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Actor shares personal story as she hits out at Texas abortion law ban

Actor Uma Thurman has hit out against Texas’ abortion laws in a new op-ed column forThe Washington Post.

The Texas law was passed by the state legislature in May and bans abortions when foetal cardiac activity is detected – long before many women are even aware that they’re pregnant. The legislation is one of the most stringent abortion laws in the US.

The Pulp Fiction star said that she has followed the implementation of the law “with great sadness and something akin to horror” before sharing her own experiences “in the hope of drawing the flames of controversy away from the vulnerable women on whom this law will have an immediate effect.”

Thurman goes on to explain that as a teenager, she was impregnated by “a much older man” while away from home and acting in Europe.

She writes: “I started my acting career at 15, working in an environment where I was often the only kid in the room. In my late teens, I was accidentally impregnated by a much older man. I was living out of a suitcase in Europe, far from my family, and about to start a job. I struggled to figure out what to do. I wanted to keep the baby, but how?”

Thurman goes on to explain how she sought advice and help from her family. “We decided as a family that I couldn’t go through with the pregnancy, and agreed that termination was the right choice. My heart was broken nonetheless.

“The abortion I had as a teenager was the hardest decision of my life, one that caused me anguish then and that saddens me even now, but it was the path to the life full of joy and love that I have experienced. Choosing not to keep that early pregnancy allowed me to grow up and become the mother I wanted and needed to be.”

Speaking about the Texas abortion ban, Thurman calls it “a human rights crisis”.

She continues: “The Texas abortion law was allowed to take effect without argument by the Supreme Court, which, due in no small part to its lack of ideological diversity, is a staging ground for a human rights crisis for American women. This law is yet another discriminatory tool against those who are economically disadvantaged, and often, indeed, against their partners. Women and children of wealthy families retain all the choices in the world, and face little risk.

“I am grief-stricken, as well, that the law pits citizen against citizen, creating new vigilantes who will prey on these disadvantaged women, denying them the choice not to have children they are not equipped to care for, or extinguishing their hopes for the future family they might choose.”

In Texas, abortion providers are prohibited from performing a procedure if they can detect foetal heart tones, something the ban describes as “cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac”. The law allows no exceptions for rape or incest.

The law is now in effect but is being challenged in court.

Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/uma-thurman-texas-abortion-law-b1924498.html?utm_content=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR3WPdzlwDSDUfKs5YhlVm_KjsfgiQ4n3hz8eb3Gy3xWatQU56z5fwlhvcA#Echobox=1632263662

The day was jampacked at a Planned Parenthood clinic in southern Illinois when a woman who had just driven over 12 hours from Louisiana for an abortion procedure erupted into tears during her health intake.

Kawanna Shannon, the surgical services director at the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, dropped her tasks and led the woman into a private room to talk. The woman said she was panicking because she had used her rent money to pay for child care for her two kids, rent a car, buy gas and drive to the clinic in Fairview Heights.

The days leading up to and after Texas’ restrictive abortion law went into effect, clinics in surrounding states became overbooked, diverting patients further away, including this patient who only had one extra day off work to get the procedure done, Shannon said. The woman’s only option was Illinois, but it cost her her rent, she said.

Image: Kawanna Shannon (Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood)
Image: Kawanna Shannon (Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood)

“No one is thinking about these hardships when they put these bans on. People have other children, people have health issues, people have all types of things and they are spending every dime just to go somewhere else because this basic need isn’t accessible in their own state,” Shannon said. “But there are people fighting for them, no matter what laws are being passed or what the restrictions are, and we are doing everything we can to be able to service these patients. They need to know that we’re going to continue to fight for them.”

The Illinois clinic, emblematic of a state that has deemed itself a safe haven for abortion care, is feeling the reverberations of the Texas law in the form of dozens of women forced to travel hundreds of miles just to secure an appointment. Despite facing its own challenges, including staff shortages and similar legislation up for consideration across the border in Missouri, the Illinois clinic said it is fully prepared to welcome any woman who needs the medical care.

The clinic has long been preparing for what it calls “the writing on the wall,” according to Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, which oversees the Fairview Heights clinic. “This is the reality that we have been seeing for a long time, and we’ve been preparing for a post-Roe world with a plan to ensure abortion services remain accessible with this clinic.”

The Texas law bans abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant, without any exceptions for rape and incest.

Rodriguez said the past month has shown that access is not just a Texas problem because when it is lost in one state, that creates a ripple effect as far out as Fairview Heights, where appointment times are being quickly filled.

Over the last week, the clinic has seen patients from Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.

“No one will be turned away,” Rodriguez stated.

Planned Parenthood and Hope Clinic invested $10 million into their clinics, which sit on the southwest border of the state just 15 minutes from St. Louis, and have been building clinical capacity and infrastructure in preparation for abortion bans and restrictions in neighboring states.

Illinois stands as a lone refuge in the Midwest giving unencumbered access to abortion services with the Reproductive Health Act, which also ensures access to pregnancy care and birth control.

Sponsors of the act emphasized in legislative sessions the importance of its protections should the landmark Roe v. Wade decision be overturned. The Supreme Court said in May that it would consider the legality of Mississippi’s abortion ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy in its upcoming fall term.

The law will protect the right to choose regardless of what happens with Roe v. Wade, said Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “As other states put more barriers into place for people to access this health care, we know that patients will turn to Illinois and we could see tens of thousands of patients if other states follow Texas’ example or if the Supreme court further erodes abortion protection in their upcoming case.”

Inside the busy clinic, Dr. Colleen McNicholas, one of six physicians who work at the facility, has spent a fair share of days staying late to care for patients, but more often than not that goes beyond just medical care, she said.

After completing a late procedure for a patient last week, she had to help the woman, who drove over 300 miles from Tennessee, figure out how to get her car fixed. With everything being closed after hours, McNicholas then needed to help the patient get a hotel room for the night while waiting for a place to open to work on her car. It was an additional financial burden this patient wasn’t prepared for, she said.

Image: Dr. Colleen McNicholas (Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood)
Image: Dr. Colleen McNicholas (Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood)

Most of these patients are existing in the intersections of marginalization with financial insecurity and housing insecurity, she said. Life in and of itself is exhausting for them and then having to jump through more hoops to be able to access care can be a really oppressive burden, she said.

Half of all women in the U.S. who got an abortion in 2014 lived in poverty, according to a 2016 study by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group.

Kencia Page is the call center director for the clinic in Fairview Heights, which fields more than 350 calls a day. Many from out-of-state patients, she said, especially now with Texas stressing the entire system of abortion providers.

“Our call center has received calls from patients in Texas frantic about the Texas abortion ban and desperate to figure out their options,” she said. “These patients are overwhelmed. We received a call from one Texas patient who did not know how they would be able to access abortion because they did not have any family support or any money to pay for travel and lodging to access abortion out of state.

Page said it’s “heartbreaking” to hear stories like this, but it puts into perspective the importance of the work they do and that they will have to continue on if other states follow suit.

But while the clinic is handling the aftermath of Texas, across the border, Missouri is another battleground for reproductive rights. An eight-week ban enacted by that state will be taken up by a full appellate court next week. If the law passes, access will be siphoned off in another state leading more patients potentially to Fairview Heights.

Despite bracing for an influx of patients, the clinic is also dealing with its own struggles, including staff shortages due to the pandemic which has led to cross training, creative scheduling, and sometimes longer hours.

Carrying the weight of the patient’s struggles also weighs heavily on the staff, McNicholas said.

“It isn’t just that we’re there to take care of patients’ procedural needs. We are oftentimes with them, holding their hand, trying to figure out how to help them manage the financial insecurities of those 72 hours,” she said. “There’s a number of things that we certainly will have to navigate, and staff morale and meeting the complex needs of the patients are one of the challenges.”

Source: https://news.yahoo.com/weve-preparing-post-roe-world-083111341.html

Gov. Kristi Noem announced that she had asked a legal adviser, who she calls her office’s “unborn child advocate,” to look for ways to make South Dakota’s abortion laws even more strict.
 Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Why did Kristi Noem sign an executive order prohibiting telemedicine abortion if South Dakota already prohibits telemedicine abortion? Political optics.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed an executive order last Tuesday banning telemedicine abortion, even though South Dakota law already effectively bans telemedicine abortion.

“[The Biden Administration is] working right now to make it easier to end the life of an unborn child via telemedicine abortion. That is not going to happen in South Dakota,” the Republican governor said in a statement.

Noem’s executive order:

  • requires medication abortion be prescribed by a physician licensed in South Dakota after an in-person examination
  • makes it illegal to deliver abortion pills via courier, telemedicine, or mail
  • prohibits medication abortion from being dispensed at schools or on state grounds
  • orders the health department to collect more data on the incidence of medication abortion in the state

Let’s be clear about something: Medication abortion using mifepristone and misoprostol is a common and safe way to terminate a pregnancy in the first trimester. (A similar protocol is also commonly used for miscarriage management.) Telemedicine offers increased abortion access to pregnant people, particularly those living in abortion deserts.

Medication abortion is the future, and restricting medication abortion is—like all abortion restrictions—an attack on access for the most marginalized people.

Access to abortion by mail became even more critical during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and in April the Biden administration lifted federal restrictions on providing abortion medication by mail for the duration of the public health crisis.

The thing with Noem’s order, though, is that it’s mostly for political optics.

South Dakota law already effectively blocks the use of telemedicine for abortion care, as Susan Rinkunas wrote for Rewire News Group last December:

The state requires patients to undergo counseling 72 hours before their procedure, not including weekends and holidays—the most restrictive waiting period in the country. That counseling must be done in person, which effectively bans prescribing abortion medication via telemedicine, and the physician providing the abortion, not a nurse or another staffer, must do the state-mandated counseling.

Days before issuing the executive order, Noem announced on Twitter that she had asked a legal adviser (who she calls her office’s “unborn child advocate”) to look for ways to make South Dakota’s abortion laws even more strict, in the wake of the Supreme Court allowing a six-week abortion ban to go into effect in Texas.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/09/13/kristi-noem-bans-telemedicine-abortion-in-south-dakota-again/

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

Two weeks ago, Texas passed a law banning access to abortion, with the Supreme Court’s failure to block the legislation signaling a dark future for Roe v Wade.

On social media, people were quick to respond with outrage and dismay. The hashtags #TexasAbortionLaw, #WomensRightsAreHumanRights and #AbortionIsHealthcare were all trending on Twitter in the hours and days following the legislation.

One viral thread, retweeted over 29K times at the time this article was written, gave a number of powerful examples of people (presumably patients of the original poster’s) who had sought abortions.  The thread also explained their justifications for doing so:

“Tonight I’m thinking about Jill, whose partner removed condoms during sex, flushed her birth control pills down the toilet, and yanked out her IUD. Eight and a half weeks.

“Tonight I’m thinking about Chelsea, impregnated by an abusive husband she managed to escape from only days ago. Fifteen weeks.

“Tonight I’m thinking about Kate, who was raped in her group home.  Eleven weeks.”

The thread goes on to tell still more stories of pregnant people who sought abortions: a Hmong woman who had never heard of birth control or seen a doctor before she was eight weeks pregnant. A trans man whose pregnancy was causing overwhelming feelings of gender dysphoria. A woman who had been trying to get pregnant for over a decade only to conceive five fetuses at once, making hers an extraordinarily high-risk pregnancy. 

These are all moving, compelling stories. I myself retweeted this thread, because it demonstrates quite powerfully that abortion is healthcare and a human right, one which must be accessible to all people regardless of socioeconomic status, race, location or any other factor. 

Yet, what is missing in the examples I shared above, and what is all too often missing in discourse about reproductive rights in general, are the more “average” abortion stories, those in which women tell of their choices to exercise reproductive rights not because their own life or the life of their fetus was in grave danger; not because they were raped or impregnated against their will; not because they had been consistently denied access to birth control; but simply because right now was not the right time.  

By placing emphasis on the most dire circumstances causing women to seek abortions—rape, incest, high-risk pregnancies, abusive partners—we quite effectively highlight the violence and abuse that so many women encounter in this country. But we also risk diminishing a simpler truth: Women do not need to find themselves in violent or threatening circumstances such as these in order to exercise their right to terminate a pregnancy. 

Perhaps more importantly, there is no need for people to share their reasons for making this personal healthcare decision at all. When we provide abortion opponents with justifications or explanations for why women seek abortions, we reinforce the stigmatization of having an abortion and of speaking publicly about it—both of which can further limit people’s ability to access reproductive rights in turn.


Women do not need to find themselves in violent or threatening circumstances in order to exercise their right to terminate a pregnancy. 


It is undeniable, and frightening, and infuriating that an enormous number of women seek abortions because they were raped, many while they were underage, many by men in their own families. It is also undeniable that many seek abortions because they lack access to birth control, prenatal care and healthcare more generally. Still more women seek abortions because they fear the alarmingly high maternity and infant mortality rates in this country, which are among the most abysmal in the developed world, and are disproportionately higher among women of color. But although traumatic and unjust circumstances like rape, abuse, or a higher likelihood of maternal mortality are certainly powerful examples of why one might get an abortion, these are not the only reasons to exercise that right. 

It has been well-documented that, overall, women continue to bear more of the burden of having and raising children and maintaining households than do men. There is arguably no such thing as an equal partnership in parenting, starting with the simple fact that a cis man has no role in gestation, which consumes a woman’s body entirely for nine months, and changes it permanently thereafter. Evidence has also shown that mothers do more of the “invisible labor” of childrearing than do fathers, and sacrifice more professionally, even in the most seemingly equal of partnerships. 

Women need reproductive rights because we are raped, and sexually assaulted and because men do things to us without our consent.  We need reproductive rights because things can and do go terribly wrong during sex and pregnancies.

But we also need reproductive rights because we still do not live in a world with gender equality, and birthing and raising children continues to be a huge contributing factor to this inequity. For these reasons alone, everyone deserves the right to choose if a pregnancy is not right for her right now. 

Everyone also deserves to exercise her right to abortion with privacy and dignity, free from stigmatization. This starts with recognizing that one needn’t ever offer an explanation or justification for seeking an abortion: What a woman does with her body is always solely her business.

Source: https://msmagazine.com/2021/09/13/why-do-people-get-abortions/?fbclid=IwAR1GTByKbNUxYHsJvbg5VQM_xI0nOTMzpkn_HuCX3-b9xGcBLf7wUqh-IAs

We can care about both fighting for folks to be able to get an abortion and the quality of the experience.
 Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

Being an abortion counselor has taught me the importance of having more candid conversations about abortion that center bodies and lived experiences.

Abortion access has multiple dimensions.

There’s the legal right to an abortion, but that doesn’t make it accessible—since January, 16 states have enacted a record-breaking 83 abortion restrictions, including the extreme abortion ban that went into effect in Texas at the beginning of this month.

Then there’s financial accessibility, which is hampered by the Hyde Amendment preventing federal funds like Medicaid from paying for abortion.

But what does the language of access have to do with people’s actual abortion experiences, or what it feels like to have your cervix dilated or to pass the pregnancy?

I have spent six years working as an abortion counselor, offering financial, logistical, and emotional support to clients. From 2017-2018, I interviewed 27 people from around the country about their abortion experiences. They described their abortions step by step, and I asked them what they were thinking, feeling, and physically experiencing at every stage of the process. They told me what surprised them and what made them feel comfortable. Some told me about the disappointment or frustration they felt when their experiences with abortion differed from their expectations.

From my work and my interviews, I’ve concluded that providing better support starts with having more candid conversations about abortion that center bodies and lived experiences. The way we talk about abortion has consequences.

What kinds of abortions do people want? And where do these ideas come from?

Two-thirds of my respondents describe abortion as “normal.” For many, that means they desired a clinical and emotionally detached experience. They echo the words I’ve heard so often in the pro-choice movement: that abortion is health care and that only its stigma separates abortion from other medical procedures. Normalizing abortion is a strategy to increase legal access by decreasing stigma; for many patients, that rhetoric seems to have influenced the way they understand their own abortions.

Sam, a 25-year-old artist and doula, said normalizing the telling of their story is what resonates with their abortion experience. “My abortion was a normal part of my life, and I experienced this thing that a lot of people experience,” they said. (Respondents’ names are pseudonyms to protect their privacy.)

The other word that kept coming up was “natural.” That’s how over a third of folks described their experiences, particularly with medication abortion, contrasting it to procedural abortions that involve dilation and aspiration. “It seemed less invasive,” Hermione, 27, said, “and the pills didn’t seem like such a big deal.” Some people compare their medication abortions to a miscarriage or a heavy period.

While medication abortion is safe and increasingly common, it is not inherently more natural than any other abortion method. The allure of a “natural” abortion, though, seems to follow the logic of the “natural childbirth” movement, which encourages pregnant people to follow their natural instincts and to take responsibility for their birth (or in this case, their abortion).

Actual abortion experiences vary

Whereas the concept of a “normal” or “natural” abortion might seem one-size-fits-all, actual experiences are far more varied. For example, like many of my survey participants, RJ, 33, worried about whether her medication abortion was complete after bleeding lasted for a month afterward. “I would call my doctor,” she said, “and be like, ‘Is this normal?’”

While technically no longer pregnant, some people feel their abortion “isn’t over” until their next period. I’d never considered that an abortion could be understood as lasting an entire month, and neither had these respondents. When we fail to discuss this variation, we leave people unequipped to navigate the nuances of their own experience.

Even if someone wants a “normal” or “natural” abortion, their experience might not meet those expectations. Holly, for instance, had planned to set up a mini-altar to commemorate her medication abortion. “But I was just writhing on the floor all day, not paying attention to my crystals or my tea,” she said. “It’s humbling. I had all these rituals, but the day of … none of that shit mattered.”

Racial and class hierarchies can make it even more difficult for a patient to achieve their desired abortion. In terms of medication abortions, not all people have the ability to control their environment. For example, I have worked with clients who cannot have a medication abortion because they lack stable housing or a private place to pass the pregnancy.

Meanwhile, Valerie, 27, struggled to have the “normal” abortion she desired, given the racism she encountered at the clinic. She recalls being shuffled from room to room without explanation, along with the other Black women being seen that day. “Whenever I tell this story,” she said, “I say that we were herded like cows.”

Valerie’s experience sharply differs from many white participants who describe positive encounters with clinical staff. One white participant, Julie, said there was a person whose job at the clinic was to “hold [her] hand and look into [her] eyes, which was comforting.”

How to better support abortion patients

Practical support: Practical supports, including rides to and from the clinic, doula services, and child care, give a patient more control over their environment, thus enabling them to create the kind of abortion experience they desire. Many abortion funds already strive to provide practical support, in addition to financial support, for their clients.

Remember that someone might need different kinds of support at different stages of the abortion process. For example, Sandy, 30, wanted company while acquiring the medication but preferred solitude when passing the pregnancy.

Comprehensive options counseling: When discussing the differences between various abortion options, counselors can unintentionally shape their clients’ expectations. In my work as an abortion counselor, I tell clients that some people feel comfortable having a doctor by their side, while others feel that a medication abortion is more natural. But I also try to point out concrete differences: for example, that vacuum aspiration takes less time and has a faster recovery period, or that medication abortion can occur at home or at another preferred location.

This doesn’t mean counselors need to remove words like “natural” from their vocabulary. But they should put it into context. I might say that “some people prefer the medication abortion because it feels more natural, but it’s different for everybody.”

Body talk: Candid conversations about abortion should also occur outside the clinic. Although these discussions might be perceived as graphic and thus harmful to abortion’s public image, body talk can help people navigate their own abortions. So we should avoid euphemism and explain what the process of vacuum aspiration and medication abortion look and feel like. If someone asks, we can talk about pain, cramps, and discomfort. And we should create space for people—across the political spectrum—who do feel attached to their pregnancy. After all, not everybody describes or experiences their abortion in clinical terms.

Abortion storytelling groups such as We Testify and Abortion Out Loud (formerly the 1 in 3 Campaign) have already begun to disrupt dominant abortion discourses by elevating lived experiences. But we need more shared language to discuss abortion, so that people can articulate their varied needs and receive the support they deserve.

So yes, we’re fighting for folks to be able to get an abortion. But the quality of your abortion experience also matters. We can care about both.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/09/17/fighting-for-more-than-access-why-the-quality-of-your-abortion-matters/

PLANNED PARENTHOOD

“I FELT NO SHAME THEN. I FELT NO SHAME ABOUT MY STANCE PRIOR TO MY ABORTION AND I STILL FEEL NO SHAME.”

I was 22 when I had my abortion. That was about seven years ago in 2014. At the time I was not on birth control. I hadn’t found a proper contraceptive that really worked for me, that I responded well to, so I was doing calendar tracking, counting the days — 31 days, 27 days — and giving myself the seven-day grace period of when I would start my period. I soon realized that I was actually on day 10, and at first I thought, “Okay. I’m probably stressed out.” I was in college at the time. “I’ll go get a pregnancy test. It will be negative, and I’ll just get my period the next day.” A couple years prior, I missed a period due to stress, which I didn’t even realize was an actual thing. That’s essentially what I attested that to. But I got my results back and they were positive. 

I wouldn’t say that I was scared or alarmed. I knew from a very early age that if I found myself with an unwanted pregnancy that I would get an abortion. I grew up in a very political household. I grew up where there’s a lot of political discussion and abortion is something that was brought up in politics throughout my younger years. I was lucky enough to have parents that made sure that I was educated about certain things, whether or not I needed to be educated about them at the time, so that when the time came, I wouldn’t be shuffling through what it is I was going to do. So when I saw that positive, it was just very much like,  “We don’t have time for emotions. We don’t have time to sit and explain anything.” There wasn’t some sort of thought process of should I? Should I not? No, it was, “Okay, I know what I want, and we just have to figure out how we’re going to make that happen.” 

I was lucky enough to have an OB/GYN who was a family friend. I called her and she directed me to go to Planned Parenthood, and I luckily was able to get the abortion that day. If I were to go today, I would have to wait 48 hours because of the Amendment 1 decision [in Tennessee that requires a 48-hour waiting period]. The minute that I took the first pill, it was just a sense of relief. I did not feel any shame then. I felt no shame about my stance prior to my abortion and I still feel no shame. 
Shortly after I had my abortion, as I was very much involved in politics, I signed up to do Tennessee Stories Project, which is storytelling to de-stigmatize abortion. I really, at the time, thought that my story was irrelevant. Little did I realize, I was allowing the stigma of abortion to trickle its way into my thought process. It wasn’t until I did my first panel at Vanderbilt University with about five or six other people who told their abortion stories that I realized how different each and every one was. I realized that my story was relevant because there’s a percentage of people out there who don’t struggle with the decision. And there are people who do. Each and every one is perfectly acceptable and fine and doesn’t deserve any sort of judgment.

I realized that there is a purpose for me sharing this because I am okay. I didn’t struggle with it. I’m fine, and I’m doing great. And for me, I think that is very significant. I don’t think you always have to go through something bad or horrible or traumatic in order for me to justify why I need it, let alone me even having to tell you why I needed it, because it’s really no one else’s business why I needed to get an abortion.  


I think it is important to acknowledge just at the end of the day that people have to be able to make the best decisions that they can for themselves. I think that applies not only to someone being able to have bodily autonomy and decide whether or not they want to have an abortion but also to every single action of life. And so, I think there’s no reason why that should not also be understood and acknowledged and respected when it comes to this particular decision as well.

With what’s going on in Texas — because it’s not just the six weeks ban, but it’s also this $10,000 reward or more for people being able to report suspicion — I think it’s furthering this stigma. It’s bringing other people into business that they have no need to be in at the end of the day. One of the things I always like to compare and give an analogy to, in regards to this issue in particular, is if somebody has a house, you have a home or a place that you live, that is your domain, that’s your Mecca. Nobody, at least no one logical, would probably want someone else coming in, that doesn’t reside there, and telling them how they should run their house. I feel like it’s the exact same thing when it comes to our bodies. You don’t own this, you don’t pay rent here, you can’t sit here and come here and tell me how I need to run my household.  


Most importantly, if there are more states that end up being very restricted when it comes to abortion rights, the impact that it’s going to have on women of color is significantly different than the impact on women that are white. African Americans, we make up 13% of the country, but we occupy only two to four percent of the wealth. When it comes to the means, as we can reflect back historically before Roe v. Wade, African American women, women of color, are going to have a hard time trying to access their right to be able to have an abortion. That’s an important point to make, because I do think in feminism today it’s very much structured around white feminism. We have to also understand that Black feminism is the biggest thing at risk when we talk about these issues. 

I want people to understand, hopefully at some point in their life, if enough of us are coming out and telling our story, not only will they feel more comfortable, but those who have a totally different opinion or who are against abortion can maybe realize that there are more people around you that you probably care about and love who actually may have gone through this than what you realize. Maybe it will get them to have a different perspective. Hopefully. 

Source: https://www.essence.com/fashion/essence-fashion-house/essence-fashion-house-2021-announcement/

The abortion pill misoprostol must be prescribed by a doctor in Texas, but it's available over the counter at a pharmacy in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico.
The abortion pill misoprostol must be prescribed by a doctor in Texas, but it’s available over the counter at a pharmacy in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico.
(Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

Growing up, one of the first things I learned about sex was to always be prepared. As a young man coming of age in the 1980s, that meant having a condom in my pocket.

There are many more options for preventing pregnancy and infections today: new hormonal birth control methods, external and internal condoms, dental dams, emergency contraception and even medication that reduces one’s risk of contracting HIV, called PrEP.

As threats to legal abortion mount and access to abortion care becomes more limited in parts of the country, there’s another option we should be adding to the list: abortion pills in advance of pregnancy.

The idea is simple: Give women abortion pills before they need them — “advance provision,” as it’s known — so that they can take them as soon as they discover a pregnancy. Women could get the pills from their gynecologist at the time of their annual exam, say, or the pills could be made available online.

As a physician, I have few medical concerns about handing out abortion pills in advance.

There’s at least one significant obstacle, however. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved abortion pills for advance provision. The agency doesn’t even allow clinicians to prescribe mifepristone, one of the two drugs that make up medication abortion, for pick-up at a pharmacy.

These restrictions are out of touch with patient preferences and medically unnecessary. They also limit women’s access to much-needed care.

According to new research I conducted with several colleagues, women in the United States are interested in having easier access to abortion pills.

In our nationally representative survey of more than 7,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49, nearly half (49%) supported one of three access models for obtaining abortion pills, and 30% said they were personally interested in one of the three models.

On advance provision specifically, 44% of respondents supported the model and 22% said they were personally interested. Of the 78% of women who said they supported abortion rights, 57% were in favor of advance provision of abortion pills.

In the survey, women noted several advantages to advance provision. It’s more private and convenient, for instance, and it would allow them to access abortion care earlier in their pregnancy. They also noted disadvantages: concerns about safety, patients taking the pills incorrectly, and the fact that they would be having an abortion without seeing a clinician.

As a physician, I have few medical concerns about handing out abortion pills in advance. Patients could be screened ahead of time for some of the rare conditions that might make it less safe to take the pills.

Patients with regular periods who miss one could take the pills as soon as they have a positive pregnancy test. Those with irregular periods, or who were unsure of how far along the pregnancy was, would need to be evaluated first, since medication abortion is recommended only up until 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Before it became available over the counter, emergency contraception, which prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex, was commonly prescribed or handed out by clinicians to patients who might need it in the future.

Even now, we commonly prescribe Ella, an emergency contraceptive pill that still requires a prescription, in advance. In many parts of the world, emergency contraceptive and abortion pills are already available in pharmacies without a prescription. Our research in Peru, where abortion is legally restricted, found that women were able to use abortion pills safely and effectively on their own with minimal involvement of a clinician.

For advance provision of abortion pills to be scaled, we do need more research demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of the strategy. Our research program plans to start such a study next year.

Just as advance provision helped move emergency contraception toward eventual approval for over-the-counter sale, evidence about how women use abortion pills when they obtain them in advance could strengthen the case for making them available without a prescription.

But there are some other potential obstacles, including cost. Mifepristone, the first of two drugs that are used to induce an early abortion, has a price tag of about $70. (The second drug, misoprostol, costs about $5.)

Unless the price of mifepristone is reduced or medical insurance covers the pill, it is unlikely that advance provision of abortion pills would be widely adopted. Given that the majority of people seeking abortion have low incomes, concerns about cost deserve careful consideration.

Some people in the U.S. are already taking matters into their own hands and looking for websites that will help them access the drugs, which may put them at legal risk.

As health professionals, we have a responsibility to find novel strategies to better meet the needs of our patients. Especially now, this includes advance provision of abortion pills.

Source: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-grossman-abortion-pills-20181121-story.html

Our states have diverse, robust coalitions to help pass laws that help families thrive and block attacks on our rights.
 Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As Lawmakers in Georgia and Nevada, Our Fight to Protect Abortion Has Only Begun

The threat to our fundamental freedoms—like the freedom to decide if, when, and how to raise a family—is no longer hypothetical. A heinous law has gone into effect in Texas that turns neighbors into spies and bounty hunters by allowing them to collect a $10,000 reward for successfully suing anyone they suspect of helping a pregnant person seek abortion care. Those who can be turned in and penalized include clergy and counselors, anyone who provides a ride to a patient (such as rideshare drivers, friends, or family members), abortion providers, and abortion funds.

How would it feel to be seeking abortion care and have no one to turn to for support, for fear of endangering your friends and family? How would it feel to be a friend or family member unable to help a loved one for fear of a vigilante neighbor suing you?

The law is truly vile, and what’s even more terrifying is that what happens in Texas will almost certainly not stay in Texas.

The fight for equity and justice is a collective one, and our efforts to safeguard fundamental freedoms require states to work together. When we don’t work in partnership, harmful state policies, like voter suppression and bans on abortion, spread like wildfire, which is exactly what the radical right wants.

Our work to stop these attacks, and to build a world where people are free to dream and live their best lives, cannot stop at our state’s borders. We are privileged to represent the people of our states in our legislatures, where every day we work to uphold our constituents’ values around freedom and fairness. When we talk to voters in our states, we know that views on abortion are nuanced, complex, and deeply personal. We also know that strong majorities reject political interference in decisions that belong to pregnant people and families.

And yet, just like state after state moved to ban abortion before many people even know they’re pregnant in 2019 and 2020, we can expect that the anti-choice movement will use this dystopian Texas law as a blueprint to try to roll back—or entirely end—abortion access in other states.

But we can chart a different path.

In Nevada, a busload of NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada members repeatedly traveled eight hours from Las Vegas to our capital in Carson City to push for the Trust Nevada Women Act, which ended antiquated laws criminalizing abortion. NARAL members proved the power of advocacy when Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the Trust Nevada Women Act into law in 2019.

In Georgia, NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia members showed up time and again in our state capitol to stand up for our values and fight back when Gov. Brian Kemp was pushing through a six-week ban on abortion in 2019. They connected with thousands of voters about what was at stake for reproductive freedom in our state, and our work continues.We have to sound the alarm, letting people know what’s happening in our own states, what could be lurking around the corner coming out of Texas, and the severity of the threat to Roe v. Wade.

Thankfully, both our states have diverse, robust coalitions of organizations who represent different expertise and constituencies—from LGBTQ equality to reproductive freedom to immigrant rights—to help pass laws that help families thrive and block attacks on our rights.

With so much at stake, including the horrifying law in Texas as well as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade coming before the Supreme Court soon, we know we need fresh thinking to chart a path forward, and we need partners who are fueled by that kind of innovative thinking.

We can’t carry on as if it’s business as usual. We need to adapt and learn from where we’ve fallen short in the past. And we need partners in our communities and states to make that happen.

Rights we’ve long held dear—to control our own bodies and determine our own destinies—continue to crumble. Abortion care, especially in Georgia, is already restricted, and far too many people, especially Black, Latino, and Indigenous people, have to navigate roadblock after roadblock to access care.

That’s why we won’t back down from this fight. Everyone should be free to make their own decisions, to figure out what’s best for their own circumstances, and to be treated with empathy, respect, and support.

We have to sound the alarm, letting people know what’s happening in our own states, what could be lurking around the corner coming out of Texas, and the severity of the threat to Roe v. Wade.

There is so much to do. Every grassroots, community, state-based, and national organization has a role to play, as do elected officials—from local district attorneys to state legislators like us, from members of Congress to President Biden and Vice President Harris.

A year from now, the landscape for abortion access could look markedly different. But there’s still time, and we have the majority on our side. Let’s dig deeper and bring together all the skills we’ve been honing. We are ready to work with each other, with partners, and across states to achieve true freedom and justice for everybody. There’s no time to waste.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/09/14/as-lawmakers-in-georgia-and-nevada-our-fight-to-protect-abortion-has-only-begun/

Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, never had the abortion she was seeking. She gave her baby girl up for adoption, and now that baby is an adult. After decades of keeping her identity a secret, Jane Roe’s child has chosen to talk about her life.

Shelley Lynn Thornton, photographed in Tucson this summer. Her conception, in 1969, led to the lawsuit that ultimately produced Roe v. Wade. (Tracy Nguyen for The Atlantic)

Nearly half a century ago, Roe v. Wade secured a woman’s legal right to obtain an abortion. The ruling has been contested with ever-increasing intensity, dividing and reshaping American politics. And yet for all its prominence, the person most profoundly connected to it has remained unknown: the child whose conception occasioned the lawsuit.

Roe’s pseudonymous plaintiff, Jane Roe, was a Dallas waitress named Norma McCorvey. Wishing to terminate her pregnancy, she filed suit in March 1970 against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, challenging the Texas laws that prohibited abortion. Norma won her case. But she never had the abortion. On January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court finally handed down its decision, she had long since given birth—and relinquished her child for adoption.

The Court’s decision alluded only obliquely to the existence of Norma’s baby: In his majority opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun noted that a “pregnancy will come to term before the usual appellate process is complete.” The pro-life community saw the unknown child as the living incarnation of its argument against abortion. It came to refer to the child as “the Roe baby.”https://837598d792e90ce62b91fe330fd85c8a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Of course, the child had a real name too. And as I discovered while writing a book about Roe, the child’s identity had been known to just one person—an attorney in Dallas named Henry Mc­Cluskey. McCluskey had introduced Norma to the attorney who initially filed the Roe lawsuit and who had been seeking a plaintiff. He had then handled the adoption of Norma’s child. But several months after Roe was decided, in a tragedy unrelated to the case, Mc­Cluskey was murdered.

Norma’s personal life was complex. She had casual affairs with men, and one brief marriage at age 16. She bore three children, each of them placed for adoption. But she slept far more often with women, and worked in lesbian bars.

Months after filing Roe, Norma met a woman named Connie Gonzales, almost 17 years her senior, and moved into her home. The women painted and cleaned apartments in a pair of buildings in South Dallas. A decade later, in 1981, Norma briefly volunteered for the National Organization for Women in Dallas. Thereafter, slowly, she became an activist—working at first with pro-choice groups and then, after becoming a born-again Christian in 1995, with pro-life groups. Being born-again did not give her peace; pro-life leaders demanded that she publicly renounce her homosexuality (which she did, at great personal cost). Norma could be salty and fun, but she was also self-absorbed and dishonest, and she remained, until her death in 2017, at the age of 69, fundamentally unhappy.

Norma was ambivalent about abortion. She no more absolutely opposed Roe than she had ever absolutely supported it; she believed that abortion ought to be legal for precisely three months after conception, a position she stated publicly after both the Roe decision and her religious awakening. She was ambivalent about adoption, too. Playgrounds were a source of distress: Empty, they reminded Norma of Roe; full, they reminded her of the children she had let go.

Norma knew her first child, Melissa. At Norma’s urging, her own mother, Mary, had adopted the girl (though Norma later claimed that Mary had kidnapped her). Her second child, Jennifer, had been adopted by a couple in Dallas. The third child was the one whose conception led to Roe.

A photo of Norma McCorvey, September 28, 1985
Norma McCorvey​​—“Jane Roe” of the lawsuit—in Dallas in 1985. McCorvey relinquished Shelley for adoption a few days after her daughter’s birth. (Bettmann / Getty)

I had assumed, having never given the matter much thought, that the plaintiff who had won the legal right to have an abortion had in fact had one. But as Justice Blackmun noted, the length of the legal process had made that impossible. When I read, in early 2010, that Norma had not had an abortion, I began to wonder whether the child, who would then be an adult of almost 40, was aware of his or her background. Roe might be a heavy load to carry. I wondered too if he or she might wish to speak about it.

Over the coming decade, my interest would spread from that one child to Norma McCorvey’s other children, and from them to Norma herself, and to Roe v. Wade and the larger battle over abortion in America. That battle is today at its most fierce. Individual states have radically restricted the right to have an abortion; a new law in Texas bans abortion after about six weeks and puts enforcement in the hands of private citizens. The Supreme Court, with a 6–3 conservative majority, is scheduled to take up the question of abortion in its upcoming term. It could well overturn Roe.

Ihad just begun my research when I reached out to Norma’s longtime partner, Connie. She had stood by Norma through decades of infidelity, combustibility, abandonment, and neglect. But in 2009, five years after Connie had a stroke, Norma left her. I visited Connie the following year, then returned a second time. Connie alerted me to the existence of a jumbled mass of papers that Norma had left behind in their garage and that were about to be thrown out. Norma no longer wanted them. I later arranged to buy the papers from Norma, and they are now in a library at Harvard.

Norma had told her own story in two autobiographies, but she was an unreliable narrator. The papers helped me establish the true details of her life. I found in them a reference to the place and date of birth of the Roe baby, as well as to her gender. Tracing leads, I found my way to her in early 2011. Her name has not been publicly known until now: Shelley Lynn Thornton.

I did not call Shelley. In the event that she didn’t already know that Norma McCorvey was her birth mother, a phone call could have upended her life. Instead, I called her adoptive mother, Ruth, who said that the family had learned about Norma. She confirmed that the adoption had been arranged by McCluskey. She said that Shelley would be in touch if she wished to talk.

Until such a day, I decided to look for her half sisters, Melissa and Jennifer. I found and met with them in November 2012, and after I did so, I told Ruth. Shelley then called to say that she, too, wished to meet and talk. She especially welcomed the prospect of coming together with her half sisters. She told me the next month, when we met for the first time on a rainy day in Tucson, Arizona, that she also wished to be unburdened of her secret. “Secrets and lies are, like, the two worst things in the whole world,” she said. “I’m keeping a secret, but I hate it.”

In time, I would come to know Shelley and her sisters well, along with their birth mother, Norma. Their lives resist the tidy narratives told on both sides of the abortion divide. To better represent that divide in my book, I also wrote about an abortion provider, a lawyer, and a pro-life advocate who are as important to the larger story of abortion in America as they are unknown. Together, their stories allowed me to give voice to the complicated realities of Roe v. Wade—to present, as the legal scholar Laurence Tribe has urged, “the human reality on each side of the ‘versus.’”

When norma mccorvey became pregnant with her third child, Henry McCluskey turned to the couple raising her second. “We already had adopted one of her children,” the mother, Donna Kebabjian, recalled in a conversation years later. “We decided we did not want another.” The girl born at Dallas Osteopathic Hospital on June 2, 1970, did not join either of her older half sisters. She became instead, with the help of McCluskey, the only child of a woman in Dallas named Ruth Schmidt and her eventual husband, Billy Thornton. Ruth named the baby Shelley Lynn.

Ruth had grown up in a devoutly Lutheran home in Minnesota, one of nine children. In 1960, at the age of 17, she married a military man from her hometown, and the couple moved to an Air Force base in Texas. Ruth quickly learned that she could not conceive. That same year, Ruth met Billy, the brother of another wife on the base. Billy Thornton was a lapsed Baptist from small-town Texas—tall and slim with tar-black hair and, as he put it, a “deadbeat, thin, narrow mustache” that had helped him buy alcohol since he was 15. It had helped him with women, too. Billy had fathered six children with four women (“in that neighborhood,” he told me). Ruth and Billy ran off, settling in the Dallas area.

Years later, when Billy’s brother adopted a baby girl, Ruth decided that she wanted to adopt a child too. The brother introduced the couple to Henry McCluskey. In early June 1970, the lawyer called with the news that a newborn baby girl was available. She was three days old when Billy drove her home. Ruth was ecstatic. “You ain’t never seen a happier woman,” Billy recalled.

McCluskey had told Ruth and Billy that Shelley had two half sisters. But he did not identify them, or Norma, or say anything about the Roe lawsuit that Norma had filed three months earlier. When the Roe case was decided, in 1973, the adoptive parents were oblivious of its connection to their daughter, now 2 and a half, a toddler partial to spaghetti and pork chops and Cheez Whiz casserole.

Ruth and Billy didn’t hide from Shelley the fact that she had been adopted. Ruth in particular, Shelley would recall, felt it was important that she know she had been “chosen.” But even the chosen wonder about their roots. When Shelley was 5, she decided that her birth parents were most likely Elvis Presley and the actor Ann-Margret.

Ruth loved being a mother—playing the tooth fairy, outfitting Shelley in dresses, putting her hair into pigtails. Billy, now a maintenance man for the apartment complex where the family lived in the city of Mesquite, Texas, was present for Shelley in a way he hadn’t been for his other children. When tenants in the complex moved out, he took her with him to rummage through whatever they had left behind—“dolls and books and things like that,” Shelley recalled. When Shelley was 7, Billy found work as a mechanic in Houston. The family moved, and then moved again and again.

Each stop was one step further from Shelley’s start in the world. Mindful of her adoption, she wished to know who had brought her into being: her heart-shaped face and blue eyes, her shyness and penchant for pink, her frequent anxiety—which gripped her when her father began to drink heavily. Billy and Ruth fought. Doors slammed. Shelley watched her mother issue second chances, then watched her father squander them. One day in 1980, as Shelley remembered, “it was just that he was no longer there.” Shelley was 10. A week passed before Ruth explained that Billy would not return.

Shelley found herself wondering not only about her birth parents but also about the two older half sisters her mother had told her she had. She wanted to know them, to share her thoughts, to tell them about her father or about how much she hated science and gym. She began to look hard and long at every girl in every park. She would call town halls asking for information. “I would go, ‘Somebody has to know!’” Shelley told me. “Someone! Somewhere!”

In 1984, Billy got back in touch with Ruth and asked to see their daughter. To be certain that he never came calling, Ruth moved with Shelley 2,000 miles northwest, to the city of Burien, outside Seattle, where Ruth’s sister lived with her husband. It was “so not Texas,” Shelley said; the rain and the people left her cold. But she got through ninth grade, shedding her Texas accent and making friends at Highline High. The next year, she had a boyfriend. He, too, had been adopted. Shelley was happy. She liked attention and got it. “I could rock a pair of Jordache,” she said.

But then life changed. Shelley was 15 when she noticed that her hands sometimes shook. She could make them still by eating. But the tremor would return. She shook when she felt anxious, and she felt anxious, she said, about “everything.” She was soon suffering symptoms of depression too—feeling, she said, “sleepy and sad.” But she confided in no one, not her boyfriend and not her mother. She simply continued on.

Decades after her father left home, it would occur to Shelley that the genesis of her unease preceded his disappearance. In fact, it preceded her birth. “When someone’s pregnant with a baby,” she reflected, “and they don’t want that baby, that person develops knowing they’re not wanted.” But as a teenager, Shelley had not yet had such thoughts. She knew only, she explained, that she wanted to one day find a partner who would stay with her always. And she wanted to become a secretary, because a secretary lived a steady life.

In 1988, Shelley graduated from Highline High and enrolled in secretarial school. One year later, her birth mother started to look for her.

In april 1989, Norma McCorvey attended an abortion-rights march in Washington, D.C. She had revealed her identity as Jane Roe days after the Roe decision, in 1973, but almost a decade elapsed before she began to commit herself to the pro-choice movement. Her name was not yet widely known when, shortly before the march, three bullets pierced her home and car. Norma blamed the shooting on Roe, but it likely had to do with a drug deal. (A woman had recently accused Norma of shortchanging her in a marijuana sale.) Norma landed in the papers. The feminist lawyer Gloria Allred approached her at the Washington march and took her to Los Angeles for a run of talks, fundraisers, and interviews.

Soon after, Norma announced that she was hoping to find her third child, the Roe baby. In a television studio in Manhattan, the Today host Jane Pauley asked Norma why she had decided to look for her. Norma struggled to answer. Allred interjected that the decision was about “choice.” But for Norma it was more directly connected to publicity and, she hoped, income. Some 20 years had passed since Norma had conceived her third child, yet she had begun searching for that child only a few weeks after retaining a prominent lawyer. And she was not looking for her second child. She was seeking only the one associated with Roe.

A photo of McCorvey with attorney Gloria Allred in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1989
McCorvey, initially a pro-choice activist, with her attorney Gloria Allred in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1989 (Greg Gibson / AFP / Getty)

Norma had no sooner announced her search than The National Enquirer offered to help. The tabloid turned to a woman named Toby Hanft. Hanft died in 2007, but two of her sons spoke with me about her life and work, and she once talked about her search for the Roe baby in an interview. Toby Hanft knew what it was to let go of a child. She had given birth in high school to a daughter whom she had placed for adoption, and whom she later looked for and found. Mother and daughter had “a cold reunion,” Jonah Hanft told me. But a hole in Toby’s life had been filled. And she began working to connect other women with the children they had relinquished. Hanft often relied on information not legally available: Social Security numbers, birth certificates. It was something of an “underworld,” Jonah said. “You had to know cops.” Jonah and his two brothers sometimes helped. Hanft paid them to scan microfiche birth records for the asterisks that might denote an adoption. She charged clients $1,500 for a typical search, twice that if there was little information to go on. And she delivered. By 1989—when Norma went public with her hope to find her daughter—Hanft had found more than 600 adoptees and misidentified none.

Hanft was thrilled to get the Enquirer assignment. She opposed abortion. Finding the Roe baby would provide not only exposure but, as she saw it, a means to assail Roe in the most visceral way. She set everything else aside and worked in secrecy. “This was the one thing we were not allowed to help with,” Jonah said. McCluskey, the adoption lawyer, was dead, but Norma herself provided Hanft with enough information to start her search: the gender of the child, along with her date and place of birth. On June 2, 1970, 37 girls had been born in Dallas County; only one of them had been placed for adoption. Official records yielded an adoptive name. Jonah recalled the moment of his mother’s discovery: “Oh my God! Oh my God! I found her!” From there, Hanft traced Shelley’s path to a town in Washington State, not far from Seattle.

Hanft normally telephoned the adoptees she found. But this was the Roe baby, so she flew to Seattle, resolved to present herself in person. She was waiting in a maroon van in a parking lot in Kent, Washington, where she knew Shelley lived, when she saw Shelley walk by. Hanft stepped out, introduced herself, and told Shelley that she was an adoption investigator sent by her birth mother. Shelley felt a rush of joy: The woman who had let her go now wanted to know her. She began to cry. Wow! she thought. Wow! Hanft hugged Shelley. Then, as Hanft would later recount, she told Shelley that “her mother was famous—but not a movie star or a rich person.” Rather, her birth mother was “connected to a national case that had changed law.” There was much more to say, and Hanft asked Shelley if she would meet with her and her business partner. Shelley took Hanft’s card and told her that she would call. She hurried home.

Two days later, Shelley and Ruth drove to Seattle’s Space Needle, to dine high above the city with Hanft and her associate, a mustachioed man named Reggie Fitz. Fitz had been born into medicine. His great-­grandfather Reginald and his grandfather Reginald and his father, Reginald, had all gone to Harvard and become eminent doctors. (The first was a pioneering pathologist who coined the term appendicitis.) Fitz, too, was expected to wear a white coat, but he wanted to be a writer, and in 1980, a decade out of college, he took a job at The National Enquirer. Fitz loved his work, and he was about to land a major scoop.

The answers Shelley had sought all her life were suddenly at hand. She listened as Hanft began to tell what she knew of her birth mother: that she lived in Texas, that she was in touch with the eldest of her three daughters, and that her name was Norma McCorvey. The name was not familiar to Shelley or Ruth. Although Ruth read the tabloids, she had missed a story about Norma that had run in Star magazine only a few weeks earlier under the headline “Mom in Abortion Case Still Longs for Child She Tried to Get Rid Of.” Hanft began to circle around the subject of Roe, talking about unwanted pregnancies and abortion. Ruth interjected, “We don’t believe in abortion.” Hanft turned to Shelley. “Unfortunately,” she said, “your birth mother is Jane Roe.”

That name Shelley recognized. She had recently happened upon Holly Hunter playing Jane Roe in a TV movie. The bit of the movie she watched had left her with the thought that Jane Roe was indecent. “The only thing I knew about being pro-life or pro-choice or even Roe v. Wade,” Shelley recalled, “was that this person had made it okay for people to go out and be promiscuous.”

Still, Shelley struggled to grasp what exactly Hanft was saying. The investigator handed Shelley a recent article about Norma in People magazine, and the reality sank in. “She threw it down and ran out of the room,” Hanft later recalled. When Shelley returned, she was “shaking all over and crying.”

All her life, Shelley had wanted to know the facts of her birth. Having idly mused as a girl that her birth mother was a beautiful actor, she now knew that her birth mother was synonymous with abortion. Ruth spoke up: She wanted proof. Hanft and Fitz said that a DNA test could be arranged. But there was no mistake: Shelley had been born in Dallas Osteopathic Hospital, where Norma had given birth, on June 2, 1970. Norma’s adoption lawyer, Henry McCluskey, had handled Shelley’s adoption; Ruth recalled McCluskey. The evidence was unassailable.

Hanft and Fitz had a question for Shelley: Was she pro-choice or pro-life? “They kept asking me what side I was on,” she recalled. Two days earlier, Shelley had been a typical teenager on the brink of another summer. “All I wanted to do,” she said, “was hang out with my friends, date cute boys, and go shopping for shoes.” Now, suddenly, 10 days before her 19th birthday, she was the Roe baby. The question—pro-life or pro-choice?—hung in the air. Shelley was afraid to answer. She wondered why she had to choose a side, why anyone did. She finally offered, she told me, that she couldn’t see herself having an abortion. Hanft would remember it differently, that Shelley had told her she was “pro-life.”

Hanft and Fitz revealed at the restaurant that they were working for the Enquirer. They explained that the tabloid had recently found the child Roseanne Barr had relinquished for adoption as a teenager, and that the pair had reunited. Fitz said he was writing a similar story about Norma and Shelley. And he was on deadline. Shelley and Ruth were aghast. They hadn’t even ordered dinner, but they hurried out. “We left the restaurant saying, ‘We don’t want any part of this,’” Shelley told me. “ ‘Leave us alone.’” Again, she began to cry. “Here’s my chance at finding out who my birth mother was,” she said, “and I wasn’t even going to be able to have control over it because I was being thrown into the Enquirer.”

Back home, Shelley wondered if talking to Norma might ease the situation or even make the tabloid go away. A phone call was arranged.

The news that Norma was seeking her child had angered some in the pro-life camp. “What is she going to say to that child when she finds him?” a spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee had asked a reporter rhetorically. “‘I want to hold you now and give you my love, but I’m still upset about the fact that I couldn’t abort you’?” But speaking to her daughter for the first time, Norma didn’t mention abortion. She told Shelley that she’d given her up because, Shelley recalled, “I knew I couldn’t take care of you.” She also told Shelley that she had wondered about her “always.” Shelley listened to Norma’s words and her smoker’s voice. She asked Norma about her father. Norma told her little except his first name—Bill—and what he looked like. Shelley also asked about her two half sisters, but Norma wanted to speak only about herself and Shelley, the two people in the family tied to Roe. She told Shelley that they could meet in person. The Enquirer, she said, could help.

Norma wanted the very thing that Shelley did not—a public outing in the pages of a national tabloid. Shelley now saw that she carried a great secret. To speak of it even in private was to risk it spilling into public view. Still, she asked a friend from secretarial school named Christie Chavez to call Hanft and Fitz. The aim was to have a calm third party hear them out. Chavez took careful notes. The news was not all bad: The Enquirer would withhold Shelley’s name. But it would not kill the story. And Hanft and Fitz warned ominously, as Chavez wrote in her neat cursive notes on the conversation, that without Shelley’s cooperation, there was the possibility that a mole at the paper might “sell her out.” After all, they told Chavez, the pro-life movement “would love to show Shelley off” as a “healthy, happy and productive” person.

Ruth turned to a lawyer, a friend of a friend. He suggested that Hanft may have secretly recorded her; Shelley, he said, should trust no one. He sent a letter to the Enquirer, demanding that the paper publish no identifying information about his client and that it cease contact with her. The tabloid agreed, once more, to protect Shelley’s identity. But it cautioned her again that cooperation was the safest option.

Shelley felt stuck. To come out as the Roe baby would be to lose the life, steady and unremarkable, that she craved. But to remain anonymous would ensure, as her lawyer put it, that “the race was on for whoever could get to Shelley first.” Ruth felt for her daughter. “What a life,” she jotted in a note that she later gave to Shelley, “always looking over your shoulder.” Shelley wrote out a list of things she might do to somehow cope with her burden: read the Roe ruling, take a DNA test, and meet Norma. At the same time, she feared embracing her birth mother; it might be better, she recalled, “to tuck her away as background noise.”

Norma, too, was upset. Her plan for a Roseanne-style reunion was coming apart. She decided to try to patch things up. “My darling,” she began a letter to Shelley, “be re-assured that Ms. Gloria Allred … has sent a letter to the Nat. Enquirer stating that we have no intensions of [exploiting] you or your family.” According to detailed notes taken by Ruth on conversations with her lawyer, who was in contact with various parties, Norma even denied giving consent to the Enquirer to search for her child. Hanft, though, attested in writing that, to the contrary, she had started looking for Shelley “in conjunction [with] and with permission from Ms. Mc­Corvey.” The tabloid had a written record of Norma’s gratitude. “Thanks to the National Enquirer,” read a statement that Norma had prepared for use by the newspaper, “I know who my child is.”

A photo of Norma McCorvey's baptism in 1995
Born again in Dallas: After her baptism, in 1995, McCorvey publicly took a pro-life stance. (Bob Daemmrich / ZUMA Wire / Alamy)

On June 20, 1989, in bold type, just below a photo of Elvis, the Enquirer presented the story on its cover: “Roe vs. Wade Abortion Shocker—After 19 Years Enquirer Finds Jane Roe’s Baby.” The “explosive story” unspooled on page 17, offering details about the child—her approximate date of birth, her birth weight, and the name of the adoption lawyer. The story quoted Hanft. The child was not identified but was said to be pro-life and living in Washington State. “I want her to know,” the Enquirer quoted Norma as saying, “I’ll never force myself upon her. I can wait until she’s ready to contact me—even if it takes years. And when she’s ready, I’m ready to take her in my arms and give her my love and be her friend.” But an unnamed Shelley made clear that such a day might never come. “I’m glad to know that my birth mother is alive,” she was quoted in the story as saying, “and that she loves me—but I’m really not ready to see her. And I don’t know when I’ll ever be ready—if ever.” She added: “In some ways, I can’t forgive her … I know now that she tried to have me aborted.”

The National Right to Life Committee seized upon the story. “This nineteen-year-old woman’s life was saved by that Texas law,” a spokesman said. If Roe was overturned, he went on, countless others would be saved too.

Perhaps because the Roe baby went unnamed, the Enquirer story got little traction, picked up only by a few Gannett papers and The Washington Times. But it left a deep mark on Shelley. Having begun work as a secretary at a law firm, she worried about the day when another someone would come calling and tell the world—against her will—who she was.

Shelley was now seeing a man from Albuquerque named Doug. Nine years her senior, he was courteous and loved cars. And from their first date, at a Taco Bell, Shelley found that she could be open with him. When she told Doug about her connection to Roe, he set her at ease: “He was just like, ‘Oh, cool. Or is it not cool? You tell me. I’ll go with whatever you tell me.’”

Eight months had passed since the Enquirer story when, on a Sunday night in February 1990, there was a knock at the door of the home Shelley shared with her mother. She opened it to find a young woman who introduced herself as Audrey Lavin. She was a producer for the tabloid TV show A Current Affair. Lavin told Shelley that she would do nothing without her consent. Shelley felt herself flush, and turned Lavin away. The next day, flowers arrived with a note. Lavin wrote that Shelley was “of American history”—both a “part of a great decision for women” and “the truest example of what the ‘right to life’ can mean.” Her desire to tell Shelley’s story represented, she wrote, “an obligation to our gender.” She signed off with an invitation to call her at Seattle’s Stouffer Madison Hotel.

Ruth contacted their lawyer. “It was like, ‘Oh God!’” Shelley said. “ ‘I am never going to be able to get away from this!’” The lawyer sent another strong letter. A Current Affair went away.

In early 1991, Shelley found herself pregnant. She was 20. She and Doug had made plans to marry, and Shelley was due to deliver two months after the wedding date. She was “not at all” eager to become a mother, she recalled; Doug intimated, she said, that she should consider having an abortion.

Shelley had long considered abortion wrong, but her connection to Roe had led her to reexamine the issue. It now seemed to her that abortion law ought to be free of the influences of religion and politics. Religious certitude left her uncomfortable. And, she reflected, “I guess I don’t understand why it’s a government concern.” It had upset her that the Enquirer had described her as pro-life, a term that connoted, in her mind, “a bunch of religious fanatics going around and doing protests.” But neither did she embrace the term pro-choice: Norma was pro-choice, and it seemed to Shelley that to have an abortion would render her no different than Norma. Shelley determined that she would have the baby. Abortion, she said, was “not part of who I was.”

Shelley and Doug moved up their wedding date. They were married in March 1991, standing before a justice of the peace in a chapel in Seattle. Later that year, Shelley gave birth to a boy. Doug asked her to give up her career and stay at home. That was fine by her. The more people Shelley knew, the more she worried that one of them might learn of her connection to Roe. Every time she got close to someone, Shelley found herself thinking, Yeah, we’re really great friends, but you don’t have a clue who I am.

Despite everything, Shelley sometimes entertained the hope of a relationship with Norma. But she remained wary of her birth mother, mindful that it was the prospect of publicity that had led Norma to seek her out.

At some level, Norma seemed to understand Shelley’s caution, her bitterness. “How could you possibly talk to someone who wanted to abort you?” Norma told one reporter at the time. (That interview was never published; the reporter kept his notes.) But when, in the spring of 1994, Norma called Shelley to say that she and Connie, her partner, wished to come and visit, mother and daughter were soon at odds. Shelley had replied, she recalled, that she hoped Norma and Connie would be “discreet” in front of her son: “How am I going to explain to a 3-year-old that not only is this person your grandmother, but she is kissing another woman?” Norma yelled at her, and then said that Shelley should thank her. Shelley asked why. For not aborting her, said Norma, who of course had wanted to do exactly that. Shelley was horrified. “I was like, ‘What?! I’m supposed to thank you for getting knocked up … and then giving me away.’” Shelley went on: “I told her I would never, ever thank her for not aborting me.” Mother and daughter hung up their phones in anger.

Shelley was distraught. She struggled to see where her birth mother ended and she herself began. She had to remind herself, she said, that “knowing who you are biologically” is not the same as “knowing who you are as a person.” She was the product of many influences, beginning with her adoptive mother, who had taught her to nurture her family. And unlike Norma, Shelley was actually raising her child. She helped him scissor through reams of construction paper and cooled his every bowl of Campbell’s chicken soup with two ice cubes. “I knew what I didn’t want to do,” Shelley said. “I didn’t want to ever make him feel that he was a burden or unloved.”

Shelley gave birth to two daughters, in 1999 and 2000, and moved with her family to Tucson, where Doug had a new job. Thirty years old, she felt isolated, unable to “be complete friends” with anyone, she said. Her depression deepened. She sought help, and was prescribed antidepressants. She decided that she would have no more children. “I am done,” she told Doug.

As the kids grew up, and began to resemble her and Doug in so many ways, Shelley found herself ever more mindful of whom she herself sometimes resembled—mindful of where, perhaps, her anxiety and sadness and temper came from. “You know how she can be mean and nasty and totally go off on people?” Shelley asked, speaking of Norma. “I can do that too.” Shelley had told her children that she was adopted, but she never told them from whom. She did her best to keep Norma confined, she said, “in a dark little metal box, wrapped in chains and locked.”

But Shelley was not able to lock her birth mother away. In the decade since Norma had been thrust upon her, Shelley recalled, Norma and Roe had been “always there.” Unknowing friends on both sides of the abortion issue would invite Shelley to rallies. Every time, she declined.

Norma had come to call Roe “my law.” And, in time, Shelley too became almost possessive of Roe; it was her conception, after all, that had given rise to it. Having previously changed the channel if there was ever a mention of Roe on TV, she began, instead, in the first years of the new millennium, to listen. She began to Google Norma too. “I don’t like not knowing what she’s doing,” Shelley explained.

Shelley then began to look online for her pseudonymous self, to learn what was being written about “the Roe baby.” The pro-life community saw that unknown baby as a symbol. Shelley wanted no part of this. “My association with Roe,” she said, “started and ended because I was conceived.”

Shelley’s burden, however, was unending. She was still afraid to let her secret out, but she hated keeping it in. In December 2012, Shelley began to tell me the story of her life. The notion of finally laying claim to Norma was empowering. “I want everyone to understand,” she later explained, “that this is something I’ve chosen to do.”

In march 2013, Shelley flew to Texas to meet her half sisters—first Jennifer, in the city of Elgin, and then, together with Jennifer, their big sister, Melissa, at her home in Katy. The sisters hugged at Melissa’s front door. They sat down on a couch, none of their feet quite touching the floor. They took in their differences: the chins, for instance—rounded, receded, and cleft, hinting at different fathers. And they took in their similarities: the long shadow of their shared birth mother and the desperate hopes each of them had had of finding one another. Only Melissa truly knew Norma. Jennifer wanted to meet her, and she soon would. Shelley did not know if she ever could.

Their dinner was not yet ready, and the three women crossed the street to a playground. They soared on swings, unaware that happy playgrounds had always made Norma ache for them—the daughters she had let go.

Shelley was still unsure about meeting Norma when, four years later, in February 2017, Melissa let Jennifer and Shelley know that Norma was intubated and dying in a Texas hospital. Shelley was in Tucson. “I’m sitting here going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth,” Shelley recalled, “and then it’s going to be too late.”

Shelley had long held a private hope, she said, that Norma would one day “feel something for another human being, especially for one she brought into this world.” Now that Norma was dying, Shelley felt that desire acutely. “I want her to experience this joy—the good that it brings,” she told me. “I have wished that for her forever and have never told anyone.”

But Shelley let the hours pass on that winter’s day. And then it was too late.

From Shelley’s perspective, it was clear that if she, the Roe baby, could be said to represent anything, it was not the sanctity of life but the difficulty of being born unwanted.

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/09/jane-roe-v-wade-baby-norma-mccorvey/620009/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=atlantic-daily-newsletter&utm_content=20210909&silverid=%25%25RECIPIENT_ID%25%25&utm_term=The%20Atlantic%20Daily&fbclid=IwAR0zZnQ1v2C88mAoPhp8-3b5L8hdUW-yWhduD8nlUVUeb3d5rh01Qoj0ops

Biden Administration Sues Texas Over Its Abortion Law - WSJ
“The act is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday in announcing the lawsuit.
 Alex Wong/Getty Images

The lawsuit seeks to permanently block Texas’ extreme abortion ban from being enforced, including by private citizen “bounty hunters.”

For more on the fight over Texas SB 8, check out our related coverage here.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued the state of Texas on Thursday, arguing the state’s blatantly unconstitutional pre-viability abortion ban was in “open defiance of the Constitution.”

United States of America v. the State of Texas seeks to permanently block SB 8 from being enforced, including by private citizen “bounty hunters.” A hearing to block the law has not yet been scheduled.

The lawsuit claims the Texas law violates the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, among others.

“The act is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday in a news conference. “Those precedents hold, in the words of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that ‘regardless of whether exceptions are made for particular circumstances, a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.’”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and was initially assigned to Austin-based Judge Lee Yeakel, who is no stranger to abortion rights litigation in Texas. Yeakel has heard cases challenging the state’s attempts to roll back abortion access during the pandemic as well as attempts by anti-choice lawmakers to target abortion clinics in the state for heightened regulation and to limit abortions later in pregnancy. In each of those cases, Yeakel ruled in favor of protecting abortion rights and access.

Later in the day, the court docket changed to Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama appointee.

In August, Pitman was set to hear a previous challenge to SB 8, until the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in and stayed those proceedings, triggering a chain of events that culminated in the Supreme Court’s shadow docket ruling last week to let the law take effect.

“It’s a game changer that the Department of Justice has joined the legal battle to restore constitutionally protected abortion access in Texas and disarm vigilantes looking to collect their bounties,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

Notably, the DOJ’s lawsuit did not assert claims under the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, the federal law charged specifically with protecting abortion clinics, providers, and patients from threats, intimidation, and violence. Earlier this week, Garland had said the DOJ “will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act,” leading to speculation that the Biden administration would turn to the decades-old statute for help here.

“The Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the Texas abortion ban is welcome news,” Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “Make no mistake, the Supreme Court’s refusal to block the ban last week allowed Texas to take away most abortion access just as surely as if they had overturned Roe v. Wade.”

“As a result, today in Texas, people—especially those with limited resources, people of color, undocumented people, and young people—cannot get the care they need and are being forced to stay pregnant and face having a child against their will. This first step by the Department of Justice is critical to righting this injustice for the people of Texas, and to prevent this catastrophe from playing out in other states that have pledged to follow Texas’ lead,” Amiri added.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/09/10/biden-administration-sues-texas-abortion-ban-in-open-defiance-of-the-constitution/