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“The laws are written by people who are not doctors so they don’t understand how medicine and … don’t necessarily understand pregnancy or how abortion works,” said Catherine Cohen, a scholar at the Center on Reproductive Health, Law, and Policy at UCLA Law. Unsplash

Attending college in a state that protects abortion doesn’t necessarily make it accessible, especially if students are under their parents’ health care.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, abortion rights supporters turned out in droves to protest the loss of the constitutional right—especially young people. College students across the country are demanding their universities take action in the fight for reproductive rights, but few have outwardly shown support. With abortion banned or threatened in 12 states and threatened in another 14, students are left wondering how to safely seek abortion care while avoiding unwarranted legal implications.

People in their 20s obtain 60 percent of abortions in the United States. Teenagers between 18 and 19 years old obtain another 12 percent. In this post-Roe world, young people face even more obstacles and anxiety in seeking reproductive care, and for those in college, accessing care adds another complicated layer, as those who attend school outside their home state risk the security of insurance coverage.

Most schools encourage their students to maintain health insurance while registered for classes—some even require it. For students who are not covered by their parents’ insurance plans, universities often offer a school-sponsored health-care program. Under these plans, like New York University’s Wellfleet coverage, students are covered for all University Health Center visits and procedures, in-network physician’s visits, and some out-of-network physicians with small co-pays.

While some take advantage of college health programs, many students choose to stay on their parent’s health insurance plans, even if it means technically being insured in another state. Cathren Cohen, a scholar at the Center on Reproductive Health, Law, and Policy at UCLA Law, said this is where the biggest risk lies for students, especially under bounty hunter laws like Texas SB 8. A student from an anti-abortion state could be sued for obtaining reproductive care in their college town. They are still considered to be traveling to obtain care, just on a longer timeline (the duration of a semester or school year).

“The statute is, in theory, if you live in Texas, you grew up in Texas, that’s where your parents are and you have some sort of ties back to the state—maybe you’re still registered to vote there or you’re being claimed on your parents’ taxes—and so you’re still considered to be in Texas,” Cohen said.

“You could still be sued while you’re in California. Well, not you, but somebody could be sued for helping you get an abortion because Texas still holds some claim over you and you’re violating their law.”

Because some states, like California, have said they won’t comply with out-of-state prosecution and are withholding state judicial resources, whether or not a court would uphold any lawsuit is unclear. Cohen predicts a number of lawsuits being filed in the coming years.

For students from states that have banned abortion, opting into your university’s health-care plan may be the safest option. But school health centers have a long way to go before they can claim to be the best reproductive health option for students.

University health care isn’t always ideal

Emma Warshaw, a second-year graduate student studying public health at Columbia University and member of the Reproductive Justice Collective (RJC) at Barnard and Columbia, tried setting up a birth control appointment through Columbia’s health center at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. Warshaw said that before she was allowed to see a provider, she was required to have a Zoom consultation with a university nurse—an unnecessary step in the care process. Warshaw decided to seek care off-campus instead, as she no longer felt comfortable seeking care through Columbia.

While university health centers like those at Columbia and NYU offer services like Pap smears and birth control, the schools do not currently offer abortion access on campus. If a student needs an abortion, they have to seek care off-campus, complicating the process further. Where a student is able obtain an abortion often depends on the coverage provided by their health insurance plan. Not to mention the “gray area” of which insurance companies will cover care at which clinics.

“That’s a lot easier if you have your parent’s health insurance,” Warshaw said. “I know I could go pretty much anywhere and it would be covered 100 percent.”

But if a student is covered by Columbia’s health insurance, which uses Aetna Student Health, they have to find an in-network doctor to find care on their own.

Claire Burke, a sophomore at Columbia’s Barnard College and member of the RJC who grew up in Shawnee, Kansas, said she wouldn’t even know where to start looking for abortion care in New York if she needed one. Because Burke is still covered by her parents’ insurance in Kansas, she has not sought physical care while on Columbia’s campus. Instead, she uses the same doctors from high school. Without having a provider in New York she feels comfortable with, Burke said seeking an abortion in the city would be difficult.

“In regards to an abortion, something that’s really important is comfort, and I don’t have a provider who I’d feel comfortable going to in New York,” Burke said. “I think that would make the process more stressful for me.”

Burke cited the lack of comprehensive information provided by Barnard and Columbia about where to obtain a safe abortion and other reproductive care options as a core reason for her anxiety around seeking care while on campus.

‘The laws are written by people who are not doctors’

For some students, getting reproductive care like birth control from their university resources is their only option. Sometimes, it’s a lifesaving option.

Rachel Bell, a recent NYU graduate from Boca Raton, Florida, relies on the NYU hospital for her birth control. Bell has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. For her, birth control is essential to daily life. Without it, she experiences intensely painful periods and dangerous levels of bleeding. Because it is so vital to her health, she has to order the medication in 90-day supply quantities, an amount that may cause her problems if she were refilling in her home state of Florida.

Cohen explained that many health-care providers and pharmacies are becoming more apprehensive about prescribing and filling prescriptions that have been associated with abortifacients, no matter how loose the association may be.

“This is really reflecting the chilling effects that we’re seeing from a lot of these laws,” Cohen said. “The laws are written by people who are not doctors so they don’t understand how medicine and prescribing that kind of stuff works. They also don’t necessarily understand pregnancy or how abortion works. And so often you’ll see really broad sweeping laws that can grab things that aren’t specifically abortions.”

Bell also has Crohn’s disease, and although Bell doesn’t take methotrexate, the medication is commonly used to combat symptoms. Methotrexate is also a common abortifacient. Bell recently got an email from her doctor about possible challenges in getting the prescription in a state that outlaws abortion outside a state that protects abortion. She worries for other students who may have their access to the drug restricted.

“You need that medication,” Bell said. “It’s an autoimmune disease. You can’t function without being medicated.”

This is where universities can and should be stepping in to support students’ reproductive care. The Reproductive Justice Collective at Barnard is calling on Columbia to make medication abortion care accessible on campus. Over the summer, the organization expanded its efforts to guarantee the same medication access across both public and private New York state colleges.

Offering care on campus also alleviates the patient load on surrounding clinics.

“It is tremendously important to have more points of care,” said Tamara Marzouk, director of Abortion Access at Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit that fosters intersectional organizing for 14- to 24-year-olds. She said clinics in abortion-friendly states are “overwhelmed” with appointments from out-of-state patients.

“The more points of care we can have and the fewer students traveling off campus for care, the better,” Marzouk said.

Bell said there is no reason schools like NYU cannot provide abortion pills through the student health center pharmacy, at the very least.

“Even some universities have certain health centers that do minor surgeries like a colonoscopy,” she said. “If you can do a colonoscopy, you can do an abortion.”

Schools in California and Massachusetts have already adopted these measures for their students. On January 1, 2023, University of California and California State University students will be able to access abortion pills through their university health center as a 2019 law expanding abortion access takes effect. California is the first state to require public universities to provide abortion access.

Massachusetts is following suit as lawmakers push for a bill that would require public university health centers to provide abortion pills on campus. The lawmakers are working closely with advocates who worked to pass the California legislature in 2019. Columbia and NYU continue to only offer Plan B on campus. Neither school responded to requests for comment.

Passing laws such as these ensures students are receiving safe, effective reproductive care. On the homepage of its website, Columbia Health claims to “advance the well-being of the Columbia University community and the personal and academic development of students.” Abortion access on campus is essential to ensuring a student’s well-being and continued development in all areas.

“It’s not a matter of belief,” Warshaw said. “It’s health care. It’s like saying you don’t believe in a root canal … Schools just need to get on board with that and start driving that message home. Don’t say you’re a feminist campus and that you support choice and you support autonomy, and then also sweep this under the rug and act like, ‘Well, you gotta go off campus to get it.’”

It is the responsibility of university health centers to provide essential health services to students. Abortion is an essential service. Asking students, especially out-of-state students who are often unfamiliar with the care options in their college towns, to seek reproductive care and facilitate the treatment process alone is an undue stress and obstacle in receiving essential care. But for now, this is the option many students are left with.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/2022/09/28/how-overturning-roe-affects-college-students-from-anti-abortion-states/

IMAGE: MEDIANEWS GROUP/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA GETTY IMAGES/CONTRIBUTOR

Motherboard previously revealed that SafeGraph was selling location data related to visits to Planned Parenthood facilities.

Data broker SafeGraph says it will close its data shop next week, according to an email sent to SafeGraph customers on Friday.

The news signals a change in the business model in one data broker that has hit headlines recently. In May, Motherboard found SafeGraph was selling location data related to people who visited Planned Parenthood clinics in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Next week we’ll be closing SafeGraph’s data shop. We see this as an opportunity to focus more on what matters the most to us: building the most accurate and usable dataset of global POIs [points of interest] in the market,” the email reads. SafeGraph sells POI data that can include the locations of coffee shops, stores, and other landmarks. This can be useful to customers who may want to combine it with their own datasets and to ensure accuracy.

On its data shop, SafeGraph offers more data, such as its “Patterns” product, which is based on location data harvested from mobile phones. “Foot traffic data that answers: how often people visit a place, how long they stay, where they came from, and more,” SafeGraph’s shop currently reads. This is the product that included data related to Planned Parenthood clinics. (Motherboard received the announcement email because we previously bought $160 worth of data related to abortion clinics to verify that the purchase of such data was possible). The email adds that customers should pull out any data they previously purchased in the last year within the next two business days if needed.

On its site, SafeGraph says that its location data is aggregated for privacy. But as Zach Edwards, a cybersecurity researcher who has followed the data trade previously told Motherboard, that sort of data can still present an issue. “It’s bonkers dangerous to have abortion clinics and then let someone buy the census tracks where people are coming from to visit that abortion clinic,” he said at the time. “This is how you dox someone traveling across state lines for abortions—how you dox clinics providing this service.”

SafeGraph did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the planned closure of its data shop.

After Motherboard reported SafeGraph’s sale of abortion clinic related data, the company stopped offering such data for sale from the self-serve shop and its API. In the wake of that reporting, an investor in SafeGraph sold their stake in the company and said they planned to donate the money to Planned Parenthood. SafeGraph’s investors include a former head of Saudi intelligence. 

Last August, Motherboard reported that Google had banned SafeGraph, meaning that any apps which were working with SafeGraph had to remove code that was sending location data to the company.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/g5vw3b/safegraph-to-close-shop-abortion-clinic-location-data

Abortion rights supporters chant during rally in Tucson, Arizona, on July 4, 2022.

An Arizona Superior Court judge ruled Friday that a 1901 ban on nearly all abortions in that state can be enforced, a decision that is likely to see an appeal and is all but certain to galvanize female voters to turn out in greater numbers in the state’s closely contested US Senate and governor’s races.

In ruling that Arizona’s near-total ban on abortion could take effect, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson granted a request by the state’s Republican attorney general to lift a court injunction that had barred enforcement of Arizona’s pre-statehood ban on abortion after the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

“The court finds that because the legal basis for the judgment entered in 1973 has now been overruled, it must vacate the judgment in its entirety,” Johnson wrote in the ruling released Friday.

The case has thrust the issue of how restrictive abortion law should be in Arizona, a swing state that President Joe Biden carried by fewer than 11,000 votes. It’s a controversial topic that has divided Republicans in Arizona and is reflective of a pitched debate nationwide in the wake of the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in late June, with many GOP-led states passing increasingly restrictive measures that run the risk of alienating moderate voters.

The judge’s ruling effectively outlaws all abortions in Arizona except when the procedure is necessary to save the mother’s life. The decision came a day before a 15-week ban on abortion was slated to go into effect in Arizona. That law was passed by Arizona lawmakers before the US Supreme Court decision.

Conservative Arizona lawmakers included language in the bill banning abortion after 15 weeks stating that the new legislation would not override the 1901 law – which was passed before Arizona became a state and can be traced back to as early as 1864. In addition to barring abortion in all cases except when “it is necessary to save (the mother’s) life,” the pre-statehood law carries a prison sentence of two to five years for abortion providers.

While fighting the attorney general’s move to allow the 1901 abortion ban to be enforced, abortion rights groups had argued that if both laws were to go into effect, it would create significant confusion for both abortion providers and women seeking care. But the judge said in her ruling that she was not weighing in on how the conflict between Arizona’s abortion laws would be settled.

“While there may be legal questions the parties seek to resolve regarding Arizona statutes on abortion, those questions are not for this Court to decide here,” Johnson wrote in the decision.

The ruling drew a swift rebuke from several Democratic groups that favor abortion rights and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs, who said she was “outraged and devastated” by the decision.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this draconian 1901 law will have dire consequences on the health and well-being of Arizona women and their families,” Hobbs said in a statement. “This cruel law effectively outlaws abortion in Arizona — with no exceptions for rape or incest — and risks women’s fundamental freedom to make their own health care decisions. … To make matters worse, this law mandates jail time for abortion providers. Medical professionals will now be forced to think twice and call their lawyer before providing patients with oftentimes necessary, lifesaving care.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre criticized the Arizona court ruling as “catastrophic, dangerous and unacceptable.”

“Make no mistake: this backwards decision exemplifies the disturbing trend across the country of Republican officials at the local and national level dead-set on stripping women of their rights, including through (South Carolina Sen. Lindsey) Graham’s proposed national abortion ban,” she said in a statement.

Arizona GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who led the legal process to try to get the state’s pre-statehood ban on abortion put back into effect after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in late June, tweeted that he was pleased by the decision:

“We applaud the court for upholding the will of the legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue. I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans,” he tweeted.

The disagreement over Arizona’s abortion laws has created a confusing legal landscape in Arizona for much of the summer that has unfolded against the backdrop of a shifting national political mood ahead of November’s midterm elections. While both historical trends and the nation’s sour mood about inflation had initially appeared to favor Republicans in their quest to take control of the US House and Senate this November, the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion has energized female voters all over the country – a dynamic that led to the surprising victory for proponents of abortion rights in Kansas and better-than-expected performances for Democrats in special elections for the US House since the Dobbs ruling.

The ruling injects a new uncertainty into the marquee statewide races. Republicans, who need a net gain of just one seat to flip the Senate, are trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly as he runs for a full six-year term. And Democrats are trying to flip the governor’s mansion, currently held by term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

In the Arizona governor’s race, Hobbs has portrayed GOP opponent Kari Lake as “extreme” on abortion. Lake has repeatedly said she is opposed to the procedure and in an August news conference said that she would “uphold the laws that are on the books.” But she did not specify which laws she meant. “If people don’t like the laws on the books, then they need to elect representatives who will change the laws. I’m running for governor, not for God. So I don’t get to write the laws,” she said.

Her campaign has not responded to CNN’s requests for clarification on her view of the pre-statehood law.

Both Lake and GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters, who is challenging Kelly, have argued that their Democratic opponents have adopted positions that are too far out of the mainstream in favor of abortion rights.

Masters removed language from his campaign website expressing support for a “federal personhood law” and other conservative anti-abortion stances after winning the GOP nomination last month. His campaign told CNN that Masters does support Graham’s proposal for a federal ban on abortion at 15 weeks, which would provide exceptions to protect the life of the mother and in cases of rape or incest.

But before the ruling, Masters’ campaign did not respond to questions about his position on the pre-statehood law or the court case to enforce it.

In a statement Friday, Kelly said the decision would “have a devastating impact on the freedom Arizona women have had for decades: to choose an abortion if they need one. Let’s be clear, this is exactly what Blake Masters wants, to completely ban abortions in Arizona and across the country – without even an exception for rape or incest. I will never stop fighting to restore these rights for Arizona women.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America fought Brnovich’s move in Pima County Superior Court – the court that handled the 1973 injunction.

The group’s lawyers had argued that the court had a duty to “harmonize all of the Arizona Legislature’s enactments as they exist today.” In the post-Dobbs era, the group argued that the pre-statehood law could “be enforceable in some respects” but that it should not apply to abortions provided by licensed physicians – and instead that the ban should apply to anyone other than a licensed physician who attempts to provide abortion services.

In a statement, Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said Friday’s ruling “has the practical and deplorable result of sending Arizonans back nearly 150 years. No archaic law should dictate our reproductive freedom and how we live our lives today.”

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2022/09/23/politics/arizona-abortion-ban-ruling/index.html

UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO ADMINISTRATION BUILDING. (PHOTO BY: EDUCATION IMAGES/UNIVERSAL IMAGES GROUP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

A memo also warned faculty they must “remain neutral” in speaking about abortion at all.

Employees at the University of Idaho are being warned that they could be fired if they refer students for abortions or even offer them birth control, according to a new memo issued in the wake of Idaho’s new near-total abortion ban. 

They’re also being warned to “remain neutral” in speaking about abortion at all. “Academic freedom is not a defense to violation of law,” the memo reads.

The memo, issued Friday and obtained by Idaho Press, was drafted by the University of Idaho’s Office of General Counsel and includes a laundry list of recommendations for university employees meant to keep them safe from the Idaho’s anti-abortion statutes. The state’s near-total ban, which took effect in late August, outlaws abortions except in cases where a pregnant person’s life is at risk, or in cases of rape or incest (as long as it was reported to law enforcement). 

People who violate Idaho’s anti-abortion laws could be found guilty of a felony. They could also be fired and blocked from any future employment with the state, according to the memo.

“In this new and evolving legal landscape, how these laws will be enforced remains unclear,” the memo reads. “Accordingly, the university and its employees should be aware of the potential risks and penalties associated with conduct that may be perceived to violate the laws.”

Under the memo, university employees also cannot “counsel in favor of abortion,” form contracts with abortion providers, or dispense emergency contraception like Plan B.

Because Idaho law also now forbids people from helping the “prevention of conception,” a decidedly vague term, the University of Idaho is interpreting it to also refer to birth control. 

“Since violation is considered a felony, we are advising a conservative approach here, that the university not provide standard birth control itself,” the memo reads.

The memo does specify that health care workers at student health locations can still offer “counseling on birth control, as well as providing the means for birth control.” University employees may also still “provide condoms for the purpose of helping prevent the spread of STDs and not for purposes of birth control.”

The memo also advises employees to be careful in classroom discussions. If employees are thought to be promoting abortion in those discussions, they could find themselves in legal trouble.

“Faculty or others in charge of classroom topics and discussion must themselves remain neutral on the topic and cannot conduct or engage in discussions in violation of these prohibitions without risking prosecution,” the memo reads.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjkwkx/university-of-idaho-abortion-birth-control

OHIO’S ABORTION BAN HAS ALREADY LEFT A TRAIL OF MISERY IN ITS WAKE. (GETTY)

VICE News obtained affidavits from an Ohio lawsuit detailing the trail of misery left by a state abortion ban.

Two children recently fled Ohio to get abortions after being raped, according to affidavits filed in a lawsuit aimed at halting Ohio’s six-week abortion ban.

Abortion providers in Ohio sued the state earlier this month over its six-week abortion ban, which took effect following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this summer. Last week, a local court agreed to temporarily pause Ohio’s six-week abortion ban. But according to the affidavits, obtained by VICE News and which their signers swore to under oath, Ohio’s abortion ban has already left a trail of misery in its wake. 

In addition to the two raped children, two women, including a 25-year-old mother, couldn’t get treatment for their cancer while pregnant, according to affidavits. At least three threatened to die of suicide if they couldn’t get abortions. Another said she would drink bleach if she couldn’t end her pregnancy.

Two women had pregnancies with fetal abnormalities so serious that no baby could possibly survive. 

Three patients’ pregnancies left them vomiting so much it was essentially impossible for them to live their lives. One was a high-school senior who couldn’t attend class because she was throwing up so much, an OB-GYN said in one affidavit. She ended up in the hospital on suicide watch.

“What do you want me to do…throw myself down the steps?” one patient asked an abortion clinic staffer, an OB-GYN said in an affidavit. 

“Many patients tell me that they feel they have no choice but to go through with the pregnancy,” Allegra Pierce, an abortion clinic medical assistant, said in an affidavit. “They worry they may lose their jobs, will seriously struggle to support their families or the children they already have if they have another child, or will suffer harm to their physical or mental health if they have to remain pregnant, but do not see another option.”  

Most patients have told Pierce that they can’t manage all the obstacles to crossing state lines for an abortion, according to Pierce’s affidavit. They have to juggle the cost of travel, child care, getting time off work, and finding a clinic that can do the procedure soon. That’s just too much, the patients say.

The two raped children ultimately got abortions in Michigan and Indiana, per the affidavits. The child who traveled to Michigan had to wait more than three weeks for an abortion appointment, Dr. Adarsh Krishen, Planned Parenthood Greater Ohio’s chief medical officer, said in an affidavit. 

“In each step of this process she felt the complete denial of bodily autonomy and safety, something that all people, especially children, should unequivocally have at all times,” Krishen said.

In the other case, where a 16-year-old sexually assaulted by a family member, law enforcement had to drive to Indianapolis to pick up tissue in order to test it for the child’s sexual assault case, Aeran Trick, a manager at a Dayton abortion clinic, said in an affidavit.

“I am concerned that Ohio’s ban and the need to travel increasingly far distances to obtain abortion care not only causes unimaginable harm to these young victims, but could also hamper law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute these cases in the future,” Trick said.

The raped minors described in the affidavits aren’t the only ones who allegedly fled Ohio for abortions. Days after Roe’s overturning, a raped 10-year-old Ohioan made national headlines when she had to travel to Indiana to end her pregnancy. 

One of the patients who couldn’t stop vomiting was a 16-year-old who lost 20 pounds, Trick said. The girl’s mother took her to Indianapolis for an abortion, but had to rent a car because of car problems. They had to make multiple trips to the abortion clinic there, thanks to Indiana abortion restrictions. 

Another patient was vomiting so much that, Trick said, she had to lie on the clinic floor and throw up into a bucket. That woman worried about losing her job as a store manager because she had to take off time to try to get an abortion, and because of what Trick called “repeated absences due to her being hospitalized for her condition.” 

The woman ultimately got an abortion in Indianapolis, but she had to take her four kids and mother along with her, Trick said.

Trick was also among the staffers who met a cancer patient who wanted an abortion, according to Trick. The woman, a 37-year-old with stage three melanoma, couldn’t get treatment while pregnant.

“Upon learning that she would need to travel out of state to have her abortion, the patient broke down and cried inconsolably despite the attempts of multiple staff members, including myself, to comfort her,” Trick said.

In another affidavit, Dr. David Burkons detailed how one woman found out she was just a few days too late to have an abortion in Ohio. When the woman told her boyfriend, who was waiting outside the clinic, “he then kicked her out of the car and drove away, leaving the woman hysterical because she already had two children and didn’t know what to do,” Burkons said.

Two women had ectopic pregnancies, a life-threatening condition that renders a pregnancy impossible to continue, yet said doctors at emergency rooms were too afraid of the ban to treat them, Burkons said. One woman ended up having her fallopian tube rupture. 

The Ohio abortion ban doesn’t even apply to ectopic pregnancies but, Burkons said, “I am concerned that the law’s stiff criminal penalties are deterring some physicians from providing even legal care that is medically necessary.” 

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/y3pna7/ohio-abortion-ban-lawsuit-affidavits

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO SPEAKS AT A RALLY WITH FLORIDA GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS IN HIALEAH, FLORIDA, ON AUG. 23, 2022. (EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES)

VICE News also obtained video of the senator saying that abortion ban exceptions for health reasons are “a massive loophole.”

In a virtual town hall Monday, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio seemed to compare abortion to vehicular manslaughter.

“In most states in this country, if a drunk driver runs a red light and kills a pregnant woman, they are charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter,” Rubio told Florida attorney John Stemberger, leader of the Florida Family Policy Council, a Christian advocacy group. “One for the child and one for the mother. So we are already, in other areas of the law, recognize that that is a human life worthy of protection of our laws.”

In his comments, captured on video obtained by VICE News, Rubio also said that abortion ban exceptions meant to protect the health of pregnant people are “a massive loophole.”

“They always say, ‘with the exception of life or health of the mother,’ and that ‘or health’ sounds good, but it’s very nuanced. It’s not throwaway line,” he said. “What it means is, some doctor can come forward and say, ‘Well, I know it’s eight-a-half months, I know that she’s due next week, but I think this would be bad for her mental health, I think it would be bad for her spiritual health, for her psychological, if she went ahead.’ I mean, it’s a massive loophole.”

Rubio has previously said that he personally supports abortion restrictions that don’t have exceptions for rape and incest, although he’s willing to support laws that have such exceptions as long as they decrease abortions. But his remarks represent a new, further-right frontier in the senator’s opposition to abortion—especially following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, when abortion bans are no longer a hypothetical possibility but a real restriction on millions of people’s ability to end their pregnancies.

They also come as many Republicans running for election, like Rubio, are trying to publicly downplay their position on abortion in the wake of the resounding defeat of an anti-abortion constitutional amendment in Kansas.

As of 2018, at least 38 states had fetal homicide lawsUnder Georgia’s post-Roe abortion ban, for example, fetuses can now even be claimed as tax dependents. 

But granting fetuses full rights and protections—a goal of the so-called “fetal personhood” movement that Rubio appears to evoke in his remarks—could also, in some cases, mean that those rights would compete with or potentially even outstrip those of pregnant people.

In Alabama, the first state in the country to adopt a “fetal personhood clause” in its constitution, a woman beat up her coworker, who shot her and ended her pregnancy. The woman was then indicted for manslaughter. (The case was ultimately dropped.) Compared to every other state, more women have now been arrested in Alabama for using drugs during pregnancy, according to reporting by the Marshall Project, the Frontier, and AL.com.

“This is not just crazy theorizing,” Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told VICE News in 2018 of the fight over fetal personhood. “These arguments are already being made and used to control not just abortion but the lives and bodies of pregnant women now.”

In his remarks regarding loopholes, Rubio seemed to be referring to Democrats and abortion rights supporters writ large. But modern-day abortion bans do not “always” allow abortions to preserve the health of pregnant people. Instead, bans in states like Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Dakota say the procedure can be performed to save a “life.” Doctors have told VICE News that this kind of language blocks them from helping patients who are endangered but not yet at death’s door.

“We’re waiting for patients to get sick, or get sicker, to be sick enough as to be able to intervene,” Dr. Tani Malhotra, a maternal fetal medicine specialist in Ohio, told VICE News this summer.

Additionally, while Rubio claims that doctors may use a “health” exception to refer to a patient’s mental health, that’s not possible in many states. Abortion bans in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia explicitly say that medical professionals can only weigh threats to a patient’s physical health as justification for an abortion, or that mental health concerns can’t be considered. Rubio’s home state, Florida, has similar language in its 15-week abortion ban. It says the procedure can be permitted “to save the pregnant woman’s life or avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition.” 

By contrast, before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, pregnant people could sometimes get legal abortions if they convinced doctors that, without the procedure, they would die of suicide. That is no longer possible in many states.

In response to a detailed list of questions regarding Rubio’s comments, a spokesperson for his office sent VICE News a press release where Rubio listed questions he sent reporters asking them if they’d asked federally elected Democrats “real questions about abortion.” Those questions include what restrictions they support on abortion, when a politician considers a fetus viable, and whether abortion providers can show a “‘good-faith’ medical judgment” about when continuing a pregnancy after viability may risk someone’s “life or health.” 

Most reporters didn’t reply to Rubio’s questionnaire, according to the senator, who accused them of letting Democrats “get away with murder, literally.”

When VICE News repeated a request for comment on Rubio’s Monday remarks, a spokesperson told VICE News over email, “We will stand by his comments. Out of curiosity, have you ever asked a federally elected Democrat any of the below questions?”

Determining when a fetus becomes viable is not a political matter, but a scientific one. Although it’s a moving benchmark, given the complex reality of pregnancy, viability is generally dated to around 24 weeks of pregnancy. In 2019, less than 1 percent of all abortions were performed after 21 weeks of gestation, according to the most recent data available from the CDC. In contrast, almost 80 percent of all abortions occurred at less than 9 weeks of gestation.

There’s relatively little data available on who and why people undergo third-trimester abortions, given how rare they are. But when a University of California, San Francisco researcher interviewed 28 women about their third-trimester abortions, she found that they tended to fall into two camps: either they learned new information about their pregnancies—such as a fetal abnormality, which can sometimes only be discovered later on in pregnancy—or were essentially blocked from getting an abortion earlier.

2018 Congressional Service Research report concluded that it is deeply difficult to characterize when people get abortions later in pregnancy over threats to their life. But it has happened: In 2016, Jezebel published the account of a woman who got an abortion at 32 weeks after she discovered that her fetus had a fatal abnormality and that, if she gave birth naturally, she could die. 

The group hosting the town hall with Rubio, the Florida Family Policy Council, describes itself as “pro-life, pro-family” organization that champions the idea that “institutions of natural marriage and the family as the foundation of civilization.” It is also a “state-based policy council” affiliated with theFamily Policy Alliance, Focus on the Family, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Family Research Council—organizations that have been at the forefront of promoting the national conservative agenda against abortion and LGBTQ+ rights.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/epza3k/marco-rubio-appears-to-have-compared-abortion-to-vehicular-manslaughter

Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City, speaks on his bill, HB813, concerning abortion during legislative session, Thursday, May 12, 2022, in the House Chambers of the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, La. (Hillary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP)

A businessman turned state representative from rural Oil City, Louisiana, and a Baptist pastor banded together earlier this year on a radical mission.

They were adamant that a woman who receives an abortion should receive the same criminal consequences as one who drowns her baby.

Under a bill they promoted, pregnant people could face murder charges even if they were raped or doctors determined the procedure was needed to save their own life. Doctors who attempted to help patients conceive through in-vitro fertilization, a fertility treatment used by millions of Americans, could also be locked up for destroying embryos, and certain contraception such as Plan B would be banned.

“The taking of a life is murder, and it is illegal,” state Rep. Danny McCormick told a committee of state lawmakers who considered the bill in May, right after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked.

“No compromises, no more waiting,” Brian Gunter, the pastor who suggested McCormick be the one to introduce the legislation, told the committee.

Louisiana State Rep. Danny McCormick, pastor Brian Gunter and attorney Bradley Pierce (right to left) urged state lawmakers to move their bill, HB 813, out of committee earlier this year.

Louisiana State Rep. Danny McCormick, pastor Brian Gunter and attorney Bradley Pierce (right to left) urged state lawmakers to move their bill, HB 813, out of committee earlier this year.

Only four people spoke against the bill during the committee meeting— all women. They pleaded with the lawmakers to grasp the gravity of the proposed restrictions, which went farther than any state abortion law currently on the books, and warned of unintended consequences.

“We need to take a deep breath,” said Melissa Flournoy, a former state representative who runs the progressive advocacy group 10,000 Women Louisiana. She said the bill would only punish women and that there wasn’t enough responsibility being placed on men.

But in the end, only one man and one woman, an Independent and a Democrat, voted against it in committee. Seven men on the committee, all Republicans, voted in favor of the bill, moving it one step closer to becoming law.

Men at the helm

A faction of self-proclaimed “abolitionists” are seeking to make abortion laws more restrictive and the consequences of having the procedure more punitive than ever before.

Emboldened by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, they say they will not be satisfied until fetuses are given the same protections as all US citizens — meaning that if abortion is illegal, then criminal statutes should be applied accordingly. While major national anti-abortion groups say they do not support criminalizing women, the idea is gaining traction with certain conservative lawmakers. And the activists and politicians leading the charge are nearly always men, CNN found.

This year, three male lawmakers from Indiana attempted to wipe out existing abortion regulations and change the state’s criminal statutes to apply at the time of fertilization. In Texas, five male lawmakers authored a bill last year that would have made getting an abortion punishable by the death penalty if it had gone into law. A state representative in Arizona introduced legislation that included homicide charges — saying in a Facebook video that anyone who undergoes an abortion deserves to “spend some time” in the Arizona “penal system.” And a male Kansas lawmaker proposed a bill that would amend the state’s constitution to allow abortion laws to pass without an exception for the life of the mother.

While most in the anti-abortion movement believe that human life begins at conception, “abolitionists” are particularly uncompromising in how they act on their beliefs — comparing abortion to the Holocaust and using inflammatory terms such as “slaughter” and “murder” to describe a medical procedure that most Americans believe should be legal in all or most cases.

Bradley Pierce, the attorney who helped draft the Louisiana bill, said his organization has been involved with many of the “abolition” bills that have been introduced in more than a dozen states. All of this proposed legislation would make it possible for women seeking abortions to face criminal charges.

An overwhelming majority of Americans said in a Pew Research Center poll they don’t believe men should have a greater say on abortion policy, but that is what is happening. Experts told CNN that the male dominance fits within the anti-abortion movement’s current framing as being focused on “fetal personhood” and “fetal rights” as opposed to maternal rights.

Eric Swank, an Arizona State University professor who has studied gender differences in anti-abortion activists, said his research found that while men aren’t necessarily more likely to consider themselves to be “pro-life” than women, they “are more willing to take the adamant stance of no abortion under any conditions.”

The most restrictive bills, which don’t include explicit “life of the mother” exceptions and would charge those who receive abortions with homicide, have failed to make it to the full vote needed for passage. But others that prohibit abortions even in cases of rape and incest have taken hold in around a dozen states, including Missouri, Alabama and Tennessee, according to Guttmacher Institute.

Those laws, CNN found, were also overwhelmingly passed into law by male legislators. While female Republicans almost always voted in favor of the legislation, gender imbalances within state legislatures, as well as the fact that female lawmakers were more likely to be Democrats, fueled the voting gap. And male Democratic lawmakers were far more likely than female Democrats to cross the aisle to vote in favor of the abortion bans, according to CNN’s analysis.

The Texas Heartbeat Act, for example, outlawed nearly all abortions in the state when it criminalized the procedure as soon as a heartbeat could be detected — as early as six weeks of pregnancy. While men made up nearly three quarters of the 177 lawmakers who voted, nearly 90% of those who voted in favor of the bill were men.

Encouraging ‘sacrificial behavior’

Scott Herndon, a bearded Idaho man and father of eight, once believed abortion was an issue that should be discussed “between a woman and her physician.”

He remembers watching the classic 80s movie, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and being relatively ambivalent about the fact that one of the characters received an abortion. He didn’t become a Christian until 1996, the same year he drove his pregnant girlfriend along the streets of San Francisco on his motorcycle. The pregnancy was unexpected, but that life development, along with a newfound religious practice, led Herndon to spend a lot of thinking about “the miraculous nature of life.” Over the years he began to feel compelled to get involved with the anti-abortion movement.

His daughter is now 25, and he and his wife went on to have seven more children. A longtime member of the Idaho Republicans, he told CNN he decided to run for state Senate this year with a mission of fighting government encroachment. Herndon, who touts his competitive shooting experience in high school and college, is a staunch supporter of the right to bear arms and strongly opposes vaccine mandates. He describes himself as a “true family-values conservative,” noting that his sons help him with his home-building business while his five daughters live on the family farm, milking cows, and raising chickens and pigs.

One of his longterm goals if elected, he said, is to abolish abortion in the state.

“Success depends on changing hearts and minds,” he said. “I liken the effort to Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights movement for desegregation and equal treatment of African Americans.”

This comparison is one that abortion rights activists take serious issue with. “Let’s be clear: appropriating the word ‘abolition’ is particularly contemptuous,” a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement to CNN. “That word is a symbol of freedom and this group wants to put people behind bars for exercising their right to bodily autonomy.”

Abortion rights demonstrators gathered outside the US Supreme Court after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Abortion rights demonstrators gathered outside the US Supreme Court after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Herndon, however, says women should embrace their instinctual “sacrificial behavior.”

“If a mother is in a life raft with a child and there’s only enough food and water to save one, I’m guessing most mothers would not throw their child overboard and drown them,” he said in an interview with CNN when asked about medical circumstances where a doctor may deem an abortion necessary to save a woman’s life, such as a cancer diagnosis that requires aggressive treatment.

As part of their efforts to abolish abortion, which is generally defined as the termination of a pregnancy, Herndon and others in the anti-abortion movement are attempting to redefine the term to the “intentional killing” of a fetus.

That way, they claim, the lives of mothers could still be saved as long as doctors make an equal attempt to save the fetus.

Gunter, meanwhile, said he disagrees with the medical establishment and does not believe abortion is ever medically necessary.

Doctors point to a variety of medical situations where an abortion may be needed to protect a pregnant person's life.

Doctors point to a variety of medical situations where an abortion may be needed to protect a pregnant person’s life.

Medical and legal experts told CNN this is a dangerous and inaccurate claim, saying there are plenty of situations that could result in women dying or being put through unnecessary bodily harm if explicit exceptions for the health and life of the mother are not included in the laws regulating abortion.

Louise King, a gynecologic surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School, said the claims are “disingenuous at best and intentional dissemination of misinformation at worst” and questioned why they “can’t simply trust medical professionals to do their job.”

“Most of these ‘arguments’ are attempts to impose a minority religious view on the majority of our citizens,” she said. “This is not a matter of belief or opinion. This is a highly inappropriate way to use our legislative system.”

An immediate abortion may be needed if a pregnant person’s water breaks before 20 weeks, King said, or when patients have pre-existing conditions that could lead to heart or liver failure or they need aggressive treatment for a disease like cancer that would severely harm — if not destroy — the fetus. An “equal attempt to save the fetus” would require putting the life of the pregnant person at risk,” she said, adding that it is also not the well established standard of care.

Doctors also note that abortion bans take away a patient’s ability to make decisions about their own health and pregnancy, sometimes forcing them to endure pregnancies and deliveries of fetuses that will not survive.

Stories like this are already making headlines as laws become increasingly restrictive. In some cases, doctors are already afraid to perform abortions in cases where a mother’s health is at risk, even with so called “life of the mother” exceptions in place. In Texas, one woman learned that her baby had heart, lung, brain, kidney and genetic defects and would either be stillborn or die within minutes of birth. At the same time, doctors warned her that carrying the baby to term threatened her own life, but she says she was still refused an abortion by doctors who said it could run afoul of the state’s strict six-week abortion ban. She ultimately drove 10 hours to a New Mexico abortion clinic to undergo the procedure. “I’m still so angry and hurt about it that I can hardly see straight,” she wrote on Facebook the next day.

Another Texas woman spoke out about being forced to carry her dead fetus for weeks after suffering a miscarriage. In Louisiana, a woman carrying a fetus without a skull was reportedly not allowed to get an abortion, while another was reportedly denied an abortion and instead forced into hours of labor when her water broke at 16 weeks, long before the fetus was viable.

Idaho State Senate candidate Scott Herndon supports a total abortion ban in the state.

Idaho State Senate candidate Scott Herndon supports a total abortion ban in the state.

Herndon agreed that the health of the pregnant woman should be considered, but he worries that the medical community automatically prioritizes the mother’s life and does not treat the fetus as a person until birth, saying this needs to change. And he said that while locking up women is not his objective, it only makes sense for homicide charges to apply to a woman who chooses to undergo an abortion if fetuses are given equal protections under the law.

As chair of his county’s Republican Party, he attended the Idaho Republican convention in July and proposed an official change to the party platform in support of an amendment to the state constitution that would “strengthen” the rights of fetuses.

After it easily passed the vote, a fellow Republican delegate took the floor with a proposal that was not met with the same support. She wanted to make sure an exception was included in the party platform for abortions needed for a woman’s physical and mental health, Herndon recounted.

A heated debate ensued, with Herndon describing the proposal as not carefully crafted and unnecessary. The proposal was ultimately rejected by a margin of nearly 3 to 1, according to news reports. The Idaho Republican Party did not respond to requests for comment.

No exceptions

Back in 2019, a bill that would criminalize abortion even in cases of rape and incest was placed in front of Alabama’s legislature — a move so extreme that a number of high-profile Republicans initially said it went too far.

When the bill reached the state Senate, 25 male legislators voted on party lines to enact it, and the state’s female governor signed it into law.

A federal judge blocked it from taking effect, but it had an immediate domino effect as other states followed suit. Most of the laws, including near-total abortion bans known as “trigger” laws and six-week “heartbeat” bills, weren’t able to take effect at the time either, but they are being implemented across the country now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.

This wave of unprecedented restrictions shows the power of the anti-abortion movement and how the Republican Party has shifted to appeal to a small but fervent group of voters, experts said.

“The idea that a fully human life with full moral worth begins at conception is not an extreme view in the pro-life movement,” said Ziad Munson, a sociology professor at Lehigh University who has researched the movements on both sides of the abortion debate. “The real issue is the degree of power the movement has over the Republican Party in the political arena, where such viewpoints have — at least until recently — been outside the mainstream.”

Anti-abortion protesters gathered at the Indiana State Capitol this summer.

Anti-abortion protesters gathered at the Indiana State Capitol this summer.

And in recent years, a particular brand of Republican candidate has become more prominent — one that touts the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen, doesn’t trust science and consider themselves to be Christian Nationalists, said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at the University of California, Davis.

“Even a more moderate candidate may feel that they have to toe the line in what the anti-abortion movement is saying, and what (the movement) wants is changing,” said Ziegler, who has studied the anti-abortion movement’s influence on US politics. “So who you are catering to if you’re the Republican Party is changing.”

As a result, she said, what would have previously been considered a disqualifying stance on abortion for most voters is one of the issues now being used by a growing number of Republican candidates for state and federal office in the hopes of securing their party’s nomination.

During the primary season earlier this year, two of the leading Republican candidates for governor of Pennsylvania said in a debate that they support banning abortion under any circumstances, including if the mother’s life is at risk. “I don’t give way to exceptions,” said Doug Mastriano, who will be on the ticket in November to succeed incumbent Democratic governor Tom Wolf, who has vetoed a number of abortion bans passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Men running for a number of statewide offices in Georgia have also vocalized their support of total abortion bans. “There’s no exception in my mind,” former football star Herschel Walker, a Republican who is running for the US Senate, told reporters.

Mastriano and Walker have not expressed support for prosecuting women who have abortions. They did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

While an overwhelming majority of Americans support legalized abortion when a woman’s life or health is at risk, Ziegler said the disappearing “life of the mother” exception stems from a deep distrust of both women, science and the medical establishment. The new focus on punishing women for undergoing abortions — as seen in several bills recently proposed — is also only likely to intensify, she said. As abortion providers close up shop in states with bans, it is going to become increasingly difficult to charge doctors if women travel to other states for the procedure.

“That’s going to make it more appealing to punish women,” Ziegler said.

‘Abolitionist, not pro-life’

For pastor Gunter in Lousiana, the “pro-life establishment” is not taking a hard enough stand against abortion.

He told CNN he doesn’t think someone can be truly “pro-life” while also believing that abortion is acceptable in certain circumstances. He said he will support nothing short of an all-out abortion ban with homicide charges and that unlike some of his peers, he refuses to sacrifice his principles for political reasons.

Gunter, who “grew up in church in diapers” and is now in his 30s, said in a recent speech that he once believed that opposing abortion simply meant voting for “pro-life” candidates. But when a seminary professor invited him and other men to spread the gospel outside an abortion clinic in 2008, he said everything changed.

Pastor Brian Gunter said he approached Rep. Danny McCormick about the Louisiana bill that included homicide charges for women who receive abortions.

Pastor Brian Gunter said he approached Rep. Danny McCormick about the Louisiana bill that included homicide charges for women who receive abortions.

That day, he said he watched 15 women go inside the clinic and “murder their children.” One of them, Gunter said, couldn’t have been older than 13 and he believed she was being forced to undergo the procedure by her mother.

“She’s a child, and her mother pulled her into that clinic,” said Gunter. “That day changed my life. I went home, and I was newly married… (my wife) was pregnant with our first child. I’d been seeing ultrasound pictures of my son and I thought to myself ‘My God, someone killed a child just like my son, same age as my son, looks like my son. How can they do that?”

After that, he says he began confronting women as they entered abortion clinics every week. And in an attempt to create more sweeping change, he decided to get involved politically. He said he approached Rep. McCormick, who did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment, earlier this year about the Louisiana bill that ended up making waves across the country. It even sparked outrage from the largest anti-abortion group in the state — one that Gunter said he had worked for but recently parted ways with because he felt it wasn’t doing enough to outlaw abortion.

Gunter’s impassioned plea at the committee hearing in May was met with applause, and the vote in favor of moving the bill to the full House ultimately came down to a group of state lawmakers that included a former law enforcement officer, a criminal defense and personal injury attorney and an entrepreneur who makes a living designing “man caves” and selling game room furniture.

Anti-abortion "abolitionists" gathered at the Louisiana State Capitol in support of a bill that would charge pregnant people who receive abortions with murder.

Anti-abortion “abolitionists” gathered at the Louisiana State Capitol in support of a bill that would charge pregnant people who receive abortions with murder.

Lawmakers then gathered on the House floor to debate the bill while dozens of supporters gathered outside the chambers in what resembled a church service, reciting Bible passages and swaying together while singing hymns such as “Amazing Grace.” Jeff Durbin, an Arizona-based pastor and head of a Christian production company Apologia Studios, which has more than 300,000 subscribers on YouTube, emceed and live-streamed the event. Durbin, who once played Michelangelo and Donatello in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise and became fervently religious after overdosing on ecstasy, is now “unapologetically seeking to criminalize and eliminate all forms of abortion without exception.” He did not respond to requests for comment.

He and five other men addressed the crowd at the state capitol, citing proverbs and describing women who get abortions as murderers.

“We have… a righteous bill that punishes those who choose to murder their children,” T. Russell Hunter, the founder of anti-abortion group Free the States, yelled into the microphone, saying that any truly “pro-life” law should hold pregnant women accountable for their decisions — not just the medical providers. “Abortionists do not wake up and go out into the culture looking for children to kill; mothers bring their babies to them to be murdered. They are guilty…they have murdered their children under the color of law and the Lord God hates it.”

Hunter’s group describes itself as “abolitionist, not pro-life” — echoing Gunter’s argument that many in the movement are compromising on their values. “While many who call themselves pro-life agree with us that abortion is murder,” Free the States writes on its website, “abortion has not been opposed by the pro-life political establishment in a manner consistent with its being murder.” Hunter told CNN this movement is not “about wanting to punish women or something silly like that,” and that anyone involved in the decision to terminate a pregnancy should face criminal charges — including fathers.

“Pray for the legislators here,” Durbin, who also runs End Abortion Now, said at the capitol rally.

But this time, the prayers went unfulfilled.

Inside the House chamber, one of seven men to initially vote in favor of the proposed legislation, Rep. Alan Seabaugh, a Republican who describes himself as “pro-life,” apologized for his vote. He said he believed the bill was unconstitutional, “makes criminals out of women.” Other Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates in the state also came out hard against the bill, saying it went too far — including a state representative who said her grandson wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The bill never went to a full vote.

It was the first time such an extreme anti-abortion measure made it out of any state committee, however, and the vocal opposition has not deterred Gunter. He plans to work with McCormick, the Louisiana lawmaker, to introduce a similar bill next year.

Momentum, he told CNN, is only building in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2022/09/20/politics/abortion-bans-murder-charges-invs/index.html

U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO.

The Pentagon’s favorite think tank found that lack of access to abortion will deepen the U.S. mililtary’s recruiting crisis.

The American military is facing a recruiting crisis and the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision that overturned federal protection for abortion will make it worse, according to a new study from the RAND Corporation. RAND is a think tank founded in 1948 that typically focuses on U.S. military readiness and nuclear issues. In the paper, “How the Dobbs Decision Could Affect U.S. National Security” the think tank outlined all the ways that the recent Supreme Court decision will affect female service members. It paints a grim picture.

According to the study, “40 percent of active-duty service women in the continental U.S. will have no or severely restricted access to abortion services where they are stationed.” And the problem goes beyond soldiers. Military bases are supported by millions of civilian staff members, many of them women. “Nearly 43 percent of civilian women employed by DoD will have no access to abortion or will have their access severely curtailed in their home states.”

Women make up 18 percent of the stateside active-duty military and the Pentagon is actively trying to recruit more of them. The U.S. military is facing a historic recruitment crisis. Obesity, drug use, and criminal records take many candidates off the table. In testimony before Congress in May, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said that only 23 percent of Americans aged 17-24 met the Pentagon’s strict qualifications. A DoD survey found that only 9 percent of eligible candidates were interested in military service.

Abortion restrictions are passing in states with large military bases like Texas and Oklahoma. More than 100 military bases are in states with total abortion mans. “Service women have little or no say about where they are stationed. By joining or remaining in service, women are agreeing to live under whatever state restrictions might be imposed,” the study said. “Some might opt out of military service under this new reality.”

It’s already hard to be a woman in the U.S. military. The culture is male dominated and sexual assault is an epidemic. The Pentagon has acknowledged this is all a problem. “We have concerns that some service members may choose to leave the military altogether because they may be stationed in states with restrictive reproductive health laws,” the Pentagon’s chief of personnel and readiness, Gil Cisneros, said in a prepared statement after the Dobbs decision. “This leads us to our concerns about recruitment.”

In an attempt to get ahead of the issue, both the Air Force and the Army issued statements saying it would allow serivcemembers to seek abortions without making formal requests for time off or talking to their commanders. It’s a small comfort in an increasingly drought system, though, as the RAND study made clear.

Women servicemembers living in states with total abortion bans would still face an uphill battle to seek treatment. “First, they could request and take leave to travel to get an abortion in a state where it is legal,” the study said. “Second, they could have the procedure in a state where abortion is illegal, which could result in significant risks to their physical health and put them in legal jeopardy. Third, they could seek a medication abortion in a state with a full or partial ban and risk judicial punishment.”

The women who can’t get abortions will carry their children to term in a male-dominated profession that stimgatizes pregnancy. There’s also the associated cost with medical leave, hospital visits, and childcare. The DoD, which already spends $1.2 billion annually on childcare, would foot the bill for a lot of it. “Ultimately, the most important effect might be a decrease in force readiness and our national security,” the study said.

Abortion and the military was already a delicate subject for the Pentagon. The Hyde amendment made it impossible for soldiers and civilian staff on bases to use military doctors for abortion, with exceptions for live saving treatment, sexual assault, and incest. After the Dobbs decision in June, the Pentagon issued a memorandum meant to assuage fears.

“The Supreme Court’s decision does not prohibit the Department from continuing to perform covered abortions consistent with federal law,” the memo said. “There will be interruption to this care. Health care providers will continue to follow existing departmental policy, and then leadership of military medical treatment facilities will implement measures to ensure continued access to care.”

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/5d353d/restricted-access-to-abortion-is-a-threat-to-national-security-study-finds

Being six weeks pregnant looks different for everyone—and some people may not even know they’re pregnant at that point. But thanks to Georgia’s six-week abortion ban, many pregnant people in the state won’t know to seek care until it’s illegal to do so. Sidney Chansamone/For Rewire News Group

By passing a six-week abortion ban, Georgia lawmakers are making sure that people like me will be contained to a life as an unwilling parent.

If I were pregnant today, the likelihood that I would seek an abortion is high.

I am 20 years old; a junior at the University of Georgia. I have been working tirelessly since I was 13 years old to ensure that my education is a solid base upon which I can build a successful career and a comfortable life for myself and for the children I hope to have one day further into adulthood. But I carry around so much anxiety in my day-to-day life that no matter how hard I work at school, my job, or in my relationships, I will still not be successful.

Georgia lawmakers are fighting to make sure that people like me will be contained to a life as an unwilling parent or bound to the guilt of putting a child into the misery that meets most children in the foster-care system.

Regardless of how pregnancy occurs, be it through a healthy sexual partnership with or without birth control, a one-night stand or in a situation of sexual violence or assault that far too many people are faced with each day, abortion should be a legal, accessible option.

In this post-Roe reality, the fate of abortion access is left to state legislatures. In Georgia, this means that fewer people have access to legal abortion.

As a person with the capacity for pregnancy living in Georgia, the weeks and months following after the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade have been emotional. Fear, anger, betrayal, confusion, hurt, and resignation have been in the mix, but no singular emotion can contain how I have felt. These emotions are isolating, but I know I’m not alone.

photo of protesters at abortion rally in Georgia
Sidney Chansamone/For Rewire News Group

This betrayal by our government and Georgia lawmakers began to sting when Politico in May leaked the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization indicating the Court would overturn Roe. This stinging has grown continuously since, peaking when the federal appeals court signed Georgia’s 2019 six-week abortion ban into immediate effect less than a month after Roe was overturned. Now, abortion in Georgia is banned at six weeks, a period of time so short that many people do not even know that they are pregnant.

Overturning Roe was not meant to impact people like me. I am a white, cisgender, upper-middle-class woman from a Virginian family who supports and defends my right to choose whether or not to seek abortion care if I become pregnant.

The Supreme Court decision was intended to and will disproportionately impact those who are from historically disenfranchised communities. Communities of color, LGBTQ communities, people who don’t have access to the funds, time off of work, childcare, transportation, and any other resources that are needed to receive abortion care are the ones who are being targeted by this deplorable legislation.

The emotional exhaustion that has pervaded daily post-Roe is minuscule compared to the collective impact this decision has had, is having, and will continue to have for the foreseeable future on all people who may seek reproductive or abortion care for any reason.

According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Black women are impacted by abortion bans at significantly higher rates than in other communities. Black women in Georgia are three times more likely to die from birth and pregnancy complications in a state with the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the country.

Any perceived financial benefit of a fetus gaining “personhood” will not offset the psychological and monetary costs of being forced to carry a pregnancy to term. One in five Black women of working age in Georgia lives in poverty, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. They cannot afford to have the children that they are now forced to carry to term.

Immediately after the June 24 decision, I realized the necessity for me to use this immense privilege to help my local community. In my work as a student journalist on staff at The Red & Black at the University of Georgia, I spent countless hours compiling resources, reaching out to local reproductive justice organizations, speaking to people at protests, and stepping away from my personal feelings about the decision to accurately report the response.

Many other Georgians felt a similar need to spring into action and at least try to do something to make their voices be heard. I spoke with hundreds of people, from 14-year-old Kylee Kasha, who held a sign reading, “I should not fear for my rights at 14 years old,” to lifelong activist Clark Kissinger, who had found that taking to the streets in protest was the only way to effect meaningful change.

Experts say Georgia six-week abortion ban will lead to increase in illegal, unsafe abortions, infant and maternal mortality, traumatized children flooding the overwhelmed foster care system, pregnant people looking to the inadequate mental health resources and people having choices about the future wrested from them by legislators who will likely never be impacted by their own decisions.

At this point, we are all faced with a decision. Either we will sit down and apathetically submit ourselves to the decisions of those in power who claim to have our best interests in mind, or we will protest, argue, vote, make a scene, and mobilize in unity until we know that legislators will do what is actually best for us.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/2022/09/13/anti-abortion-lawmakers-are-trying-to-rob-me-of-my-future/

U.S. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC) ATTENDS A PRESS CONFERENCE AT THE U.S. CAPITOL ON AUGUST 05, 2022 IN WASHINGTON, DC. (PHOTO BY KEVIN DIETSCH / GETTY IMAGES)

“Every state will decide if abortion is legal and on what terms,” Sen. Lindsey Graham once said, and apparently didn’t mean.

Not even three months after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban abortion after 15 weeks.

Graham’s plan has little chance of success this year, but it’s an indication of where the mainstream GOP is headed and the policies they’ll pursue if they’re able to wrest back control of Congress. 

It also stands in stark contrast to the assurances from Republican leaders that once Roe was struck down, they’d let individual states decide abortion laws. 

While even more right-wing conservatives have signaled support for a national “fetal heartbeat” ban, Graham and other top Republicans cheered the Dobbs ruling as a win not only for the anti-abortion movement but also for the right of states to make their own laws.

In May, when the draft of Justice Samuel Alito’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked, Graham condemned the leak of the opinion but cheered the opinion itself.

“If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which I believe was one of the largest power grabs in the history of the Court, it means that every state will decide if abortion is legal and on what terms,” Graham, whose bill would prohibit more liberal states from deciding those terms, said in a May 3 statement

“That, in my view, is the most constitutionally sound way of dealing with this issue and the way the United States handled the issue until 1973.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, similarly applauded the opinion in June in a statement comparing Dobbs to the landmark desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe to the white supremacist ruling Brown overturned, Plessy v. Ferguson. 

“For 50 years, states have been unable to enact even modest protections for unborn children,” McConnell said in a statement. “[Congressional Democrats] would rather attack our institutions than let the American people enact the reasonable protections they want.”

Graham’s office told reporters last night that he, along with the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, would unveil the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act” on Tuesday. 

Graham said that he views his bill as “a responsible alternative to the very radical position by Democratic senators,” in an interview with Fox News. Graham was likely referring to the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify the protections of Roe v. Wade, though that bill has also failed in the Senate. 

Graham has introduced a version of this measure in every Congress since 2013, but in previous years, the bill would have banned abortion after 20 weeks. Graham already introduced a version of this measure last January; he was joined in that effort by 45 Senate cosponsors, including McConnell. 

This version would ban abortion after 15 weeks—a threshold similar to Florida’s new state law, which Republicans have presented as the moderate alternative to a “fetal heartbeat bill” like Texas’s. 

The bill would allow for exemptions in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life and health of the mother, though the rape exemption would require patients to prove they obtained counseling or medical treatment, or reported the crime to law enforcement at least two full days before the abortion. The exception for the health of the mother also explicitly says that “psychological or emotional conditions” don’t count.

Republicans have sought to portray their posture as one of moderation which only prohibits “late-term” abortions, but that term is wholly used by anti-abortion rights conservatives to refer to third-trimester abortions—abortions after 24 weeks, which make up roughly 1 percent of all abortions in the U.S., according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Such procedures are usually done to protect the life and health of the mother or due to severe fetal anomalies.

The pivot of some Republicans on the issue began amid declining midterm prospects for Republicans, who had been expected to easily win control of Congress. In August, the reliably conservative state of Kansas overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have allowed state lawmakers to restrict abortion rights, and in the months since Roe v. Wade, Democrats running in special congressional elections have outperformed President Joe Biden’s showing in those districts two years ago, including a shock win in upstate New York last month. 

Graham told Fox News Tuesday that Republicans should embrace his attempt to restrict abortion rights, and said candidates should “expose your Democratic opponent for being incredibly radical on the issue of abortion.”

“I don’t know what Democratic candidates in these contested states will say about a bill such as mine,” Graham told Fox News. “But I know the American people, or a significant majority, support limiting abortion at 15 weeks.” (A Gallup poll in May taken prior to the leak of the Dobbs decision found that a majority of Americans, 53 percent, support legal abortion under most or all circumstances.) 

Though the co-sponsors on this bill are not yet known, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky—who has fashioned himself as a libertarian—co-sponsored Graham’s bill last year to ban abortions after 20 weeks. But after the Dobbs decision, Paul told a Kentucky TV station he supported the “federalism” approach to abortion because “it allows each sort of community and state to make their own rules.” 

“We are a country with a lot of different ideas and different opinions as far as abortion goes,” Paul said. “So you’ll find that probably the rules will be different in California than they will be in Kentucky, and I think that reflects the population.”

Paul’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News Tuesday asking whether he would support Graham’s new bill.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/7k845q/lindsey-graham-national-abortion-ban