Abortion Information

If you’re organizing a demonstration, remember that protest and demonstration look different for everyone.
 Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Protest and demonstration look different for everyone, so planning for these moments in history must include disabled people. Our voices are important.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the most consequential abortion case in decades, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Nothing short of the future of Roe v. Wade is on the line, and advocates and activists will descend on Washington, D.C., to demonstrate in front of the Court to make their voices heard.

Political protest and demonstrations are central to democracy. The right to peaceably assemble is written into our Constitution. And whenever our country finds itself in a moment of social change or turmoil, political demonstrations are a fixture. After the 2016 presidential election, people came from all over the country to flood the streets of Washington; more recently, in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, demonstrations took place all over the country for weeks.

But demonstrations are not the only way to participate in these pivotal moments in history, and for members of the disability community, being physically present at a rally or march may present challenges that able-bodied people never have to consider. Likewise, the rhetoric around protests and showing up in the moment can exclude those for whom in-person participation is not an option.

As a disabled person, I’ve seen all of this firsthand. Ableism is unfortunately pervasive, even in progressive spaces. And it’s not uncommon for the discourse around social change to reflect that—with comments implying that not showing up for a rally or demonstration signals apathy or that engaging in other forms of advocacy, like sharing resources on social media, is simply virtue signaling.

I am excited to witness all the incredible advocacy at the Supreme Court on Wednesday—to see activists coming together and making their presence known, while demanding abortion be recognized as health care and the fundamental right it is. But if, like me, that kind of engagement isn’t an option for you, it can feel like you’re not doing enough.

Participating in physical demonstrations is not the only way to engage in moments like this, and the actions disabled people like me take are enough. They are valid. If you’re a disabled person, though, it can be tough to know how to participate when it feels like everyone is physically on their way to Washington.

I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve found my own way to participate in these moments. For example, during the police protests, I offered to answer men’s suiting questions (I have a side gig as a menswear stylist and writer) with proceeds going to the NAACP. I also raised roughly $3,000 for bail funds by offering my Twitter followers a nude photo in exchange for a bail fund receipt. (I’m proud of the hashtags I created for this: #BoobsForBail and #ButtForBail.) Beyond that, I share as many resources as I can on social media and with my peers. As a journalist, I’m lucky enough to be able to write about these issues, which is how I’ll be spending the day of oral arguments Wednesday in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

As I worked on this piece, I made a call-out on Twitter to find out how other disabled folks show up for the issues that matter to them. Many take part in advocating on social media, sharing posts and other information, as well as donating when they can. They also send postcards to elected officials and create social media posts of their own to help spread awareness. And some folks said they donate their skills and resources to organizations free of charge, things like helping organizations with data entry. One person said they take part in car cruise protests, which can be more comfortable for disabled people for whom standing or walking for long periods of time is untenable. Each of these actions is as critical and impactful as showing up in person.

If you’re organizing a demonstration, remember that protest and demonstration look different for everyone. So here are some quick tips to ensure your advocacy is as inclusive and ableism-free as possible.

Language matters: If I had a dollar for every time I saw a tweet that said, roughly, “If you’re not showing up at a protest, do you even care?” I’d be rich. So let me cut to the chase: Don’t do this. Don’t say anything like it. It signals that you have no awareness of disability or chronic illness, and it implies that people who don’t engage physically in demonstrations aren’t valid activists. If you want to invite people to be present at your rally, say something like, “Join us if you can!” or “Join us if you’re able!” These differences may seem small, but they matter.

Consider disabled people in your planning: I can’t speak for all disabled people, but I know I would partake in more in-person demonstrations if the planning involved the needs of disabled people—if I knew before going to a rally that there was going to be ample seating, or if the details of a march included restrooms or places to stop and sit along the way. And the best way to meet the needs of disabled people? Include us in your planning. If your team doesn’t have a disabled person on it, chances are you’re going to exclude us.

Build options into your action items: While every disabled person I spoke with was invested in creating protest options that meet their needs, it would be even better if the organizers of rallies and demonstrations build options for disabled people into their plans. That might mean providing a livestream of the rally that folks can join remotely, or maybe you have a way for folks to get involved on social media—like a hashtag to share or a petition to share and sign. This #AbortionIsEssential toolkit for digital action is a great example. Again, including disabled people in this process should not be optional. Our voices are important.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/11/30/as-a-disabled-person-this-is-how-im-rallying-for-abortion/?utm_campaign=rng-2021q4-dobbs-args&utm_medium=post&utm_source=facebook-rng&fbclid=IwAR3iZ1ImrSaM0dOyGR_d9OLzPE87HMXGVKCkKfgDGZ0WdBkslO1CE0Q9Ufk

By Robert Barnes
Shelly Tan

The Supreme Court on Dec. 1 will consider the most serious challenge in decades to its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that there is a constitutional right to abortion, and a 1992 reaffirmation of the right in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The court will consider a Mississippi law that bans almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It has not gone into effect because lower courts said it violated the court’s precedents that states may not ban the procedure pre-viability. That refers to when a fetus may survive outside the womb, which happens usually between 22 and 24 weeks.Story continues below advertisement

In accepting the case, the court said it would decide whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortion are unconstitutional. But Mississippi and abortion opponents have asked the court to use the case to undo its precedents in Roe and Casey.

All nine of the justices declined during their confirmation hearings to opine on whether Roe v. Wade was properly decided, but past court rulings, public appearances and other public comments give insight into their thinking on abortion and court precedents.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Hard to peg

Roberts prefers an incremental approach to moving the law, which might counsel against overturning landmark decisions such as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And he sees himself as playing an important role in protecting the court’s independence. A change to long-standing precedent could be seen as partisan on a court with six conservative justices named by Republican presidents, and three liberals named by Democratic presidents.

At his confirmation hearing in 2005, Roberts declined all attempts to have him weigh in on the merits of Roe and the court’s abortion precedents, like all other nominees have done. He also said he was acting as a lawyer representing a client when he wrote in a legal brief filed by the George W. Bush administration that Roe v. Wade had “no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution.”

In past cases he has sided with decisions that would restrict abortions. In 2007, he was in the majority as the court upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003,although he assigned the majority opinion to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. In 2016, he was on the losing side when the court ruled that a Texas law that imposed restrictions on abortion clinics and doctors was unconstitutional.

But recently, Roberts has been harder to peg. In 2020, he joined the liberals in striking down a Louisiana law that was practically identical to the Texas one. Roberts said that he still believed the 2016 Texas case was wrongly decided, but that it would be a mistake for the court to overturn a decision from just a few terms from before. He also would have prevented the new Texas law S.B. 8 from taking effect. The law effectively bans abortion after six weeks and empowers individuals to bring suits against those who aid or abet prohibited abortions.

Justice Clarence Thomas

Has written that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overturned

Thomas has been a reliable vote for state restrictions on abortion, while urging Roe be overturned and lamenting that abortion rights seem to have a special status in the court’s jurisprudence. Moreover, Thomas is the justice least likely to adhere to stare decisis, the principle that past court decisions should be respected. He believes that if a past decision was wrongly decided, it should be overturned.

In his fall 1991 confirmation hearings, Thomas was vague on the subject of abortion. He testified that he could not remember “personally engaging” in discussions of Roe during law school and that he had no “personal opinion” about Roe’s correctness.

But his views on the matter became clear shortly after taking the bench. In 1992, he joined three other members of the court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey to say that Roe was wrongly decided.

After Casey, he began to write more strongly in his own voice in multiple dissenting opinions, including last year in June Medical Services v. Russo:“Roe is grievously wrong for many reasons, but the most fundamental is that its core holding — that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to abort her unborn child — finds no support in the text of the Fourteenth Amendment.”— Clarence Thomas, June Medical Services v. RussoStory continues below advertisement

Justice Stephen G. Breyer

Consistent abortion rights supporter

The 83-year-old justice has been a steady supporter of abortion rights, while acknowledging the “virtually irreconcilable” points of view on the issue.

In 2000, Breyer voted to strike down a Nebraska restriction, writing the majority opinion in Stenberg v. Carhart. He acknowledged the divide on the issue:“Millions of Americans believe that life begins at conception and consequently that an abortion is akin to causing the death of an innocent child … Other millions fear that a law that forbids abortion would condemn many American women to lives that lack dignity, depriving them of equal liberty and leading those with least resources to undergo illegal abortions with the attendant risks of death and suffering.”— Stephen G. Breyer, Stenberg v. Carhart

He also wrote the court’s decisions to strike down restrictions in Texas and Louisiana. Breyer wrote in a 2016 opinion that the Texas law, which required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, imposed unconstitutional restrictions on clinics and doctors. He also wrote for the court’s liberals in the Louisiana case, where he called the law “almost word-for-word identical” to the Texas one.

Breyer was among the four dissenters when the court allowed a Texas law prohibiting abortions after six weeks to go into effect in September. S.B. 8 presented unique questions, he wrote, but should not foreclose the “ability to ask the Judiciary to protect an individual from the invasion of a constitutional right — an invasion that threatens immediate and serious injury.”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Previous support for restrictions

The George W. Bush nominee has never voted to strike down a restriction on abortion during his time on the court. But he has not yet been called upon to decide whether Roe and Casey should be overturned.

Before he was nominated, Alito said he was proud to have argued that “the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion.” These statements, which he made as a member of the Reagan administration, came up during his confirmation hearing in 2005.

As a federal appeals court judge, he voted to uphold the Pennsylvania abortion restrictions that were the focus of the Supreme Court’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, including a requirement of spousal notification before obtaining an abortion.

The Supreme Court disagreed on the spousal notification requirement in Casey, although it upheld the other restrictions that Alito voted to approve. The court also used the case to uphold the basic premise of Roe: that the constitutional right to abortion means states may not impose an undue burden on that right pre-viability.Story continues below advertisement

Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Reliable vote for abortion rights

Sotomayor was a longtime district and appellate judge but was never called upon to act in an abortion rights case. When President Barack Obama nominated her in 2009, some liberals were concerned about her lack of record on the issue.

But she has been a reliable vote for abortion rights in her tenure, and with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s most outspoken advocate.

Sotomayor objected to the court’s 2021 decision to reimpose restrictions on obtaining medication abortions, channeling the late Justice Ginsburg:“One can only hope that the government will reconsider and exhibit greater care and empathy for women seeking some measure of control over their health and reproductive lives in these unsettling times”— Sonia Sotomayor, Food and Drug Administration v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Like the other liberal justices, she would have stopped Texas S.B. 8 from being implemented, and was sharply critical of her colleagues who voted the other way:“The Court’s order is stunning. Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”— Sonia Sotomayor, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson

Justice Elena Kagan

Previous support for abortion rights

The liberal Kagan also has been a consistent vote to strike down state restrictions on abortion. She is the only member of the court who did not serve first as a judge, so her record on the issue was also largely unknown. But she had served in the Clinton administration and was President Barack Obama’s solicitor general, so it was assumed she would be supportive.

Kagan has not written any of the court’s major decisions on abortion. But she filed a dissent when her colleagues allowed Texas S.B. 8 to go into effect:“Without full briefing or argument, and after less than 72 hours’ thought, this Court greenlights the operation of Texas’s patently unconstitutional law banning most abortions. … This Court’s shadow-docket decisionmaking every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent, and impossible to defend.”— Elena Kagan, Whole Woman’s Health v. JacksonStory continues below advertisement

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch

Few rulings on abortion

Gorsuch may be the justice with the thinnest record on abortion. He did not rule on the issue as a lower-court judge and has not written extensively on the subject. However, he is one of the court’s most conservative justices, and has not shown hesitation about reexamining and overturning past decisions he thinks are wrongly decided.

He would have upheld restrictions on abortion clinics and practices in Louisiana, despite the court’s decision to strike down a similar Texas law before he was on the court. Gorsuch also would have allowed the Louisiana law to go into effect while litigation continued, and later complained the court discards “the traditional constraints of the judicial process when a case touching on abortion enters the courtroom.”

He was also in the five-justice majority that allowed Texas S.B. 8 to go into effect.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh

Conservative but incremental

President Donald Trump vowed to add justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe, and Kavanaugh’s name was added to the president’s shortlist after his writing on abortion while a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. But Kavanaugh has sometimes proposed compromises that others have rejected.

He was on a panel that postponed an abortion for a 17-year-old immigrant who was in government custody, saying if she could get a sponsor, she could have the abortion without the government’s involvement. The full circuit overturned that decision, and Kavanaugh’s attempt at compromise pleased neither side. Abortion rights activists called it an audition for the Supreme Court, while abortion opponents said Kavanaugh should have found immigrants have no constitutional right to abortion.

On the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh voted to uphold a restrictive Louisiana law, but again proposed a compromise. He said more fact-finding was necessary to determine how the restrictions affected the doctors who perform the procedure.

He has taken a more incremental stance on the issue than some of the court’s other conservatives. Despite joining five other justices in allowing Texas S.B. 8 to go into effect, it is unclear whether he would be willing to overturn Roe.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett

Conservative but sometimes reluctant to overturn precedents

Despite Barrett’s antiabortion views and deep faith, she has indicated that she would separate her personal views from her duty to respect the court’s precedents.

She has previously opposed abortion and criticized the Roe decision. As a Notre Dame law professor in 2006, Barrett and her husband signed a letter to “oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death.”

In 2016 at a university appearance, she said Roe v. Wade would likely stay in place when answering a question about how the Supreme Court’s legal theory might change with additional conservative justices:“I don’t think the core case — Roe’s core holding that, you know, women have a right to an abortion — I don’t think that would change. But I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, how many restrictions can be put on clinics — I think that would change”— Amy Coney Barrett

Her previous rulings indicate support for abortion restrictions. As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, she voted to reconsider decisions that blocked abortion restrictions in Indiana. On the Supreme Court, her only vote in her first year with the majority allowed Texas S.B. 8 to go into effect.

But in her first term on the court, she seemed more comfortable with moving the law incrementally, and did not vote to overturn some precedents that her conservative colleagues proposed.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/interactive/2021/supreme-court-abortion-stances/


To understand how abortion rights in the United States got to this point, you have to turn the clock back to 2010.

After a decade-long, coordinated attack on abortion rights, abortion opponents have never been closer to their ultimate dream: overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized the procedure nationwide. Without Roe, the ability to regulate abortion will return to the states and abortion rights would likely be protected in less than half of them.

To understand how the United States got to this point, you have to turn the clock back to 2010, when Republicans, energized by President Barack Obama’s 2008 election, launched a massively successful effort to win seats in state legislatures. Their victory had dire consequences for abortion rights and access: Of the thousand-plus state-level abortion restrictions enacted since Roe’s passage, nearly half came into being in the last decade. And although anti-abortion activists spent the first half of the 2010s pursuing incremental laws that aimed to chip away at Roe, the push for outright abortion bans hit a fever pitch during the latter half of the Trump administration—and only sped up once President Joe Biden took office.

Since Ohio introduced the first six-week abortion ban back in 2011, nine of the nation’s reddest states have passed their own version of the restrictive bill. These “heartbeat bills,” as anti-abortion activists call them, outlaw abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy based on the notion that cardiac activity can be detected that early. (At that point in pregnancy, an embryo does not have a fully developed heart.) Since many people women don’t know that they’re pregnant within those first six weeks, these bans essentially function as total bans on abortions—especially because these bills frequently lack exceptions for rape or incest.

Until now, court challenges have put these six-week bans on ice, but that’s part of anti-abortion activists’ plan. Each outright abortion ban is designed to hand the conservative-leaning Supreme Court a chance to overturn Roe. In December, the Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a bill that bans almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy—and before fetal viability. Under current abortion jurisprudence, states are blocked from outlawing abortion that early into pregnancy. 

However, on Sept. 1, Texas enacted SB 8, a six-week ban that, unlike its predecessors, actually managed to go into effect. The Supreme Court initially declined to block the ban but has since heard arguments in the case.

How Does The Texas Abortion Law Work?

Unlike past six-week bans, the Texas abortion ban is not enforced by the state government but by ordinary people. Individuals may sue anyone who “aids or abets” an illegal abortion—including, potentially, an Uber driver for taking a patient to an abortion clinic. A successful lawsuit nets $10,000 in damages. 

Ahead of the Texas ban’s enforcement, patients and providers desperately raced against the clock to provide abortions that would soon become illegal. One Texas doctor even performed 67 abortions in the hours before the ban took effect. But days later, abortion clinics saw a dramatic drop in their ability to help patients, as only a fraction qualified for abortions under the stringent law. Patients are now seeking abortions across state lines—and even international borders, since getting an abortion in Mexico is now easier than in Texas.

This citizen-enforced law has spurred anti-abortion vigilantes to spread the word on how to enforce it. Supporters of the law have even created whistleblower websites that are meant to act as tip lines for possible violators (and abortion rights proponents have struck back with Shrek porn). Even Reddit had a short-lived abortion bounty hunter community that sought to enrich themselves with the reward money, although the community was banned for breaking the website’s rules about harassment.

Why Does the Texas Ban Threaten Roe v. Wade?

The Texas ban’s unique form of enforcement has bedeviled attempts to strike it down. When the Supreme Court declined to stop the ban, the justices didn’t rule on the law’s constitutionality but instead wrote that the case presented “complex and novel procedural questions” that had not yet been addressed. Lawmakers in other red states have now suggested that they are interested in adopting a version of the Texas ban.  

But the Supreme Court’s original refusal to act doesn’t mean that the court battle over the law is over. The Justice Department sued over the ban, leading a U.S. district judge to temporarily freeze it. A federal appeals court soon lifted that freeze, putting the ban back into effect, and ordered a round of oral arguments over the law. The Justice Department has since asked the Supreme Court to once again weigh in, and, in early November, the justices heard oral arguments in two challenges to the Texas ban. In the November oral arguments, however, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett suggested that they had some skepticism about the Texas law.

But the fact that the Supreme Court at first chose not to act—and its willingness to consider a separate case that could overturn Roe—don’t bode well for the future of abortion rights in the United States. While state-level Republicans worked to pass abortion restrictions, President Donald Trump appointed three conservative justices to the bench: Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. (Barrett’s personal lack of support for abortion rights is particularly well-documented.) All three justices supported letting the Texas ban take effect, alongside Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. 

What is the Mississippi abortion law?

In March 2018, Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law a 15-week abortion ban. Like the Texas ban, the Mississippi law contained no exceptions for incest or rape and flies in the face of abortion jurisprudence that protects abortion ahead of fetal viability. (That benchmark is usually pegged at around 24 weeks of pregnancy.) Unlike the Texas ban, a federal judge has blocked the Mississippi law from taking effect, thanks to a lawsuit brought by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last abortion clinic left standing in Mississippi.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Dec. 1. With six conservative justices, the case could very well mark the end of Roe

What Is Roe v. Wade?

In 1970, a pregnant woman named Norma McCorvey filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade, then the Dallas County district attorney, under the pseudonym Jane Roe. McCorvey and her attorneys argued that Texas law, which at the time prohibited abortions unless they were necessary to save the life of the mother, were unconstitutional. 

Eventually, the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which, in January 1973, ruled in favor of McCorvey. The ruling came too late for McCorvey: By that time, she already had her child and put her up for adoption. McCorvey would go onto to act as both a pro- and anti-abortion advocate, although shortly before her death she confessed that she’d only joined the anti-abortion movement because they paid her well.

In Roe, the Supreme Court found the right to abortion was embedded in the right to privacy, which is not specifically listed in the Constitution but can be constructed through a few different legal maneuvers. The right to privacy described in Roe has its roots in other landmark cases—most notably, the 1965 case Griswold v. Connecticut, which expanded access to birth control. In other words, if Roe goes, it could unwind protections for other rights. 

Subsequent cases have refined and rewritten Roe’s findings, but the case now acts as a kind of ground-level protection for abortion access. Without it, states can be free to do as they please.

Will the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade? 

The Supreme Court will have a chance to weigh this very question in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. And it’s not looking particularly rosy for abortion rights supporters right now.

Although the abortion rights movement triumphed at the Supreme Court in a 2019 case, the justices have now agreed to evaluate whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” At least four justices must agree to take up a case in order for the Supreme Court to do so—which means that at least four justices are interested in revisiting what’s widely believed to be Roe’s core holding.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on Dobbs by next summer. Meanwhile, Democrats in the House have passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe into federal law. The bill, however, is likely doomed in the gridlocked Senate. 

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/pkpy79/abortion-laws-in-us-everything-to-know

New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is one of the Democratic lawmakers reintroducing the Access to Birth Control Act to ensure patients aren’t refused contraception by pharmacists.
 Bill Clark/Pool/Getty Images

On #ThxBirthControl Day, a Democratic coalition of lawmakers reintroduced the Access to Birth Control Act.

Pharmacies play a critical role in maintaining access to reproductive health care, which is why a Democratic coalition of lawmakers reintroduced the Access to Birth Control Act, which would guarantee people not get turned away at pharmacies when trying to access birth control.

The bill was introduced Wednesday by the following lawmakers: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform; Sen. Cory Booker; Sen. Patty Murray, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Rep. Robin Kelly; and Rep. Katie Porter.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit, approximately 64.3 million women in 2020 had coverage of the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods without cost sharing. But insurance coverage for birth control doesn’t fully guarantee access to it. Pharmacists in 24 states and the District of Columbia have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control or to provide patients with over-the-counter emergency contraception, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is also exacerbating issues with birth control access. According to the bill, one-third of women have experienced a delay in accessing their contraception because of the pandemic. Additionally, more than 19 million women of reproductive age live in contraceptive deserts across the country.

Lawmakers introduced the bill to coincide with the annual Thanks, Birth Control Day, which recognizes the progress in contraceptive care available to people around the world.

“I am proud to lead my colleagues in reintroducing the Access to Birth Control Act to ensure patients seeking birth control can access their health care without unnecessary barriers or delay,” Maloney said in a statement to Rewire News Group. “During the Trump administration, some health-care providers—including pharmacists—denied patients care simply based on their personal views. Health-care providers must do their jobs based on science—not ideology—and we cannot let this dangerous trend continue.”

Despite all its resources, the United States has one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancies among industrialized nations. The Access to Birth Control Act is designed to remedy that.

The bill would ensure that folks seeking FDA-approved contraception, including emergency contraception, are able to access it in a timely manner and are not prevented from doing so by a pharmacy, whether because of supply issues or because a pharmacist claims religious objections to dispensing birth control.

“Family planning is basic health care,” the bill states in its introduction.

How the Access to Birth Control Act works

If a particular birth control medication is out of stock, the bill requires pharmacies to either refer the patient to another pharmacy or order the medication, depending on the patient’s preference. The bill also protects patients from being intimidated, threatened, or harassed by pharmacy employees who personally object to the use of contraception.

“Contraception is a protected fundamental right and access to contraception is necessary for people to make and exercise decisions about whether and when to become pregnant,” Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, said in a statement.

“The Access to Birth Control Act will especially aid in closing the disparities gap for women of color who historically have faced challenges accessing contraception and medication due to systemic racism. Establishing certain duties for pharmacies to ensure safe and equal access to contraception is a critical step in protecting women’s sexual reproductive health and well-being.”

Importantly, patients and consumers would have a remedy if a pharmacy violates these requirements. If that should happen, the bill establishes civil penalties for the pharmacy and a private cause of action for patients to seek relief, meaning patients can sue pharmacies and pharmacists after birth control refusals.

“People’s access to birth control should never be restricted by a pharmacy employee’s personal beliefs,” Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement. “We’re glad to support this bill that will make sure everyone can leave a pharmacy with the birth control they need, without discrimination, harassment, or delay. At a time when extremist politicians are trying every way possible to take away our reproductive health care, it’s urgent to secure federal protections like the ABC Act.”

The Access to Birth Control Act is part of an ongoing debate in Congress over just how to address a wide range of reproductive and workplace equity issues, including paid leave and racial disparities in maternal mortality rates.

“Birth control is a vital part of reproductive health care and basic family planning,” said Booker, the bill’s co-sponsor in the Senate. “At a time when reproductive rights are under increasing attack throughout the country, protecting Americans’ access to contraception is more important than ever. The Access to Birth Control Act would ensure that all people not only have autonomy over their health but also have affordable and timely access to birth control.”

Jamie Manson, Catholics for Choice president, pointed out that birth control is a “lifeline used at some point by 98 percent of U.S. Catholics” and that it’s dangerous for a pharmacist to refuse care because of their religious beliefs.

“Refusal compromises a patient’s health, economic security, and moral autonomy—all of which our Catholic social justice values compel us to protect,” Manson said.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/11/17/exclusive-lawmakers-push-ahead-with-protecting-birth-control-access/

With multiple abortion cases at the Supreme Court and a continuing onslaught of anti-abortion restrictions sweeping the states, abortion is likely to come up in conversations about the news — including among friends and family during the holidays.

Here, we share a handy reference guide on this timely issue — full of the quick, crucial facts on abortion rights you’ll want to be equipped with if it comes up at your dinner table.

What to Know About: The Facts

  • Abortion is overwhelmingly safe
  • The right to abortion is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans.
  • Abortion is common. One in four women who are able to get pregnant will have an abortion at some point.
  • Abortion is essential health care, constitutional right, and a human right.

Abortion should be accessible to anyone who needs it. Period.

What to Know About: What Forced Pregnancy Is and Isn’t

  • When it comes to discussing abortion access, the focus should remain centered on the people who need, or will need, this critical care — and the direct harm forced pregnancy places on lives.
  • Despite how anti-abortion politicians may frame it, forced pregnancy is not some political talking point: Forced pregnancy is taking away a person’s constitutional and human right to control their body and their future.
  • Denying someone abortion care has devastating and lasting consequences for the pregnant person — it can jeopardize their health, economic well-being and ability to determine their own future, for not only themselves but their family.

Forced Pregnancy laws include:

  1. All bans on abortion
  2. Medically unnecessary restrictions designed to shut down clinics so that people have to travel further to get abortion care
  3. Creating medically unnecessary hoops to jump through in order to discourage and block people from getting an abortion
  4. Laws that require insurance plans to exclude abortion coverage
  5. Laws designed to run out the clock that force people to delay their abortion care
  6. Medically unnecessary laws that increase the cost of care but do nothing to increase patient safety
  7. Denying people under 18 years of age access to confidential care by requiring the consent of others

What to Know About: Who Forced Pregnancy Impacts the Most

  • While it has been a legal right for five decades, almost since the beginning politicians have passed laws that push abortion out of reach. The impact of those policies fall disproportionately on those struggling financially, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, undocumented people, young people, and LGBTQ people.
  • Black, Indigenous, and other people of color do not have equal access to health care, from abortion to prenatal care to preventive care. Their concerns are often ignored or not taken seriously. They have worse outcomes for COVID-related health issues, higher rates of maternal and infant death, and are more likely to be investigated, prosecuted, and punished for their pregnancy outcomes.
  • Some people have the resources to overcome the obstacles imposed by anti-abortion laws, but people with low incomes, young people and undocumented people are more likely to be forced to continue a pregnancy even if that’s not the outcome they want.
  • Abortion access for all means ALL. Restrictions on abortion care directly impact transgender men and nonbinary people — and we’re fighting to protect the reproductive freedom of everyone who can get pregnant.

What to Know About: The Landscape of Abortion Access

  • Since January, states have introduced more than 560 medically unnecessary and politically motivated abortion restrictions. This year alone, more than 100 abortion restrictions were enacted — more than any time since Roe was decided.
  • All of these attacks show anti-abortion politicians’ true agenda: To push abortion out of reach, shut down clinics, and criminalize patients and health care providers.
  • Anti-abortion restrictions are chipping away at Roe, creating a web of barriers to safe and affordable abortion care and forcing people to remain pregnant against their will.
  • The Supreme Court is considering several abortion cases right now. The decisions in these cases will have a tremendous impact on the availability of abortion in this country and even whether we continue to have any constitutional right to abortion at all.

What to Know About: Abortion at the Supreme Court

The Mississippi case: Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

  • The state of Mississippi has asked the court to expressly overturn Roe v. Wade and take away the federal constitutional right to abortion. Full stop. It’s also possible that the court stops short of that but dramatically reduces our ability to get abortion care. The case will be argued by the Center for Reproductive Rights before the Supreme Court on Dec. 1.

The Texas cases: Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson and U.S. v. Texas

  • On Nov. 1, the court heard two cases challenging Texas’ extreme ban on abortion (SB 8): one brought by the ACLU and our coalition partners, and one brought by the Justice Department. Since Sept. 1, when the ban took effect and the Supreme Court initially declined to block the law, most Texans have been unable to access abortion in the state.

The Kentucky case: Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center

  • SCOTUS is also considering whether to grant Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s last-minute request to intervene in a case in order to try to revive an abortion ban that two courts have already declared unconstitutional. The court’s ruling will determine whether Cameron is allowed to keep the case going to try to reinstate the ban.

What to Know About: The Future of Abortion Rights

No matter how the Supreme Court rules, we’ll continue to fight forced pregnancy laws because we all deserve the ability to get an abortion if we need one. We will continue urging Congress to enact safeguards for abortion rights by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would give us a new tool to fight many of these attacks on abortion access. And together with our partners, we will continue to use all of our tools to create and shore up other avenues to ensure that everyone who has made the decision to get an abortion can actually get the care they need, no matter where they live, how much money they have, or who they are.

Source: https://www.aclu.org/news/reproductive-freedom/your-mini-guide-to-discussing-abortion-rights-at-the-dinner-table

A “win” for abortion rights advocates in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization would mean holding the line on abortion rights and access.
 Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court will hear arguments over Mississippi’s 15-week ban, which has the potential to undo Roe v. Wade and devastate abortion access.

On December 1, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case involving a Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks. The law is currently blocked, after every court that has considered the ban, including the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, declared it unconstitutional.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is likely the big abortion case on the Court’s docket this year. This remains true even after the Court decided to let Texas SB 8, which bans abortion after cardiac activity is detected around six weeks, take effect a few months ago. Should the Court allow Mississippi’s 15-week ban to take effect, such a ruling has the potential to devastate abortion access and undo Roe v. Wade.

Here are five key things you should know about the case.

The law in question

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is arguably the most significant abortion case in decades. As Rewire News Group Executive Editor Jessica Mason Pieklo put it, “The fate of abortion rights and access for millions of people in this country could end up being decided by nine unelected justices.” And while oral arguments will be livestreamed, the justices will decide behind closed doors, and they can take up to a year to rule.

At issue in the case is a gestational ban, which outlaws abortion at a specific point in pregnancy—in this case, 15 weeks’ gestation.

Why 15 weeks, you might be asking? Well, even the lawmakers who passed the laws don’t know. It’s an arbitrary marker—it has nothing to do with responsible practice of medicine and everything to do with exploiting and politicizing perceived moral discomfort around later abortion.

Impact on other states

If the Supreme Court puts its stamp of approval on Mississippi’s 15-week ban, it means many more patients in Mississippi will be forced to travel out of state for care. So will patients in neighboring states like Georgia and Alabama. Pregnant people are already forced to cross state lines to access care, thanks to existing restrictions—which will likely tighten if the Court undermines the abortion precedent in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, forcing pregnant people to travel even farther.

Susan Rinkunas reported for Rewire News Group this year about the case’s potential impact on other states: Louisiana’s 15-week abortion ban is tied to the outcome of Jackson Women’s Health, which means if the Court upholds the Mississippi ban, the Louisiana law could go into effect. Meanwhile, clinics in Florida, a state considered an abortion safe haven right now, are bracing for an influx of patients.

No compromise on abortion rights

With the Supreme Court also hearing challenges to Texas SB 8’s enforcement mechanism, some coverage has compared the two abortion bans, framing a six-week ban as more “extreme” than a 15-week one. But it’s not that simple—and it’s important to make clear that the 15-week ban at stake in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is in no way a compromise on abortion rights. It is not a middle ground or a more reasonable alternative to a six-week ban like Texas SB 8.

If the Court allows a 15-week abortion ban to stand, the floodgates would open. That’s because it all comes down to the constitutional principles at stake—the precedent that abortion restrictions cannot be an undue burden on the right to choose abortion, and the precedent that prevents states from banning abortion before fetal viability.

What’s on the line

The case is about a 15-week abortion ban in Mississipi, but what’s really at stake is the fate of Roe v. Wade, and thus the future of abortion access in the country. Under the joint precedent set by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, states cannot ban pre-viability abortions and they cannot enact any abortion restrictions that present an undue burden on access.

Both these critical stopgaps are on the chopping block with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. A decision by the Court undercutting Roe and Casey by allowing the Mississippi ban to take effect would open the door to more draconian bans like Texas SB 8 to stay in effect as well.

What happens if advocates win

What are the odds we’ll have a win for abortion rights at the Supreme Court next year? That’s a trick question, if we’re being honest.

There’s a conservative supermajority on the bench, and a number of the justices are openly hostile to abortion access. The very fact that the Court agreed to hear this case—and followed it up by allowing SB 8 to take effect—signals an openness to weakening the abortion precedent.

In short: There’s really no way for abortion advocates to “win” at the Supreme Court with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

But what happens if the Court sides with the Jackson Women’s Health Organization and finds the 15-week ban unconstitutional? Just as a loss would have ripple effects that extend beyond Mississippi, so would a win.

A “win” for abortion rights advocates would mean holding the line on abortion rights and access. As the right prepares for its next attack on access, advocates would have a sort of stopgap, knowing that no matter what conservatives come up with next, a 15-week ban likely won’t survive legal challenges.

A ruling against the 15-week ban could also mean good things for the vast abortion care desert that stretches west from Florida to New Mexico and north to Virginia. It would overturn laws like SB 8, and, despite not being nearly enough to ensure access for all, that would protect countless providers and patients nationwide.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/11/23/5-things-to-know-about-the-case-that-could-kill-roe-v-wade/

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging Texas’ recent abortion law, Senate Bill 8 (SB8), which prohibits abortions after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, before some people even know they’re pregnant.

For more than 60 days, this blatantly unconstitutional law has been in effect because Texas delegated enforcement of SB8 to the general public as a means of circumventing legal challenges. The court should act quickly and allow the law to be blocked before it further harms Texans’ health and well-being and irreparably damages the network of care. 

SB8 is part of a decade-long legislative strategy aimed at limiting abortion access in Texas. At the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, my colleagues and I have repeatedly seen the profound consequences that result from these policies. Last year — at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s March 2020 executive order prohibiting most abortions led to a 38 percent decrease in the number of abortions during the 30-day period that the order was in place.

Our new research shows that SB8 has had a more devastating impact on access to abortion care. We documented a 50 percent decrease in the number of abortions at Texas facilities during September 2021, compared to September 2020. 

This decrease in the number of abortions in Texas could have been much steeper given the many other obstacles Texas policymakers have put in front of abortion providers and patients. However, prior to the law’s implementation, facilities worked to maximize the number of appointments so that more eligible patients could be seen for state-mandated consultation visit — required at least 24 hours before their abortion — and return as soon as possible. Additionally, a swell of donations has been critical for paying patients’ costs, which are not covered by private insurance or Medicaid in Texas. Without this assistance, patients — the majority of whom are living on low incomes — are often forced to delay care until they can secure sufficient funding. 

These numbers do not reveal the law’s impacts on the lives of those who are denied in-state care. They do not show the anxiety patients feel wondering if they will be able to get an appointment before it is too late or the devastation they experience after finding out they are not eligible and now need to decide if they can afford to travel hundreds of miles to another state — or alternatively, continue an unwanted pregnancy.

The numbers cannot convey patients’ fear after learning that their medical condition will worsen if they remain pregnant — but it is not considered “life-threatening” enough to qualify as a medical emergency under SB8, or the despondence of a minor who has been raped and has no choice but to continue the pregnancy. 

Texans who are able to travel are overwhelming abortion facilities in Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Combined, these states have half the number of facilities compared to Texas, and they simply cannot serve a large influx of Texas patients. Pregnant people are facing waiting times of one to three weeks in neighboring states, pushing them further into pregnancy — an outcome we have seen time and again after Texas enacted other abortion restrictions. Ironically, a law intended to limit abortion later in pregnancy instead may have the effect of increasing second-trimester abortion among Texans obtaining care elsewhere.

Proponents of SB8 may argue that they have at least prevented some Texans from getting an abortion. But the well-documented health and economic 

consequences of being denied abortion care will largely fall on those who are the most vulnerable and who are unable to travel for health care that should be available in their community — including teens, immigrant families who fear encounters with police and border enforcement, as well as parents who have limited childcare options.

The crisis response taking place at facilities in Texas and neighboring states is not sustainable, and the number of abortions will likely decline further if SB8 remains in effect. The stream of financial support for patients will dry up as this story becomes yesterday’s news. Texas clinics will likely be forced to reduce the number of days they are open and lay off dedicated, compassionate staff, leaving people with even fewer options for in-state care. As we have seen before in Texas, once the network of care is dismantled, it cannot easily be rebuilt.  

Each day that the court does not intervene, Texans’ health and wellbeing — and the systems they rely on for care — are at stake. Accessing essential reproductive health care should not be a crisis. It is time to stop the persistent political attacks on abortion taking place in many states and pass federal legislation, such as the Women’s Health Protection Act, that will ensure people can access abortion care — regardless of where they live. 

Source: https://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/581305-texas-abortion-access-crisis-will-only-get-worse-without-federal-action?emci=fe5a0908-4a49-ec11-9820-c896653b26c8&emdi=13ac6345-5349-ec11-9820-c896653b26c8&ceid=3411192

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the “good outweighs the bad” in the state budget.
 Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

North Carolina lawmakers agreed on a state budget with no Medicaid expansion—but over $15 million in funding for deceptive anti-choice pregnancy centers.

Last Thursday, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed North Carolina’s first state budget in his five years as governor, insisting that the “good outweighs the bad” in a bill that passed with veto-proof majorities in the Republican-controlled legislature. But there’s a lot of bad.

While the budget increased the child tax deduction, it didn’t expand Medicaid, which would have allowed more than 500,000 people in North Carolina to become eligible for health insurance, according to Planned Parenthood.

“State lawmakers have again put politics before the health of North Carolinians by rejecting federal dollars to expand Medicaid, throwing away the most significant step state leaders can take toward getting the coverage people need to live healthy, productive lives, and lowering infant and maternal mortality in the state,” Alison Kiser, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic, said in a press release.

The budget does, however, include more than $15.6 million for deceptive anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers.” North Carolina has 83 of these in the state, compared to just 15 abortion clinics.

As Caroline Reilly wrote for Rewire News Group:

CPCs are more than just a money-draining nuisance—for many patients, a CPC can delay access to actually having an abortion at, you know, a real clinic. The federal money these fake clinics receive is a blatant affront to the separation of church and state as, unsurprisingly, many are religiously affiliated.

Not to mention, They are part of a grander scheme of anti-abortion culture that perpetuates violence against patients and providers. And they do it all under the guise of “pregnancy counseling” or some other vague phrase they know will mislead people into thinking they actually provide care.

Abortion is severely restricted in North Carolina, with parental notification laws and provider requirements that shame and hinder pregnant people seeking abortions. The new budget even excludes abortion providers from state funding for family planning, pregnancy prevention, and teen parenting programs.

North Carolina has the country’s 30th highest maternal mortality rate, according to Planned Parenthood. At least nine maternity units in the state have closed since 2013. It’s pretty clear what North Carolina lawmakers’ priorities are, and Black women—who are three to four times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related complications than white women—are not one of them.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/11/22/north-carolinas-new-budget-gives-millions-to-crisis-pregnancy-centers/?fbclid=IwAR0IBL8AxQ8itOEDgUDpgDLTO1YiyKhj0mt1xCGyAb1HWtBmvfH0bZRWeJ0

On May 15, 2019, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a near total abortion ban, criminalizing abortion at all stages of pregnancy with very limited exceptions. A key component of the law, which has been blocked by a federal judge, was that any doctor who performs a banned abortion in the state would be guilty of a Class A felony and could be sentenced to life in prison.

A little over a year later, Dr. Leah Torres, an OB-GYN and proud abortion provider, packed her bags and moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to take over as medical director at the West Alabama Women’s Center. Torres had been recruited to work there by the Yellowhammer Fund, an abortion fund that purchased the clinic, which was otherwise facing closure due to the retirement of its longtime owner and medical director. That Torres decided to leave her job in New Mexico, a state that has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the country, and move to a heavily restrictive state, was unusual to say the least. Abortion providers are being pushed out of states like Alabama; few are moving in. “Traveling in and out is one thing,” says Torres. “But not many people are willing to move here like I did.” 

Nearly 90 percent of U.S. counties currently have no abortion provider. Even in states with fewer abortion restrictions, those living in rural areas rarely have a provider in their community. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which compiles data from every known abortion provider in the U.S. including clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices, the number of facilities in the U.S. peaked at 2,900 in 1981; in 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 1,587.

Many abortion clinics in the South and Midwest rely on physicians who travel in from out of state—a precarious arrangement that often means clinics can only offer abortions a few days a week or even a few days a month. The pandemic revealed the worst vulnerabilities of such a system: For seven months in 2020, South Dakota went without an abortion provider when the pandemic prevented out-of-state doctors from traveling to the state.

Five states have only one clinic remaining, meaning one doctor’s departure could cut off abortion access for an entire state or region.

Some abortion providers have held their own in hostile states for decades. Take Dr. Alan Braid, the Texas OB-GYN who has been practicing for 45 years and recently defied the state’s near-total abortion ban. Doctors like Braid will need to retire eventually, but many feel they can’t as their retirement could mean the loss of a clinic. Five states have only one clinic remaining, meaning one doctor’s departure could cut off abortion access for an entire state or region. In 2020, one of Ohio’s nine abortion clinics closed due to a doctor’s retirement. A decade ago, the state had 15 abortion providers. Now it has only eight. Had Yellowhammer not purchased the Alabama clinic and recruited Torres, it, too, might have closed, leaving the state with just two clinics. “The weight of doing abortions in rural areas is falling upon the shoulders of very few people,” said Dr. Iman Alsaden, medical director of Planned Parenthood Great Plains and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. “People who do family planning fellowships tend to stay in big urban academic centers because they are then training other fellows, and they want to do research.”

To truly address the abortion provider shortage, Torres said, would require a complete overhaul of the medical system. However, people need abortion providers in their communities now, and improvements in training, removal of unnecessary regulations, and stronger protections for OB-GYNs practicing in hostile states would go a long way toward meeting this need. Here’s what could help:

More doctors need to be taught to perform abortions.

The provider shortage begins with training. Less than half of medical schools offer students hands-on clinical experience with abortion. Even post-graduate training for OB-GYNs often fails to include abortion: A 2018 survey found that only 64 percent of OB-GYN residencies include routine abortion education, despite the fact that they are required to do so in order to be accredited by the American Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Students who are interested in abortion care but in residencies where such training isn’t offered often have to pursue special fellowships after they graduate. Additionally, “many state institutions have in their charters that they cannot teach about abortion and other forms of comprehensive reproductive health care,” Alsaden said. The result: Even though 97 percent of OB-GYNs in private practice say they encounter patients seeking abortion, only 14 percent offer abortion care.

two women hold sings that read pro choice is pro women and abortion is health care

A 2019 protest at the Georgia State Capitol building.GETTY IMAGES

Further, at least nine states have laws that prohibit government employees from providing abortions, meaning faculty at public universities and teaching hospitals can’t perform such procedures or instruct students. A 2020 study found that 57 percent of teaching hospitals, concentrated in the Midwest and South, have policies that limit abortion even beyond what state law dictates. Additionally, one in six hospital beds in the U.S. are now in Catholic hospitals, which prohibit doctors from performing nearly all abortions. And 95 percent of abortions happen in standalone clinics, while medical students and residents are typically trained in hospitals. All of these factors taken together make it difficult for doctors-in-training to get direct experience with abortion.

Even though 97 percent of OB-GYNs in private practice say they encounter patients seeking abortion, only 14 percent offer abortion care.

Alsaden said the organizations that accredit medical schools and residency programs should do more to require and standardize abortion training. “I would love to see it be more challenging to pursue a medical degree while trying to avoid abortion training than it currently is to get training in abortion,” said Pamela Merritt, executive director of Medical Students for Choice. She said accreditation standards should specify how many hours of abortion education a medical student needs. “Medical schools are part of big university systems, and accreditation can incentivize them to hold the line and flex some of their power, rather than take the path of least resistance and cave to this empowered minority that is about to make it very dangerous to be pregnant in the United States,” Merritt said. State governments can help with this, too. California, for example, has a law requiring that OB-GYN residency programs adhere to the ACGME requirements.

a red banner displaying the quote someone in psychiatry residency can’t say, ‘i don't want to learn about bipolar disorder’ you can’t just decide to not learn something that is standard care and yet we’ve allowed this to happen in medical training when it comes to abortion, and it’s not right

Additionally, medical schools and residency programs that do include abortion training usually allow students to opt out—a practice Torres said should end. “Someone in psychiatry residency can’t say, ‘I don’t want to learn about bipolar disorder,’” she said. “You can’t just decide to not learn something that is standard care. And yet we’ve allowed this to happen in medical training when it comes to abortion, and it’s not right.”

Change the definition of who can be an abortion provider.

Advanced practice clinicians, or APCs, including nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, have masters or doctoral degrees. They can prescribe medications, diagnose and treat illnesses, and perform examinations and medical procedures. They can also safely provide medication abortion (by pill) and aspiration abortion, a simple in-office procedure that only takes about five minutes and is highly similar to other procedures APCs do, including IUD insertion. However, 38 states have laws making it so that only physicians can provide abortions. A handful of states allow APCs to provide medication abortions, but not aspirations.

“There’s been support for APCs being able to provide abortions since the mid-90s,” said Julie Jenkins, a sexual and reproductive health nurse practitioner and leader of the APC Cluster of the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP), a group of APCs who provide sexual and reproductive healthcare. “The American Public Health Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the World Health Organization—all of those folks recognize that abortion care is within our scope of practice.”

a rally participant holds a sign that reads "abortion providers save womens' lives" during an international women's day march in chicago

An International Women’s Day march on March 8, 2006, in Chicago, Illinois.GETTY IMAGES

Allowing APCs to provide abortions would be especially helpful in rural areas. “We know that in rural places, APCs tend to be the primary care providers,” said Jenkins. “Doctors in general are not moving to those areas and staying there. So to improve abortion access in those communities, it would need to be the APCs that people are already seeing for their care.”

Several states—most recently New Jersey—have changed their laws to allow APCs to provide first trimester abortions. A bill called the Women’s Health Protection Act, first introduced in 2013 and reintroduced this year, would invalidate physician-only requirements and ensure all qualified health care providers can perform abortions. It would also remove medically unnecessary requirements including mandatory ultrasounds, waiting periods, and biased state-mandated counseling. The bill passed in the House of Representatives this year and is supported by President Biden, but faces an uphill battle in the Senate. (Filibuster reform would be required to secure its passage.)

The excessive regulations on medication abortions have to go.

Mifepristone, one of two drugs used for medication abortion, is regulated under an FDA program called Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, or REMS. These tight regulations disincentivize doctors from stocking abortion pills in their offices, leaving patients to seek care in abortion clinics, which may involve significant travel or harassment from anti-abortion protesters. “Part of the promise of medication abortion was that you would just be able to get it from your local provider in their office discreetly, privately,” Jenkins said. “The REMS have really wreaked havoc on that idea.” 

Facing these barriers, a growing number of people are ordering pills online to self-manage their abortions outside medical settings. Before the pandemic, these orders were usually fulfilled by overseas pharmacies. However, during the pandemic, the FDA has suspended some of the REMS requirements, allowing U.S. providers to legally mail abortion pills to their patients. Now, the FDA is reviewing all of the restrictions on mifepristone and considering permanent changes. Medication abortion by mail could become a permanent option, or the REMS requirements could be removed altogether, allowing retail pharmacies to stock mifepristone. This would make it easy for nearly any doctor—or APC, in 18 states—to offer medication abortion. But medical providers will have to take the initiative to do so, said Torres, and push back against hospital and practice administrators who may not want them to offer such care.

Abortion providers need personal and professional protections.

What happened to Torres after she moved to Alabama brings up another problem: it’s really hard to be an abortion provider. In August 2020, just weeks after granting Torres a temporary medical license, the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners suddenly revoked it and refused to give her a permanent license. Medical boards are technically nonpartisan, but their members are appointed by elected officials. In Alabama, some members are appointed by the governor and some by the lieutenant governor, both of whom are fervently anti-abortion, and some by the House of Representatives, which has an overwhelming Republican majority.

In revoking her license, Alabama’s medical board alleged that Torres lied in response to questions on the application. She says she answered truthfully, and that when asked for additional information, she provided it promptly. Torres believes she was targeted because she is an abortion provider. Due to the history of violence against abortion providers in the U.S.—another major deterrent—Torres said she’s used to managing concerns about her personal safety. But she never imagined that her integrity as a physician would be called into question. “It was not even on my radar,” she said. She fought the Board’s decision, and won, ultimately receiving a permanent license. But during the seven months of her suspension, she was unable to work in Alabama, and the Board’s action jeopardized her licenses in other states as well. While raising funds to cover over $100,000 in legal fees, Torres has also had to take on a second job as a traveling physician.

a candle light vigil for dr george tiller, a late term abortion doctor who was killed in may 2009 in wichita, kansas

A candle light vigil for Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions later in pregnancy, who was killed in May 2009 in Wichita, Kansas.GETTY IMAGES

While she was unable to work, the clinic relied on other doctors who traveled in from out of state. Even that was difficult to arrange, because other physicians were afraid that what happened to Torres could happen to them. “It was a deterrent, plain and simple,” she said. “I think state medical boards probably have too much unchecked power.” The federal government could also do more to deter violence against abortion providers by reviving the underused Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which prohibits injuring, intimidating, or interfering with abortion clinic staff. RELATED STORYSCOTUS Is Taking Up a Challenge to Roe v. Wade

With the Supreme Court poised to overturn or significantly weaken Roe v. Wade, it’s especially critical to take proactive steps to widen the pool of abortion providers. If abortion becomes illegal in large areas of the country, states where it remains legal will need even stronger abortion care infrastructure. “We shouldn’t have to relearn in a repressive environment that abortion is essential,” Merritt said.

For her part, now that she has an Alabama license, Torres is determined to keep providing abortions there for as long as she can. She says everything the state put her through, including the $100k she spent in legal fees, only increased her fortitude to practice there: “They’ve bought themselves a permanent abortion provider in Alabama.”

Source: https://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/a38257180/abortion-provider-shortage-how-to-fix/

Mini Timmaraju, president of Naral Pro-Choice America: ‘“It can be the bleakest of times and it can be terribly scary. It can also be an incredible opportunity.’ Photograph: Les Talusan/Naral Pro-Choice America

Mini Timmaraju, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, braces for an era in which the federal right to an abortion may no longer exist.

Born a month after the landmark 1973 supreme court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion, Mini Timmaraju has never lived in an America without the rights enshrined by the landmark Roe v Wade supreme court ruling.

Now she is helping lead the reproductive rights movement into an uncertain, “frightening” future where the federal right to an abortion may no longer exist.

Just days into her new role as president of Naral Pro-Choice America, a conservative supreme court will hear arguments in a case that many advocates fear will be the death knell for Roe v Wade.

“It’s frightening times for advocates of reproductive freedom – for all Americans,” she said in an interview. And yet, Timmaraju sees reason for optimism.

“It can be the bleakest of times and it can be terribly scary,” she said. “It can also be an incredible opportunity.”

Earlier this month, the supreme court took up two separate challenges to a Texas law effectively banning abortions in the second most populous state in the nation. But the more direct threat to Roe comes on 1 December, when the court will consider the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy – about two months earlier than Roe and subsequent decisions allow.

These are the first abortion cases to be considered by the expanded, 6-3 conservative majority, which includes three appointees of Donald Trump, who had promised to nominate only “pro-life” justices.

If Roe were to be overturned, there are 26 states that are “certain or likely” to ban the procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The list includes nine states with abortion bans still on the books from before Roe, and 12 states with so-called “trigger” laws, which would be enacted if Roe is overturned.

“With Scotus in mind and with the midterms at play,” Timmaraju said, “we have a real opportunity to wake up a big majority of the electorate that we know supports reproductive freedom and double down and ramp up that work to meet the moment we’re facing right now, this moment of crisis.”

Pro-choice protest in New York.
‘We have a real opportunity to wake up a big majority of the electorate,’ Timmaraju said. Photograph: Karla Ann Cote/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Timmaraju, the daughter of immigrants from India, is the first woman of color to lead the organization, which is one of the nation’s oldest and most powerful abortion advocacy groups.

Most recently, she worked as a senior adviser for the Biden administration on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. In 2016, she led efforts to mobilize female voters as a director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. She also led diversity efforts at Comcast Corporation, held leadership roles with Planned Parenthood and served as the national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.

“I feel like I’ve been at the intersection of race and gender my whole career,” she said.

Timmaraju said it was time to “raise the alarm” on the “very organized, concerted effort by the extremist right to whittle away at reproductive rights since the minute Roe became law of the land”.

Exposing these tactics, she believes, will help energize voters, especially those who support abortion rights but may not have realized the extent to which abortion access is under threat, particularly at the state and local level.

At the federal level, she called for the immediate passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would effectively codify Roe and counter state-level restrictions on abortion. The House passed the bill in September, but it faces daunting odds in the Senate, where a Republican filibuster awaits.

Naral has been outspoken in calling on Democrats to eliminate the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to pass most legislation.

Yet it’s unclear the legislation would pass with just a simple majority, as two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Bob Casey, have not yet signed on to a Senate version of the bill. Nor have the two pro-choice Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.

Mini Timmaraju.
Mini Timmaraju. Photograph: Les Talusan/Naral Pro-Choice America

Nevertheless, Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, has promised to bring the measure to the floor for a vote – a sign, Democrats believe, that abortion could be a potent issue in next year’s election.

In her new role, Timmaraju hopes to build on the solidarity between progressive organizations, leveraging their collective power to resist the tide of abortion restrictions and voting rights restrictions, while fighting for LGBTQ rights and climate justice.

“We know there’s a throughline of white supremacy throughout,” she said. “These are not new playbooks.”

Furthermore, she said that overturning Roe would have a disproportionate impact on people of color, low-income people and people who live in rural areas, all of whom already experience higher barriers to accessing reproductive and maternal health services.

Despite the myriad political and legal setbacks, she said the reproductive rights movement has made critical gains.

Abortion is no longer a “taboo” topic, Timmaraju said, crediting the decades of work by activists and a new generation of female lawmakers who have publicly shared the story of their decision to have an abortion.

“We need to not be afraid of talking about it. When we become afraid or we get, you know, uncomfortable with it,” she said, “that’s when we give all this opportunity for our opponents to push and spread misinformation.”

Timmaraju said pro-choice advocates must be prepared to forcefully counter attempts by anti-abortion activists to portray the fall of Roe as “reasonable”, by pointing to medical advances or the availability of birth control, for example.

“They’re going to downplay it,” she said. “And we’ve got to be very ready to say, absolutely not.”

While the nation awaits a ruling from the supreme court next year, Timmaraju’s message to the movement is to keep the faith.

“We may have some short-term losses – and we’re gonna fight like hell to avoid them,” she said. “But we also have some really significant long-term gains, the seeds [of which] are being planted now.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/16/mini-timmaraju-abortion-interview-naral-pro-choice-america?fbclid=IwAR2QUEZbjyWaZPIiEIJC1xF_8zftDQPIpQ3OveVPqmvebK-2p-OFE4mvFH0

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