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JUSTYNA WYDRZYNSKA OUTSIDE COURT ON TUESDAY, MARCH 14. PHOTO: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Justyna Wydrzynska is the first activist to be convicted under Poland’s anti-abortion laws, which are some of the strictest in Europe.

The first activist in Europe to face a criminal trial under Poland’s ultra-strict abortion laws has been found guilty of helping somebody obtain an abortion.

Justyna Wydrzyńska is one of the four founders of Abortion Dream Team, an activist collective that campaigns against abortion stigma in Poland. 

She was sentenced to eight months of “restriction of freedom” by performing unpaid community service, working 30 hours a month.

While it is not a crime to take abortion pills in the country, helping somebody access abortion pills is criminalised, and that is what Wydrzyńska was charged with.

Mara Clarke, the co-founder of Supporting Abortions for Everyone (SAFE), told VICE World News: “This verdict is an enraging and yet unsurprising to this miscarriage of justice and waste of public funds. Justyna should have been absolved of all charges.”

VICE World News interviewed Wydrzyńska in Warsaw last year, where she told the story of a woman who had an abusive husband who would not let her leave the country to have an abortion. Wydrzyńska sent her abortion pills, that she had been keeping for personal use, to the woman who has been anonymised in the case as “Ania”. 

“She was really begging [and] was telling me that she would do everything that to stop the pregnancy,” Wydrzyńska said at the time. “This is why I decided to send the pills, because I also have experience with domestic violence. My husband was also an abuser and a very controlling person.”

“I knew exactly what she was feeling, and what probably she had in her mind,” she adds. “I knew that she is so desperate that she will do even unsafe things, so I really had no choice, no other choice than just share the pills.”

Ania never took the pills (she would go on to miscarry according to Wydrzyńska), but they were found by her husband, who called the police citing Wydrzyńska’s contact information which had been left on the packaging. 

Although Wydrzyńska admitted to police that she did send the pills to the woman, her lawyers have argued that this does not mean she aided an abortion – wording designed to restrict medical professionals from giving abortions.

In May 2021, the prosecutor in Warszawa-Praga issued a warrant to confiscate items from the activist’s home and pills containing mifepristone and misoprostol were found, which the prosecutor argues do not have authorisation in Poland. 

In October 2020, Poland’s abortion law became one of the strictest in Europe, eliminating one of the very few remaining legal grounds for abortion, that of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life.”

The law now only forbids abortion unless pregnancy threatens the pregnant person’s life or health, or is the result of rape or incest. But significant barriers remain even for these circumstances; many medical professionals are conscientious objectors, and there is a requirement to show proof of rape. 

Poland has been watching the case closely; today, four parliamentarians came to view the hearing in court as final pieces of evidence from the prosecution were heard, including a recent speech Wydrzyńska gave in Parliament as well as a press video from the ADT.

Abortion rights supporters also attended, and showed solidarity after the prosecutor mentioned in his speech that providing a telephone number to Abortion Without Borders constitutes as helping somebody get an abortion.

The case had been repeatedly delayed due to key witnesses not appearing in court.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/wxje3m/justyna-wydrzynska-guilty-abortion

Lindsay London holds protest sign in front of federal court building in support of access to abortion medication outside the Federal Courthouse on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 in Amarillo, Texas.

What we covered here

These are some of the big takeaways from a high-stakes hearing on medication abortion drugs

From CNN’s Tierney Sneed

For about four hours of arguments, a federal judge in Texas asked questions that suggested he is seriously considering undoing the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a medication abortion drug and the agency’s moves to relax the rules around its use.

But the judge, US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, also indicated he was thinking through scenarios in which he could keep the drug’s 2000 approval intact while blocking other FDA rules.

Anti-abortion doctors and medical associations are seeking a preliminary injunction that would require the FDA to withdraw or suspend its approval of the drug, mifepristone, and that would block the agency’s more recent regulatory changes making the pills more accessible.

Here are some of the big takeaways:

Judge focused on FDA’s process for approving abortion pills: Kacsmaryk showed a particular interest in the arguments by the abortion opponents that the FDA approved mifepristone in an unlawful way.

He zeroed in on a claim by the abortion foes that the studies that the FDA looked at when deciding whether to approve the drug did not match the conditions under which the agency allows it to be administered.

Erik Baptist, attorney for the challengers, alleged that those studies all featured patients who received ultrasounds before being treated with the drug, which is not among the FDA’s requirements for prescribing abortion pills. Baptist accused the FDA of “examining oranges and declaring apples to be safe.”

Justice Department attorney Daniel Schwei defended the FDA’s approach, arguing that the relevant law gives the FDA discretion to determine what studies are adequate for approving a drug’s safety. He also said the challengers’ claims were factually flawed because the FDA also was looking at studies where the patients did not receive an ultrasound.

Impact of the reversal of Roe v. Wade: The medication abortion lawsuit targets actions the FDA took around medication abortion pills before last summer’s Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade’s abortion rights protections.

While that decision, known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, didn’t play a major role in Wednesday’s arguments, the judge referenced it and suggested it could have an impact on his thinking about the case.

He asked Erin Hawley, an attorney for the challengers, whether Dobbs was an “intervening event” that has “changed the landscape” around the relationship between state and federal government concerning abortion policy. Hawley agreed, calling it a “sea change.”

What could happen next: Kacsmaryk wrapped up the hearing without any explicit timeline for when he’ll rule, telling the parties he would issue an order and opinion “as soon as possible.”

An appeal would first go to a panel of three judges of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, arguably the most conservative appeals court in the country. The panel’s decision could then be appealed either to the full 5th Circuit or the US Supreme Court.

Kacsmaryk seemed to be grappling with the practical impact of a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. He asked plaintiffs’ attorneys, the DOJ lawyers and the attorneys for the drug company Danco whether it would be possible for him to block some but not all of the FDA actions the challengers were targeting.

Over the course of about four hours of arguments, a federal judge in Texas asked questions that suggested he is seriously considering undoing the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a medication abortion drug and the agency’s moves to relax the rules around its use.

But the judge, US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, also indicated he was thinking through scenarios in which he could keep the drug’s 2000 approval intact while blocking other FDA rules.

Anti-abortion doctors and medical associations are seeking a preliminary injunction that would require the FDA to withdraw or suspend its approval of the drug, mifepristone, and that would block the agency’s more recent regulatory changes making the pills more accessible.

Here are takeaways from the hearing:

Judge focused on FDA’s process for approving abortion pills

Kacsmaryk showed a particular interest in the arguments by the abortion opponents that the FDA approved mifepristone in an unlawful way.

He zeroed in on a claim by the abortion foes that the studies that the FDA looked at when deciding whether to approve the drug did not match the conditions under which the agency allows it to be administered.

Erik Baptist, attorney for the challengers, alleged that those studies all featured patients who received ultrasounds before being treated with the drug, which is not among the FDA’s requirements for prescribing abortion pills. Baptist accused the FDA of “examining oranges and declaring apples to be safe.”

Kacsmaryk returned to that “apples to oranges” argument several times throughout the hearing.

Justice Department attorney Daniel Schwei defended the FDA’s approach, arguing that the relevant law gives the FDA discretion to determine what studies are adequate for approving a drug’s safety. He also said the challengers’ claims were factually flawed, because the FDA also was looking at studies where the patients did not receive an ultrasound.

Kacsmaryk was similarly focused on a claim by the plaintiffs that the FDA violated the law in the special, accelerated process that it used to approve mifepristone in 2000.

At one point the judge revealed in the hearing that he had downloaded a list of the other drugs the FDA had approved through the process. He ticked through the list of drugs, which were made up mostly of treatments for HIV and cancer, and he asked the Justice Department for its “best argument” for why mifepristone fit into the list.

Challengers admit no other court has done what they’re asking the judge to do

One of the sharpest questions from the judge was whether the anti-abortion activists could point to another analogous case when a court intervened in the way he is being asked to intervene here.

Baptist conceded there was none and blamed FDA delays in addressing citizen petitions and challenges. Later in the hearing, Baptist raised other times the FDA had suspended or withdrawn drugs based on court cases in other contexts, arguing those cases showed that Kascmaryk had the authority to grant the plaintiffs’ request.

Attorneys for the defendants – which include both the FDA and a drug company that manufactures mifepristone and intervened in the case – pushed back on those examples. They said that the plaintiffs were relying on patent cases, where the dispute was between a brand name drug and a generic counterpart, and those examples were not analogous here.

Supreme Court’s Roe reversal seen as a ‘sea change’

The medication abortion lawsuit targets actions the FDA took around medication abortion pills before last summer’s Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade’s abortion rights protections.

While that decision, known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, didn’t play a major role in Wednesday’s arguments, the judge referenced it and suggested it could have an impact on his thinking about the case.

He brought up Dobbs early on in the hearing and raised it specifically in connection with a friend of the court brief filed by 22 GOP-led states supporting the challengers.

The judge noted that the red states’ brief argued that the FDA’s actions were infringing on their state laws concerning abortion pills.

He asked Erin Hawley, an attorney for the challengers, whether Dobbs was an “intervening event” that has “changed the landscape” around the relationship between state and federal government concerning abortion policy.

Hawley agreed, calling it a “sea change.”

Temperatures stay cool in the courtroom after a heated, pre-hearing blow up over transparency

If Kacsmaryk has any sore feelings over the blow up around his efforts to keep Wednesday’s hearing plans quiet, he didn’t show them at the proceedings.

When questioning both sides of the case, Kacsmaryk had a restrained, straight-forward tone. He had occasional follow-up questions for the plaintiffs, but did not aggressively push back on their arguments. The substance of his questions for the FDA’s defenders was more skeptical, but he kept with the measured approach in his questioning, and avoided any pushiness when grilling the government and the drug company about the approval process.

At the end of the hearing, he thanked the parties, as well as those who filed dozens of friend of the courts briefs, for their “superb” briefing. He also acknowledged the logistical hurdles the lawyers at the hearing went through to get to his courthouse in Amarillo, which is a several hours’ drive from Texas’ biggest cities.

Left unmentioned by the judge was the fact that he tried to delay the announcement of the hearing until the evening before, which would have made it difficult for members of the public and the media to attend Wednesday’s proceedings. When there was blowback to The Washington Post reporting about his plan – laid out in a private teleconference with attorneys where he pointed to death threats and harassment that had been directed to the courthouse staff – he announced the hearing on Monday.

The courtroom was open to the public, but only with limited seating: 19 seats for reporters and 19 for members of the public. By 6 a.m. CT Wednesday there were already lines outside the courtroom to claim those seats. Those attendees were not allowed to bring electronics in with them, and if they left the courthouse, they were not allowed back in.

Kacsmaryk warned at the beginning of the hearing that anyone who disrupted the proceedings would be immediately removed without warning. But there were no such disruptions.

Judge promises order and opinion ‘as soon as possible’

Kacsmaryk wrapped up the hearing without any explicit timeline for when he’ll rule, telling the parties he would issue an order and opinion “as soon as possible.”

While he was arguing, Schwei, the DOJ attorney, requested that the judge – if he were to rule against the FDA – to immediately put that ruling on pause so it could be appealed. The judge stopped short of promising an automatic stay in the event of an adverse ruling, but he acknowledged he understood what DOJ was asking for.

An appeal would first go to a panel of three judges of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, arguably the most conservative appeals court in the country. The panel’s decision could then be appealed either to the full 5th Circuit or the US Supreme Court.

Beyond these procedural questions, Kacsmaryk seemed to be grappling with the practical impact of a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. He asked plaintiffs’ attorneys, the DOJ lawyers and the attorneys for the drug company Danco whether it would be possible for him to block some but not all of the FDA actions the challengers were targeting. He returned to the question again when the plaintiffs were back up for the rebuttal.

He also pressed Baptist, the attorney for the abortion opponents, on whether the plaintiffs were seeking an order that the FDA begin the withdrawal of the drug – a process that would take months – or if they thought the judge could directly take if off the market.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/03/15/politics/takeaways-medication-abortion-hearing-texas/index.html

THE ART SHOW “UNCONDITIONAL CARE,” OPENED LAST WEEK AT LEWIS-CLARK STATE COLLEGE, AND INCLUDES THE PICTURED WORK “MOTHER’S RIGHT” BY MICHELLE HARTNEY. SOME OF THE ART THAT WAS ABORTION-RELATED, HOWEVER, WAS REMOVED FROM THE EXHIBITION. (MICHELLE HARTNEY)

The college suggested that displaying the art would violate Idaho’s abortion restrictions.

Art that mentioned abortion was stripped from an exhibition at an Idaho public college—and the college is suggesting that state law tied their hands.

The art show, “Unconditional Care,” opened last week at Lewis-Clark State College and is meant to address “today’s biggest health issues,” like “chronic illness, disability, pregnancy, sexual assault, and gun violence and deaths,” according to a late February release about the show. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortion has surged to the forefront of the national debate over health care. 

But rather than showing that, school officials removed videos that depict women sharing their experiences with pregnancy and reproductive rights, a work that includes a handwritten historical letter addressed to Planned Parenthood’s founder, and a piece that depicts abortion pills, according to the Guardian. The artist behind the last piece, Katrina Majkut, told the Guardian that officials would not even let her use the term “post-Roe America.”

“I did try to have some alternative stand-in, such as a curtain placed over the work or a sign that said ‘Artwork has been removed in accordance with law,’” Majkut said. “But that was all rejected too.”

Majkut, who also worked as a guest curator on the exhibition, told Artnet News that her work was removed after she gave administrators a tour.

“I said that I wanted the wall text up even if I can’t have the artwork because it literally reiterates Idaho’s own law to the students,” Majkut said. “That was a no-go. It’s an educational setting, but I was told directly in person that the wall text wasn’t okay.”

SCHOOL OFFICIALS REMOVED MICHELLE HARTNEY’S PIECE, “WITH ALL MY PLEAS WITH DOCTORS THEY WON’T DO ANYTHING,” FROM THE EXHIBITION. IT IS A HANDWRITTEN COPY OF ONE OF 250,000 LETTERS ADDRESSED TO PLANNED PARENTHOOD FOUNDER MARGARET SANGER.

“The censorship of my piece is extra alarming because it comes from a letter that was written 100 years ago by a desperate mom,” Michelle Hartney, the artist whose work includes the historical letter, told Artnet News. “I feel compelled, through this project, to make sure the stories and pleas from these mothers from the past are not forgotten.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Lewis-Clark State College said the school “became aware of concerns” about the exhibition on Feb. 26, just a few days before the exhibition was set to open.

“Within 24 hours the college engaged legal counsel to try to determine if any of the concerns might be in conflict with Idaho Code Section 18-8705,” the spokesperson said. “Over the next 48 hours the college worked closely and carefully with legal counsel to review exhibit items. On Feb. 28, within hours of receiving legal advice that some of the proposed exhibits could not be included in the exhibition, the college began notifying the third-party exhibit curator and artists involved.”

Idaho Code Section 18-8705 refers to the No Public Funds for Abortion Act, a 2021 law that blocks public funds from being used to perform abortions, counsel for abortions, refer for abortions, or even “promote abortion.” Last year, the University of Idaho cited that law when it warned employees that they could be fired if they referred students for abortions, offered them birth control, or failed to “remain neutral” when speaking about abortion.

Now, representatives from the ACLU and other anti-censorship organizations have stepped in to write a letter to Lewis-Clark State College President Cynthia Pemberton, urging the school to reinstate the work of Lydia Nobles, the artist behind the video pieces. The groups warned the college that its interpretation of the No Public Funds for Abortion Act demonstrates just how easily it can be abused.

“As the Supreme Court recognized 80 years ago, “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion,” wrote the ACLU, the ACLU of Idaho, and the National Coalition Against Censorship. “The College’s decision threatens this bedrock First Amendment principle by censoring Nobles’ important work and denying visitors of the Center the opportunity to view, consider, and discuss it.”

In an email to VICE News, Nobles called for Pemberton to reverse the decision to remove the artwork.

“Freedom of speech is worth fighting for and your interpretation of the law is far-reaching and inaccurate,” Nobles said. At what cost will you deny the students of Lewis-Clark State their right to critical conversations around abortion access?”

In her email, Nobles also included a statement from Cat Hadley, whose account was depicted in Nobles’ removed art. In one video, Hadley shared how state law kept her from getting an abortion in Michigan in 2007. She was forced to continue her pregnancy.

“I think it is a travesty that in 2023 when people share their truth, they are met with being silenced instead of heard. I avoided sharing my story for over a decade out of the same shame that would work to silence me, and I won’t be silent anymore,” Hadley said. “I am outraged that my First Amendment rights are being trampled because my story does not fit into a particular narrative. My story seeks to share the real consequences people face when they cannot receive an abortion.”

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjvdmv/abortion-art-censored-lewis-clark-college-idaho

Abortion care is safe, evidence-based, and necessary—something major medical societies should go to bat for. Austen Risolvato/Rewire News Group

In fact, the American Medical Association led the charge to criminalize abortion in the United States in the mid-1800s.

One week after the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to abortion last June, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indiana abortion provider, shared a particularly crushing story with local media: One of her patients that week was a 10-year-old girl who had been raped. The girl was unable to get an abortion in her home state of Ohio, where a six-week ban was then in effect (it has since been blocked in state court). She was forced to travel across state lines to Indiana, where Bernard provided her with care.

Bernard was immediately attacked by conservative pundits and politicians who labeled the story a hoax. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who publicly questioned Bernard’s story multiple times, claimed his office hadn’t heard “a whisper” of any such crime. In Indiana, Attorney General Todd Rokita announced an investigation into Bernard, alleging she may not have reported the abortion in accordance with state law. But documents proved that she had, and a few weeks later, a man was arrested and charged in connection with the rape.

Bernard told the truth. More importantly, she provided compassionate care to a child who needed help. Yet despite all the evidence backing her story, Rokita filed a formal complaint against her with the state’s medical licensing board, potentially jeopardizing her ability to practice medicine and sending a chilling message to other abortion providers.

A doctor did her job and is being attacked for it. So where is the outrage from the rest of the medical community? Though fellow doctors have spoken out in Bernard’s defense and raised funds for her legal expenses and security needs, the only professional organizations that have issued statements or even acknowledged the case are the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Physicians for Reproductive Health.

“It really speaks to where organizational loyalties lie,” said Dr. Katie McHugh, an Indiana-based OB-GYN, abortion provider, and board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health. “The American Medical Association and similar organizations should be rushing to the defense of and helping with emotional and financial support for any physician that is targeted in this way for doing their job. The fact that they haven’t flies in the face of everything that they’re saying about caring about safe access to abortion.”

However, the AMA’s absence of public support comes as little surprise due to a widely unknown bit of history: The charge to criminalize abortion in the United States in the mid-1800s was led by the AMA itself. The organization has never acknowledged or apologized for this fact, even as it has adopted a more openly supportive stance on abortion care.

At the time of its formation in 1847, the AMA didn’t wield anywhere near the kind of social and political power it does today, said Karissa Haugeberg, an associate professor in the Department of History at Tulane University.

“In the 19th century, doctors in general didn’t have much social power,” she said.

That’s because university training for physicians was relatively new. People didn’t necessarily see these doctors as any more proficient or accomplished than practitioners they already relied on for medical care, ranging from skilled midwives to quacks and everything in between.

“As the American Medical Association was being formed, their big issue was to try to criminalize abortion, arguing that doctors are the only ones who should be trusted to do this because it’s exceedingly dangerous,” Haugeberg said.

Up until this point, abortion was broadly legal and, like most obstetric and gynecological services, had largely been the domain of midwives. Male physicians were especially eager to push these women out of practice, particularly the Black women who had long been caring for their own communities. They were successful: By 1880, every state had some kind of law restricting abortion on the books, and by 1910, it was illegal in every state. Some exceptions to these laws existed, and only doctors were empowered to determine who qualified.

“I hesitate to use the term ‘reparations’ in this context, but the American Medical Association owes everyone an apology” for that history, McHugh said. Instead, “with their silence, the AMA and state chapters are endorsing the behavior of the Indiana state attorney general.”

After all, the AMA’s campaign to legitimize physicians—at the expense of pregnant people and midwives—was extraordinarily successful.

“Today, of course, physicians have so much cultural authority, that it almost makes it worse that they’re not coming to [Bernard’s] defense,” Haugeberg said.

The AMA did not respond to a request for comment.

Another powerful organization that could be better supporting Bernard and all abortion providers? The American Hospital Association.

“Now, hospitals have so much power. Yes, there are physicians and there’s the AMA, but most of those doctors work for hospitals that are so risk-averse,” Haugeberg said, pointing to media reports of hospitals denying abortion care even in emergencies, or limiting it in ways that go beyond state law.

This is actually a departure from the past. For example, Haugeberg said, in New Orleans prior to Roe v. Wade, it was widely known that doctors in the emergency room at Charity Hospital provided abortions after hours even though it was technically illegal—an unthinkable arrangement in today’s climate.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, Haugeberg added, public health physicians were powerful allies who could sway elected officials and public opinion regarding the harms of abortion bans.

“It’s notable that public health has been so gutted in the last 20 to 30 years, so we don’t have as robust a coalition of public health physicians,” she said. “And it’s not helpful that this is coming on the heels of COVID, where public health has become so politicized.”

That’s precisely why power players like the AMA should be getting involved, McHugh said. In her words, abortion care isn’t “cowboy medicine.” It’s safe, evidence-based, and necessary—something major medical societies should go to bat for.

“In some ways, I am grateful that this happened to Dr. Bernard, because I know how excellent she is. I know how cautious and compassionate she is, and I know how careful she is to comply with all of the laws,” she said, adding that the outcome of such a firestorm would likely be far worse for anyone other than a “white, picture-perfect physician.”

“On the other hand,” McHugh continued, “I am so devastated, not only for her, but for all of us, that it has come to this. I live in constant fear of something like this happening to me, and I live and work in an area where I feel constantly scrutinized and surveilled. But I believe that this work is worth those risks.”

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/2023/02/07/its-no-surprise-the-ama-is-leaving-abortion-providers-twisting-in-the-wind/

Juli Briskman, center, Algonkian District Supervisor of Loudoun County in Virginia, and Shannon Fisher, right, of the National Organization for Women listen during a news conference near the US Capitol on September 28, 2022, in Washington, DC.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday dismissed a case brought by two Democratic states that sought to have the US archivist publish and certify the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the Constitution.

The decision deals another blow to advocates’ legal efforts to get the amendment, which they say would ban discrimination on the basis of sex, recognized as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.

“The States have not clearly and indisputably shown that the Archivist had a duty to certify and publish the ERA or that Congress lacked the authority to place a time limit in the proposing clause of the ERA,” the opinion from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit states.

Illinois and Nevada in 2020 had sued the US Archivist David Ferriero, who has since retired, to compel the publication and certification of the ERA, arguing that it had met constitutional requirements.

The states appealed to the US Court of Appeals in the DC Circuit after a federal judge, an Obama appointee, dismissed the case in 2021, saying that the deadline for ratification had already passed.

Advocates for the ERA argue that the amendment would ban discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantee equality, while opponents say the ERA would undercut laws protecting women’s interests.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said in a statement that despite Tuesday’s ruling, “we will continue to fight for a published Constitution that explicitly prohibits all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sex.”

“Although the court of appeals did not direct the federal government to certify and publish the ERA, it is important to recognize what today’s opinion does not say,” the attorneys general said in the joint statement. “It does not say that the federal government cannot acknowledge the Amendment’s successful ratification, and it does not say that Congress cannot clarify that there is no deadline for ratification.”

The two Democrats called on Congress to act, noting that the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday on the ERA and SJ Resolution 4, which would remove the deadline for the ratification of the ERA. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised a vote on the joint resolution, which is slated to happen in March.

Linda Coberly, ERA Coalition board member and chair of the ERA Coalition Legal Task Force, similarly noted in a statement Tuesday that the ruling is not the end for the ERA, but instead “leaves the issue squarely in the hands of Congress.”

“We’re disappointed in the court’s ruling. But we note that the ruling does not resolve the issue of the time limit. It simply notes that the dispute about the time limit stands in the way of finding a ‘clear and indisputable right,’ as would be necessary for the specific relief sought in the lawsuit,” Coberly said in the statement.

The ERA was first introduced in 1923 before it was passed by Congress nearly 50 years later, with Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the amendment in 2020 – completing the requirement that three-fourths of states are needed to support a new amendment. Virginia had been a party to the case but its Republican attorney general, Jason Miyares, withdrew the state from the legal effort not long after taking office last year.

While backers say that the ERA had met all the constitutional requirements and should have gone into effect as of January 27, 2022, opponents – and even some legal experts who support the ERA – say the amendment is dead and has not been validly ratified.

They point to a deadline that passed decades ago, states rescinding their support, prior court decisions and a Justice Department legal opinion.

“The ruling is another heavy blow to the claim that the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment remains alive,” Douglas Johnson, who oversees the anti-abortion group National Right to Life’s opposition to the ERA, told CNN. “Over the past 41 years, ERA-lives claims have been put before 29 federal judges, and have yet to win a single vote from a single judge.”

Both sides have said the ERA would further expand abortion – a critical issue in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning federal abortion protections last summer. While proponents of the ERA say that the amendment would protect access to abortion, opponents object to the ERA, arguing that it could invalidate state restrictions.

Johnson called the joint resolution “a political gimmick” to “politically milk the gullible.”

“It won’t pass the Senate or the House, and could not resuscitate the long-expired ERA even if it did pass,” he said.

Source: https://abortion-blog.com/?s=Federal+appeals+court+dismisses+ERA+case+in+another+blow+to+legal+fight+for+supporters

(GETTY)

The case is sure to spark fears among abortion rights advocates about the future of self-managed abortion.

A South Carolina woman was arrested and charged earlier this week after she allegedly took abortion pills to end her pregnancy over a year ago.

The case dates back to October 2021, when the woman turned to a Greenville, South Carolina, hospital for medical help, according to local news outlet the State, which first reported the news. She reportedly told medical personnel that she had taken the pills, and the Greenville County Coroner’s Office ultimately reported her to the police. A warrant for her arrest was signed in 2022.

This is the latest case of a woman facing criminal consequences for self-managing her abortion, and it’s sure to spark fears among abortion rights advocates about the future of self-managed abortion. Performing your own abortion one of the few options available to the millions of abortion seekers who live in states that banned the procedure in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Typically, these abortion bans target abortion providers, not patients. 

The woman passed a fetus that was determined to be 25 weeks and four days, according to the State. She reportedly posted a $2,500 bail and was released. It is not clear why there was such a delay between the alleged incident and her arrest.

Currently, South Carolina outlaws almost all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, the South Carolina legislature is currently weighing bills that would ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy or even from the point of conception. South Carolina is also one of just a handful of states in the country where self-managing your own abortion is explicitly illegal.

Self-managing an abortion early on in pregnancy can be medically safe; the World Health Organization even has recommended protocols for doing so. There are signs that more people are now turning to self-managed abortion since the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe: At least 20,000 packets of abortion pills are estimated to have been shipped to people in the country in the six months following the decision, VICE News reported last week

Self-managing an abortion in any state can be legally risky. Between 2000 and 2020, law enforcement in 26 states investigated or arrested at least 61 people for allegedly being involved in a self-managed abortion, according to a report last year from the legal advocacy group If/When/How, which also runs a legal defense fund for people facing criminal consequences for self-managed abortion. In 45 percent of those cases, healthcare providers or social workers tipped off police. 

A spokesperson for the Greenville Police department did not immediately return a VICE News request for comment, and If/When/How was not able to comment to VICE News on this specific case.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/n7ejw8/south-carolina-woman-arrested-taking-abortion-pills

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates, from left, Jennifer Dorow, Daniel Kelly, Everett Mitchell and Janet Protasiewicz participate in a candidate forum in Madison on January 9, 2023.

What’s typically an under-the-radar judicial election in Wisconsin has turned into a high-stakes and expensive fight for control of the state’s Supreme Court – with the future of abortion, voting rights and redistricting in this battleground state hanging in the balance.

Millions of dollars in advertising have been reserved ahead of Tuesday’s primary election – the first of two rounds that will determine who replaces a retiring conservative justice, potentially shifting the balance on Wisconsin’s seven-judge high court. While the election is nonpartisan, each of the four contenders is squarely in the liberal or conservative camps.

“This seat is crucial to the balance of the court, and the court is crucial to the balance of the state,” said Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of its Elections Research Center.

In a state where Democrats control the governor’s office and Republicans hold sway in the legislature, the Wisconsin Supreme Court could become the final arbiter on an array of consequential issues, including the fate of the state’s prohibition on abortion in nearly all cases – enacted in 1849. The US Supreme Court’s decision last summer ending federal legal protections for the procedure has super-charged the rhetoric – and spending – around abortion in the Wisconsin race.

The state Supreme Court could also play a crucial role in the 2024 election. Wisconsin was a key location of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn his 2020 loss, and the refusal of a conservative justice on the state Supreme Court to go along with an effort that year to toss out ballots in two heavily Democratic counties looms large in the rivalry between the two right-leaning candidates in this year’s race.

“The Wisconsin Supreme Court race is the most important election in the country this year to set the stage for 2024,” Ben Wikler, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, told CNN.

The executive director of the Wisconsin GOP, Mark Jefferson, described the contest as one with “every significant issue of the last generation on the ballot.”

Early voting in the primary is already underway, with the final day of balloting Tuesday. The top two finishers will advance to the general election on April 4.

Abortion rights supporters are seen in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda in Madison on January 22, 2023.

Abortion rights supporters are seen in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda in Madison on January 22, 2023.Morry Gash/AP

Conservative majority on the line

Wisconsin is one of 38 states that use some form of elections to select their Supreme Court judges, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school. In many cases, those are retention elections in which previously appointed justices run unopposed.

Currently, conservatives hold a 4-3 majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and have voted in recent years to prohibit ballot drop boxes and have selected maps that cemented Republicans’ solid majority in the state legislature. This year, the departure of a conservative justice, Patience Roggensack, gives liberals an opportunity to seize the majority. The side that prevails in the election this spring is expected to control the court through the 2024 presidential election.

The candidates hoping to advance to the April general election are liberals Janet Protasiewicz, a Milwaukee County circuit court judge, and Everett Mitchell, a circuit judge in Dane County; and conservatives Daniel Kelly, a former state Supreme Court justice, and Jennifer Dorow, a judge perhaps best known for presiding over the trial of a man convicted of killing six and injuring scores more in a 2021 attack on a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Outside money has flooded the race, surpassing candidate spending. As of Thursday afternoon, orders for TV and radio ads focused on the race had hit $7 million, according to advertising tracked by Kantar Media/CMAG for the Brennan Center. Experts say the spending on the race could smash the previous record – $15.2 million spent on a 2004 Illinois Supreme Court race, according to the Brennan Center – for the most expensive campaign for a single state Supreme Court seat.

If a liberal and conservative emerge as the top two vote-getters Tuesday, this “will unquestionably be the most expensive (Supreme Court) race in Wisconsin history and quite possibly the most expensive race in the nation,” said Doug Keith, a Brennan Center counsel who works on judiciary issues.

Abortion at the forefront

Protasiewicz has led the field in fundraising and ad spending, according to the latest data. In a sign of the potency of the abortion issue in the contest, she has run television spots that put her support for abortion rights front and center.

Outside groups on both sides of the issue are participating in this race in ways that go beyond their prior involvement in similar elections.

“We just know that the outcome of this race has serious implications for abortion rights in the years to come,” Tiffany Wynn, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, told CNN. Justices on Wisconsin’s high court serve ten-year terms.

The US Supreme Court in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision last June overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent that said that the US Constitution protected abortion rights. Since then, state courts have become ground zero in the legal fights over abortions access.

“These races are more important, for obvious reasons, than ever after Dobbs,” said Kelsey Pritchard, a spokesperson for the state affairs team at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which supports anti-abortion candidates. She pointed to a recent ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court striking down a six-week abortion ban on state constitutional grounds and said that the anti-abortion movement is at risk of “mini-Roe decisions all across the country.”

Abortion rights advocates feel bolstered by last year’s midterm elections – particularly how they played out in Wisconsin, with Democratic incumbents, Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, winning reelection after campaigns highlighting their commitment to abortion rights. Anti-abortion advocates, meanwhile, recognize that their messaging fell short in the fall, and they’re adjusting their strategy for driving like-minded voters to the polls.

“We have a great base, but this far, in the majority of conversations we have had with them, many are not even aware that abortion is going to be the fundamental issue for this race,” Gracie Skogman, political action committee director for the anti-abortion group Wisconsin Right to Life, told CNN. “They’re not aware that the fate of our current law rests in the hands of the court, depending on this election. And so that’s the case we’re doing the best to make.”

While Protasiewicz has pushed an unabashed abortion rights message in her campaign, the other candidates have found other ways to explicitly or implicitly signal how they’d approach the issue.

Like Protasiewicz, Everett has been openly critical of the Dobbs ruling. He told CNN that “you can criticize that and still say, ‘I am going to be a judge who looks at the facts, looks at the law, and we go from there.’”

The two conservative candidates have vowed to honor the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision and have stressed that they would not legislate from the bench – rhetoric that has been interpreted to mean that they would let the state’s law, enacted before women in the country gained the right to vote, stand.

In a statement to CNN, the Kelly campaign singled out Protasiewicz, saying that she sees legal disputes “not as matters to be resolved according to the law, but as opportunities to enact her personal values.”

Protasiewicz defended her upfront approach to abortion, which made her a target of a complaint alleging that she violated a judicial code of conduct that bars judges from committing to how they will vote on issues that may come before them. Her team has cast the complaint as politically motivated.

“I really think the electorate deserves to know the values of the people that are running for office,” Protasiewicz told CNN. “We have this kind of fake, little smokescreen, where certain people think justices should just say that ‘I’m going to follow the law,’ and that doesn’t tell you very much about the person at all.”

Kelly, who is seeking a comeback after losing his high court seat in 2020, has been endorsed by the largest anti-abortion organizations in the state, and he recently picked up the support of the national Susan B. Anthony group. With that endorsement comes a six-figure mail, phone and text message campaign on his behalf.

A looming presidential race

This spring’s Supreme Court race is expected to set the stage for the 2024 election, as the Wisconsin high court is likely to be asked to weigh in on the ground rules for next year’s contest.

“Even a tiny shift in voting rules can affect the outcome of a presidential election,” said Wikler, the state Democratic Party chair. “So, what happens in Wisconsin on April 4 will have a direct impact on who gets sworn into the next term as president of the United States.”

Last year, the court’s conservative majority barred the use of most ballot drop boxes and prohibited local election officials from filling in missing information on absentee ballot return envelopes. Republicans see the state’s voter ID law as on the line in the race, with the state GOP’s Jefferson accusing Democrats of trying to use the courts to “strike down any ballot security measure they can.”

It is also not lost on those involved in this election that the Wisconsin Supreme Court played a pivotal role in 2020, by rebuffing Trump’s efforts to throw out ballots in Democratic-leaning counties.

“Because Wisconsin sits at the apex of a lot of national conversations – whether it’s the Senate race or presidential – I think Wisconsin, at this moment, may end up deciding bigger things like the presidential election, like it did 2020,” Everett, one of the two liberal candidates, told CNN. “I think the implications of that decision that was made in 2020 is the reason why people are paying attention at such a greater detail.”

Brian Hagedorn, the right-leaning justice who sided with the liberals in the Trump case – and who also ruled with the liberals to uphold Covid-19 restrictions – has been invoked by Kelly as a cudgel against his conservative rival Dorow. Kelly has pointed to his 2020 endorsement of Hagedorn to explain why he won’t commit to endorsing Dorow should she prevail over him Tuesday, implying that she can’t be depended on to rule conservatively from the bench.

“I think it’s just terribly presumptuous to say that I have to endorse her blind,” Kelly said of Dorow during a recent appearance on conservative Milwaukee broadcaster Mark Belling’s radio show. “And, especially after Brian Hagedorn, I’m just not doing blind endorsements.”

Dorow’s campaign did not make her available for an interview for this story.

Kelly’s role in advising the state Republican officials in the 2020 election, including as it relates to an alternate elector scheme, has recently come under scrutiny. But he has also expressed skepticism of the legal case Trump brought, and a campaign spokesman told CNN that “the views of clients are not attributable to their attorneys.”

Prominent groups that are backing Kelly tout him as the candidate with a proven record that can be trusted on the right. Among them is a group called Fair Courts America, linked to Republican megadonor and packaging magnate Richard Uihlein. State records show Uihlein donated $1.5 million to the group last month. A recent TV ad lauds Kelly’s 2020 vote on the court to rein in government health orders during the pandemic.

In a statement, Fair Courts America spokesman Dan Curry said the group is seeking to make the case that Kelly “is the clear choice … for those who want a restrained and Constitution-based Supreme Court.”

Revisiting redistricting

With the Wisconsin Supreme Court election, progressives finally see an opportunity to break up the state’s heavily gerrymandered map, which has allowed Republicans to win some 65% of state legislative seats even in years when Democrats have narrowly won statewide contests.

The conservative majority on the state’s high court approved the current legislative lines, drawn by state Republican lawmakers, after the US Supreme Court tossed out another map that would have required the addition of a new majority-Black state Assembly district.

A 2019 US Supreme Court case, known as Rucho v. Common Cause, said that the federal judiciary has no role to play in policing partisan gerrymanders – meaning that state courts are one of the few tools that redistricting reformers have to combat aggressively partisan maps.

If a liberal flips the court’s open seat, progressive groups will attempt to relitigate the issue and urge the new majority to strike down the current map, Jay Heck, the executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, told CNN.

Heck and other voter advocates objected to the court’s conservative majority deciding to use maps drawn by Republicans in 2011 as the foundation for the maps it considered following the 2020 census.

Protasiewicz, who has called the state’s legislative maps “rigged,” has also criticized the conservative justices’ “least change” approach from the 2011 maps, saying it has “no basis” in state law or the state constitution.

“They made it up to get to a preordained result,” she said.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/19/politics/wisconsin-supreme-court-election-abortion-redistricting/index.html

Abortion rights protesters chant during a Pro Choice rally at the Tucson Federal Courthouse in Tucson, Arizona, on July 4, 2022.

Twelve states led by liberal attorneys general announced Friday that they had sued the Food and Drug Administration, saying its limits on mifepristone, one of the two drugs used for medication abortion, are too strict.

The suit is a possible hedge by states waiting to see how a federal judge in Texas rules in a lawsuit brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to block the FDA’s approval of mifepristone altogether. Conflicting rulings could mean the Supreme Court is asked to sort out the issue.

“The federal government has known for years that mifepristone is safe and effective,” Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “In the wake of the Supreme Court’s radical decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the FDA is now exposing doctors, pharmacists and patients to unnecessary risk. The FDA’s excessive restrictions on this important drug have no basis in medical science.”

Mifepristone was first approved in 2000 and medication abortion accounts for more than half of the abortions in the US. It is the first drug, followed by misoprostol, in the medication abortion regimen. Patients and providers must sign agreements stating the drug will be used to end a pregnancy, and pharmacies must have special certification.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Washington state. The states in the lawsuit are: Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Final brief filed in Texas lawsuit

A lawsuit seeking to block the use of medication abortion nationwide could receive an initial decision at any moment, after the plaintiffs in the case submitted to the court on Friday their final brief on the challenge.

The lawsuit, filed in November by anti-abortion advocates against FDA, challenges the two-decade-old approval of mifepristone, the first drug in the medication abortion process.

A decision by US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, in favor of the plaintiffs could have far-reaching consequences since medication abortion now makes up a majority of abortions obtained in the US.

In the filing submitted Friday, the anti-abortion advocates rehashed many of the arguments they made in earlier briefs. Its submission means that Kacsmaryk could soon rule on a motion by the plaintiffs to temporarily block use of the medication. The judge had previously said that once the February 24 filing deadline ended, “briefing will then be closed on the matter, absent any ‘exceptional or extraordinary circumstances.’”

Kacsmaryk, however, could also call for a hearing, or ask for additional responses.

The defendants in the case – the FDA and Danco, which makes mifepristone – argued in separate briefs to the court that a decision against the drug’s approval would be unprecedented and would shutter the drugmaker’s business.

Reproductive rights advocates have stressed that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would be devastating, with NARAL Pro-Choice America saying in a statement that if the drug is yanked from the market, “64.5 million women of reproductive age in the US would lose access to medication abortion care, an exponential increase in harm overnight.”

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/24/politics/mifepristone-abortion-lawsuit-blue-states-texas/index.html

MIFEPRISTONE (MIFEPREX) AND MISOPROSTOL, THE TWO DRUGS USED IN A MEDICATION ABORTION, ARE SEEN AT THE WOMEN’S REPRODUCTIVE CLINIC, WHICH PROVIDES LEGAL MEDICATION ABORTION SERVICES, IN SANTA TERESA, NEW MEXICO, ON JUNE 17, 2022.(ROBYN BECK/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

One of the most common and safe abortion drugscould be banned nationwide this week—regardless of a state’s abortion restrictions.

One of the most common and safe abortion drugs could be banned nationwide as soon as Friday, thanks to a lawsuit that could impact every state in the country—regardless of that state’s abortion restrictions.

Abortion rights supporters and foes alike are bracing for a ruling in a lawsuit, filed late last year, that accused the Food and Drug Administration of overstepping its authority when it approved the use of the drug mifepristone for abortions. Although the lawsuit was initially regarded as something of a longshot legal oddity among abortion rights activists, that attitude quickly changed once people realized that the suit was sure to be overseen by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump and is widely known for his conservative views on abortion.

“It’s not a good claim, and yet it will probably be accepted,” Joanna Grossman, a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, told VICE News earlier this month

“People are increasingly worried not because the legal theory started to make more sense when they thought about it. They got increasingly worried because they realized it was going to a judge who was probably going to rule in a way that was purely ideological and not related to the law,” said Grossman, who described Kacsmaryk as “loose cannon.”

In early February, Kacsmaryk asked for more briefing from parties in the case on or before February 24, setting up the possibility that he will implement a nationwide injunction on mifepristone as soon as this Friday. 

If he decides to yank mifepristone off the market, the ruling would mark the first time that a court has overruled the FDA’s new drug approval process “unilaterally and over the FDA’s objection,” according to a draft of an article released earlier this month by law professors David S. Cohen, Greer Donley, and Rachel Rebouché. Nevertheless, 22 Republican attorneys general have filed a brief affirming their support for the lawsuit. 

First approved in 2000, mifepristone has become one of the most-studied drugs on the market, the law professors said. Typically used in the United States along with the drug misoprostol to induce medication abortions, as well as to manage miscarriages, it’s 18 times safer than childbirth.

If mifepristone is banned, several abortion providers have said that they plan to change to performing misoprostol-only abortions. In a press call earlier this month, Ashley Brink, director of the Wichita, Kansas-based abortion clinic Trust Women, told reporters that Trust Women would be making the switch. 

“However, not every clinic may be able to pivot as quickly to a miso-only protocol,” Brink said on a press call. “This will impact their capacity if they are only able to provide abortion care via procedure,” or surgical abortions.

While a nationwide wide ban on mifepristone will certainly cut off legal sources of the drug, it will not necessarily touch efforts to ship mifepristone for use in self-managed abortions. In the months after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last June, the number of Americans asking for help ending their pregnancies at home nearly tripled, according to a November study of Aid Access, an organization that mails abortion-inducing pills to Americans—including those in states where abortion is banned. 

Although the lawsuit primarily focuses on the FDA and its approval of mifepristone, it also argues that the Comstock Act, a 19th-century anti-obscenity law that has long lain dormant, should be used to ban the mailing of all abortion-related materials—including pills. Anti-abortion activists across the country have increasingly started to point to the Comstock Act in their efforts to block access to abortion pills. After Walgreens and CVS said they would dispense mifepristone to people with prescriptions, 20 Republican attorney generals sent the pharmacy chains a letter suggesting that they would go after them with the Comstock Act.

Kacsmaryk doesn’t need to rule on the Comstock Act to ban abortion pills nationwide, but if he does touch that argument, the U.S. Postal Service may struggle to enforce it. A 2018 report from the Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General revealed that the Postal Service has long been drug dealers’ mail service of choice: In 104 “drug product sites” surveyed by the office, 92 percent said that they used the Postal Service. Of those, 41 percent were apparently so confident that their illegal wares would remain undetected by the Postal Service that they “offered free, partial, or full reshipment if the package did not arrive to the buyer’s address because it was confiscated, stolen, or lost,” according to the report.

“A cocaine trafficker claimed to have used the Postal Service to successfully distribute nearly 4,000 shipments, stating that they had a 100 percent delivery success rate,” the report added. 

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjkgkd/us-abortion-pill-ban-lawsuit

CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Image

The US Defense Department released a series of new policies on Thursday to provide additional support to service members and dependents who must travel out of state to receive an abortion, including allowing up to three weeks of administrative leave.

“This policy reflects our continued commitment to taking care of our people and ensuring that the entire force remains ready and resilient,” Gilbert Cisneros, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said in a memo released Thursday.

The military has been adjusting to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June which overturned protections previously established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. The new ruling set off what are called “trigger laws” in roughly a dozen states, which were designed to go into effect almost immediately after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Many of the most restrictive states – including Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana – are home to major military installations. There were immediately concerns over how service members and their families, who often do not get to choose which installation and in which state they get to live, would navigate the changes.

Indeed, a Pentagon press release on Thursday accompanying the new policies says that service members and their families “do not control where they are stationed, and due to the nature of military service, are frequently required to travel or move to meet operational requirements.”

“The efforts taken by the Department today will not only ensure that service members and their families are afforded time and flexibility to make private health care decisions, but will also ensure service members are able to access non-covered reproductive health care regardless of where they are stationed,” the release said.

The policy, which will go into effect by March 18, states that service members will have access to “lawfully available non-covered reproductive health care regardless of where they are stationed,” and that they will be able to request an administrative absence without being charged leave to access that care. Service members can be granted an administrative absence of up to three weeks.

It also “standardizes and extends” the timeline in which service members have to inform their commanders of a pregnancy to 20 weeks.

The 21 days of administrative absence also applies to other non-covered reproductive health care, including in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI).

The latest policies follow the release of an overarching framework on measures to protect service members’ rights and access to abortion last fall, though officials said they were still working through the details. The measures made an effort to provide travel and transportation allowances for service members or military family members who are traveling out of state to receive an abortion, and protect military medical providers from civil or criminal lawsuits if they perform a protected abortion.

“Our greatest strength is our people,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo in October. “There is no higher priority than taking care of our people, and ensuring their health and well-being.”

Cisneros said in a memo last year that the Dobbs ruling would have “significant implications” for service members and their families, “as well as the readiness of the force.” Cisneros also emphasized in his memo that the Supreme Court’s ruling “does not prohibit the Department from continuing to perform covered abortions, consistent with federal law.”

Thursday’s release says that travel and transportation allowances can be authorized for service members and their families who have to travel for non-covered reproductive health care.

Covered abortions include those performed as a result of rape or incest, and when the mother’s life is at risk, according to the Hyde Amendment, a 1976-era ruling that defined when federal funding could be used for abortions.

The new policy grants service members administrative absence in order to accompany a dual-military spouse or dependent to access a non-covered abortion. It also emphasizes that commanders “are expected to display objectivity, compassion, and discretion when addressing all health care matters, including reproductive health care matters,” and act “promptly and with appropriate discretion.”

In addition, the new policy forbids commanders from requiring subordinates to comply with additional requirements, such as religious consultations, medical testing, or other forms of counseling.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/16/politics/pentagon-abortion-policy-reproductive-rights/index.html