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Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented, with Alito arguing the administration had failed to demonstrate “irreparable harm.”

A common, effective, and safe abortion pill can remain on the market for now, the Supreme Court ruled Friday night, in the first major Supreme Court ruling on abortion since the justices overturned Roe v. Wade last year. 

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, two of the most hardline right-wingers on the overwhelmingly conservative-leaning court, publicly dissented from the court order.

Over the last few weeks, the drug mifepristone, one of the two drugs typically used to induce medication abortions in the United States, has taken center stage in the country’s relentless abortion wars. Although the vast majority of research has found that mifepristone is safe, anti-abortion activists have asked federal courts to suspend the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of the drug.

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, initially agreed to do so on April 7. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit found on April 12 that it was too late to pause the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. Instead, that federal appeals court ruled to levy heavy restrictions on mifepristone, including requiring that it be obtained in person and re-labeling it for use only until seven weeks of pregnancy, rather than 10.

Separately, a Washington-state judge had ordered 17 states and Washington, D.C. to preserve access to mifepristone “irrespective” of the 5th Circuit court ruling. This order set up a direct conflict between federal courts.

But the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to suspend any court orders that would change mifepristone’s availability, and the justices agreed. Instead, mifepristone will remain on the market, without restrictions, while the case winds its way through the courts.

Alito, who wrote the opinion overturning Roe, argued in his dissent Friday that the administration had failed to demonstrate that it would suffer “irreparable harm” if the restrictions were implemented. He also accused the FDA of using the dueling district court orders to create the atmosphere of “regulatory chaos,” given that the FDA did not appeal the Washington court order, and suggested that it’s not even clear that the FDA would enforce a court order to change its approach to mifepristone.

“The government has not dispelled legitimate doubts that it would even obey an unfavorable order in these cases, much less that it would choose to take enforcement actions to which it has strong objections,” Alito wrote, arguing that the FDA has “enforcement discretion.”

Had the justices not acted, the restrictions on mifepristone were set to take effect at 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Friday.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/bvjzy3/supreme-court-mifepristone-abortion-pill-ruling

But it can only be obtained with significant restrictions, due to a new court order.

A common and effective abortion pill can remain available in the United States—for now.  But people will only be able to obtain it with significant restrictions, a federal appeals court ruled late Wednesday night. 

The ruling from three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit freezes part of a court order issued late last week from the Texas-based Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, which ruled to totally suspend the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, one of the two drugs typically used to induce medication abortions in the United States. Rather than agree to totally suspend the approval, the federal appeals court instead ruled that mifepristone should be held to older FDA standards. 

This controversial case could rewrite the future of abortion across the country, even in states that protect abortion rights.

Under this ruling, mifepristone must be obtained in-person from a provider—not through telehealth visits, which the FDA agreed to allow after the coronavirus pandemic. Its labeling should instruct providers to only use it to induce abortions prior to seven weeks of pregnancy. The FDA changed that label back in 2016, when it re-labeled mifepristone for use for abortions up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.

The judges also appeared sympathetic to arguments about the Comstock Act, a 19th-century anti-obscenity law that bans the mailing of abortion-related materials but has long been deemed an irrelevant vestigial structure in U.S. law. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, anti-abortion activists have increasingly seized on Comstock as evidence for a de facto federal ban on abortion.

“To the extent the Comstock Act introduces uncertainty into the ultimate merits of the case, that uncertainty favors the plaintiffs,” the judges wrote Wednesday.

Despite the ruling, it is still possible for abortion providers to go “off-label” and prescribe mifepristone for abortions later on in pregnancy. In addition, many abortion providers have said that if mifepristone is yanked off the market, they would turn to the other drug commonly used in medication abortions, misoprostol, to induce abortions.

The overwhelming majority of research into mifepristone has concluded that the drug is safe.  Before Roe fell, medication abortions accounted for more than half of all U.S. abortions.

The FDA first approved mifepristone for use in abortions in 2000, but Kacsmaryk’s ruling found that the FDA had violated federal rules during that approval process and cited studies—many of which were conducted by anti-abortion organizations—that suggested mifepristone could have damaging side effects. The appeals court found that it was too late to challenge that 2000 approval, but not too late to review other, more recent FDA changes to the mifepristone’s use. 

Regardless of this ruling, this is likely not the last word on mifepristone. The case will likely end up at the Supreme Court.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/93kybe/the-most-common-way-to-have-an-abortion-is-still-on-the-marketfor-now


“Our state population has not grown except by those foreigners who have moved here or refugees who have been placed here… because we’ve killed 200,000 people.”

As Nebraska Republicans moved to ban most abortions in their state on Wednesday, one used arguments straight from the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory to push for the bill’s passage.

Nebraska Sen. Steve Erdman argued that abortion had caused slow population growth in the state over the last half-century—and argued that it had hurt Nebraska economically.

“Our state population has not grown except by those foreigners who have moved here or refugees who have been placed here. Why is that? It’s because we’ve killed 200,000 people. These are people we’ve killed,” Erdman said during debate, after lamenting that if abortion had been illegal that would have resulted in more people who “could be working and filling some of those positions that we have vacancies.”

Erdman’s comments came during debate over a bill that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy—before many women know they’re pregnant. It includes exceptions for rape, incest, and lifesaving procedures. The bill advanced on a Wednesday evening vote.

His views seem to draw from the racist great replacement theory. That theory, in its purest and most extreme form, posits that there’s a conspiracy by globalist elites—in many versions, Jews—to overwhelm western countries with immigrants in order to outbreed and replace the white-majority population and take control of those countries. Abortion is part of the theory—extremists argue that the procedure is part of hastening a “white genocide.” 

It’s been used to justify multiple white supremacist terror attacks and violence. At the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, tiki torch-wielding white supremacists chanted. “You will not replace us” and, “Jews will not replace us,” the day before they rioted. The murderers who massacred Jewish worshippers Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018, mostly Mexican-American shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas in 2019, and Black grocery shoppers in Buffalo, New York in 2022 all cited versions of this theory as reasons for their violence—as did the man who shot up two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.

Republicans have increasingly embraced a watered-down version of that theory in recent years. In their rendition, Democrats want to admit a huge number of immigrants so they can dominate elections and control the country. 

And Erdman isn’t the first Republican to connect this theory to abortion.

Then-Iowa Rep. Steve King argued in 2017 that “culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

Matt Schlapp, the head of the influential group that hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference and a close confidant and former top staffer for former President Donald Trump, made the explicit connection just days after the Buffalo shooting.

“If you say there is a population problem in a country, but you’re killing millions of your own people through legalized abortion every year, if that were to be reduced, some of that problem is solved,” Schlapp said. “You have millions of people who can take many of these jobs. How come no one brings that up? If you’re worried about this quote-unquote replacement, why don’t we start there? Start with allowing our own people to live.”

Erdman’s remarks about population replacement weren’t his only eyebrow-raising remarks on abortion; he also argued the most vulnerable people weren’t women carrying unwanted pregnancies, but the fetuses themselves.

“Those who we should care for are the babies. It’s not the mother. It’s not those who are choosing to have an abortion. It’s the babies. It’s the babies. This is about a heartbeat. This is about a human life,” he argued. “This is not medical care, killing someone. I don’t know who we think we are, that we can choose to be God. God created those people. They deserve a chance.”

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/3akqdy/nebraska-steve-erdman-abortion-great-replacement-theory

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters
Boxes of mifepristone, the first pill given in a medical abortion, are prepared for patients at Women’s Reproductive Clinic of New Mexico in Santa Teresa, January 13, 2023

A federal appeals court late Wednesday night froze parts of a Texas judge’s order that would have suspended the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a medication abortion drug.

But the court only partially granted the request by the Justice Department and the drug’s manufacturer to put US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling on hold, with the panel effectively making the drug harder to obtain.

Last Friday, Kacsmaryk issued a ruling that would have halted the FDA’s 23-year-old approval of the drug, mifepristone. Under the appeals court’s new order, the approval will stay in effect and the drug will remain on the market while an expedited appeal plays out.

However, the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is leaving in place parts of the ruling that halted changes the FDA made to the rules around the drug that expanded access to medication abortion pills. Those changes include the FDA’s end of the requirement that mifepristone be picked up in person, the agency’s approval of a generic version of the drug, and adjustments the FDA made to the label instructions for the drug’s use.

Medication abortion, which makes up the majority of abortions obtained in the United States, has emerged a particularly heated flashpoint in the abortion legal battle since the Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade precedent that protected abortion rights nationally.

When issuing his ruling last week, Kacsmaryk delayed it taking effect by seven days to give the government time to appeal.

It is unclear if the Justice Department or the drug manufacturer, Danco Laboratories, will ask the Supreme Court to intervene at this point. Earlier this week, the DOJ indicated it would turn to the high court if the 5th Circuit did not act by noon CT on Thursday.

In November, anti-abortion doctors and plaintiffs brought the lawsuit challenging the FDA’s 2000 approval of the drug and targeting how the agency has since changed the rules around its use in ways that have made the pill easier to obtain.

A split 5th Circuit panel said in its new order that it was reinstating the approval of the drug because of certain procedural obstacles the plaintiffs face in challenging it. But the appeals court said that the abortion pill’s defenders had not shown that they were likely to succeed in defeating the plaintiffs’ claims against the FDA’s more recent regulatory actions toward mifepristone.

The appellate order was handed down by Circuit Judges Catharina Haynes, a George W. Bush nominee, and Kurt Engelhardt and Andrew Oldham, both Donald Trump nominees. Haynes, however, did not sign on to some aspects of the order.

The judge said she would have granted the expedited appeal but would have issued an administrative stay on Kacmsaryk’s ruling – a temporary hold that would have lasted a “brief period of time” – and deferred the question of whether it should be frozen longer term to the judges hearing the expedited appeal.

That panel will be a different make-up from the panel that considered the DOJ and Danco’s request that the ruling be paused in the interim.

Much of the 5th Circuit’s 42-page order was devoted to analyzing whether the plaintiffs face procedural issues in bringing their case. The appeals court was sympathetic to a large swath of the plaintiffs’ allegations about the drug’s safety, which have been rebuked by leading medical associations.

The 5th Circuit said the current FDA rules around the drug made for “an exceedingly unusual regime” because the agency “chose to cut out doctors from the prescription and administration of mifepristone.”

“In fact, as far as the record before us reveals, FDA has not structured the distribution of any comparable drug in this way,” the panel said.

The FDA approved mifepristone after a four-year review process. It has shown to be a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy in the two-plus decades it’s been on the market. But anti-abortion doctors and medical associations allege that the agency ran afoul of the law by not adequately taking into account the drug’s supposed risks.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/04/13/politics/abortion-pill-mifepristone-appeals-court/index.html


If adults help minors cross state lines without their parents’ consent, they’re guilty of the newly-invented crime and face years in prison.

The Republican governor of Idaho, Brad Little, signed a bill on Wednesday that makes it illegal for adults to help minors get abortions without their parents’ consent—and makes Idaho the first state in the country to pass a ban on interstate travel for abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year.

Almost all abortions are already banned in Idaho, but this first-of-its-kind law makes it a crime to help minors access abortion pills or leave Idaho for legal abortions in other states. Washington and Oregon, two of Idaho’s neighbors, have far more liberal abortion laws.

If adults help minors cross state lines without their parents’ consent, they are guilty of the new crime of “abortion trafficking” and face two to five years in prison. They could also be sued by the minor’s parent or guardian. The law is set to take effect in 30 days.

“This legislation is despicable, and we’re going to do everything in our power to stop it,” 

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates-West tweeted Wednesday. “They’re using an incredibly serious term like trafficking to talk about young people traveling with trusted adults to access a legal procedure in another state.”

“While most young people include their parents in the decision to get an abortion, some are in dangerous, abusive situations,” the group added. 

In a letter Wednesday, Little pushed back against the idea that the law bans interstate travel for abortion. Instead, he said, it only stops unemancipated minors from “being taken across state lines without the knowledge and consent of her parent or guardian.” 

One family law attorney has cautioned Little that, because the bill doesn’t define who qualifies as a “parent,” it could lead to “legal chaos,” the Seattle Times reported. A parent who doesn’t have custody of their child could, for example, block them from getting an abortion, even if a parent who does have custody wants to allow it.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe, anti-abortion activists publicly floated the idea of trying to ban people from crossing state lines for abortions, which they call “abortion tourism.” But even some abortion foes have questioned if pursuing that policy will set the movement back. “There is a constitutional right to travel,” Steve Aden, chief legal officer for Americans United For Life, told VICE News last year.

Separately on Wednesday, Planned Parenthood Great Northwest sued Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador after Labrador issued a legal opinion that seeks to block Idaho providers from referring people for out-of-state abortions. That opinion threatens providers’ rights to free speech, the lawsuit alleges.

Idaho is already seeing the consequences of its politicians’ crackdown. Last month, one hospital announced that it would discontinue labor and delivery services because too many doctors are leaving the hospital. They were departing, the hospital said in a news release, because of “Idaho’s legal and political climate.”

“The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care,” the hospital said.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/y3wg9g/idaho-interstate-travel-abortion-ban


Rep. Tricia Cotham was once a leading opponent of Republican abortion restrictions in North Carolina. As of yesterday, she’s a Republican.

A Democratic state legislator in North Carolina is switching parties just three months after being sworn-in, giving North Carolina Republicans the ability to pursue their agenda with a veto-proof majority over Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Rep. Tricia Cotham’s decision sparked fears that Republicans would use their new power to pursue legislation such as an abortion ban, in a state that’s become an unlikely outpost for abortion access since Roe v Wade was overturned last year. 

Cotham’s switch was first reported by Axios Raleigh on Tuesday. She did not respond to a request for comment from VICE News Tuesday, but that afternoon, her staff cleared out her desk on the Democratic side of the aisle and she took her place on the Republican side. 

During a press conference in Raleigh with Republican leaders on Wednesday, Cotham blasted her now-former party and said that the Democrats “villainize anyone who has free thought, free judgment, has solutions, and wants to get to work to better our state.”

“If you don’t do exactly what the Democrats want you to do they will try to bully you. They will try to cast you aside,” Cotham said.

Democratic party leaders forcefully condemned Cotham’s move. Rep. Robert Reives, the leader of Cotham’s now-former caucus, blasted her in a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying she betrayed her Democratic-leaning constituents and the values she campaigned for, and calling for her resignation. 

“That is not the person that was presented to the voters of House District 112. That is not the person those constituents campaigned for in a hard primary, and who they championed in a general election in a 60 percent Democratic district,” Reives said. “Those constituents deserved to know what values were most important to their elected representative.”

State party chair Anderson Clayton and Mecklenburg County chair Jane Whitley called the switch “deceit of the highest order” in a joint statement, and also called on her to resign. 

“Rep. Cotham’s decision is a betrayal to the people of HD-112 with repercussions not only for the people of her district, but for the entire state of North Carolina,” the statement said.

A former campaign adviser for Cotham, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told VICE News that Cotham is “a professional victim who takes responsibility for nothing and is now at home in the Republican Party.” 

“She was upset that Democrats didn’t roll out a red carpet for her when she came back to the legislature after being a lobbyist for right-wing interests during the most consequential six years in American politics,” the former adviser said. “Then she was triggered by some tweets after she voted for a few bills that would directly harm her overwhelmingly Black and brown constituents. That’s absurdly all there is to it… there was no strategy behind it.”

Cotham was elected to represent a district in the Charlotte area in November. It was her second tenure in the legislature; she’d previously served for 10 years before declining to run for re-election in 2016. 

During her first tenure in the House, Cotham was a mostly liberal Democrat, and vocally opposed Republican efforts to limit access to abortion. In 2015, during a debate over a bill to mandate a 72-hour-waiting period to obtain an abortion, Cotham spoke about her own abortion of a non-viable fetus on the floor of the House, saying that the bill (which ultimately passed into law) “would have likely caused me my life.”  

She later told Time that she received harassment as a result of her opposition to the bill, including being called a “baby-killer” by a GOP colleague. “I don’t think I had emotionally moved on,” Cotham told Time in 2015. “The real healing came that day on the floor.”

After the draft of the ruling that overturned Roe was leaked last May, Cotham said in a tweet that North Carolina needed leaders who were “unwavering and unapologetic in their support of abortion rights,” and that she would “fight to codify Roe in the [General Assembly] and continue my strong record of defending the right to choose.” In January, she co-sponsored a bill, introduced by Democrats, to do just that.

Cotham has not commented on if or how her policy preferences have changed. Asked during the press conference about her prior emotional support for abortion rights and if she would now support a 13-week ban on abortion, Cotham told the Associated Press, “I’m not going to give any type of number on anything.” She added that she was “going to do what I believe is right” and that she would “pray on this issue.” 

Pressed even further, Cotham claimed that she never believed “this was the bigger issue facing women in North Carolina”—a stark departure from her previous comments.

Abortion is currently legal in North Carolina up to 20 weeks. Since Roe was overturned, North Carolina has become a refuge for patients seeking abortions in the South—one that’s set to become even more important, considering Republicans in Florida will soon likely ban all abortions after six weeks. A group that operates three clinics in North Carolina reported in November that more than half of its patients were from out of state, according to NC Policy Watch

It’s so far unclear how Cotham’s party switch will affect her support for abortion rights. North Carolina Republicans have discussed a number of proposals including a six-week banthe AP reported in February, but have so far been unable to coalesce around a single strategy. 

Cotham’s decision could also have implication for a host of other issues, such as LGBTQ+ rights, education, gun laws, voting rights, and criminal justice. Cooper was first elected in 2016, and while he’s been constrained by Republican legislative majorities, he has limited Republican priorities and even brokered some major deals, such as a partial repeal of HB 2 and expanding Medicaid after a decade of Republican resistance to the Affordable Care Act.  

Cotham had faced criticism from Democrats last week after she and two other legislators were absent during a vote to override Cooper’s veto on a bill loosening gun regulations. Cotham later said in a statement to WBTV that she was receiving treatment for long COVID symptoms at the time and that she opposed the veto override. 

During her five-year hiatus from elected office, Cotham, a former teacher and assistant principal, spent time as the president of a charter school operator. After her election to the legislature for a second time last November, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore appointed Cotham as a co-chair of the House Education Committee, where she was voting with Republicans even prior to this week

Cotham sought to downplay speculation about why Republican leaders would give a chairmanship to a Democrat.

“I stand strongly on my record for working with Republicans and Democrats and all different types of organizations,” Cotham told Spectrum News in February. “Does that make me a target? How are they defining what target is? Because I’m practical and results-oriented?” 

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/5d9pqa/north-carolina-tricia-cotham-abortion

After a string of recent ballot-box victories for abortion rights groups, opponents of the procedure are redoubling their efforts – including, in some places, pushing to make it harder to use citizen-approved ballot measures to guarantee abortion access.

An anti-abortion coalition in Ohio, for instance, recently unleashed a $5 million ad buy targeting an effort to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution through a ballot initiative – just as the initiative’s organizers won approval to collect signatures to put the question to voters in November. Meanwhile, legislators in Ohio and other states are weighing bills that would make it more difficult to pass citizen-initiated changes to state constitutions.

The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year left abortion laws up to the states, and abortion rights groups quickly scored wins on ballot measures in six of them – including in the battleground state of Michigan, where voters protected abortion access, and in the Republican strongholds of Kansas, Kentucky and Montana, where voters defeated efforts to restrict abortions.

“What we saw in the midterms last year was a wake-up call,” said Kelsey Pritchard, director of state public affairs for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. She said helping local groups defeat abortion-related ballot measures is one of the top three priorities for the group’s state affairs team.

Groups on both sides of the abortion divide have poured big sums into an upcoming state Supreme Court race in Wisconsin that has seen record spending and offers a key test of the potency of the abortion issue among voters in a battleground state. Whether a conservative or liberal candidate wins a swing seat Tuesday on the seven-member high court there could determine the fate of abortion rights in the state. A Wisconsin law, enacted in 1849, that bans nearly all abortions is being challenged in court and is likely to land before the state Supreme Court.

More fights over ballot initiatives on abortion are stirring to life around the country. In addition to Ohio – where a state law banning abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy has been put on hold by a judge – abortion rights proponents have begun to push ballot proposals in South Dakota and Missouri. Most abortions are now illegal in those two states.

And groups in at least more six states are considering citizen initiatives as a way to guarantee or expand access to abortions, said Marsha Donat, capacity building director at The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which helps progressive groups advance ballot measures.

Battleground Ohio

Ohio, however, looms as the next big abortion battleground on the 2023 calendar – with skirmishes already underway in the courts, the state legislature and on the airwaves.

A state “fetal heartbeat” law that prohibits many abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy took effect when the US Supreme Court struck down Roe with its decision last June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. But the law has been put on hold by a judge in Cincinnati in a case that’s expected to end up before the state’s high court.

Abortion rights supporters recently won approval to begin collecting signatures to put a measure on the November ballot that would guarantee Ohioans’ access to abortion. If approved by voters, state officials could not prohibit abortion until after fetal viability, the point at which doctors say the fetus can survive outside the womb.

The initiative says that “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions” on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion.

It also would bar the state from interfering with an individual’s “voluntary exercise of this right” or that of a “person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right.”

A conservative group called Protect Women Ohio immediately launched an ad campaign – putting $4 million on the air and $1 million into digital advertising – to cast the amendment as one that would strip parents of their authority to prevent a child from having an abortion or undergoing gender reassignment surgery, although the proposed constitutional amendment makes no mention of transgender care.

Officials with Protect Women Ohio argue that the initiative’s language is broad enough to be interpreted as extending to gender reassignment surgery, an assertion initiative proponents say is false.

In the campaign aimed at defeating the amendment, “we’ll make sure they have to own every last word of this radical initiative,” said Aaron Baer, the president of Center for Christian Virtue and a Protect Women Ohio board member, told CNN. “They chose this language for a reason, and we’re not going to let them off the hook.”

Lauren Blauvelt – who chairs Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, the group promoting the initiative – said the ad “is completely wrong” and called it an “unfortunate talking point from the other side.”

“Our amendment … creates the fundamental right that an individual can make their own reproductive health care decisions” and does not touch on other topics, she said.

But the ad campaign highlights the effort to link abortion to the transgender and parental rights issues currently animating conservative activists.

Susan B. Anthony’s Pritchard said she believes that her side can win on the issue of limiting abortions but “we believe also that we broaden our coalition and broaden awareness of what these things actually do when we highlight the parental rights issue that is very real.”

The initiative’s supporters need to collect more than 413,000 signatures from Ohioans by July 5 to qualify for the November ballot. Under current Ohio law, changes to the state’s constitution can be approved via ballot initiative by a simple majority of voters.

bill introduced by Republican state Rep. Brian Stewart would increase that threshold to 60% and would mandate that the signatures needed to put an amendment on the ballot come from all 88 counties in the state, instead of 44, as currently required.

Ohio state Senate President Matt Huffman backs raising the threshold and also supports holding an August special election to change the ballot initiative rules. If successful, the higher threshold would be in effect before November’s election when voters could consider adding abortion rights to the state constitution.

Neither Huffman nor Stewart responded to interview requests from CNN.

Ohio lawmakers recently voted to end August special elections, citing their expense and low participation. But Huffman recently told reporters in Ohio that a special election – with a potential price tag of $20 million – would be worth the expense if it helped torpedo the abortion initiative.

“If we save 30,000 lives as a result of spending $20 million, I think that’s a great thing,” he said, according to Cleveland.com.

Changes to initiative rules

The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center is tracking 109 measures across 35 states that could affect initiatives put to voters in 2024. Some would increase the threshold for an initiative to pass. Others would increase the minimum number of signatures – or require that they come from a broader geographic area – before an initiative could qualify for the ballot in the first place, Donat said.

Many of the bills that seek to make it more difficult to pass ballot initiatives do not specifically target abortion issues. But they come as progressive groups increasingly turn to the initiative process as a way to bypass Republican-controlled legislatures and put a raft of issues – from legalizing marijuana to expanding Medicaid eligibility and boosting the minimum wage – directly to voters.

“Attacks, through state legislatures, on the ballot measure process have been pretty consistent and pretty aggressive for the last several (election) cycles,” said Kelly Hall, executive director of the Fairness Project, which has helped pass progressive measures in red states.

Hall said the abortion issue, while not the sole focus of current efforts to curb ballot initiatives, has put “additional fuel on an already burning fire.”

In Missouri, a state law banning most abortions – including in cases of rape and incest – took effect last year after Roe was overturned. A group called Missourians for Constitutional Freedom has filed petition language that proposes adding abortion protections to the state constitution via ballot initiative. In recent cycles, voters in Missouri have expanded Medicaid eligibility and legalized recreational marijuana use through such initiatives.

This year, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature is weighing making it harder for those initiatives to succeed. In February, the state House voted to raise the bar for amending the state constitution from a simple majority to 60%. Voters would have to approve the higher threshold.

“I believe the Missouri Constitution is a living document but not an ever-expanding document,” Republican state Rep. Mike Henderson, the measure’s sponsor, said during House floor debate. “And right now, it has become an ever-expanding document.”

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/04/01/politics/abortion-opponents-ballot-initiatives-ohio/index.html


The two candidates battling for a seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court clashed Tuesday over the state’s 1849 abortion ban in their lone debate, underscoring the high stakes of an election that could decide the issue in one of the nation’s most important swing states.

Former Justice Daniel Kelly, a conservative, and liberal opponent Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz will square off April 4 in an election that will decide the balance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In a state where control is split between a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, the high court could decide the outcome of legal battles over the state’s abortion laws, its legislative maps and more.

The debate – the only one scheduled between Protasiewicz and Kelly – took place on the same day Wisconsin voters began casting early ballots in person.

It’s the nation’s most expensive judicial contest on record, with about $30 million already spent on advertising and counting, as there are two weeks remaining in the campaign. Wisconsin is one of 14 states in the country that directly elects Supreme Court justice in this manner.

Protasiewicz focused her attacks on Kelly on abortion, with the state’s 1849 ban on nearly all abortions currently being challenged in court and likely to land before the state Supreme Court.

“If my opponent is elected, I can tell you with 100% certainty, that 1849 abortion ban will stay on the books. I can tell you that,” Protasiewicz said in Tuesday’s debate.

She said she is “making no promises” on how she would rule on the 1849 abortion law. But she also noted her personal support for abortion rights, as well as endorsements from pro-abortion rights groups. And she pointed to Kelly’s endorsement by Wisconsin Right to Life, which opposes abortion rights.

Kelly shot back that Protasiewicz’s comments are “absolutely not true.”

“You don’t know what I’m thinking about that abortion ban,” he said. “You have no idea. These things you do not know.”

The debate took place before a crowd of about 100 people who were seated in an auditorium at the offices of the State Bar of Wisconsin in Madison. The candidates answered questions from a panel of three Wisconsin reporters as the audience watched in silence.

The rhetoric grew increasingly bitter and testy, particularly on the topics of abortion, redistricting and criminal sentencing, with the two rivals standing several feet apart on a small stage. The differences that have been aired in a multi-million television ad campaign came alive.

Kelly looked directly at his opponent and repeatedly raised pointed questions about her integrity, saying at one point: “This seems to be a pattern for you, Janet, telling lies about me.” He called her by her first name, Janet, rather than judge.

Protasiewic only occasionally looked toward her challenger, but pushed back against an allegation that she is soft on crime: “I have worked very hard to keep our community safe, each and every day I’m on the bench.”

Kelly accused Protasiewicz of handing down light sentences to violent offenders.

He cited the case of Anton Veasley, who in 2021 was convicted of child enticement and third degree sexual assault and was released after Protasiewicz stayed his five-year prison sentence with four years of probation, giving him credit for 417 days he’d already spent in jail.

“We look at the sentencing she has composed and the reasoning she used to reach those conclusions, and that’s just irresponsible to allow dangerous convicted criminals back out so easily with no repercussions into the communities they just got done victimizing,” Kelly said.

Protasiewicz acknowledged that “hindsight is 20/20.” But she said Kelly was mischaracterizing her record.

“I have sentenced thousands of people. And it’s interesting that a handful of cases have been cherry-picked and selected and twisted, and insufficient facts have been provided to the electorate,” she said.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/03/21/politics/wisconsin-supreme-court-debate-abortion-1849-law/index.html


The Arkansas state lawmaker proposing the monument, which would be built on government property, called the Roe v. Wade era “a holocaust.”

A “monument to unborn children” may soon be coming to the Arkansas state Capitol.

On Tuesday, the Republican-dominated Arkansas state legislature approved a bill that would create a fund to build “suitable monument on the state Capitol grounds commemorating unborn children aborted during the era of Roe v. Wade.” The bill is now headed to Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the anti-abortion former press secretary for ex-President Donald Trump.

“It was a holocaust in this nation,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Mary Bentley, according to a local NPR affiliate. “And we forgot how precious human life is. And life won.”

She also compared the future monument to memorials to firefighters, World War II veterans, and the Little Rock Nine, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

However, not every Republican was so gung-ho about the monument. Rep. Steve Unger is anti-abortion, but compared it to “gloating,” according to the NPR affiliate.

“From a Christian perspective, this has the look and feel of spiking the football,” Unger said.

Almost all abortions are currently banned in Arkansas, with no exceptions for rape or incest. In a national study of children’s well-being, Arkansas also came in 43rd place out of all 50 states, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which examined indicators like birth weight, children’s mental health, the number of children living in poverty.

The monument would be paid for by private donations, while its design would be overseen by the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission—with some input from local anti-abortion groups. In case the state is sued over the monument—which may raise questions about the separation of church and state—the bill also hands the Arkansas attorney general the ability to mount a defense of it.

“You can ask slaves what happens when we forget. We have to remember slavery in America so it won’t come back,” said Republican Rep. Cindy Crawford, according to the Arkansas Times. “We have to remember abortion in Arkansas so it won’t come back. There’s no reason why we can’t have a monument. It’s not a poke in the eye; it’s a ‘God forgive us for what we have done.’”

In 2021, Crawford was one of just seven state House members who voted against abolishing the Arkansas holiday known as Confederate Flag Day. (The bill passed the House but died in a Senate committee.) As of 2020, there were 39 Confederate monuments in Arkansas. Only four had been removed.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/g5yx47/arkansas-republicans-monument-to-unborn-children

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s governor signed an abortion-rights bill Thursday that overrides local ordinances aimed at limiting access to abortion procedures and medications.

Reproductive health clinics in New Mexico offer abortion procedures to patients from states, including Texas, with strict abortion bans. The new law also aims to ensure access to gender affirming healthcare related to distress over gender identity that doesn’t match a person’s assigned sex.

New Mexico has one of the country’s most liberal abortion access laws, but two counties and three cities in eastern New Mexico have recently adopted abortion restrictions that reflect deep-seated opposition to offering the procedure.

The bill signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham overrides those local ordinances.

An additional bill working its way through New Mexico’s Legislature would protect abortion providers and patients from out-of-state interference, prosecution or extradition attempts.

In 2021, New Mexico’s Democrat-led Legislature passed a measure to repeal a dormant 1969 statute that outlawed most abortion procedures, which ensured access to abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.

Anti-abortion ordinances — adopted over the past several months by officials in the cities of Hobbs, Clovis and Eunice, along with Lea and Roosevelt counties — reference an obscure U.S. anti-obscenity law that prohibits shipping of medication or other materials intended to aid abortions.

Separately, Democratic state Attorney General Raúl Torrez has urged the state Supreme Court to intervene against local abortion ordinances that he says violate state constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Democratic governors in 20 states this year launched a network intended to strengthen abortion access in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision nixing a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. The decision shifted regulatory powers over the procedure to state governments.

Many states have also enacted or contemplated limits or outright bans on transgender medical treatment, with conservative U.S. lawmakers saying they are worried about young people later regretting irreversible body-altering treatment.

Source: https://apnews.com/article/abortion-transgender-rights-new-mexico-b0f945afe9cc2d8e4f90bb956e62694a