Abortion Information


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In a new report about minors denied abortions in Florida, judges evidently deemed one kid too shy to be mature enough for an abortion, and another too curt.

Just a few days before her 15th birthday, the 14-year-old appeared in front of a Florida court and asked for permission to get an abortion. 

This girl said that her mother lived in Guatemala and that she had lost touch with her father after he moved away—making it likely impossible for her to get their permission to get an abortion, which minors are required to do under Florida law. 

Two courts denied the girl’s request for the abortion, which she made back in 2020. Advocates don’t know whether she ended up giving birth and, ultimately, if she became a child raising a child.

The girl lived with a pair of adults and her 17-year-old boyfriend, who supported her, though she was still going to school. She wanted an abortion, she told the court, “because I don’t have any other choice.”

A report from Human Rights Watch, released Thursday, found that this unnamed 14-year-old is far from the only young girl to have been denied an abortion by a Florida court over the last 15 years. In Florida, as in several other states, if a minor wants to get an abortion without alerting their parents, they have to undergo an arduous process known as a “judicial bypass,” where they go to a court and ask for a judge’s permission to get the procedure. 

Florida makes no exceptions for children who may have gotten pregnant through rape or incest, including by a parent. If a child in the foster care system wants an abortion, they have no choice but to pursue a judicial bypass, because they legally have no guardian who can sign off on their abortion.

In total, over the last 15 years, Florida courts have told at least 342 minors that they cannot legally get abortions without parental permission. According to their report, one girl was apparently deemed too shy to be mature enough for an abortion, while another seemed too curt. Yet another girl was already a single mom who worked full time, which should have meant that she didn’t need a court’s permission to get an abortion. However, neither her attorney nor the judge appeared to know that, and her request for an abortion was denied, by two different counts. (The mom was ultimately able to get an abortion.) 

Judges denied the 14-year-old’s request for an abortion in 2020 because there were questions about the location of her mother and her credibility, according to court documents reviewed by VICE News. They felt that the girl hadn’t demonstrated that she was sufficiently mature or understood abortions well enough. (American adults are infamously ill-informed about abortion, even after the downfall of Roe. In a recent poll conducted by Ipsos and NPR, at least a third of Americans could not answer basic questions about abortion.) Evidently, they did not have the same concerns about whether she was mature enough to become a parent.

“Although she made decent grades in school, her answers to the questioning of counsel and the trial court were vague, and our review of her testimony supports the trial court’s finding that she was unable to articulate her understanding of the procedure,” an appeals court judge wrote. “Furthermore, there is nothing in the record to refute the trial court’s assessment of her demeanor as ‘present[ing] as a very young, immature woman.’”

“I’m always heartbroken to see these statistics because we don’t know what happens after a young person is denied and denied again on appeal,” said Annie Filkowski, policy and political director of Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida. “We just simply don’t. And that sort of question mark there is pretty heartbreaking.” 

Another Florida girl was initially denied an abortion in part because of her low GPA and because she doesn’t care for any younger siblings. An appeals court later reversed that denial, pointing out that the lower-court judge may have misunderstood how her GPA worked and, moreover, that the girl didn’t have any younger siblings in the first place.

“There’s a lot of passive aggressive statements,” said Kristen Flynn, an attorney who has represented minors in judicial bypass cases. “One judge told a child that, ‘Just because I’m signing this doesn’t mean that you have to do it.’”

Judges often ask minors deeply personal questions, which can trip minors up if they’re not adequately prepared by an attorney, Flynn said. “If it’s a child that’s been abused and/or raped, then you’re in a situation where they have to talk about the abuse. They have to be retraumatized and basically tell their story again.”

Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, executive director of the reproductive justice-supporting Florida Access Network, underwent a judicial bypass in Florida in 2009, when she was 17 years old. (At the time, Florida required that minors tell a parent that they wanted an abortion, not get their parent’s consent.) When Piñeiro met with the judge, she had already secured the help of a lawyer, so she brought her resume, a transcript, an essay, and legal documentation of the abuse she had survived at her home. 

“It was an unnecessary hurdle that only created more stress, only forced me to remain pregnant longer, only made me consider all the different ways to end my own pregnancy if they said no,” she said, adding that the judicial bypass process took three weeks. “The state’s intention in having these laws existing around parental involvement, parental consent are only to force young people to remain pregnant against their will as punishment for getting pregnant in the first place.”

In 2019, Piñeiro authored a study with the legal advocacy group If/When/How that studied Florida counties’ preparedness to help minors navigate the judicial bypass process. She found that more than half of the counties were unprepared; court personnel frequently said that they had never heard of judicial bypasses.

Florida, which now has a 15-week abortion ban on the books, is far from the only state that requires minors either get a judicial bypass or tell their parents if they want an abortion. It’s one of six states that mandate minors who want abortions to both tell at least one parent and get their consent before the procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion restrictions. Ten states require that the minor at least notify one parent of the abortion, while 20 states require that a minor obtain the consent of at least one parent. 

There are signs that breaking these laws, in a post-Roe v. Wade United States, is only going to become more dangerous. On Monday, Idaho lawmakers introduced a bill that would charge people with human trafficking if they help them get abortions without their parents’ permission. It would be illegal to even help minors go out of state for abortions—a clear attempt to cut off interstate travel for abortion, or as anti-abortion activists call it, “abortion tourism.”

“Young people are used as political fodder to test how laws will look,” Piñeiro said.

To be sure, hundreds of Florida minors have been able to secure abortions through judicial bypasses, according to the Human Rights Watch report. However, researchers found that the share of young people who had their requests for abortions denied increased in 2020 and 2021, after Florida passed a bill to tighten its rules around judicial bypasses. In 2020, more than 13 percent of all judicial bypass requests were denied, quadruple the number of denials in 2007.

Relatively few petitions are ever appealed. Human Rights Watch was only able to unearth nine appealed petitions from between 2020 and 2022. 

Researchers also discovered that minors’ success seemed to depend heavily on where they went to court. In 2021, seven of Florida’s 67 counties received 65 percent of all petitions for judicial bypasses. Four of those seven counties didn’t deny a single petition, while Palm Beach County denied one in 10 petitions and Broward denied one in 16.

But Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, denied more than half of all petitions in 2021. That’s even more than in 2020, when Hillsborough County denied nearly 40 percent of all petitions.

“Your zip code should not determine whether or not you have access to abortion. So we see some counties that don’t deny anyone and then you look at Hillsborough, and they have a 50-percent denial rate,” said Filkowski. “It makes you wonder, are young people in Hillsborough overall insufficiently mature or do we have judges weaponizing their power in these situations?”

In Filkowski’s view, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to be rewarding people for being tough on abortion. After Judge Jared E. Smith denied a girl’s judicial bypass petition partly over her GPA, Smith lost a re-election campaign. Afterward, however, DeSantis appointed him to a state appeals court. 

Filkowski expects to see more abortion restrictions introduced in Florida this year. She also sees a line between abortion rights for minors and the ongoing attacks on LGBTQ youth in Florida.

“We see the weaponization of ‘parents’ rights’ to strip young people’s bodily autonomy,” she said. “We’re really up against it here. When you look at what we [are] doing for young people, the governor has twice-vetoed bipartisan-supported for funding of birth control, he’s attacking sexual health education, banning abortion, and burning the candle at both ends here.” 

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/7k8gxq/judges-denied-14-year-old-abortion

Protesters march in the street during an abortion rights rally on June 25, 2022, in Austin, Texas.

Texas filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging guidance issued by the Biden administration in July asserting that federal law does not allow pharmacies to turn away people who have a prescription for a drug that may end a pregnancy.

The lawsuit was filed in a division of Texas’ Western District Court, which almost guarantees the case will be before US District Judge David Counts, a Trump-appointed judge.

Texas argues that the policy violates the Constitution and federal law by using federal health programs to force pharmacies to carry abortion drugs in states where abortion is banned.

“By requiring pharmacies that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds – including retail pharmacies operated by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center – to dispense abortifacients when the life of the mother is not in danger, the Pharmacy Mandate flouts Dobbs’s holding that States may regulate abortion and directly infringes on Texas’s sovereign and quasisovereign authority,” the lawsuit states.

The US Department of Health and Human Services – which issued the guidance and whose leader, Secretary Xavier Becerra, is the defendant in Texas’ lawsuit – did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Texas has sued or threatened to sue over other attempts by the Biden administration to mitigate the fallout from the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned the precedent that protected abortion rights nationwide.

Medication abortion, a two-pill regimen for ending a pregnancy, has become a particularly acute flashpoint in the post-Dobbs abortion landscape.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/08/politics/texas-lawsuit-biden-abortion-pharmacy-guidance/index.html

DOSES OF MIFEPRISTONE, THE ABORTION PILL, AND MISOPROSTOL, WHICH IS TAKEN THE DAY AFTER TO CAUSE CRAMPING AND BLEEDING TO EMPTY THE UTERUS, ARE PICTURED AT DR. FRANZ THEARDS WOMENS REPRODUCTIVE CLINIC IN SANTA TERESA, NEW MEXICO ON MAY 7, 2022. (PAUL RATJE / THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES)

“People in every state—including states like New York, Illinois and California—will not be able to get abortion pills.”

A common, effective abortion-inducing drug could be banned nationwide within a matter of days, thanks to a “loose cannon” of a judge appointed by former President Donald Trump.

In late 2022 four doctors and anti-abortion groups sued the Food and Drug Administration, accusing the agency of overstepping when it approved the use of the drug mifepristone in abortions in 2000. These abortion foes want to erase that approval—a move that would yank mifepristone off the market across the United States, regardless of whether a state protected access to abortion after the fall of Roe v. Wade last year. 

Mifepristone is one of the most well-studied drugs on the market, experts say. Not only has it been proven safer than drugs like penicillin and Viagra, but it’s 18 times safer than childbirth. 

“This case could effectively ban medication abortion nationwide. That means people in every state—including states like New York, Illinois, and California—will not be able to get abortion pills,” Jenny Ma, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told VICE News in a statement. “Medication abortion is incredibly safe and has been used in the U.S. for more than 20 years. More than half of abortions in the U.S. are done using medication abortion. The science and evidence is indisputable.” 

But that science and evidence might not matter, according to abortion rights supporters, because this lawsuit was filed in federal court in Amarillo, Texas. Filing a lawsuit that could reshape abortion access nationwide in a remote northwestern Texas town (with a population of 201,000) might seem random, but it’s actually a cunning tactic. That’s because that court is overseen by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a 2019 Trump appointee famous for his conservative views on abortion and LGTBQ rights—and his willingness to take a hammer to national policy. 

In other words, for anti-abortion activists looking for a friendly ear, Kacsmaryk may just be perfect. And if Kacsmaryk backs the anti-abortion activists’ new lawsuit, his ruling could be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is famously conservative-leaning, then to the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority.

“People are increasingly worried not because the legal theory started to make more sense when they thought about it. They got increasingly worried because they realized it was going to a judge who was probably going to rule in a way that was purely ideological and not related to the law,” said Joanna Grossman, a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, who called Kacsmaryk a “loose cannon.” She added, “It’s not a good claim, and yet it will probably be accepted.”

Formerly an attorney at a law firm devoted to handling religious liberty cases, Kacsmaryk has previously called being transgender “a delusion.” In 2015, he wrote an article that condemned “the lie that the human person is an autonomous blob of Silly Putty unconstrained by nature or biology, and that marriage, sexuality, gender identity, and even the unborn child must yield to the erotic desires of liberated adults.” 

Then, in 2022, Kacsmaryk took aim at Title X, the nation’s largest family planning program and a key source of contraception for poor people and minors. Kacsmaryk claimed that the program was unlawful, because it didn’t require that minors get parental consent before they get help through Title X. His ruling was the first major legal attack on birth control since the overturning of Roe. 

In the wake of Roe’s overturning last year, abortion pills have become an increasingly important frontier in the U.S. abortion wars. While the Biden administration has repeatedly moved to make them easier to access, including by allowing normal pharmacies to dispense the pills to anyone with a prescription, abortion foes have struck back by suggesting that pharmacies who end up carrying the pills may face dire legal consequences. At the National Pro-Life Summit in Washington, D.C., last month, activists suggested that allowing pharmacists to dispense abortion pills would turn every CVS and Walgreens into an abortion clinic.  

The anti-abortion doctors and group behind the Texas lawsuit are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a powerhouse legal advocacy group that has architected much of the religious right’s assault on abortion and LGBTQ rights. The organization was even behind the Mississippi abortion ban that was at the heart of the Supreme Court case overturning Roe.

At the Summit, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Denise Harle told a roomful of excited young anti-abortion activists about the Texas lawsuit. “Really, primarily, this is about protecting women and girls,” she told them. (One of the doctors who brought the lawsuit, Dr. George Delgado, became famous after he championed an unproven protocol to “reverse” people’s abortions. A study on that protocol ended early after three of the women involved ended up hemorrhaging so much they had to go to the ER.) 

Law professors David S. Cohen, Greer Donley and Rachel Rebouché pushed back against Harle’s kind of rhetoric in a recent draft of a law article that comprehensively reviewed the state of play around abortion pills. The authors pointed out that the Government Accountability Office audited the FDA’s approval of mifepristone back in 2008, and concluded that nothing was wrong with the agency’s approval process. If the lawsuit succeeds, it would mark the first time that a court has overruled the FDA’s new drug approval process “unilaterally and over the FDA’s objection.”

If mifepristone gets taken off the market, telehealth groups that offer remote medication’ abortions will likely have to shut down or pivot to using an off-label use of another drug, misoprostol, to induce abortions. At least seven abortion providers told Jezebel Tuesday that they are prepared to start using a misoprostol-based protocol. That protocol is generally less effective than using both mifepristone and misoprostol, as is the standard in the United States, but is still widely regarded as safe. The World Health Organization has a recommended protocol for using it.

Still, brick-and-mortar abortion clinics, which are already struggling to handle the flood of patients since the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, may have to squeeze more patients in for surgical abortions—or, at least, try.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/wxnvdx/abortion-pill-ban-mifepristone

Nearly half of adults in the United States – including 2 out of 5 women of childbearing age – are unsure whether medication abortion is legal in their state, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The survey was conducted in mid-January, more than six months after the US Supreme Court issued the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and revoked the federal right to abortion.

Several states had “trigger bans” that took effect in the weeks after the high court’s judgment, with laws that ban or severely restrict abortion. But some of those laws are in limbo as they face challenges in courts.

The legal landscape around abortion was rapidly even before Dobbs, experts say. New telehealth rules put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic offered additional pathways to access medication abortion. State legislatures are now in session for the first time since that decision, which is sure to bring more change.

“It’s fair to be confused about all of the different ways in which somebody can get access to medication abortion and wonder which ways are legal and which ways are a little bit more outside of the legal framework,” said Asha Hassan, a researcher with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity who focuses on reproductive health.

“We’re in a learning curve right now. But then, the education has to change because it is constantly a shifting climate.”

Both in states where abortion is banned and in those where it is legal, about half of adults are not sure about the legal status of medication abortion in their state, according to the KFF survey. And some are getting it wrong.

In states where abortion is banned, about 13% of adults incorrectly think that medication abortion is legal. And in states where abortion is legal, about 10% think that medication is banned.

This confusion can be a barrier on its own, said Kirsten Moore, director of the Expanding Medication Abortion Access Project. Spreading awareness and battling misinformation is a key priority for the White House and other advocates.

For politicians and others who are anti-abortion, “it’s not just about actually passing laws that make it illegal. It’s about creating a perception of danger of risk,” she said. “Even if active steps are not taken, the perception of legal risk can deter people.”

President Biden has called for action to specifically protect access to mifepristone, a drug used in medication abortion that is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. In early January, the FDA approved a measure that would allow certain pharmacies to supply the drug directly to patients with a prescription. That expands access, as medication abortion was previously available only through certain health care providers. But it has never been available over-the-counter.

Most abortions in the US are medication abortions – as opposed to the medical procedure – according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization focused on sexual and reproductive health that supports abortion rights.

But there is still some confusion around how to access a medication abortion. About half of adults are not sure whether medication abortion requires a prescription, according to the KFF survey. About 1 in 10 adults incorrectly believe that it does not require a prescription – including nearly as many women.

Most adults (62%) know that emergency contraceptive pills, known as the morning after pill or Plan B, are not the same as the abortion pill. And most adults know that contraceptive pills are available in their state, as they are in all 50 states. But nearly three-quarters think emergency contraceptive pills can end a pregnancy in its early stages.

“There’s a lot of growth and work that we can do within the health care industry and environment to make sure that people know that [medication abortion] is safe, and something that is extremely accessible compared to surgical abortion right now,” Hassan said.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/01/health/medication-abortion-survey-kff/index.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The AMA did not respond to a request for comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOXES OF THE DRUG MIFEPRISTONE SIT ON A SHELF AT THE WEST ALABAMA WOMEN’S CENTER IN TUSCALOOSA, ALA., ON MARCH 16, 2022. (AP PHOTO / ALLEN G. BREED, FILE)

Republican attorneys general are warning the major pharmacies about the potential legal dangers of dispensing prescription abortion pills.

Republican attorneys general from 20 states sent a letter Wednesday to Walgreens and CVS with a warning about the potential legal dangers of the major pharmacies’ plans to dispense prescription abortion pills.

The move marks a clear escalation in the next frontier of the so-called abortion wars: limiting access to abortion pills.

“We emphasize that it is our responsibility as state attorneys general to uphold the law and protect the health, safety, and well-being of women and unborn children in our states,” wrote the attorneys general, who represent states including Alabama, Florida, Ohio, and Texas. (Many of these states already have some kind of abortion ban on the books.) “Part of that responsibility includes ensuring that companies like yours are fully informed of the law so that harm does not come to our citizens.”

In other words: Nice company you have there. Shame if anything were to happen to it.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would loosen the rules around mifepristone, one of two drugs typically involved in a medication-induced abortion, to let everyday pharmacies dispense it for the first time. Walgreens and CVS promptly announced their plans to sell the pills in states that allow it. (The pills will not be available, for example, in states that already have abortion bans on the books.) 

The announcement fired up the anti-abortion movement, which has been on the hunt for a new bogeyman since the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year. Now, Walgreens and CVS may have just become their next targets, as activists claim that allowing the chains to dispense mifepristone will turn everyday pharmacies into abortion clinics. 

At least one major anti-abortion group, Students for Life of America, have already announced their plans to start picketing pharmacies, just like the movement has done outside abortion clinics for decades.

“I don’t want to go into a drugstore and be able to buy my chewing gum and my tights and then get a pill that ends a life,” one Students for Life spokesperson told Catholic News Agency. “It’s just not acceptable.”

The letter from the attorneys general also hinted at another emerging strategy from the anti-abortion movement: invoking the Comstock Act, a 19th-century federal anti-obscenity law.

Anti-abortion activists looking to cut off abortion access have already started to craft local ordinances in states like New Mexico that use the Comstock Act as proof that it’s illegal to mail abortion-related materials, including pills. A lawsuit over the Comstock Act, they hope, could slash abortion access across the country. And although the Biden administration’s Justice Department recently issued a memo refuting this interpretation of the Comstock Act, the attorneys general dismissed that guidance.

“We reject the Biden administration’s bizarre interpretation, and we expect courts will as well,” they wrote in their letter. “Obviously, a federal criminal law—especially one that is, as here, enforceable through a private right of action—deserves serious contemplation.”

CVS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Walgreens spokesperson told VICE News  that the company is not currently dispensing mifepristone.

“We intend to become a certified pharmacy under the program, however we fully understand that we may not be able to dispense mifepristone in all locations if we are certified under the program,” the spokesperson added in an email.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/3adg95/republicans-abortion-pills-cvs

The legal fight around medication abortion – the two-pill regimen that allows women to terminate their pregnancies – escalated Wednesday with separate lawsuits filed in two states challenging their restrictions on the method.

One lawsuit was filed by GenBioPro, a major manufacturer of mifepristone, which is the first drug used in the medication abortion process, in West Virginia challenging the state’s laws limiting access to the drug, including the outright ban on abortion lawmakers passed last year.

The second lawsuit was filed by an OB-GYN in North Carolina and targets the requirements that state places on obtaining abortion pills that go beyond the federal standards for provision of medication abortion.

The lawsuits represent one of several new legal battlefronts that have emerged since the Supreme Court’s June ruling that reversed the decades-old Roe v. Wade precedent protecting abortion rights nationwide, allowing states to implement restrictions and bans on the procedure.

Medication abortion, which now makes up a majority of abortions obtained in the United States, has become a particularly acute flashpoint in the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision. In November, anti-abortion advocates sued the US Food and Drug Administration, seeking to block its 20-year-old approval of mifepristone; the Texas federal court where that lawsuit was filed could rule as early as next month whether the FDA’s abortion pill policies should be halted.

While many states already have laws that prohibit medication abortion, legislators have signaled they’ll be exploring new ways to clamp down on the avenues abortion-seekers have for accessing abortion pills as statehouses reconvene this year.

The two new lawsuits in North Carolina and West Virginia make similar arguments, alleging those states’ restrictions run afoul of the US Constitution because they are preempted by federal law that gives the FDA the authority to approve and regulate medication abortion.

GenBioPro argues that West Virginia’s laws violate the authority the Commerce Clause grants Congress to regulate interstate commerce. Amy Bryant, the medical provider suing in North Carolina, alleges that the state’s stringent requirements on where women can access abortion pills, as well as its mandated waiting period for obtaining an abortion, are imposing “unnecessary costs on Plaintiff and her practice and interfere with her ability to provide medical care to her patients according to her best medical judgment and in accordance with federal law.”

A spokesperson for North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat who is a defendant in the North Carolina lawsuit, said that his office was reviewing the complaint.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican who was sued in the GenBioPro lawsuit, said in a statement his office was “prepared to defend West Virginia’s new abortion law to the fullest.”

“While it may not sit well with manufacturers of abortion drugs, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that regulating abortion is a state issue,” Morrisey said. “I will stand strong for the life of the unborn and will not relent in our defense of this clearly constitutional law.”

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/01/25/politics/abortion-mifepristone-west-virginia-north-carolina/index.html

Mainstream anti-abortion activists have long insisted they don’t want to punish people who get abortions. Now, that claim is being put to the test.

Mainstream anti-abortion activists have long insisted they don’t want to punish people who get abortions. Now, that claim is being put to the test.

Although many states are only a few weeks into their first state legislative sessions since Roe v. Wade was overturned, legislators in Arkansas and Oklahoma have already introduced bills that would punish abortion patients. In Alabama, the state’s attorney general initially said he could use a state law to punish people for ending their pregnancies, then tried to walk it back

These kinds of tactics are forcing anti-abortion activists to confront a long-simmering tension within their movement: What are they supposed to do with people who get abortions? Typically, abortion restrictions target providers, not patients. Within the anti-abortion movement, patients are treated like victims who have been bamboozled into ending their pregnancies by the predatory “abortion industry.” But now that Roe is gone and states are proposing policies to legally treat fetuses like people, that may not hold water for much longer.

“I think there are some people, and probably a fairly large group of people, for whom women’s innocence is conditional and they could be persuaded that it’s not real,” said Mary Ziegler, a professor at the University of California, Davis, law school who studies the legal history of reproduction. 

Speakers at the March for Life and National Pro-Life Summit in Washington, D.C. last weekend repeatedly suggested that only a lack of knowledge keeps abortion patients from seeing the “truth” about abortion, and that they can be converted to the anti-abortion cause. This is part of the thinking behind “sidewalk counseling,” the practice of standing outside abortion clinics to convince patients not to go inside, and behind crisis pregnancy centers, facilities that try to persuade people to continue their pregnancies. 

“We as pro-lifers have things in the right order, right?” Lauren Muzyka, of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, told National Pro-Life Summit attendees. “God comes first, a mother puts a child before herself. So you might say the right order, the natural law order, is God, baby, mom. But a woman in crisis mode, a woman in self-preservation mode, has all of that inverted.” Muzyka suggested that attendees find out how far into a pregnancy a patient is, then give them information about a fetus’ development. “We need to do everything in our power to meet her where she’s at and love her into a decision for life.”

But “fetal personhood,” the idea that fetuses deserve the full rights and protections granted to humans who have been born—and sometimes, that a fetus’ rights trump those of the person carrying them—also lies at the heart of the anti-abortion movement’s argument that abortion is wrong. Assuming the perspective of an anti-abortion activist, Ziegler asked, “If we’re serious about personhood, how can we not punish women?”

The Arkansas bill proposes that “all unborn children should be protected under the state homicide laws,” which could lead abortion patients to be prosecuted as murderers. The Oklahoma bill, introduced by Republican state Sen. Warren Hamilton, would amend the state’s current near-total abortion ban to remove language that currently blocks prosecutors from charging “a woman with any criminal offense in the death of her own unborn child.” 

This move isn’t totally unexpected from Hamilton, who in 2020 announced he would introduce a bill called, in part, the “Abolition of Abortion in Oklahoma Act,” which also banned abortion. He changed the name when he filed it in 2021, but the word “abolition” carries a unique weight within the anti-abortion world: A wing of activists who now identify as “abortion abolitionists” believe that abortion should be legally categorized as murder and that, because a fetus is a person, individuals who get abortions should be punished like murderers. (The anti-abortion movement, in general, is largely white.)

Ahead of his 2020 election, one of the major “abolitionist” groups, Free the States, endorsed Hamilton. Hamilton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his new bill.

Bills with “abolitionist” underpinnings have popped up intermittently in recent years. In 2021, a Texas legislator introduced a bill that would threaten abortion patients with the death penalty; similar legislation was also introduced in 2017 and 2019. Those bills, which proved to be PR disasters for anti-abortion activists, never advanced very far in the Texas legislature. Republicans and leaders of national anti-abortion organizations have condemned them; Catherine Glenn Foster, head of the influential organization Americans United for Life, told Vox of the 2019 Texas bill, “It’s something that I would fight back against and everyone I know in the movement would fight back against.” Hundreds of people testified at a committee hearing on the bill.

Punishing people for abortions is an incredibly unpopular position. Just 14 percent of U.S. adults say women should serve jail time if they have an illegal abortion, according to Pew Research Center. Even Republicans dislike the idea; just 21 percent think that women should be jailed. Sixteen percent of adults, though, say she should pay a fine or perform community service, while another 17 percent aren’t sure what should happen.

Men are also more likely than women to say that a woman should face a penalty for an illegal abortion.

Although abortion bans tend to punish medical providers, that idea is divisive, too: Only a quarter of U.S. adults support sending doctors and other providers to jail for performing illegal abortions, according to Pew.

However, abortion rights are also very popular. Three in five Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Yet, thanks to years of dedicated and disciplined organizing, the anti-abortion movement successfully overturned Roe. 

It’s not that there are now more abortion “abolitionists,” according to Ziegler, but those who exist are becoming better organized. They may also be set to take advantage of what Ziegler calls “the enforcement problem.” Although abortion bans are now in effect in at least 13 states, those bans are proving difficult to enforce, thanks to the availability of abortion-inducing pills online and people’s ability to travel across state lines for abortions. 

Under current law, if a doctor performs an abortion on a person from a state with an abortion ban, that doctor isn’t at risk of prosecution. (One congressman from Indiana did recently say he would support legislation to stop someone from traveling out of state for an abortion in the first place.) Frustration with that loophole may lead some activists to push to punish someone, anyone, for getting an abortion—and the patient is usually the most visible target.

“Some people are saying, ‘What else are we really supposed to do?’” Ziegler said. “If the doctor or the abortion fund or whatever is in a different state or a different country and we want to stop this abortion and we don’t have a national tool, the only option left is punishing the pregnant person.”

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/5d3xgk/anti-abortion-murder-charge-bills

Former US President Donald Trump during the America First Policy Institute’s America First Agenda Summit in Washington, D.C., US, on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The anti-abortion “March for Life” for decades demonstrated to Republicans that they could not reach the Oval Office without the support of the anti-abortion movement.

On Friday, marchers will gather in Washington with a decades-long mission accomplished, after the Supreme Court’s removal of a constitutional right to an abortion by overturning the Roe v. Wade decision last year.

That means this year’s march will be a time for celebration but also of debate about where the movement goes next with some campaigners seeking to restrict the procedure everywhere. But such a refocused goal carries big risks. Democrats after all belatedly leveraged their own energy over abortion in the midterm elections in a backlash against the right-wing Supreme Court majority that helped stave off a big Republican midterm election wave.

The March for Life also comes at an extraordinary moment when Donald Trump, the president who did more than any other to end Roe after a pact with social conservative voters that helped win him the 2016 GOP nomination, has launched an extraordinary attack on evangelical leaders he sees as insufficiently loyal, as CNN’s Gabby Orr, Kristen Holmes and Kaitlan Collins reported this week.

“Nobody has ever done more for Right to Life than Donald Trump. I put three Supreme Court justices, who all voted, and they got something that they’ve been fighting for 64 years, for many, many years,” Trump said in an interview on Real America’s Voice Monday, referring to the overturning of federal abortion rights.

“There’s great disloyalty in the world of politics and that’s a sign of disloyalty,” Trump told conservative journalist David Brody.

The comment was a window into Trump’s psychology, revealing his transactional understanding of politics and his highly developed sense of fealty he sees owed to him.

Trump nurses grievances – and political fears

The former president is specifically angry over the failure to immediately endorse his 2024 White House bid by some evangelical leaders who remain influential figures in the conservative movement. Trump’s third White House run has so far failed to pick up significant energy.

But Trump has also shown signs recently of questioning whether his purported greatest domestic achievement – the building of a generational conservative Supreme Court majority and its subsequent overturning of Roe – may end up hindering his hopes of a return to the White House in 2025. He wrote on his Truth Social platform earlier this month that the “abortion issue” had been poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those who insisted on no exceptions in the case or rape, incest or life of the mother, which he said “lost large numbers of voters.”

The former president’s comments are backed by exit polls from November’s midterms that showed more than a quarter of voters listing abortion as a top issue. About 61% said they were unhappy with the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, and about 7 in 10 of those voters backed a Democratic House candidate.

In his Truth Social comments, Trump appeared to be seeking to offload blame for the Republicans’ failure to win back the Senate and the party’s smaller-than-expected House majority. Trump took on waves of criticism after the election for promoting extreme, election denying candidates who often lost in swing states in the midterm elections.

But it is notable seeing Trump navigate the shifting politics of abortion and apparently sizing up how it could affect his political prospects in future. After all, he was once unapologetically pro-choice before his foray into Republican politics dictated a shift in position and led to the bargain with evangelicals, which included an effective commitment to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court in return for the crucial votes of social conservatives.

In the past, Trump has been a fixture of the March for Life rally, and in 2020, he became the first sitting president to attend in person as he geared up for his reelection race. He told marchers that “unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.”

There is no sign yet that he will call into Friday’s event, which will include a detour to the US Capitol on its usual route to the Supreme Court to underline how Congress is now a focus of the movement, as Democrats seek to codify Roe v. Wade protections into law.

Did Trump make a tactical error?

Trump’s comments on abortion and his feuding with evangelical leaders raise the question of whether the former president has made a tactical error and is harming his 2024 candidacy by targeting a critical GOP primary voting bloc at a time when there are growing questions over whether he is still the dominant force in Republican politics.

Ralph Reed, the executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told CNN that there is “no path to the nomination without winning the evangelical vote. Nobody knows that better than President Trump because, to the surprise of almost everyone, he won their support in 2016.”

This question is especially acute in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucuses – for Republicans at least – in the 2024 primary season, which will be the first test of the ex-President’s hold over conservatives and evangelicals especially.

Trump didn’t actually win in Iowa in 2016, coming second to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and just beating out Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and the state has often not been a true barometer of how the GOP nominating contest will go.

However, it will take on extra significance in 2024 and is likely to be seen as a strong indicator of Trump’s appeal to the conservative base. A loss there would create a painful narrative as he headed into subsequent contests – especially since he strongly carried the state in the general elections in 2016 and 2020.

And it’s easy to come up with a list of potential GOP candidates that might have appeal in the state if they challenge Trump, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, former Vice President Mike Pence or Cruz once again. Only Trump so far is a declared 2024 Republican presidential candidate.

Trump would be in an odd situation in 2024, in that he is in many ways effectively an incumbent given his strong support in the GOP and the fact that he didn’t go away after losing reelection. But at the same time, he’s not a sitting president and looks likely to face a contested primary and so may be more exposed in early contests.

Still, while some conservative base voters might want to move on, there’s still strong goodwill among many toward Trump, gratitude for the change he brought during his term and admiration for his attitude.

“Many people forgave him for his misstatements and his missteps because they generally liked his ability to fight, even if that became a cliché for some people, Trump’s detractors,” said Timothy Hagle, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa who is an expert on the state’s politics.

This gets to point often missed about Trump. For many of his supporters, he offered an emotional as much as a political connection. His willingness to say what many grassroots conservatives thought and to assail institutions they despised, like the media or Washington experts and other elites, were as important as many of his often-ill-defined individual political positions.

And it’s also often forgotten that evangelical voters in places like Iowa do not necessarily vote as a bloc, or according to what their leaders or pastors recommend and may prioritize issues such as taxes over social questions if a candidate is deemed to be generally acceptable. That may give Trump more leeway than more conventional candidates in departing from traditional conservative orthodoxy even over abortion.

Still, Hagle said, even small numbers of disaffected Iowa voters could make a difference to Trump’s chances in the state if they don’t show up for him, as could more mainstream GOP caucus voters who may be taking a look at other aspects of his candidacy and those of potential rivals.

“Are they going to support Trump because he fights, or because of his economic position or his position on the border?” Hagle said. “The abortion stuff may not be as important to them, or will they go a different direction at this point?”

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/01/20/politics/donald-trump-march-for-life-abortion/index.html

Anti-abortion demonstrators march toward the US Supreme Court during the March for Life on January 20 in Washington, DC.


Sunday marks exactly 50 years since the US Supreme Court granted American women abortion rights with the Roe v. Wade ruling – and comes about seven months after the court opened the door for much of the country to take them away with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The court instantly created new fault lines throughout the country when it handed more control of abortion rights back to states. It also may presage a new rift within the GOP.

At this moment of greatest triumph for abortion rights opponents, there are real questions about how far lawmakers and potential 2024 presidential candidates will go to prove their opposition to abortion.

Pushing a 15-week ban in Virginia

One potential presidential candidate, Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, told Virginians to “choose life” during his State of the Commonwealth address this month. He’s backing that call up by pushing toward a 15-week ban. Current state law allows for abortion care up to about 26 weeks.

It would be a genuine achievement for Youngkin in Virginia, since he shares power at the legislative level in the state with Democrats, who have vowed to scuttle his plan.

A ‘nudge’ for DeSantis to go further than 15 weeks

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 15-week ban into law before the Dobbs decision last year, but given the Republican majority in his state, he’s now being criticized by some conservatives for not going nearly far enough.

An aide to another potential GOP presidential candidate, Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, has criticized DeSantis for not endorsing a more forceful restriction on abortion rights.

South Dakota has a near-total ban and, asked about DeSantis, Noem told CBS News this week that other Republican governors should do more.

“I would nudge every governor to do what they can to back up their pro-life record,” she said.

DeSantis is uncharacteristically quiet

When I asked CNN’s Florida politics expert Steve Contorno how far he expects DeSantis could go to restrict abortion rights, he told me the normally bombastic DeSantis has been sidestepping specifics ever since the Dobbs decision came out.

DeSantis released a vague statement promising to “expand pro-life protections” but has otherwise used an ongoing legal case over the 15-week ban as a shield for discussing what further steps he would take.

“People on both sides of the abortion debate have told me they expect some kind of legislation will come up that pushes the limit earlier than 15 weeks that could blunt further attacks like the one from Noem, but it’s not clear if DeSantis would support a full ban,” Contorno told me.

A ban that goes into effect after fetal cardiac activity is detected could be an alternative, he added, pointing out that DeSantis supported that type of legislation during his first run for governor in 2018.

Contorno also pointed out that Florida’s new Senate president, Kathleen Passidomo, told the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald she wants a 12-week abortion ban, but that she would include exceptions for rape and incest that are absent from the 15-week ban DeSantis signed into law last year.

Trump is feuding with evangelicals

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump – who has announced he’s running again in 2024 – wants more credit from evangelical leaders for delivering the right-wing Supreme Court that is working its way through a total reexamination of US legal precedent and individual rights.

“Nobody has ever done more for Right to Life than Donald Trump,” Trump told the conservative journalist David Brody. “I put three Supreme Court justices, who all voted, and they got something that they’ve been fighting for 64 years, for many, many years.”

He alleged “great disloyalty” among evangelical leaders not appropriately supporting him now.

CNN’s Kristen Holmes, Gabby Orr and Kaitlan Collins wrote this week about Trump’s frustration with anti-abortion activists for not bringing more voters to the polls last November.

On his social media platform, Trump said abortion hardliners cost the GOP votes, especially “those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother.”

It is the definition of a Trumpian contradiction to both want credit for overturning Roe and be frustrated by the activists who wanted Roe overturned. But it also speaks to this larger issue of how Republicans should proceed on the issue.

A state-by-state look

Opponents of abortion rights want to go further and are plotting a series of new laws in GOP-controlled states.

CNN’s Jessica Schneider and Devan Cole note that 22 state governments are under unified GOP control, and as state legislatures come into session for the year, they are looking to further restrict access to abortion services. Read their full report.

Republicans in Wyoming, for example, have introduced a bill that calls for a full abortion ban, including on medication abortion, without exceptions for rape or incest, and which includes criminal penalties for anyone who performs abortions. The only exception would be in cases where the life of the mother is at risk.

Nebraska Republicans introduced a ban on all abortions after embryonic cardiac activity is detected at about six weeks of gestation.

States moving to protect abortion rights

Schneider and Cole note that Democrats are pushing back. Michigan Democrats, who now control the state government, are working to repeal an abortion ban in the state that dates back to 1931 but was on ice during the Roe years and was blocked by a judge in the immediate aftermath of the Dobbs decision.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, where Democrats have complete control, voters may see an amendment on their ballot in 2024 that would add abortion rights to the state constitution.

A need to rebuild momentum

CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi talked to anti-abortion rights groups before they gathered Friday for the annual March for Life – which first occurred in 1974, a year after Roe, and now finds activists focused on passing more restrictive laws in states and trying to rebuild anti-abortion rights momentum after their Supreme Court victory in June.

“The pro-life movement has just experienced a major victory in the fall of Roe v. Wade, but our work to build a culture of life is far from complete,” Jeanne Mancini, the head of March for Life’s Education and Defense Fund, told Stracqualursi. Read her full report.

That may not be the case for supporters of abortion rights, many of whom credit the end of Roe with Democrats’ better-than-expected performance in the 2022 midterm election. While Republicans will be recalibrating, Democrats will try to carry that momentum built around abortion rights into the presidential election.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/01/22/politics/roe-v-wade-abortion-what-matters/index.html

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