Abortion Information

Thanks to birth control, we have the ability to plan and design our family and trajectory. But we must also break down systemic barriers to increase access for all.

By strengthening the family planning infrastructure like increasing birth control access, we can help ensure everyone’s reproductive well-being.

I have been a practicing OB-GYN for nearly two decades, caring for the reproductive health of people from all walks of life. People’s reasons for needing reproductive and contraceptive care range from managing medical needs to preventing a pregnancy. It is unfortunate that when educating my patients on their contraceptive options, in addition to medical considerations, they too often have to consider such factors as their access to transportation, insurance status, and ability to pay.

It’s even more unfortunate when you consider that the public supports birth control as a part of the basic health care people need to live life on their own terms.

A recent poll for Thanks, Birth Control Day, which is today, confirmed that there continues to be strong support for the use of birth control. Per the poll, 85 percent of respondents—including 93 percent of independents, 85 percent of Democrats, and 76 percent of Republicans—believe that all people deserve access to all methods of birth control, regardless of who they are, where they live, or their economic status. The poll was commissioned by the organization I’m the CEO of, Power to Decide.

Further, a significant majority of adults (76 percent), believe that birth control is a basic part of women’s health care. One reason for this strong support is that a majority of people have benefited from the ability to delay or prevent pregnancy through the use of birth control. As the data indicates, nearly all women (99 percent) who have ever had sex have used a method of contraception at some point in their lives.

In addition, people understand the broad benefits of access to birth control. The poll found that more than half of people (including 59 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of independents and 51 percent of Republicans) agree birth control allowed them to manage health conditions.

Meanwhile, 67 percent (including 72 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents, and 60 percent of Republicans) agree birth control has helped them work toward educational or professional goals. Finally, 76 percent (including 79 percent of independents, 75 percent of Democrats, and 74 percent of Republicans) are thankful birth control allowed them to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child.

Sadly, despite the data underscoring the importance of birth control in people’s lives and the significant support it enjoys as a basic part of health care, access is not guaranteed equally to all people. Today, more than 19 million women of reproductive age live in contraceptive deserts. In these areas, people lack reasonable access in their county to a health center that offers the full range of contraceptive methods.

Public concern over the lack of access to birth control is also reflected in the data, and it cuts across the political spectrum. Specifically, the poll found Democrats (74 percent), independents (72 percent), and Republicans (55 percent) are all concerned about access to birth control. Critically, the public’s concern over access has grown significantly when compared to polling data from 2020. The concern over access to birth control grew from 51 percent in 2020 to 69 percent this year.

Of course, the data doesn’t tell the whole story. What often gets lost in polls and surveys is the impact of birth control access for real people. In my experience, I have seen how access to quality affordable care has allowed a 17-year-old to finish high school and go on to higher education and a 25-year-old to space and plan her next pregnancy for a time that worked for her and her family.

Having the ability to plan and design your family and trajectory can be life changing. We must not forget that this is not yet a reality for far too many people who live in certain ZIP codes or do not have the ability to pay for the care and services they need.

Their stories are too often about opportunity lost and dreams deferred. From my experience working as a physician in reproductive health for most of my career, I believe there is no more compelling work at this time than increasing access to quality contraceptive care for all.

So today, as we proudly celebrate birth control for affording us the opportunities to realize our goals for ourselves and our families, we must also look for ways to break down systemic barriers and adopt a comprehensive approach to increase access for all. By strengthening the family planning infrastructure and increasing awareness and quality of services, we can help ensure the reproductive well-being for all.

The ability to plan and space out a pregnancy and pursue one’s goals should belong to all people, regardless of who they are or where they live.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/11/17/birth-control-usage-is-up-but-concern-over-access-grows/

The future of abortion access in the United States depends on independent clinics and providers to provide health care.
 Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

Independent clinics provide three out of every five abortions in the United States every year, a new report by the Abortion Care Network found.

With Roe v. Wade on the line at the Supreme Court and state lawmakers restricting access in new and increasingly radical ways, abortion providers and clinics have never been so vulnerable. The national conversation surrounding abortion access may often center on well-known mainstream organizations, but the reality of care looks different for patients on the ground.

Independent clinics are the heart of abortion care in the country, and a new report from the Abortion Care Network, a national association for independent abortion providers, illustrates how, as restrictions on access tighten, patients rely more and more on the critical care these clinics provide.

According to the report, independent clinics provide three out of every five abortions in the United States every year. Of the six states that have only one abortion clinic remaining, four rely on independent clinics: Mississippi, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

“Independent clinics like Women’s Health Center of West Virginia—the only clinic remaining in the entire state—are vital to the landscape of abortion care because we are embedded in our local landscape,” said Katie Quinonez, executive director of Women’s Health Center of West Virginia. “As the only abortion clinic in the entire state of West Virginia, the stakes could not be higher. … We know that no matter what happens with Roe, our community will be looking to us and local abortion funds to help them get the care they need. And, we’ll be there to answer the call.”

Patients who need later abortion care also rely heavily on independent clinics, which make up 60 percent of all clinics providing abortion care after the first trimester, and nearly 80 percent of all clinics providing abortion care at or after the 22nd week in pregnancy. The ACN report found that all clinics that provide abortion care after 26 weeks are independent.

In the wake of Texas SB 8, which bans all abortions after embryonic cardiac activity can be detected—around six weeks’ gestation—independent clinics are showing up for the patients flooding other states to seek care.

Rebecca Tong, co-executive director of Trust Women in Oklahoma City, said the clinic has “always seen patients from Texas.”

“But in September—after SB 8 went into effect—we saw ten times as many patients from Texas as in the month before; that number increased even more in October,” Tong said. “Everyone at Trust Women has stepped up to meet this challenge and provide abortions to as many people coming from Texas as we can.”

And for independent providers in Texas, like Whole Woman’s Health, attacks on abortion access are nothing new.

“We have taken down egregious attacks before, and we have the expertise and grit to take on the biggest ones yet, like Senate Bill 8,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder, president, and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health. “Independent providers like Whole Woman’s Health have learned to be innovative and nimble to survive.”

Independent providers are also on the forefront of ensuring patients have access to the full spectrum of abortion care, including both medication abortion and in-clinic abortion care. According to the ACN report, 71 percent of independent clinics offer patients both, compared to 49 percent of Planned Parenthood affiliates that offer patients a choice. What’s more, of the 306 independent clinics that operate in states where telemedicine abortion is legal, 34 percent provide telemedicine care.

“We hear every day from people who tell us they would not have been able to have an abortion if telemedicine was not an option,” Dr. Jamie Phifer, medical director and founder of Abortion on Demand, said. “Whether it’s because of distance to a clinic, busy work schedules, or caring for young children at home, telehealth can help overcome these obstacles.”

Independent providers are the backbone of abortion care in the United States, but they’re also some of the hardest hit by restrictions and bans. According to the ACN report, over the last decade the number of independent clinics nationwide has decreased by 30 percent. Twenty clinics have closed this year, and a whopping 113 have shuttered since 2016.

The fight for abortion access is more urgent than ever, and ACN’s report makes clear that the future of abortion access in the United States depends on independent clinics and providers. The report identifies key areas for advocacy, including ending abortion restrictions, repealing insurance coverage bans on abortion, and lifting regulations on medication abortion.

Beyond that, they urge advocates to raise awareness of the vital role independent clinics play in abortion care. They suggest donating or volunteering with a local abortion clinic, and, on a personal level, showing support for the people in your life who provide abortions and the people who have them.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/11/16/as-abortion-restrictions-tighten-patients-increasingly-turn-to-independent-clinics/

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on September 11, 2021, in Austin, Tex. (Jordan Vonderhaar / Getty Images)

Clinic staff are “very worried” about the stability of their jobs, explained one provider. And turning away patient after patient is taking its toll.

AUSTIN, TEX.—Months before Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) went into effect, staff and providers at Whole Woman’s Health—a network of abortion clinics—anxiously braced for the impact of one of the most extreme anti-choice laws in the United States. They spent countless hours in meetings strategizing how best to comply with the onerous Texas law, which bars abortion care once embryonic cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy. As more than 80 percent of pregnant people in the state receive care past this time frame, the law amounts to a near-total abortion ban.

However, nothing—not even the state’s roughly one-month Covid-19 abortion ban last year—could quite prepare the staff for the deep trauma they would face turning away hundreds of patients indefinitely over the next several weeks.

“My staff is dealing with emotional and psychological exhaustion as they are forced to be agents of the state against their will and comply with a remarkably cruel law they fundamentally disagree with,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, Whole Woman’s Health president and founder. “This law is taking a huge toll on them—they are facing day-to-day trauma.”

Clinic staff find themselves on the other end of understandably angry and anguished daily calls from patients who are blocked from receiving the timely care they need in their home state. Whole Woman’s must also resist the desperation of some patients, past the six-week mark, who plead with clinic staff to meet them in the parking lot for abortion-inducing pills or for an after-hours procedure. Staff don’t give in; however, many are reaching their emotional thresholds.

“Our staff are compassionate people but are being forced to constantly say ‘no’ to patients under the law—and they are hitting their limits,” said Hagstrom Miller. “I’ve heard some say: ‘I’ve said as many “no”s as I can, I don’t know how much more I can take.’”

In effect since September 1 because the US Supreme Court refused to intervene, SB 8 has forced most abortion care in the second-largest state in the country to cease, pushing pregnant people to venture out of state for care—that is, only if they are able to secure the resources to do so—or carry unplanned pregnancies to term.

In a scathing ruling on October 6, US Judge Robert Pitman paused SB 8 in response to a legal challenge from the US Department of Justice, deeming the law an “offensive deprivation” of constitutional rights. However, the largely conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, appeasing Texas officials, reinstated the law just two days later. The dizzying legal volley while the bill moves through the courts adds to the uncertainty and anxiety felt by patients, providers, and clinic staff.

Compounding the daily trauma for staff is the threat to their livelihoods: In addition to barring the overwhelming majority of abortion care, the law includes a novel legal provision that empowers private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who “aids or abets” abortion care. And those who sue are incentivized by a $10,000 award if the suits prove successful. As a result, the law opens the door for an army of anti-choice vigilantes to sue providers—or potentially those tangentially supporting abortion—at any point, leaving clinics deeply vulnerable.

Additionally, a provision in the law says that even if a temporary injunction is in place, providers could still be subject to retroactive litigation if the legal pause on the law is eventually stayed. (Malpractice insurance does not cover her providers for this kind of suit, stressed Hagstrom Miller.) And even if a lawsuit against an abortion provider is found to be frivolous, physicians would still need to disclose that they had been sued when applying for licenses, certifications, or hospital admitting privileges, potentially jeopardizing their careers.

Hagstrom Miller says of her 17 physicians at four centers across Texas, only half have felt comfortable continuing abortion care within the confines of the law; the other half fear liability and will resume procedures only if the law is permanently blocked. The majority of providers are young women—some who fly in from out of state—and are still paying off student loans and building their nascent careers. Her clinic staff similarly are largely women of color—many are parents and must weigh the risk to their livelihoods. While a handful of clinic staff have exited since the law was passed in May, the majority have stayed on.

But those who have stayed on remain “very worried” and “extremely anxious” about the stability of their jobs. Since the law took effect, clinics are seeing fewer patients, which has the effect of severely straining their incomes.

“If we can’t see patients, we don’t have income—so by default this could be a clinic closure law,” Hagstrom Miller said, adding that Whole Woman’s clinics are only seeing about 20 percent of the patients they normally do.

Hagstom Miller is all too familiar with the possible outcome of Texas anti-abortion laws intentionally meant to strangle clinics financially and operationally. Following the passage of 2013’s House Bill 2, a Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider, or TRAP law, three Whole Woman’s Health clinics were forced to shutter their doors, along with half the state’s clinics overall, dropping the number from around 40 to less than 20. It took one year for Hagstrom Miller’s McAllen location to reopen; three years for the Austin flagship center; and the Beaumont clinic never opened its doors again. Even after the US Supreme Court struck down two key portions of HB 2 in 2016, most abortion clinics in Texas have not been able to reopen.

While no Texas clinic so far has indicated it is at risk for immediate closure, independent providers face a greater threat than nationally affiliated organizations like Planned Parenthood, as they lack the name recognition and fundraising and mobilizing power, said Nikki Madsen, executive director of the Abortion Care Network, the national association for independent, community-based abortion care providers.

“We know that all abortion clinics need the support of their communities to weather these storms, but, unfortunately, fewer people know about indies—and that means that fewer donations, volunteers, and other forms of support are directed their way,” said Madsen.

Fourteen of the 20 clinics in Texas are independent providers, and in the United States generally, indies provide three of every five abortions, making up the majority of clinics that provide care after the first trimester. Because indies are so fundamental to abortion access in this country, the threat of closure also represents a “disproportionate threat to meaningful abortion access overall,” stressed Madsen. That’s why her group created Keep Our Clinics, a centralized fundraising program, to help independent clinics, which need tens of thousands of dollars each month to stay afloat.

“While advocates on the ground and legal experts across the country work to defeat the current abortion ban in Texas, we are working collectively to keep Texas clinics open and support clinics in surrounding states,” said Madsen.

Although providers at bigger institutions may benefit from the support of a national network, they have not been immune to the stress SB 8 has created for clinic staff. Dr. Bhavik Kumar, a physician at Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston, said SB 8’s potential to increase harassment and threats of litigation has only amplified the jarring feeling he has felt practicing abortion care in a conservative state hostile to abortion rights. The law has prevented the Houston clinic from providing abortion care to nearly 500 patients, which is “disturbing,” to Kumar personally and professionally.

The Houston clinic is also experiencing difficulty in hiring new staff and, like the staff at Whole Woman’s Health, its current team is concerned about their financial stability, he said. Some are in debt; some are caretakers; some are parents; and their livelihoods and futures are compromised because of SB 8.

“There is a heavy cloud of uncertainty above all of us,” said Kumar. “It’s unsettling that our jobs are so in flux. We are human. We have lives—we have partners, family members, children. The threat of SB 8 has a ripple effect. It changes not just how we interact with our patients but how we interact with friends and family, how we plan for our lives and futures. It is draining us every day.”

Source: https://www.thenation.com/article/society/texas-abortion-clinics/

The Supreme Court will review the enforcement mechanism that allows any private citizen to sue.
 Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

In just one week, the Supreme Court will hear two cases related to Texas’ near-total abortion ban.

“I’m being forced to inflict pain on my patients when the reason I became a doctor was to help and to heal them.”

Dr. Amna Dermish, the regional medical director at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, was describing the times she’s had to turn patients away since Texas’ near-total abortion ban, SB 8, took effect in September. Dermish broke down in tears during a press call Friday, just hours after the Supreme Court announced it would hear two challenges to the law on November 1—while allowing the ban to stay in effect until then.

By refusing to block the ban, the justices are already indicating a degree of sympathy toward the law. It’s particularly devastating considering the immediate, day-to-day impact SB 8 is having on Texans.

Now that the Supreme Court has fast-tracked a Texas SB 8 hearing onto the docket—it usually takes months from when the justices agree to hear a case to the actual arguments—it’s setting up to be a huge term for abortion rights. The Court had already set December 1 as the date to hear Mississippi’s 15-week banDobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

How we got here

Back in May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 8 into law, banning abortions as soon as embryonic cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks. This is well before viability, and pre-viability abortion bans are unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade. But that didn’t stop Texas lawmakers in their quest to punish anyone who provides an abortion or who “aids and abets” someone in getting an abortion, including anyone who drives a patient to a procedure or helps them pay.

And as if a six-week abortion ban with virtually no exceptions isn’t ghoulish enough, the law’s enforcement mechanism deputizes anyone to sue people who violate the law, essentially putting a bounty on anyone who helps someone access abortion.

Abortion providers and advocates sued in an attempt to block the law from going into effect on September 1, and SB 8 has been ping-ponging around the courts since then.

And now here we are—the fate of abortion access lies in the hands of a Supreme Court with a conservative supermajority.

What’s at issue

The Court will review the enforcement mechanism that allows any private citizen to sue. You see, the anti-choice lawmakers who drafted SB 8 devised the law to circumvent the judicial precedent that the state cannot interfere with abortion before viability. Their logic is that by shifting that responsibility of enforcement onto citizens, they can basically render the constitutionality of abortion moot.

It’s actually two cases that the justices will hear: Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, the case brought by the providers, and United States v. Texas, a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice.

Marc Hearron, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Friday on the press call that if the Supreme Court were to approve of a law like SB 8, the decision would essentially dismantle the Court’s authority to enforce protections of constitutional rights going forward.

“Every individual constitutional right is at stake,” he said.

What’s next

The justices will hear oral arguments in the two cases a week from today. Advocates say a ruling from the Court could come anytime, including as early as Friday, November 5.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/10/25/supreme-court-fast-tracks-arguments-for-texas-sb-8/

A new Texas law abortion law is having ripple effects far outside the Lone Star State with clinics as far as Las Vegas booked out for weeks amid a rapid influx of patients seeking care.

The Texas statute, known as S.B. 8, is one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation. It effectively prohibits the procedure when a “fetal heartbeat”—a term that medical professionals and abortion rights activists assert is misleading—can be detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy.

Enforcement of the ban is up to private citizens, who can receive as much as $10,000 for every successful lawsuit they bring against a doctor or anyone involved in aiding or abetting an abortion.

Since S.B. 8 went into effect on September 1, abortion providers in neighboring states have reported a drastic increase in patients from Texas.

There are typically 55,000 people in Texas who get abortions each year, which means there are now roughly 1,200 people a week no longer able to access those services in their home state.

“We are currently booked out into the first or second week of November, which is really significant,” Zach Gingrich-Gaylord, the communications director at Trust Women, told Newsweek.

Trust Women operates clinics in Oklahoma and Kansas. In the month of August, Trust Women’s Wichita location saw just one patient from Texas. In October, that number skyrocketed to 51.

Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, which covers New Mexico, Colorado and southern Nevada, has seen a 50 percent increase in patients from Texas across all of their health centers.

Adrienne Mansanares, the chief experience officer for the Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountain region, told Newsweek that their centers are also booked out for as long as two weeks due to the “tremendous demand” for reproductive and sexual healthcare.

Abortion Providers Near Texas Booked Out Weeks
A new Texas law abortion law is having ripple effects far outside the Lone Star State with clinics as far as Las Vegas booked out for weeks amid a rapid influx of patients seeking care. In this photo, Aan ultrasound machine sits next to an exam table in an examination room at a Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Indiana.SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

The flood of patients traveling from Texas is causing capacity issues for other states that have smaller or less clinics. Dallas–Fort Worth, for example, has more clinics in its metropolitan area than the entire state of Oklahoma.

Trust Women said it’s Wichita clinic is seeing an increase in Oklahoma patients who are being displaced by Texas patients. Planned Parenthood described a “migration” pattern where if their Albuquerque location fills up, local residents then have to travel north to Farmington or even across state lines to Durango, Colorado for appointments.

The result is longer wait times for time-sensitive issues ranging from pregnancies to annual health screenings.

“This is not just about abortion, and it’s bad enough that it would just be about abortion,” Mansanares said, “but it’s also about family planning, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, refilling birth control pills. There’s a big physical push of patients across this whole region that’s delaying care for other residents.”

Multiple legal challenges have been filed against S.B. 8. Earlier this month, a federal judge temporarily blocked the statute, allowing one reproductive healthcare provider to resume abortions for patients. But the pause only lasted two days before the largely conservative Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Texas lawmakers on the issue.

Now, the Department of Justice is asking the Supreme Court to temporarily block the Texas law. The department called the law “plainly unconstitutional.”

The high court agreed Monday afternoon to expedite a separate request from abortion providers that the justices consider the case.

“The longer this goes on, of course, the more people are going to be confronted with a choice—not even the choice but the possibility that they will have to carry a pregnancy that they can’t afford or that they don’t want and it’s a very serious health crisis,” said Gingrich-Gaylord.

Source: https://www.newsweek.com/abortion-providers-near-texas-booked-out-weeks-influx-patients-amid-sb8-ban-1641330

The night before Julie Rikelman was scheduled to argue before the Supreme Court for the first time, she hardly slept at all. But it wasn’t nerves that kept her up. It was a persistent fire alarm at the Washington, D.C. hotel where she was staying. It went off again and again for hours on end, she remembers, laughing.

Despite the mayhem, Rikelman, the litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights who colleagues describe as “unflappable,” stood before the high court the next day to argue the first abortion-related case since Trump-appointed conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh arrived on the bench. She left the oral arguments feeling confident and several months later, she learned she’d tallied up another win. The court sided with the Louisiana abortion clinic that Rikelman represented, holding that the state’s law put an undue burden on those seeking abortions—as was the case when they struck down a nearly identical Texas law in 2016. Abortion rights advocates breathed a sigh of relief.

But all the drama of that March 2020 argument—which unfolded just before COVID-19 shut the country down—pales in comparison to the pressure Rikelman and the Center for Reproductive Rights are facing now. On Dec. 1, Rikelman will again appear before the Supreme Court to argue against yet another state law, this one from Mississippi, that represents the biggest threat to abortion access that the country has seen in decades.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization centers on a 2018 Mississippi law that would prohibit almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Unlike the Louisiana case that Rikelman successfully argued before SCOTUS in 2020, this law does not add requirements for those providing abortions; it seeks to outlaw the procedure entirely. The Mississippi law represents a direct, unalloyed challenge to the Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, in which the court found that people have the constitutional right to an abortion until the point when a fetus can survive outside the womb, or about 24 weeks into pregnancy.

That the Supreme Court agreed to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization at all came as a shock to Rikelman and her colleagues. But then the news got worse: the Court announced it would not only hear the case, it would consider the question of whether all laws that ban abortion pre-viability are unconstitutional. In other words, the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority featuring Amy Coney Barrett in place of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is prepared to review the precedent of Roe v. Wade itself.

“It’s been clear for 50 years that a ban like Mississippi’s is unconstitutional,” Rikelman says. “If the Supreme Court upholds this ban, it will have effectively overturned Roe v. Wade.”

The case comes at a delicate political moment. In the past year, state legislatures have passed a record-breaking 106 new laws restricting abortion and, in September, Texas implemented the nation’s single strictest abortion law since 1973, banning nearly all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The Texas law may also come before the Supreme Court this term. The stakes of this moment, Rikelman says, are “monumental.”

Abortion rights activists protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., March 4.

Abortion rights activists protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., March 4. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

A grounding in human rights

Rikelman has been preparing for this fight for decades. Born in Kyiv, she immigrated to the U.S. with her parents in 1979 after they experienced severe discrimination in the former Soviet Union for being Jewish. Her mother was blocked from medical school because of her religion, and when her parents arrived here barely speaking English, they had to restart their careers from scratch. Rikelman herself learned English as a second language, and says seeing her family’s struggle shaped her interest in civil rights from an early age. “I definitely grew up thinking about how important it was for people to be able to make personal decisions about their lives for themselves,” she says, “and not have the government make those decisions for them.”

In school, Rikelman sometimes felt like an outsider. But in college, she found her niche. She remembers taking a class on sex discrimination that introduced her to Supreme Court cases about reproductive rights. She’d found her calling. She still keeps that college textbook in her office. Some of the cases she reads now in her work at the Center for Reproductive Rights are the same ones she underlined as a 19-year-old. After falling in love with constitutional law, Rikelman clerked for a judge at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and the first female judge on the Alaska Supreme Court, then accepted a fellowship at the Center for Reproductive Rights, the powerful non-profit that was founded in 1992 to represent the abortion clinic at the heart of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the lesser-known Supreme Court case that upheld the right to abortion that year. After a stint as vice president of litigation at NBC Universal, Rikelman returned to the Center in 2011 and has been there ever since.

In years after the Center for Reproductive Rights was founded, it grew quickly into a legal powerhouse, employing 75 lawyers and wielding a $40 million budget to fight many of the country’s high-profile abortion legal battles, often alongside Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. More recently, its role has become even more outsized. In the decade since Rikelman joined the Center as a senior attorney, the types of lawsuits aimed at abortion access have changed. “We were always fighting restrictions that are burdensome and make it harder to access reproductive health care,” says Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “But not flat out bans. The boldness of the restrictions, the fact that we are litigating at the Supreme Court the question about whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned, was nowhere on the horizon 19 years ago.”

As the challenges to abortion access have become more pronounced, Rikelman’s experience has accumulated. “Julie has a first rate legal mind. But she doesn’t have a trace of arrogance about it,” Northup says. “It makes her an incredibly effective advocate because she is not letting any kind of ego get in the way of the way that she argues in the courtroom.”Rikelman speaks to abortion rights supporters after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on March 4, 2020

Rikelman speaks to abortion rights supporters after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on March 4, 2020 Alyssa Schukar—Center for Reproductive Rights/AP

‘Concerning for the rule of law’

For decades, abortion opponents have worked closely with conservative lawmakers at the state level to limit abortion in a variety of ways. They have, for example, put in place an array of requirements ostensibly aimed at protecting patient safety but that really make it difficult for doctors to practice and for clinics to stay open. Abortion rights advocates call those TRAP laws: Target Regulation of Abortion Providers laws. But over the years, efforts to reduce and ban access to abortion have gotten less subtle. Instead of adding facility requirements or mandating hospital admitting privileges—the subjects of the past two abortion-related Supreme Court cases—lawmakers recently have sought to impose gestational bans and to revisit the idea of when life begins. Those laws go straight at the question of whether, and at what point, abortions should be legal at all.

Changing the viability standard, the central holding in Roe, would not only upend the 1973 decision, it would also give states a green light to revisit dozens of other abortion laws that have been blocked over the years. “One of the basic principles of the rule of law is stare decisis,” says Rikelman. “You don’t change precedent unless there’s a really good reason, unless there’s been some really fundamental shift, a real change in facts, a major change in the law—and none of that has happened. For the court to reverse itself here for this right would just be deeply concerning for the rule of law.”

That’s exactly what this Mississippi case is asking the Supreme Court to do. In a brief this summer, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch asked the Court to overturn Roe, arguing that changes in science and society have rendered the precedent “decades out of date,” and that the controversy over Roe has damaged the Court. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the States,” the brief said.

Rikelman and other abortion rights advocates disagree with that logic. If Roe were overturned, abortion would become illegal—either immediately or very quickly—in roughly half the states in the nation. The Center is currently litigating 32 cases and has clients in 25 states. Without the viability line, state legislatures would likely pass more laws restricting abortion and this work would multiply exponentially, Northup says, creating even more unequal access between conservative and liberal states. She notes that the Casey decision opens with the line “Liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt.” In other words, “the more imprecise the constitutional standard,” she says, “the more that opens the door for chaos and thus no refuge, no safety, no guarantee of liberty.”

Kathaleen Pittman, of Hope Medical Group for Women, Rikelman, senior director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Nancy Northup, center president, and T.J. Tu, the center's senior council for U.S. litigation, stand outside the U.S. Supreme Court after oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo on March 4.

Kathaleen Pittman, of Hope Medical Group for Women, Rikelman, senior director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Nancy Northup, center president, and T.J. Tu, the center’s senior council for U.S. litigation, stand outside the U.S. Supreme Court after oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo on March 4. Alyssa Schukar—Center for Reproductive Rights/AP

Always another road to go down’

Texas’s recent, ultra-strict abortion law represents a cautionary tale for the abortion rights movement. The law not only bans most abortions, but also deputizes private citizens to enforce the ban and gives them a bounty to do so. Some clinics in the state have stopped offering abortion services altogether, while the law has forced other abortion providers into tough legal corners. In the weeks since the law passed, Texans have flood surrounding states in search of abortions. “Texas has given us a preview of what we could see on a much bigger scale in many states around the country if Roe is overturned,” Rikelman says.

She knows that her ability to argue effectively before the Supreme Court in December comes with huge stakes. Women still make up only a fraction of advocates before the Supreme Court—often less than 20%—and now Rikelman will be appearing again in a case that could have historic implications for the future of how women are able to live in the U.S. She and her co-lead counsel Hillary Schneller often work 13- or 14-hour days preparing for oral arguments. By the time Dec. 1 comes, their team will have spent thousands of hours on the case.

The arguments themselves will look very different from the past. Due to the ongoing pandemic, only the main lawyers from each side and press will be allowed inside. Everyone else, including Northup, will have to wait outside. Rikelman isn’t even sure her husband will make it this time, as the family has been careful about traveling since their younger daughter isn’t yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Rikelman plans to listen to music—maybe some U2—to steady herself before the arguments and meditate on the extraordinary work that her clients do to keep their clinics open.

She and Northup are realistic about the outlook for their cause. The Supreme Court already allowed the Texas law to go into effect earlier this fall, and despite the Justices recently professing that they want to remain apolitical, the conservative Justices have all expressed clear opposition to abortion over the course of their careers.

“I have never been as concerned about the constitutional protections for abortion rights as I am today,” Northup says.But, she adds, she remains optimistic about the fight for abortion access going forward. “There’s always another road to go down,” Northup says. “If the Supreme Court slams the door, reverses Roe vs. Wade, we have the U.S. Congress, we have fighting state by state. We have mobilizing people, like perhaps had not been necessary before.”“There is always, always an opportunity to fight on a different front,” she adds. “And that’s what we’ll do.”

Source: https://time.com/6108402/julie-rikelman-supreme-court-abortion-rights/?fbclid=IwAR37cLvLM4vcXexlXrZMDWOWRYQF2_ujSy202Y3cegJt1eXOKHJcPm0okXE

The criminalization of Brittney Poolaw’s pregnancy forewarns of a system where all pregnancies that do not end in a live birth can be deemed suspicious.
 Getty Images

National Advocates for Pregnant Women painted a grim picture of pregnant people increasingly being prosecuted around the country for a miscarriage.

In January 2020, then-19-year-old Brittney Poolaw was pregnant and needed urgent medical care. She called 911 and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. She was having a miscarriage at 17 weeks.

Two months later, she was arrested and charged with first-degree manslaughter under Oklahoma law. Earlier this month—after spending 18 months in jail because she could not afford her $20,000 bond—Poolaw, now 21, was sentenced to four years in prison for her pregnancy loss. National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), which represents Poolaw, say this case is not an outlier—it’s one of over 1,000 such cases across the country in recent years.

The criminalization of adverse pregnancy outcomes—arresting, charging, and incarcerating pregnant people for miscarriages and stillbirths—might seem dystopian, like a plot point from a horror or sci-fi movie. Occasionally, cases like Poolaw’s make national headlines and are rightly judged as ghastly violations of human rights and autonomy. But that laser focus on individual cases can give the impression that these are isolated incidents.

They are not.

NAPW say cases like Poolaw’s have been on the rise in recent years. According to their analysis, from 1973 to 2005 there were at least 413 cases in which a woman’s pregnancy loss was a determinative factor in her loss of liberty. Since 2005 that number has tripled to over 1,200, indicating a rapid escalation of these types of arrests.

This is despite every major medical organization in the country opposing the use of the legal system to penalize pregnancy loss, and despite studies showing that criminalization of adverse pregnancy outcomes may actually deter pregnant people from seeking medical care, which in turn puts them and their pregnancies at greater risk.

Speaking to Rewire News Group, Dana Sussman, NAPW’s deputy executive director, and NAPW staff attorney Cassandra Kelly painted a grim picture of pregnant people increasingly being prosecuted for charges involving fetal demise. This is happening across the country, in states like Wisconsin, Alabama, and California; for the latter, they cited the cases of Chelsea Becker, who spent over a year incarcerated after being charged with murder for experiencing a stillbirth, and Adora Perez, who is serving an 11-year sentence for a similar charge.

An even more radical framework for criminalizing miscarriage

Describing Poolaw’s case, Sussman said, “I’m not sure if I have the words to describe frankly how problematic this case has been from start to finish.”

Prosecutors argued that Poolaw’s drug use was to blame for her pregnancy loss. When she sought medical attention for her miscarriage, she told hospital staff that she had used meth and marijuana. The medical examiner’s report listed maternal meth use as a contributing factor to fetal demise, but didn’t determine it was directly responsible. And even an OB-GYN testifying for the prosecution said that while drug use can have an effect on pregnancy, it’s unclear what caused the miscarriage in this case.

Under Oklahoma law, manslaughter and murder laws can be applied to a viable fetus, as can child abuse and neglect laws. But Poolaw’s miscarriage occured when she was 17 weeks pregnant, long before a fetus reaches viability. NAPW advocates say Poolaw’s case is one of the earliest they’ve seen; by prosecuting a pre-viability miscarriage as manslaughter, Oklahoma prosecutors are pushing the law’s bounds, indicating a shift toward an even more radical framework for criminalizing pregnancy loss.

NAPW is a nonprofit organization that does pro bono criminal defense, advocacy, public education, and organizing around the criminalization of pregnancy loss.

The particulars of Poolaw’s case are a web of legal booby traps. “There has to be a causal link when we’re talking about manslaughter,” Sussman said. “In Brittney’s case, it was ‘possession of an illegal substance.’ Of course, possession on its own, even by their framing, wouldn’t cause fetal demise. It’s the consumption, but in Oklahoma, from what we understand, possession has essentially been construed as also covering consumption.”

What we see happening with the criminalization of pregnancy loss is not unlike what we see with the increasingly volatile state of abortion access in the country. Lawmakers and prosecutors start by encroaching on the bodily autonomy of pregnant people in a way they know will be most palatable to society. They target circumstances most fraught with stigma and taboo: later abortion bans, restrictions on young people accessing abortion, criminalization of drug use during pregnancy. But Sussman says they will not stop there.

It comes down to prosecutors claiming the pregnant person put the fetus at “risk of harm,” she said, a measure of liability with drastic potential for expansion.

“We’ve tracked all cases that we can find in which someone has been arrested and/or prosecuted or experienced another deprivation of liberty in relation to their pregnancy, and the vast majority of those cases involve drug use,” Sussman said. “It’s not all though. So, we do see cases where someone fell down a flight of stairs and was charged with some criminal allegation creating a risk of harm to the fetus.”

But NAPW wants to make clear that pushing back against the criminalization of pregnancy loss isn’t about viability or substance use; pointing out these legal intricacies is not to concede that viability or the pregnant person’s behavior should be used to determine whether manslaughter or other criminal charges are appropriate.

Instead, NAPW staff stress that the criminalization of any pregnancy loss is wrong. If lawmakers and prosecutors intended to stop with cases involving post-viability pregnancies, or miscarriages involving allegations of drug use, that would still warrant the abject horror that Poolaw’s case has been greeted with.

“It is a slippery slope. We are on the slope.”

A critical part of this case is Poolaw’s Indigenous background—she is a member of Comanche Nation; the history of the criminalization of adverse pregnancy outcomes is, unsurprisingly, deeply rooted in racism and classism.

“So much of this has its tentacles in the ‘crack baby’ obsession in the ‘80s and ‘90s targeting poor Black women,” Sussman said. She cites a 1989 policy in which the Medical University of South Carolina entered into an agreement with local law enforcement to surreptitiously drug test and report pregnant women, so that police could arrest them days and sometimes just hours after giving birth. The population that the hospital was serving at the time was predominantly Black and lower income.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which challenged the policy in court:

Some women were taken to jail while still bleeding from giving birth. Others were arrested and jailed while they were pregnant, even though the prison could not provide prenatal care or drug treatment. When the incarcerated women went into labor, they were returned to the hospital in shackles. One woman was handcuffed to her bed throughout her delivery.

The Supreme Court heard the Center’s challenge to the policy and, in 2001, ruled in their favor. But the same type of disparate impact remains the reality of criminalized adverse pregnancy outcomes today. Sussman stresses that cases like Poolaw’s will affect marginalized pregnant people most—Black, trans and nonbinary, disabled, undocumented, and lower income pregnant people are all at an increased risk of having their pregnancy losses criminalized.

“We all know that pregnancy is grossly understudied and there’s so much still unknown,” Sussman says. “Exercising too vigorously, going downhill skiing, a lot of things [involve risk], but because of the war on drugs and because of racism and because of classism and lots of other things, the focus has been disproportionately on drug use. But it is a slippery slope. We are on the slope.”

Criminalization of pregnancy loss is rapidly expanding in scope, in ways that continue to target marginalized people. Sussman said NAPW is now seeing cases where a pregnant person faces allegations of lack of prenatal care as part of a larger charge. This is particularly insidious considering which communities lack access to proper prenatal care, and the fact that for low-income families, accessing prenatal care means interacting with a state system that has the potential to surveil them, which in turn leaves them vulnerable to prosecution if they experience pregnancy loss. NAPW is even starting to see cases where parents of newborns become ensnared in the legal system for allegations of drug use during breastfeeding.

Poolaw’s case forewarns of a system where all pregnancies that do not end in a live birth can be deemed suspicious. As Texas SB 8, which bans nearly all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, dominates headlines, it’s critical to understand how criminalizing abortion and criminalizing pregnancy loss intersect. Conservatives in Texas have been quick to assure voters that pregnant people themselves cannot be charged under the anti-abortion law, but the reality is that pregnant people around the country are already being charged for not carrying a pregnancy to term. And while medication abortion is safe and effective, an increased demand for it presents unique challenges to populations of pregnant people who are more likely to have their pregnancy losses criminalized.

The increasing criminalization of adverse pregnancy outcomes also speaks to a deep-seated stigma and taboo surrounding miscarriage and infertility.

“It’s premised on this false notion that everyone can guarantee a healthy pregnancy and that it is somehow your failure, your incapacity, your fault, something you did or something you didn’t do, that caused the pregnancy loss,” Sussman said.

“We of course know how common pregnancy loss is and how it’s been really sort of understudied, as so many sort of health issues that predominantly affect women are, and thinking about sort of all of the economic, social, structural reasons why people might experience pregnancy loss … And yet here we are holding women criminally liable when they can’t guarantee a healthy pregnancy.”

Sussman said Poolaw now has a short window of time to decide whether to appeal. Four years is the minimum sentence for manslaughter in Oklahoma, and she could have gotten life in prison, Sussman said.

“I think she has been through a deeply, deeply traumatic experience,” Sussman said. “It’s trauma layered upon trauma. And so we’re going to be driven by what she wants. But regardless of what decision she makes, it’s not the end of our fight in Oklahoma because more cases are coming.”

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/10/21/when-a-miscarriage-becomes-a-jail-sentence/?fbclid=IwAR1sd5-W00x9cdVxOAlOS1Izh18IpqdFY9KYIIAAw-jTLefg9vhTaigC_Ew

Conservatives are in the midst of a power grab, and something as minor as the will of the people—as democracy itself—is not going to stop them from imposing their rules of Christian theocracy and forcing the rest of us to live by them.
 Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Ending abortion won’t be enough for the anti-abortion movement. They’ll want fertilized eggs, embryos, and blastocysts to have full constitutional rights.

In 2011, voters in Mississippi were given the opportunity to amend their state constitution to provide all of the constitutional rights that you and I have—or at least are supposed to have—to a fertilized egg.

And Mississippians resoundingly said no. But it wasn’t just abortion advocates who opposed the ballot initiative. National Right to Life opposed it, as did Americans United for Life. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the state’s Episcopal and Methodist church leadership also refused to support it.

It was a crushing blow to the so-called personhood movement, which suffered repeated humiliating losses during the 2010s. Voters in North Dakota rebuffed the personhood movement’s advances, as did voters in Colorado—twice.

The personhood advocates retreated with their tail between their legs. The will just wasn’t there.

But it’s ten years later, and the will of the people doesn’t mean much anymore. Conservatives are in the midst of a power grab, and something as minor as the will of the people—as democracy itself—is not going to stop them from imposing their rules of Christian theocracy and forcing the rest of us to live by them.

And personhood? Well, personhood is Christian evangelicals’ holy grail.

A Supreme Court ruling in Mississippi’s favor in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization won’t end the fight for the anti-abortion movement. It will galvanize it. Disparate wings of the anti-abortion movement that have clashed in the past over the efficacy of pushing for personhood will come together. Republican-controlled states will rush to amend their constitutions to reflect the fetus’s new status as a person, while anti-choice advocates push Congress for federal personhood legislation.

Because ending abortion is not enough.If you thought the fight to protect Roe v. Wade was bad? The fight to ensure that women and pregnant people in this country don’t have to share human and constitutional rights with a fertilized egg will be worse.

They want fertilized eggs, embryos, and blastocysts to have full constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment—the right to due process, the right to equal protection, the right to life—even at the expense of the person whose body is sustaining fetal life.

That means anything that interferes with a fertilized egg making its way to the uterus and implanting—along with anything that interferes with that developing pregnancy—would be classified as killing a person, and potentially as murder.

Someone suffering from infertility who, as is often the case during in vitro fertilization (IVF), does not implant every fertilized egg could be brought up on charges. A pregnant person who suffers a miscarriage could expect a visit from the cops to determine whether the miscarriage was accidental.

Any contraceptives that prevent, or even potentially prevent, a fertilized egg—pardon me, a person—from implanting into the uterus would be banned.

That this has grave consequences for abortion rights is a gross understatement. If you thought the fight to protect Roe v. Wade was bad? The fight to ensure that women and pregnant people in this country don’t have to share human and constitutional rights with a fertilized egg will be worse. Because the end result isn’t just forced pregnancy and unsafe abortion care. It’s total control over women and other people capable of reproducing.

That’s always been the anti-choice movement’s goal, which is why they won’t stop if the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi Gestational Age Act, the 15-week abortion ban at issue in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

The fight for personhood begins

Exactly one week after the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, the first federal personhood amendment—the Human Life Amendment—was introduced by Rep. Larry Hogan Sr. For the next 40 years, personhood amendments would be introduced and would fail. Anti-choice politicians would try to slip personhood language in unrelated legislation. (In 2012, Rand Paul threatened to block a bill to reauthorize funding to the National Flood Insurance Program unless a personhood amendment was attached to it.) Ultimately, those efforts would fail as well.

Meanwhile at the state level, personhood activists within the anti-abortion movement found themselves fighting an uphill battle alone. While they were in sync when it came to ending legal abortion, the movement was split on what tactic to deploy.

Personhood activists insisted that ending legal abortion required declaring that life begins at conception and that fertilized eggs deserved full constitutional protection. The rest of the anti-choice movement preferred a less controversial approach—attack abortion around the edges and reduce abortion by restricting access. It would be death by a thousand cuts.

This incremental approach became the dominant strategy. After decades of brutal and violent attacks on abortion providers, accompanied by a pervasive narrative that women who get abortions are baby killers, a dramatic shift occurred in the way that the anti-abortion activists talked about abortion.

The cries about baby killers and murderers abated for a while as anti-choice advocates turned their attention toward crafting an image of caring abolitionists concerned about the harm that abortion caused women. Women weren’t baby killers. Rather, they were being coerced into abortion by providers who were falsely painted as motivated by profit. (One thing that remained from the tactics of the 1980s: attacking abortion providers and making them unsafe with wild claims about justifiable homicide.)

‘Abortion is bad for women’

“The real challenge for pro-lifers in 2009 is to effectively address the assumption that abortion is good for women.”

That’s what Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel for Americans United for Life, said in an article published by CBS News in 2009. AUL’s model anti-choice legislation would go on to be a big force in the avalanche of abortion restrictions that came pouring out of statehouses across the country during the rise of the Tea Party in the Obama administration.

Screaming at women that they were baby killers wasn’t working, so anti-abortion activists began to couch anti-abortion activism in “woman-protective” terms and promoted legislation that would purportedly protect women.

The flood of state abortion restrictions in the early 2010s marked this rhetorical shift and reflected the anti-abortion movement’s decision to focus on “women’s health and safety.” Anti-abortion advocates keened about women being coerced into abortion, and invented medical conditions they claimed “post-abortive women” had suffered, including the ludicrous claim that women were being traumatized by the sound of vacuum cleaners after their abortions.

In addition, biased informed consent laws forced doctors to lie to patients about, among other things, an increased risk of breast cancer or an inability to bond with subsequent children, and to read scripts impressing upon the patient that they’re “terminating the life of a whole separate unique living human being” (as one law in South Dakota required), just to impress upon the hapless pregnant person that abortion is an abrogation of their maternal duties. Unwanted ultrasounds and “heartbeat” listening sessions were forced upon patients because hapless pregnant women simply needed to see and hear the little dot on the sonogram in order to tap into the well of maternal instinct that evangelicals believe resides inside every woman.

And then there were the regulations aimed at providers. Those were ostensibly about health and safety too. Requirements that clinics spend millions of dollars to retrofit their facilities to act as outpatient hospitals—even clinics that only provide medication abortion. States forced doctors to get admitting privileges at local hospitals—even though abortion is safer than childbirth and, on the rare occasion that a complication does occur, an ambulance will take the patient to a hospital nearest to their home, which, thanks to the legislators who enact these restrictions, may be hundreds of miles away from the clinic.

Women’s health and safety. That’s what politicians repeatedly claimed their goal was when it counted—in the legislation, in hearings, and in court. But in the media, they crowed about how successful these restrictions were at closing clinics.

The Supreme Court ended the “women’s health and safety” charade in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the case challenging Texas HB 2, sweeping legislation that Texas Republicans admitted was intended to close clinics.

In Whole Woman’s Health, the Court said states could no longer pass laws willy-nilly and claim that they protect the health and safety of pregnant people. The burdens of any restriction would have to be weighed against benefits the restriction conferred. The Court rejected Texas’ claim that its admitting privileges law was in place to protect women, finding that, in practice, the law hadn’t done anything of the kind.

In one of her shorter concurrences—clocking in at two pages—Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety. … Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H. B. 2 that do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion, cannot survive judicial inspection.”

Whole Woman’s Health effectively put a nail in the “we have to protect women from abortion” strategy, which means the anti-choice movement is coalescing around the “we have to protect the fetus” strategy. That strategy could take many forms. Anti-choice activists may push for federal personhood legislation. They may push for an amendment to the Constitution establishing personhood. They may take a stab at both simultaneously.

It’s certainly on their radar.

The fight for personhood resumes

During a Newsweek podcast appearance with Rewire News Group’s Executive Editor Jessica Mason Pieklo, anti-abortion leader Lila Rose laid the anti-choice movement’s cards on the table:

There’s no reason that we should treat children at the moment of birth different than children before birth. They are still human beings. Human life starts—the science is clear when human life begins—it begins at the moment of fertilization: sperm, egg fusion. You have a unique, individual human being and they deserve legal protection, just like anybody else. That’s not just a general argument for human rights; it’s based on our own Constitution. The 14th Amendment says that all people should have equal protection under the law and that no state should deprive anyone of their right to life without due process.

They’ve got momentum, they’ve got power, and they’ve got a Supreme Court stacked with justices just waiting to back them up.

And this time, they’re not particularly concerned about protecting women. They can’t possibly be. Conferring legal rights to eggs turns every miscarriage into a potential criminal investigation. It also raises awkward questions about whose rights matter more when pitted against each other—the fertilized egg or the person carrying it.

Enshrining fetal personhood into law will prevent millions of people suffering from infertility from being able to have children. And it will prevent millions of people who rely on certain forms of contraception from using them.

And while this may not be the most critical issue, it does raise the question: Can a pregnant person drive in the HOV lane?

The point is, fetal personhood will lead to chaos. And it’s that chaos that led to the myriad defeats the personhood movement suffered in the early 2010s. But it’s a new decade with a new cultural zeitgeist. The “protect women” drumbeat is silent, and increasingly the claim to care about women’s well-being has given way to the rhetoric of the early days of the anti-choice movement: Abortion is murder and anyone participating in it deserves to be punished. They don’t care anymore if a pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Gone are the concerns about the safety and well-being of women. Some Republican lawmakers have outright called for people who get abortions to be put to death.

Now it’s fetus über alles. It’s the fetus that deserves a chance at life. The pregnant person? They already screwed up by getting pregnant. Better luck next time.

The fight to keep personhood at bay will be tough, but it’s not unwinnable. Advocates will be fighting a united anti-choice movement with one goal in mind, to be sure. But fetal personhood has severe consequences outside of the abortion context; the anti-choice movement may not be able to convince enough people that fetal personhood even makes sense.

But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try.

The anti-choice movement may have been splintered in its approach to gutting Roe v. Wade in the lead-up to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, but after that decision comes down, the movement’s approach to ending abortion entirely—or trying to anyway—will be unified. And that should make every abortion rights advocate nervous.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/ablc/2021/10/14/whats-next-after-the-supreme-court-reverses-roe-attack-of-the-egg-people/

The anti-abortion ordinance will have a second reading at the Mason City Council’s next meeting.

In Mason, Ohio, the city council is considering an ordinance outlawing abortion—with the help of a Texas anti-abortion group.

With “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinances in over two dozen cities in Texas, the city of Mason, Ohio, is on its way to becoming the next municipality to enact an abortion ban.

The ordinance was introduced last week at a Mason City Council meeting, where four council members voted in favor of an abortion ban for the Ohio city. That was one short of the five members required to pass the ordinance as an emergency and skip a public referendum.

Mayor Kathy Grossmann supports the abortion ban but said she hoped it did not go to a referendum. Instead, the anti-abortion ordinance will have a second reading at the city council’s October 25 meeting, as Erin Glynn of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

This is far from the first time Ohio Republicans have taken aim abortion access. On top of restrictions on abortion providers, low-income people, and minors, the state bans abortions “based on” a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome and abortions after 22 weeks’ gestation. (Ohio lawmakers have always struggled with science.)

In this case, however, Mason is skipping directly to the end goal: banning abortion within city limits entirely—even though there aren’t any abortion clinics in the city anyway.

And Mason wouldn’t be the first Ohio city to do so—Lebanon’s city council voted unanimously to ban abortion in May. The Lebanon ordinance, like the proposal in Mason, declares it illegal to provide, aid, or provide money, transportation or instructions for an abortion within city limits.

If you’re thinking “so what?” then we’ve got one word for you: Texas.

In fact, the Mason City Council got a draft ordinance from Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, an initiative by Right to Life of East Texas, the Enquirer reported.

So even as other states dominate the headlines (and for good reason), we just wanted to let Ohio anti-abortion activists know that we’re watching them too.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/10/18/ohio-might-get-a-second-sanctuary-city-for-the-unborn/

The Murphy administration on Wednesday approved lifting regulations on abortions that barred them from happening in a doctor’s office beyond 14 weeks of pregnancy and allowing as many as 15,000 nurses, physician assistants and midwives to perform the procedure. 

The new rules contain elements of a bill Gov. Phil Murphy supports to enshrine a woman’s right to abortion into law should the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which says a woman has the constitutional right to an abortion, be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But that bill Murphy supports, the Reproductive Freedom Act, includes many more protections and would expand access to birth control and pregnancy care, which he says are under threat.

“At a time when other states are creating roadblocks to reproductive health and abortion care, New Jersey is working to expand access to these vital services, especially for communities facing systemic, economic, and logistical barriers to care,” Murphy said in a statement.

The new rules were unanimously approved by the state Board of Medical Examiners and will take effect in the “coming months,” the Attorney General’s Office said.

The “outdated” restrictions had been under scrutiny after a state panel formed in 2018 examined state regulations concerning abortion.

The Attorney General’s Office said the board considered nationally recognized studies, which showed “certain” early abortions can be safely performed by non-physician clinicians and that over-regulation of abortion creates public health “harms” by disrupting access to care.

Once the rules take effect, nearly 12,000 advanced practice nurses, 4,500 physician assistants and 420 midwives could become authorized to perform abortions. The Reproductive Freedom Act would allow those workers to perform the procedure as well.

Sean P. Neafsey, the acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said the change will “play a role in expanding abortion access and residents will have enhanced choices and more timely access to essential reproductive health care.”

New Jersey does not have any restrictions on when a woman can have an abortion, but the board approved lifting a regulation that barred office-based abortions beyond 14 weeks.

In 2018, the majority of abortions nationally happened in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, while about 7% were done between weeks 14 and 20 and 1% were done after 21 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With a challenge to Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court, abortion rights have increasingly been a focus nationally, but also in New Jersey.

Murphy has said he wants the Legislature to send him the Reproductive Freedom Act to codify Roe v. Wade into state law, but the Republican nominee for governor, Jack Ciattarelli, said he opposes the types of expansion the medical examiners approved Wednesday.

“No one supports an abortion in months seven, eight and nine, let alone it having it performed by somebody other than an M.D.,” or medical doctor, he said at Tuesday night’s debate.

Ciattarelli did, however, say he supports codifying the right to abortion into state law.

Planned Parenthood praised the board’s action and said the “unnecessary barriers” will expand access to abortion at a time it faces legal threats. 

“It is more important now than ever before for New Jersey policymakers to ensure that everyone seeking abortion in our state continue to have access to the highest quality reproductive health care,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey spokeswoman Kaitlyn Wojtowicz said in a statement. 

“New Jerseyans deserve and demand access to the care they need so they can plan their families without barriers, fear, or interference from others. Today’s action brings us closer to achieving that goal.”

Source: https://eu.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2021/10/13/nj-expands-abortion-access-roe-v-wade/8440203002/

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