Abortion Information


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/

WASHINGTON – The steps President Joe Biden took early in his administration to reverse his predecessor’s policies on reproductive health issues drew howls from abortion opponents.

Biden, whose positions on abortion issues have evolved over the years, still faced some skepticism from abortion rights advocates about his commitment to their cause. One sign had been the administration’s avoidance of the word “abortion” in favor of more generic phrases such as “reproductive health” and “women’s health access.”

Biden faces his biggest test of that commitment in his response to a new Texas law that bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy – and is likely to be copied by other GOP-led states.

Biden did, for the first time since his inauguration, use the word “abortion” in his statements condemning the law, which the Supreme Court allowed to go into effect last week. He called the law “almost un-American” for its reliance on private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in “aiding and abetting” abortions.

His team met Friday with women’s rights and reproductive health leaders to discuss how to fight the statute.

Marcela Howell, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, said that although she believes Biden supports reproductive rights, he needs to do more – especially from the bully pulpit.

“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary action,” she said, “and it’s time for him to demonstrate that in a much bigger way.”

Sept 1, 2021; Austin, TX, USA; Jillian Dworin participates in a protest against the six-week abortion ban at the Capitol on Wednesday September 1, 2021.  Dozens of people protested the abortion restriction law that went into effect Wednesday. Mandatory Credit: Jay Janner-USA TODAY NETWORK ORIG FILE ID:  20210901_ajw_usa_024.JPG

Jillian Dworin participates in a protest against Texas’ six-week abortion ban at the state Capitol on September 1, 2021.  JAY JANNER, JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Activists want the administration to embrace actions such as suing Texas, meeting with Texas women affected by the law, easing restrictions on medication abortion and endorsing legislation in the House that would codify the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision establishing abortion rights in 1973.

The Texas law increases pressure on Biden to back changes to the filibuster and to the makeup of the Supreme Court. 

“I think they were getting the full picture of the urgency and responding appropriately,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who attended the meeting with White House officials.

Biden, an observant Catholic, has long wrestled with the issue as the Democratic Party’s unanimity on abortion rights increased.

Last year, Biden reversed his decades-long support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for most abortions.

President Joe Biden speaks with a priest at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., on June 19.

President Joe Biden speaks with a priest at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., on June 19.  OLIVIER DOULIERY, AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Soon after taking office, Biden allowed federal funds to flow again to international groups that provide or refer patients for abortion services and moved to undo restrictions on U.S. clinics that provide abortion counseling or services. His first budget request did not include the Hyde Amendment.

Biden, who said he personally opposes abortion, frames his views in the context of one of his top priorities: creating a more equitable society for people of color and other marginalized groups.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is working on a document that could rebuke Catholic politicians for receiving Communion if they support abortion rights.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki sparred last week with a reporter from EWTN Global Catholic Network. The reporter asked how Biden can support abortion when “his own Catholic faith teaches that abortion is morally wrong.”

“Well, he believes that it’s a woman’s right, it’s a woman’s body, and it’s her choice,” Psaki told the male reporter. ”I know you’ve never faced those choices, nor have you ever been pregnant. But for women out there who have faced those choices, this is an incredibly difficult thing.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki affirms the president's support for abortion rights.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki affirms the president’s support for abortion rights.  GETTY IMAGES PHOTO; USA TODAY GRAPHIC

The next day, White House officials met virtually with 11 leaders of women’s rights and reproductive health organizations.

Advocates hopeful, but details remain unclear

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said she was pleased that the administration committed to using every tool at its disposal to respond to the Texas law.

“And that was the thrust of the meeting,” Goss Graves said. “What does that mean in practice, in this time of both constitutional crisis and a literal public health emergency on the ground where people who need care are at risk of not getting it?”

The answer is unclear.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Monday that the Justice Department will enforce a 1994 law prohibiting threats, physical obstruction or property damage to try to prevent someone from seeking or providing reproductive health services at a clinic.

He didn’t detail how that would work. Psaki said Wednesday the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services are still evaluating their options.

Goss Graves said she expects “ongoing updates.”

“We will be watching closely to ensure that becomes a reality,” she said. “This is one of those moments where people will be asking, ‘What side of history were we on? Where were our leaders when there was this effort to totally undermine our access to care and our fundamentally protected rights?’”

Northup, of the Center for Reproductive Rights, urged the Justice Department to take every possible action, including suing Texas, enjoining the law and considering criminal prosecutions for the deprivation of civil rights.

“I have full confidence that they will move as soon as they can,” she said.

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, hopes Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will go to Texas to talk with patients “to understand what is actually happening on the impact of the law.”

Planned Parenthood is pushing the administration to get behind the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that would block restrictions on reproductive health services that House Democrats plan to bring to the floor this month.

“We shared our thoughts with the administration on Friday,” McGill Johnson said. “All of these things are in conversation.”

Planned Parenthood and others called for the administration to lift the FDA’s restrictions on Mifepristone, a drug used to end early pregnancies. Psaki said Wednesday that’s “a decision that the FDA has to make on their own, based on science.”

Abolish the filibuster? Expand the court? 

Though Biden supports codifying Roe v. Wade, Psaki demurred when asked if he backs the Women’s Health Protection Act as the way to do it.

“We’re still looking at whether that’s a vehicle we’re going to support,” she said Wednesday.

The bigger hurdle for legislative actions is the Senate, where Democrats don’t have enough votes to block a filibuster. That intensifies the pressure Biden already faced – over voting rights and other issues – to support changes to the filibuster.

The Texas law adds significance to the commission Biden tasked with reviewing the structure and operation of the Supreme Court by early October.

“In the long term, the best way to protect women’s rights is to add at least two justices to the Supreme Court,” Dan Pfeiffer, a top aide in the Obama administration, wrote in The Message Box newsletter.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 04, 2020 pro-choice activists supporting legal access to abortion protest during a demonstration outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, as the Court hears oral arguments regarding a Louisiana law about abortion access in the first major abortion case in years. - A US federal appeals court on March 31, 2020 ruled that Texas could temporarily suspend abortions as part of its response to the coronavirus crisis, overturning a ruling by a lower court the day before.

The governor of the conservative-leaning Lone Star State, Greg Abbott, had decreed that elective procedures should be delayed to ensure readiness to treat virus patients -- and to conserve protective gear for frontline workers. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images) ORIG FILE ID: AFP_1QB28H

Abortion rights activists protest during a demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court on March 4, 2020.  SAUL LOEB, AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Expanding the court and abolishing the filibuster are among the priorities for Tamika Middleton, deputy director of the Women’s March who was not a participant in Friday’s White House meeting.

The group has worked with dozens of organizations to mobilize a show of support for abortion rights before the Supreme Court returns in the fall. The court signaled its readiness to take another look at abortion rulings by agreeing to consider Mississippi’s attempt to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The Texas law added urgency.

“We knew that we needed to mobilize more quickly,” Middleton said of marches planned for Oct. 2 in every state.

The response from the administration, she said, has not been strong enough to deter other states from passing similar laws.

“This is an emergency moment,” she said. “We have to take clear and immediate and strong action.”

Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and executive director of We Testify who was not at the White House meeting, said the administration’s actions should start with Biden talking openly about abortions.

Bracey Sherman, whose group helps people who’ve had abortions share their stories, created a website tracking how long it took Biden to use the word. She found it “absolutely wild” that even the presidential statement recognizing the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision did not use it.

“If he truly believes that abortion access is a human right and that it’s a constitutionally protected service, then he should be able to come out and address the country and talk about that, talk about his values, why, as a Catholic man, he believes that people should have access to abortions,” Bracey Sherman said. “How can you advocate for something without talking about it?”

Asked last week about Biden’s seeming reluctance to use the word until the Texas law went into effect, Psaki declined to say whether that was deliberate.

Her response was an acknowledgment that abortion rights activists are paying close attention to the president’s response.

“I think the most important value people should look at is what the president does in his actions and what he fights for,” she said. “And I don’t think I’m going to have any other assessment beyond that.”

Source: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/09/08/abortion-rights-groups-want-bigger-response-biden-texas-law/5761181001/

The city of Portland, Oregon, announced it intends to ban trade and travel to the state of Texas in response to the Lone Star State’s new abortion law.

Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Friday that the city council intends to vote on an emergency resolution Wednesday to stop “the City’s future procurement of goods and services from, and City employee business travel to, the state of Texas.”

The resolution will be in effect until Texas ends the law or it is overturned. It’s not exactly clear what such a ban would look like.

“City legal counsel is currently evaluating the legal aspects of this proposed resolution,” a release from the city council said.

“The Portland City Council stands unified in its belief that all people should have the right to choose if and when they carry a pregnancy and that the decisions they make are complex, difficult, and unique to their circumstances.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced the city of Portland intends to ban trade and travel to the state of Texas.AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File

The new Texas law, S.B.8, was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May and went into effect last week after the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

It bans all abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is typically about six weeks after conception and before many women are aware they are pregnant.

Additionally and uniquely, the law allows for private residents bring legal action against anyone who assisted in terminating the pregnancy, including those who drive a woman to the abortion appointment. Citizens who win such lawsuits may be entitled to at least $10,000.

Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Austin, TX.
Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in Austin.

“This law rewards private individuals for exercising surveillance and control over others’ bodies. It violates the separation of church and state. And, it will force people to carry pregnancies against their will,” the council’s statement said.

“Portland City Council stands with the people who may one day face difficult decisions about pregnancy, and we respect their right to make the best decision for themselves.”

The law sparked immediate outcry nationwide, and legal battles have already begun.

On Friday, a Texas district judge issued a temporary restraining order against the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, which launched a “whistleblower” website asking for tips about abortions.

anti-abortion rights demonstrators gather in the rotunda at the Capitol while the Senate debated anti-abortion bills in Austin, Texas.
The nation’s highest court has allowed a Texas law banning most abortions to remain in effect.

On Monday, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department would “protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services” under a federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Garland said in a statement that federal prosecutors are still urgently exploring options to challenge the Texas law.

President Biden called the law “almost un-American” on Friday, and pledged to work with the Justice Department to fight against it.

“The most pernicious thing about the Texas law: It sort of creates a vigilante system where people get rewards … And it just seems — I know this sounds ridiculous — almost un-American, what we’re talking about.”

Florida may be considering a similar abortion ban.

Source: https://nypost.com/2021/09/06/portland-to-cut-trade-travel-with-texas-amid-abortion-law/?fbclid=IwAR1U_ILmSLowxeOwsPPoqFK0GoFjswx6oaEBbsOuIegV-vWA2e6_2eJS9xc

BY SERGIO FLORES/WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES

All ideas are in the air, from backing groups that support abortion access to taking a page from Lysistrata. 

aced with a draconian new restriction on abortion rights in Texas (home to nearly 30 million people, four million more than Australia), most reasonable people are wondering, “what the hell do we do now?” That includes Hollywood, and judging by the voices so far, women’s bodily autonomy is an issue that could prompt action. 

Actress and advocate Patricia Arquette was one of the first out of the gate to suggest a Hollywood boycott. “We will not stop until women have full equal rights in every state in America. We will boycott you. We will out organize you. We will strike you,” she wrote.

Soon after, her sister Rosanna Arquette put her money where her mouth was.

Author Megan Kelly Hall suggested that all entertainers should cancel their Texas dates.

Such a move is not entirely out of the question. For the time being, abortion access is severely curbed in Texas, barring action like a new congressional bill. But nationwide, the future of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade remains under threat. And Republicans in other states, including Florida, are looking to make similar moves to the Lone Star State, emboldened by the Supreme Court’s failure to protect the rights of people who need abortions there. 

In 2019, when abortion rights were threatened in Georgia, forces in Hollywood put up a fight. Netflix said they would “rethink its investment.” Kristen Wiig didn’t only make threats; she changed locations on Barb and Star Go To Vista Del MarBob Iger, who was CEO of the Walt Disney Company at the time, said that “many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully.” (Thanks to tax credits initiated in 2008, Atlanta has become a major hub for film and television production, even dubbed “The Hollywood of the South!”). But Texas presents an even more formidable challenge, given that the Supreme Court failed to block the law, possibly foreshadowing what’s to come for people in red states who don’t have the means to travel to exercise their reproductive rights. 

As of Saturday, social media had no shortage of celebrities piping mad about what happened in Texas (see the Twitter feeds of Bradley WhitfordBarbra StreisandGeorge Takei, among many others). But the idea of a Texas-wide boycott does not yet appear to be reaching anything close to a consensus.

Jack Antonoff announced he’d still bring his act to Texas, but proceeds from those shows will go to groups that support abortion rights until the laws are repealed.

Actor and documentary filmmaker Alex Winter also seemed less keen on a boycott but suggested ways to help people living in Texas.

Similarly, actress and advocate Alyssa Milano, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times said, “I don’t know if a Hollywood boycott would do much directly. But a Hollywood-driven boycott of companies which fund the campaigns of [Gov.] 

Greg Abbott and others like him might hurt more.” She added that a boycott could “hurt the people who are most affected by these new laws” and instead hoped to get “the entertainment industry united and loud in pushing for immediate federal reform and relief [which] will protect women everywhere in America.” 

Harking back to classical antiquity, Bette Midler fired off a tweet that gained a lot of traction, offering a spin on Lysistrata. At this point, it can’t hurt.

Source: https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/09/we-will-boycott-you-how-hollywood-is-responding-so-far-to-texass-abortion-law?fbclid=IwAR1NR7l07sOTYbYP5XTIEUOTKTfS65bKhHyr7XWAkS1eUaV_yBEY0nOxj4g

“We 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,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the Department of Justice statement.
 Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

By announcing the Justice Department was looking at the FACE Act to fix Texas SB 8, the administration announced it was effectively doing nothing at all.

The Department of Justice on Monday announced it was “urgently” exploring all options to challenge Texas SB 8, the blatantly unconstitutional pre-viability abortion ban the Supreme Court allowed to take effect last week.

The announcement, made via press release on Labor Day, said the Justice Department would “not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act.”

Monday’s announcement is, to borrow a Texas euphemism, all hat and no cattle. Here’s why.

The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act is a federal law prohibiting the use of force, threats, and/or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, or interfere with a person seeking to obtain or provide abortion services. It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing abortion services. Congress passed it in 1994 following a wave of anti-choice terrorism that resulted in the murder of Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida.

In many ways the FACE Act is a natural tool for the Biden administration to use in fighting back against SB 8 because the origins—or the most pernicious parts of the Texas ban—are found in the roots of anti-choice terrorism. But those origins also show the limitations of enforcing the FACE Act.

SB 8 not only bans abortion as soon as a provider detects cardiac activity in the embryo, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, it also outsources enforcement of the ban to private citizens, effectively deputizing third parties to act as agents of the state as an attempt to insulate the law from successful legal challenge. It’s a mess of a provision that has caught many legal observers off guard, but it’s not a new tactic for the anti-choice movement.

Secret criminal investigation

In 2003, shortly after taking office, Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline, a staunch anti-abortion advocate, opened a secret criminal investigation to search for evidence of wrongdoing by area Planned Parenthood affiliates and Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas-area abortion provider. As part of that investigation, Kline asked a state judge to issue more than 90 subpoenas for complete original patient medical records. A big court fight ensued around the records that resulted in partially redacted medical records being disclosed to Kline’s office.

What happened next is the stuff of nightmares. While Kline was fighting to publicize abortion clinic records, he was also in a big re-election fight. He lost, and in 2007 on the last day in office as attorney general, Kline directed his staff to make photocopies of the redacted medical records. For the next two months, Kline and his goons moved these records unsecured and unprotected all around a state known as a hotbed of anti-abortion terrorism and violence.

Meanwhile, Kline’s electoral loss wasn’t the end of his political career in Kansas. After his loss but before Kline left office, the Johnson County Kansas Republican Central Committee named Kline to a two-year term as district attorney.

As district attorney, Kline filed more than 100 baseless claims against abortion providers in the state. The amplification had deadly consequences. In 2009, Scott Roeder murdered Dr. George Tiller while Tiller was serving as an usher at his local church.

Kline’s law license was suspended indefinitely for these actions. He is currently an associate law professor at Liberty University.

Tiller’s murder sent shockwaves through the abortion rights and access community, but it didn’t come as a surprise thanks to the environment Kline cultivated. Just one year after Dr. Tiller’s death, threats to other providers began.

Some, like the letter and bomb threats to Dr. Mila Means, were specific and targeted. Others were more diffuse. In 2012 Troy Newman, then the president of Wichita-based Operation Rescue, announced his organization was in possession of dozens of patient records from a local abortion clinic. At the time, Newman claimed a confidential informant delivered him the patient records. Cheryl Pilate, an attorney for the clinic in 2012, told local press that someone had broken into a locked dumpster on clinic property. Newman used the records as an opportunity to call for more investigations of abortion providers in the area and, perhaps more chillingly, to just let the public know a group with ties to acts of domestic violence was in possession of patient records.

The terroristic tactics would spread. All while the FACE Act was on the books.

Surveilling patients and providers

Jonathan Bloedow is a name familiar to those who track anti-choice violence. Back in the early days of the Obama administration, Bloedow began filing a series of records request under Washington’s state’s Public Records Act, looking for details on abortions provided at clinics around the state. Bloedow’s requests sought information like the patient’s race and age, last known address, and at what point in the pregnancy the abortion occurred.

Bloedow had at least one purpose in mind with each of those records requests—using the information gathered from the state to launch lawsuits accusing Planned Parenthood affiliates of fraud. Along with attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom, the anti-civil rights advocacy organization that Justice Amy Coney Barrett has ties to, Bloedow sued Planned Parenthood in 2011, accusing the reproductive health-care provider of attempting to defraud Congress. Bloedow’s lawsuit was just one of several brought by ADF attorneys that relied on early surveillance techniques by anti-choice activists.

At the time, Operation Rescue activist and Troy Newman associate Cheryl Sullinger applauded the tactics, telling the Washington Post that the surveillance was necessary because this is “about saving the lives of women.”

Bloedow’s lawsuits were eventually dismissed, but those dismissals were hardly the end of the anti-choice community using private parties to surveil patients and providers. In 2015 anti-abortion activist David Daleiden released a series of heavily edited videos through a front organization called the Center for Medical Progress that claimed Planned Parenthood affiliates were selling fetal tissue for profit. Daleiden and other private citizens infiltrated provider conferences, surreptitiously recorded conversations, and then released the videos in a smear campaign designed to curtail abortion access. In the course of the litigation around the CMP videos it was revealed that other major anti-choice advocacy organizations were involved as informal advisers, including Americans United for Life and Troy Newman.

Not enough

Which brings us back to Monday’s announcement that the Biden administration is looking at using the FACE Act as a response to Texas SB 8: The FACE Act is quite simply not enough to deal with the threat facing abortion access in this country—and it really never was enough. The statute provides for both criminal and civil penalties, which is a good thing, but the penalties alone are not enough to disincentivize anti-choice violence. And the FACE Act is only as effective as the will of the attorneys and federal judges tasked with enforcing it, which means the Justice Department will be relying on a host of Trump judges to enforce it.

Furthermore, the FACE Act almost by definition is reactive because an attorney bringing a FACE Act claim will need to establish evidence of a threat or interruption of access—and at the point that evidence exists, the chilling effect on abortion rights and access has already taken hold.

That’s not to say Attorney General Merrick Garland shouldn’t try here. Quite frankly the Biden administration needs to try everything it can to respond to the threat facing abortion providers and patients, including FACE Act enforcement.

But that enforcement is not enough, and we need to be clear-eyed in assessing promised Democratic responses to the crisis of abortion access in this country. Monday’s statement and promised action land flat because they once again depend on the courts and assume that conservative judicial appointees will faithfully apply the law to protect abortion access in Texas. That is the kind of magical thinking that helped get us into this mess.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/09/07/biden-administration-responds-to-texas-abortion-vigilantes-and-somehow-makes-it-worse/

In May 2021, thousands of protesters came out in response to a new Texas bill outlawing abortions after six weeks.Sergio Flores/Getty

“If I say abortion exists as a concept, can I get sued?”

Last night, when I was up too late doomscrolling through Twitter while mourning the demise of women’s constitutional rights, I couldn’t stop thinking of my friend, who I’ll call Laura. Laura is an OB-GYN in Fort Worth, Texas. Since she moved there almost five years ago from the East Coast, our communication has shifted from our favorite trash TV shows to lamenting the bleak outlook for women and women’s health care in her new home state.

Even for someone who follows the news, the human consequences of Texas’ relentless assault on reproductive rights came as a bit of a shock to Laura—like when, shortly after she’d moved there, a pregnant woman in her early 40s and in a hostile relationship sought advice. “She was devastated and scared to get an abortion, personally and culturally, but knew she needed to do it,” Laura tells me. “So I counseled her, supported her, and went to my desk to call and schedule it.” The hospital representative asked how many weeks the patient was, and “just because it’s a new place [for me], I’m like, ‘It’s good to do an elective [abortion] here?’ The woman on the other side of the phone loses it and says, ‘Oh my gosh, absolutely not. We don’t do that.’”

Laura called three other places—hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers where she has surgical privileges. They all told her no. Laura had to go back to the patient and tell her she could not do it, and that she’d need to go to a clinic, but the woman balked. “She says she can’t do that—knows about the protesters. She says she could only do it after forming a bond with the doctor who counseled her: me.” Now, at least until the Supreme Court intervenes, the options are drastically worse for women like Laura’s patient.

Texas was never an easy place to be an OB-GYN, but when SB 8 took effect at midnight last night, banning abortions at six weeks and deputizing citizens to inform on people who “aid and abet” abortions, it became damn near impossible. (This is why Laura and I agreed not to use her real name or identify exactly where she practices.) Sure, Laura, who has privileges at a big private hospital in Fort Worth, rarely provides any abortions herself, but she can’t help but worry that giving her best medical advice will land her in court. She takes some solace in knowing that most of the brave people providing abortions “are together,” overwhelmingly working in clinics like Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health, where they will figure out the next steps. But, she says, that still “leaves behind counseling. When a young patient shows up, what can I say or do?”

We caught up on Wednesday morning to talk about what it’s like on the ground right now after this momentous change. She called from her car, parked at a church next to the “eerily empty” Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Fort Worth, which was one of the biggest abortion providers in the state. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Well, well, well. Sad to talk to you today.

Well, hello—just another day in the new but old America that is Texas.

It’s chaos!

Well—it’s not chaos. It’s just government functioning as usual. It’s mental and emotional chaos.

This morning I was walking around the hospital and am like, Is anyone else thinking about this like I am? It feels normal here. Oh, are we all good? There are definitely people who I know for sure are anti-abortion, so I wouldn’t bring it up at work. But we got an email this morning saying something like: Reminder this went into effect today. It was mostly screenshots highlighting the language of the actual law. 

Source: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/09/sb8-texas-what-its-like-obgyn-abortion-reproductive-rights/

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