department of Justice’s swift action and the court’s order seek to restore Texans’ options to access abortion in their own state, we understand Texas will immediately appeal[.] Our patients and providers need the courts to allow care to resume.”

SB 8 has been in effect since Sept. 1. It bans nearly all abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which typically occurs around the sixth week of a pregnancy. Pitman’s order bars any state actor from taking steps that would permit enforcement of the law, which deputizes private citizens to sue doctors suspected of performing abortions or other individuals suspected of helping a pregnant person obtain the procedure.

The judge made clear that his order prohibits any state court judge or clerk from accepting, processing, or taking any other action on the civil lawsuits that private individuals could bring under SB 8. He wrote that the court would have the power to issue a direct injunction that bars private individuals from bringing these types of suits, since they would be acting on behalf of the state, but he would not do so at this stage; he noted that his order blocking state courts from accepting such a case would restrict their ability to act.

“A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established. With full knowledge that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, the State contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme,” Pitman wrote.

Pitman ordered Texas to notify all state judges and state court employees affected by his decision and to publish his ruling on all public state court websites “with a visible, easy-to-understand instruction to the public that S.B. 8 lawsuits will not be accepted.”

Addressing Texas’s argument that siding with the Justice Department would open the floodgates to federal challenges to state laws, Pitman wrote that this case represented an “exceptional” situation where the constitutional rights of individuals were being violated and Texas had designed SB 8 to bar them from taking the state to court to protect those rights on their own.

Pitman rejected Texas’s contention that a court couldn’t issue an injunction against the state since the law was enforced via lawsuits filed by private individuals. He criticized the state for trying to use the unusual enforcement structure as both a “sword” — to carry out an early-term abortion ban that courts would almost certainly strike down if the state tried to enforce it on its own — and a “shield” against legal challenges.

The judge wrote that his order would send a message to other states that they could not attempt something similar to what Texas had tried to do, whether it was intended to serve a conservative or liberal political agenda — he alluded to commentary by pundits about whether SB 8 could serve as a model for Democrat-led states to find a way to restrict gun rights.

“The American legal system cannot abide a situation where constitutional rights are only as good as the states allow,” the judge wrote.

SB 8 took effect at midnight on Sept. 1 after abortion providers failed to convince the US Supreme Court and a federal appeals court to stop that from happening while they pursued a constitutional challenge. Healthcare providers across the state immediately announced that they would comply with the law and stop performing abortions in cases where fetal cardiac activity could be detected, usually at the sixth week of pregnancy; providers have said 85 to 90% of abortions in the state take place after week 6.

Pregnancy terms are counted from the first day of a person’s most recent period, so six weeks is typically two weeks after a missed period, which is when many people first realize they’re pregnant. Early-term state abortion bans are often referred to as “heartbeat” laws but that term is misleading, since a fetus’s heart valves haven’t formed at that point; an ultrasound at that stage is detecting electrical activity. Pitman wrote in a footnote that the term “heartbeat” was “medically inaccurate.”

With the abortion providers’ case held up in the 5th Circuit, the Justice Department filed its own constitutional challenge to the law on Sept. 9.

Unlike other early-term state abortion bans swiftly struck down by federal courts, the Texas law is unique in that it delegates enforcement to private citizens. Instead of authorizing a prosecutor to press charges or interfering with a clinic’s ability to get a license and operate, the law empowers individuals to file a civil lawsuit against a doctor they suspect of performing an abortion that’s now illegal in the state, or anyone who “aids or abets” that abortion — a category so broad that it could apply to a person or group that helped pay for the procedure, provided transportation to a clinic, or accompanied a patient.

The law created financial incentives for people to sue and placed few limits on who could bring a case; one of the only bright-line rules is that a pregnant person who receives an abortion cannot be sued. A plaintiff who wins can collect $10,000 or more in damages per abortion, as well as their legal costs. If a judge dismisses a case, the defendant cannot recoup their legal costs, so there’s no penalty for bringing a meritless case and pulling abortion providers and anyone else into court. The law doesn’t require a plaintiff to have any connection to the patient.

That unusual structure opened the door for Texas to argue that Pitman didn’t have jurisdiction to consider a sweeping constitutional challenge to the law brought by the Justice Department, or anyone else for that matter — that is, until someone actually brought a lawsuit, any case was based on speculation about what might happen, and there was no one the court could enter a judgment against in the meantime.

During arguments last week, Pitman offered signs that he was skeptical of Texas’s position that there was no way for a court to review the constitutionality of the law, and called out the state for attempting to find a work-around when so many other states had been knocked out of court for trying to adopt early-term abortion bans that ran afoul of Supreme Court precedent. If Texas was “confident” a six-week ban was constitutional, he asked at the time, why did the state “go to such great lengths” to avoid directly enforcing it?

For decades, Supreme Court precedent has held that state abortion bans before a fetus is viable — typically at around week 24 of a pregnancy — are unconstitutional. The justices are poised to revisit that issue in another case already on the court’s docket for the term that started this week, involving a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

As the Justice Department’s case presses on, the abortion providers are waiting to find out if the Supreme Court will consider their latest petition for the justices to intervene. On the eve of SB 8 taking effect, the 5th Circuit had put that case — also before Pitman — on hold after Pitman rebuffed an early effort by the defendants named in that case to have the case dismissed. The law took effect after a majority of the justices declined to disturb the 5th Circuit’s handling of the case.

A 5th Circuit panel later explained that there was a good chance the abortion providers would lose on the question of whether they could sue at all, and the case is now waiting for the appeals court to make a definite ruling on that. The abortion providers on Sept. 23 asked the justices to skip that next step before the 5th Circuit and take up the question as soon as possible of whether anyone could sue. The justices have yet to take any action on the question.

Source: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetillman/judge-block-texas-abortion-law?fbclid=IwAR1Tixkx2CQuz72q3jXP5sv3VLQemjF7EIexWB4Djm9jybJ_N4hr2KNMTng

500 Athletes Urge Supreme Court to Protect Abortion Rights | PEOPLE.com

Rapinoe said that efforts in Mississippi to enact a highly-restrictive abortion ban were “infuriating and un-American”

More than 500 athletes, including soccer and basketball stars Megan RapinoeDiana Taurasi and Sue Bird, filed a lengthy and persuasive brief to the Supreme Court urging them to protect abortion rights as they prepare to hear a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade.

This December, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on an appeal of a lower court’s decision to block Mississippi’s law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. With the conservative-leaning court, the justices could decide in favor of Mississippi, upending the protections of Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 established the right to abortion through 25 weeks of pregnancy.

The brief, which was signed by athletes and sports groups and included 26 Olympians and 73 active professional athletes, argues that access to abortions has helped women’s sports succeed.

Without access to abortions, they wrote, “women’s participation in athletics would suffer, including because some women athletes would not be able to compete at the same level—or at all — without access to abortion care and without the knowledge that the decision whether to continue or end a pregnancy remains theirs.”

In a statement, Rapinoe said that the Mississippi law and similar legislation from other states are “infuriating and un-American.”

“As women athletes and people in sports, we must have the power to make important decisions about our own bodies and exert control over our reproductive lives,” the Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup champion said.

Another signatory, Crissy Perham, a three-time Olympic medalist in swimming, shared with The New York Times that she had an abortion as a college sophomore, and said that her career would not have been what it was without terminating her pregnancy.

“Ending my pregnancy, I made a decision about which direction to take my life in,” Perham said. “Someone else might decide to go in another direction, and that’s fine. But this was the best decision for me.”

Perham, who won back-to-back-to-back NCAA titles after her abortion and made the 1992 Olympic team, where she won two gold medals in relay races and a silver in the 100-meter butterfly, said that her story is “not uncommon” among athletes.

Along with Rapinoe, Taurasi, Bird and Perham, Ashleigh Johnson, the first Black woman on the U.S. Olympic water polo team and a Tokyo Olympian, signed the brief, as did the player’s unions of the WNBA and the National Women’s Soccer League.

The signers “believe that, like themselves, the next generation of women athletes must be guaranteed bodily integrity and decisional autonomy in order to fully and equally participate in sports.”

A ruling on the Mississippi case is due by June.

Source: https://people.com/health/megan-rapinoe-diana-taurasi-and-500-other-athletes-urge-supreme-court-to-protect-abortion-rights/?fbclid=IwAR3AX-o23GRnXbvfpQC0MyM6mz6S0Cjq1spBjBtG5mI_zM8EpROpmJxtIMs

Volunteer clinic escorts at EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s only independent abortion clinic, are regularly subject to harassment.
 Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The Supreme Court will weigh in on a relatively wonky issue, but abortion advocates say the stakes are still incredibly high for the people in Kentucky.

You may know Daniel Cameron as the man who declined to recommend homicide charges for the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor. But Kentucky’s Republican attorney general is also the reason why the Supreme Court will hear an abortion-related case this month, the first abortion-related case in this new term under its 6-3 conservative supermajority. That’s right, the high court has two abortion cases on its docket so far, not just the high-profile Mississippi one in which the state flat-out asked the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Kentucky case, Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, has gotten less attention because the stakes in the Mississippi case are so high and because of the legal chaos in Texas. Moreover, the Court is weighing in on a relatively wonky issue here: whether Cameron can intervene to defend a law after both a district court and an appeals court found it unconstitutional, and after the state’s Democratic administration declined to appeal that decision. The justices are not considering the merits of the anti-abortion law itself.

But don’t let anyone tell you this case is unimportant procedural stuff.

“Even though the legal question doesn’t have to do with abortion, the stakes here are still incredibly high, especially for people in Kentucky,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, who will argue the case on October 12.

The law Cameron wants to defend is a ban on the most common abortion procedure used after 15 weeks of pregnancy, known as dilation and evacuation (D&E). “If the Supreme Court sides with Attorney General Cameron, then he will get to pursue his goal, which is to overturn the underlying decision striking down the abortion ban,” Kolbi-Molinas told Rewire News Group.

If Cameron is able to intervene and the law gets upheld, it could effectively ban abortion after 15 weeks in a state that has just two clinics and multiple restrictions, including a 24-hour waiting period and bans on insurance coverage of the procedure. Both clinics are in downtown Louisville, which means access is limited for people in other areas of the state.

The plaintiff in the case is EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the state’s only independent abortion clinic and the only one that provides care after 14 weeks of pregnancy. Kentucky’s other clinic, a Planned Parenthood health center, was granted a license in January 2020 and offers care through 13 weeks and 6 days, so the D&E ban would not affect it. The Ohio Policy Evaluation Network (OPEN) estimated that EMW provided nearly 90 percent of abortions in the state between March and December 2020, since the clinic provides care more days per week and later in pregnancy.

EMW has been the state’s only clinic for long stretches of time, and it gets targeted by protesters both for that reason and because of its setup, said Meg Sasse Stern, who has been a volunteer clinic escort for more than 20 years. EMW is on a main thoroughfare with no on-site parking for patients, so they have to park elsewhere and walk through the front door, often through a gauntlet of protesters who may try to block their path, grab them, or hand them anti-abortion pamphlets or baby booties, Stern said. An anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center” right next door offers free parking to EMW patients in an effort to get them inside. In 2017, EMW was the site of the first clinic blockade in almost 15 years, orchestrated by the extremist anti-abortion group Operation Save America. Staff are routinely harassed with threats of harm and hate mail, and, in April 2020, a bomb threat, according to OPEN.“I cannot ignore the vast difference in treatment received by these anti-abortion protesters and the way that our police department treats protesters that are demanding police stop killing Black and brown people.”
-Meg Sasse Stern, volunteer clinic escort

By contrast, Planned Parenthood’s health center has a parking lot and a privacy fence around the property, Stern said. “The protesters do not have the same kind of access to the patients [at Planned Parenthood],” said Stern, who is also the support fund director for Kentucky Health Justice Network, a reproductive justice nonprofit that pairs abortion patients with a case manager and helps them pay for their procedure, transportation, lodging, childcare, and other expenses. “They see EMW as low-hanging fruit.”

Ona Marshall, who co-owns EMW with her husband Dr. Ernest Marshall, said protesters and state lawmakers are always targeting their clinic, but “I think in general, they just want to abolish abortion and access to abortion, so they go through the series of laws to see what they’ll be able to do.”

In May, the Louisville Metro Council voted to create a safety zone around the clinic entrance, and the 10-foot buffer zone was implemented in mid-September. Marshall said advocates pushed for the safety zone because of the lack of enforcement of various city ordinances regulating things like harassment, noise, and sidewalk access. She also noted that these same ordinances were enforced against social justice protests after Breonna Taylor’s death, and the Louisville Metro Police Department is now under a pattern and practice investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. LMPD arrested the state’s only Black woman lawmaker, state Rep. Attica Scott, during a September 2020 protest.

“Anti-abortion protesters are ignored and just treated differently than other protesters,” Marshall said. Stern agreed that the difference is obvious: “I cannot ignore the vast difference in treatment received by these anti-abortion protesters and the way that our police department treats protesters that are demanding police stop killing Black and brown people.”

Both Marshall and Stern are skeptical that the safety zone around EMW will be enforced due to anti-abortion sentiments in the police department. During an August 2020 Metro Council meeting about the proposed safety zone, former council member David Yates, now a Democratic state senator, said he received text messages from police officers asking, “who’s going to enforce this – lol.”

In February, an off-duty officer parked his LMPD cruiser in front of the clinic and protested for about two hours with a “pray to end abortion” sandwich-board sign over his uniform and his gun visible, Stern said. The department placed the officer on administrative leave while investigating the incident, but he was ultimately not disciplined because LMPD hadn’t been consistently enforcing its protesting policies. LMPD said it would require strict compliance going forward.

Stern said the behavior that LMPD tolerates outside the clinic is a public safety risk. “The environment that exists down there just welcomes this kind of extreme behavior where we get these national extremists,” she said, adding that John Brockhoeft, a convicted clinic arsonist who attended the January 6 insurrection, is a regular at EMW.

Like Stern, Marshall is worried that violent protesters feel empowered. “During the last five years, we have experienced a significant and sustained increase in the types of anti-abortion harassment, and those are the types of harassment that have led to tragic outcomes in other cities, so it is something to really pay attention to,” she said.

But not a lot of people are paying attention to either the protesters or the Supreme Court case. “In general in Kentucky, and probably in other states, I don’t think there’s a high level of knowledge about this case,” Marshall said.

And with many people checked out, Cameron is pursuing this piece of his “concerted strategy” to push abortion access entirely out of reach without much fanfare, Kolbi-Molinas of the ACLU said. When the Supreme Court announced it would take Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s direct challenge to Roe, this Kentucky case got somewhat overshadowed.

“Not wrongfully, not malice or anything like that—but the legal question isn’t about abortion,” Kolbi-Molinas said. But remember: “There is more than one case on the Supreme Court’s docket this term that implicates abortion access.”

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/10/04/the-supreme-court-sneak-attack-on-abortion-access-in-kentucky/