Supporters of reproductive choice take part in the nationwide Women’s March, held after Texas rolled out a near-total ban on abortion procedures and access to abortion-inducing medications, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. October 2, 2021. REUTERS/Veronica Cardenas

The type of anti-abortion law enacted by the state of Texas last month is deeply unpopular with Americans, according to a new poll from the PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist. The novel legal strategy empowers private citizens to file civil suits against anyone who aids a person getting an abortion, rather than rely on a state agency to bar the medical procedure.

It’s one of several restrictive abortion laws that are making their way through the courts. Two of them, from Kentucky and Mississippi, will be considered by the Supreme Court this term, which begins Monday.

Breaking down the numbers

abortion lawsuits horiz

Graphic by Megan McGrew

  • 74 percent of Americans said they oppose a law that allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or others who provide any assistance. This majority holds across party lines: 90 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of independents don’t support such a law.
  • 18 percent of Americans support the rule, including 33 percent of Republicans, 18 percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats.
  • Women are more likely than men to oppose the law (79 percent vs. 68 percent), and the same is true of people younger than 45 compared to those 45 and older (77 percent versus 71 percent).

lawsuits bar horiz

Graphic by Megan McGrew

Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll, said that attitudes toward abortion have stayed relatively consistent. “There is a very significant consensus among Americans. Our debate generally tends to be at the extremes, so it tends to get framed as an all or nothing. And I think that there’s a consensus among Americans that abortion should be legal, but with significant restrictions,” she said.

This consistency holds when it comes to enforcing abortion restrictions, she added. While this particular question has not been asked before, previous polling had similar results when it came to enforcing or criminalizing abortion, she said.

Poll respondent Joan Garnand, a Tennessee Republican, said she is completely opposed to abortion, and does not like this type of law because it could encourage opportunists to file lawsuits (those who sue and win can collect $10,000, and their legal fees can be reimbursed). She said she would support a law where the biological father or family could sue because they are directly connected to the terminated pregnancy.

Eric Johnson, a Republican who lives in New York, said he generally supports all anti-abortion laws, but he found the citizen enforcement component of Texas’ law too extreme. He added that abortions can’t simply be illegal, but that there need to be better options for people, like financial incentives, birth control access and a better foster care system.

Where Americans stand on abortion

Texas is far from the first state to attempt to make abortion illegal after six weeks, the earliest point at which cardiac activity may be detected and before some people even know they are pregnant.

  • In this poll, about one in three Americans support a law that outlaws abortions once there is cardiac activity — sometime after six to eight weeks — while 58 percent are opposed.
  • Those numbers are virtually unchanged since June of 2019, the last time a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll asked the same question.
  • Gallup, which has been tracking views on abortion since 1975, published a poll in May that found 32 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal under any circumstance, 48 percent think it should be legal under certain circumstances and 19 percent think it should be illegal in all circumstances. According to a Pew Research Center poll from the same month, 59 percent of U.S. adults think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 39 percent think it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Carvalho said that it is important to note that while the majority of Americans are against banning abortion between six to eight weeks, a portion of them may be against it because they do not think abortion should be legal at all.

What’s next

The Supreme Court begins a new term on Monday with a more conservative bench, and the future of abortion rights on the line.

The justices will hear arguments later this month in Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, regarding a Kentucky law requiring that a fetus die in utero before a procedure known as “dilation and evacuation” can be performed during the second trimester. The court is not ruling on the law’s constitutionality, but examining a specific question: Whether the Kentucky attorney general can bring the case to the Supreme Court when no other state actors will defend the law. Law experts and abortion rights advocates say that decision could set the tone for future cases.

“It will give some indication about whether and to what extent the court is willing to basically overlook normal rules of procedure and ordinary processes in its eagerness to rule against abortion rights,” said Leah Litman, a constitutional law professor at the University of Michigan and podcast host of the Supreme Court-themed podcast Strict Scrutiny.“[The court’s] authority comes from the public’s willingness to accept its decisions and the public’s belief that the court is legitimate.”

On Dec. 1, the court plans to hear arguments in its biggest abortion case of the term, over a Mississippi law than bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks — a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which prevents states from imposing an “undue burden” on someone seeking an abortion.

Litman said Roe v. Wade could be overturned, but the high court could also allow states to ban abortions before viability without saying it overruled the landmark decision. “That would be extremely destabilizing to the law and open the floodgates for a bunch of abortion restrictions that are definitely not allowed now.”

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion would be instantly illegal in a dozen states and greatly restricted in several others. The Texas law has already effectively ended abortions in that state and so far the Supreme Court has refused to block the law, due to its unique enforcement mechanism.

In the meantime, a federal judge will decide whether to halt the Texas abortion ban after the Biden administration argued in court on Friday that it violates women’s constitutional rights. Abortion providers in the state say damage has already been done — people have been forced to go to other states for find medical care, and even if the law is knocked down, physicians may be hesitant to resume their services. Legislators in other states, like Florida and Missouri, have said they plan to introduce similar abortion bans with civil enforcement.

“The practical effect of these laws will be to prohibit abortions, even though the Supreme Court hasn’t said and won’t necessarily say Roe was overruled,” Litman previously told the PBS NewsHour.

Around the nation, thousands of people, many of whom were motivated by the Texas law, joined a Women’s March on Saturday to protest abortion restrictions and urge the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade.

“No matter where you live, no matter where you are, this moment is dark,” Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson told a crowd at the “Rally for Abortion Justice” event in Washington, D.C.

Litman said it’s hard to know if support for legal abortion will influence justices on the current bench, given its more conservative makeup. But how the court rules on such cases could affect public confidence.

“[The court’s] authority comes from the public’s willingness to accept its decisions and the public’s belief that the court is legitimate. And if that’s no longer the case, the court’s institutional authority is at risk,” she said.

Source: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/most-americans-oppose-abortion-laws-that-let-private-citizens-sue-new-poll-says

Abortion is now incredibly difficult to access in Texas, and that’s especially true for young people, who already faced significant hurdles even before SB 8 went into effect.
 Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women’s March

If you’re under 18, it’s possible to access abortion in Texas, but thanks to the harmful laws and legal chaos, it’s extremely difficult.

UPDATE, October 8: SB 8 was temporarily blocked Wednesday night as part of the Department of Justice lawsuit. Attorneys for Texas have filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit, asking for an emergency stay of the district judge’s order.

It’s been about a month since the Supreme Court more or less put its stamp of approval on Texas SB 8, which bans all abortions after six weeks with no exception for rape or incest, and only allows abortions to be performed after the six-week mark in the case of medical emergency.

To make matters worse, anyone who helps someone get an abortion—from the abortion provider, to the person who drives them to their appointment—can be sued for a minimum of $10,000 by absolutely anyone in the country.

By allowing SB 8 to go into effect, the Supreme Court has set a precedent that any state in the country can pass a similar ban, and while their decision didn’t technically overturn Roe v. Wade, a six-week ban is about as close to an outright abortion ban as you can get.

What does this all mean? Especially for young people? We’re here to break that down.

First of all, abortion is still legal in the state of Texas, and in neighboring states like Oklahoma. In fact, it’s still legal in the whole country. That’s the good news.

The bad news is abortion is now incredibly difficult to access in Texas, and that’s especially true for young people, who already faced significant hurdles even before SB 8 went into effect. Statistics show that in Texas, there are 24 births for every 1,000 women between age 15 and 19, and the state has the highest average of repeat teen births. Teen pregnancy and birth present many challenges and are often associated with poor educational and health outcomes.

To be clear, teen pregnancy is not the problem; the problem is barriers to education and care. Language around teen pregnancy and parenting too often is stigmatizing and centered on prevention, but young people, like pregnant people of any age, can be great parents if that’s what they choose and if given the support they need. They should be given resources to make the parenting decisions that are best for them. Texas is doing the opposite.

For starters, in order to have an abortion right now in Texas you have to catch your pregnancy really early; six weeks pregnant is typically two weeks after your missed period. That gives you, at the absolute maximum, a two-week window to get an abortion. But statistically speaking, young people detect their pregnancies later, and this makes sense. It takes a while to understand your cycle, and no matter what age you are, there are so many things that can make your period late–changes in diet, sleep, stress, or environment can all delay a period or make it start early.

Texas is one of 37 states that require young people to either involve a parent or obtain a judicial bypass to access abortion, which means that young people who can’t get a parent to approve their abortion have to go to court. That delays the abortion even more. Now let’s make one thing clear: Young people are entirely capable of making their abortion decisions however they are most comfortable, whether that involves a parent or not. And statistics show that in states without parental involvement laws, the majority of young people involve a parent regardless, and almost all young people involve a trusted adult in their abortion decision.

But for young people who can’t involve a parent, parental involvement laws only present further challenges; these are often young people in foster care, or whose parents have been deported or incarcerated, or who live in abusive households. And for these minors, the delays caused by the judicial bypass process will make it nearly impossible to get an abortion in Texas before that two-week window has passed.

As if that’s not bad enough, Texas also enforces a 24-hour mandatory waiting period for all abortions, adding another day’s delay.

The TLDR: If you’re under 18, it’s possible to access abortion in Texas, but thanks to a bunch of harmful laws it’s really really hard.

What to do if you need an abortion in Texas

Put in a call to Jane’s Due Process, a Texas-based nonprofit that works with young people to help them access abortion and other reproductive health care, including by providing support for minors going through the judicial bypass process. They have a 24/7 hotline that you can call or text: 866-999-5263. Jane’s Due Process can also help you find contraceptive services, so if that’s something you want to consider to help protect you against unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, they’ve got you covered.

“SB 8 is so devastating for minors because, on top of the complicated and time-consuming process of getting a judicial bypass, SB 8 would make it nearly impossible to get a bypass and get an abortion in a six-week time frame. I found out I was pregnant as early as I possibly could and I still had the abortion past six weeks,” said Veronika Granado, a youth advocacy fellow with Jane’s Due Process.

You might be eligible to access a medication abortion, which you can find more information about here. If you have questions about the risks of self-managed abortion, you can contact the Repro Legal Helpline online or at 844-868-2812, or the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline, which is a free service.

Consider your traveling options. Traveling out of state is challenging for many reasons. For young people, the possibility of missing school, finding and paying for transportation, and finding somewhere to stay all complicate the option of traveling to a neighboring state with fewer abortion restrictions. Not to mention the complications added by a global pandemic. But if you can consider traveling, here’s what you need to know:

  • New Mexico has almost no abortion restrictions, including no parental consent law.
  • Oklahoma has a whole host of abortion restictions, including parental consent, a ban on telemedicine for medication abortion, and a mandatory ultrasound and waiting period. And while they don’t have an abortion ban now, lawmakers recently passed a six-week ban that will go into effect in November unless it is blocked by the courts.
  • Arkansas also has a number of abortion restrictions including a ban at 22 weeks’ gestation, a mandatory waiting period and mandated counseling, as well as a parental consent law.
  • Louisiana has a ban at 22 weeks’ gestation, mandatory counseling, a waiting period and ultrasound law, and a ban on telemedicine among other harmful restrictions.
  • If traveling further is an option, there are many states you can fly to where abortion is more accessible. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced that pregnant people from Texas would be welcomed in her state with open arms; states like Maine and California allow young people to have access to abortion without parental consent.

How to pay for your abortion. Check out the National Network of Abortion Funds; they have funds in every state that can help cover the costs of your abortion, including travel and lodging. You can also call your local clinic and ask them about any funding sources they might be able to connect you with, and the National Abortion Federation has a hotline that can help with abortion referrals and financial assistance.

More questions? AbortionIsLegal.org has got you. Find resources for paying for abortion, medication abortion options, and locating a clinic at their website.

Finally: Take a deep breath. Things are really scary right now, but there are a lot of people on your side: advocates working tireless to fight these laws and to help pregnant people access abortion care, and abortion providers in neighboring states ready to welcome patients to their clinics.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/10/05/what-teens-need-to-know-about-texas-sb-8-and-accessing-abortion/

(Reuters) – A day after a federal judge blocked Texas’ near-total abortion ban, at least one provider in the state said it had resumed services on Thursday for patients seeking to terminate pregnancies beyond the law’s limit of about six weeks.weeks of pregnancy.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, told reporters that since the law went into effect on Sept. 1, the provider with four clinics in Texas had put patients on a waiting list if their pregnancies had advanced beyond the legal limit.

“So those folks were able to come in and we did provide them with abortion care today,” Hagstrom Miller said during a call on with reporters.

She did not say which clinics had resumed services or how many abortions they had provided.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin on Wednesday blocked here the state from enforcing the law while litigation over its legality continues. The Republican-backed measure empowers private citizens to enforce the ban, and Texas immediately appealed the ruling to the conservative-leaning Fifth Circuit Appeals Court.

The law has become a flashpoint in a national battle over abortion rights as Republican lawmakers in other states try to pass similar legislation here. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Mississippi case testing Roe v. Wade, its landmark 1973 decision that established the nationwide right to abortion access.

Drexel University law professor David Cohen said Texas clinics that resume their previous abortion services while the law is blocked will be in a “very precarious position.” A clause in the law says providers can still be sued if the law goes back into effect after being struck down by a court.

Cohen said that even if Pitman’s injunction against the law were upheld by the Supreme Court on appeal, it could still be dissolved by a subsequent decision overturning Roe v. Wade, because that decision was the basis for Pitman’s ruling.

Hagstrom Miller said the retroactive clause was concerning for many medical professionals.

“Any abortion you provide, even with an injunction, could be seen as criminal a year from now, six months from now – and you could be held accountable for every one of those. It’s pretty daunting to think about that,” she said.

Anti-abortion advocates said that if Pitman’s ruling is reversed on appeal, they will sue providers who have resumed abortion services.

“As this case develops, if there’s an opportunity for lawsuits or for enforcement in the future, that’s something that the pro-life movement is very interested in,” said John Seago, legislative director for anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life.

Other Texas abortion providers acknowledged they were worried about the state’s vow to appeal the injunction to a conservative-leaning appeals court.

“Given the state’s appeal, our health centers may not have the days or even weeks it could take to navigate new patients through Texas’s onerous abortion restrictions,” the leaders of Planned Parenthood South Texas, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and Planned Parenthood Greater Texas said in a joint statement.

Molly Duane, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas clinics fighting the law, said abortion providers were in a difficult situation.

“There are independent providers across the state that are working to reopen full services and are doing so wary of the fact that the Fifth Circuit may take away this injunction at any moment,” she said.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-abortion-texas/texas-abortion-provider-resumes-services-after-judge-blocks-near-total-ban-idUSKBN2GX2AB?fbclid=IwAR15PxvTK0TVkuNfntCeT_DL5AbAVI-yUHDJSakB3njPJDu16LZ8IYRDXzY

Demonstrators rally against anti-abortion and voter suppression laws at the Texas State Capitol on October 2 in Austin. Montinique Monroe / Getty Images

“This Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” Judge Robert Pitman wrote.

WASHINGTON — The status of abortion access in Texas was once again thrown into uncertainty Wednesday night after a federal judge issued an order halting enforcement of what he described as the state’s “flagrantly unconstitutional” 6-week abortion ban.

The immediate effect of US District Judge Robert Pitman’s 113-page ruling — and whether it will mean that providers can, or will, resume performing abortions — is uncertain. Just over an hour after Pitman issued his order, Texas filed notice that it would petition the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to intervene; the state is expected to ask the appeals court to put Pitman’s order on hold as quickly as possible, which would leave the law, SB 8, in place.

Pitman’s ruling came less than a week after he heard arguments on the Justice Department request for an injunction blocking the law. He refused to grant Texas’s request to pause his decision to allow state officials time to appeal, writing that Texas had “forfeited the right to any such accommodation by pursuing an unprecedented and aggressive scheme to deprive its citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right.”

“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” Pitman wrote. “That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”

Abortion providers released statements praising Pitman’s ruling but suggesting they were not sure yet if they could begin scheduling abortions that SB 8 had made illegal. The law includes a section that says doctors who perform abortions or other people who assist a pregnant person based on a court decision that is reversed later on cannot rely on that original order as a defense if they’re sued. Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas released a joint statement saying that, “While the Department of Justice’s swift action and the court’s order seek to restore Texans’ options to access abortion in their own state, we understand Texas will immediately appeal[.] Our patients and providers need the courts to allow care to resume.”

SB 8 has been in effect since Sept. 1. It bans nearly all abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which typically occurs around the sixth week of a pregnancy. Pitman’s order bars any state actor from taking steps that would permit enforcement of the law, which deputizes private citizens to sue doctors suspected of performing abortions or other individuals suspected of helping a pregnant person obtain the procedure.

The judge made clear that his order prohibits any state court judge or clerk from accepting, processing, or taking any other action on the civil lawsuits that private individuals could bring under SB 8. He wrote that the court would have the power to issue a direct injunction that bars private individuals from bringing these types of suits, since they would be acting on behalf of the state, but he would not do so at this stage; he noted that his order blocking state courts from accepting such a case would restrict their ability to act.

“A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established. With full knowledge that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, the State contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme,” Pitman wrote.

Pitman ordered Texas to notify all state judges and state court employees affected by his decision and to publish his ruling on all public state court websites “with a visible, easy-to-understand instruction to the public that S.B. 8 lawsuits will not be accepted.”

Addressing Texas’s argument that siding with the Justice Department would open the floodgates to federal challenges to state laws, Pitman wrote that this case represented an “exceptional” situation where the constitutional rights of individuals were being violated and Texas had designed SB 8 to bar them from taking the state to court to protect those rights on their own.

Pitman rejected Texas’s contention that a court couldn’t issue an injunction against the state since the law was enforced via lawsuits filed by private individuals. He criticized the state for trying to use the unusual enforcement structure as both a “sword” — to carry out an early-term abortion ban that courts would almost certainly strike down if the state tried to enforce it on its own — and a “shield” against legal challenges.

The judge wrote that his order would send a message to other states that they could not attempt something similar to what Texas had tried to do, whether it was intended to serve a conservative or liberal political agenda — he alluded to commentary by pundits about whether SB 8 could serve as a model for Democrat-led states to find a way to restrict gun rights.

“The American legal system cannot abide a situation where constitutional rights are only as good as the states allow,” the judge wrote.

SB 8 took effect at midnight on Sept. 1 after abortion providers failed to convince the US Supreme Court and a federal appeals court to stop that from happening while they pursued a constitutional challenge. Healthcare providers across the state immediately announced that they would comply with the law and stop performing abortions in cases where fetal cardiac activity could be detected, usually at the sixth week of pregnancy; providers have said 85 to 90% of abortions in the state take place after week 6.

Pregnancy terms are counted from the first day of a person’s most recent period, so six weeks is typically two weeks after a missed period, which is when many people first realize they’re pregnant. Early-term state abortion bans are often referred to as “heartbeat” laws but that term is misleading, since a fetus’s heart valves haven’t formed at that point; an ultrasound at that stage is detecting electrical activity. Pitman wrote in a footnote that the term “heartbeat” was “medically inaccurate.”

With the abortion providers’ case held up in the 5th Circuit, the Justice Department filed its own constitutional challenge to the law on Sept. 9.

Unlike other early-term state abortion bans swiftly struck down by federal courts, the Texas law is unique in that it delegates enforcement to private citizens. Instead of authorizing a prosecutor to press charges or interfering with a clinic’s ability to get a license and operate, the law empowers individuals to file a civil lawsuit against a doctor they suspect of performing an abortion that’s now illegal in the state, or anyone who “aids or abets” that abortion — a category so broad that it could apply to a person or group that helped pay for the procedure, provided transportation to a clinic, or accompanied a patient.

The law created financial incentives for people to sue and placed few limits on who could bring a case; one of the only bright-line rules is that a pregnant person who receives an abortion cannot be sued. A plaintiff who wins can collect $10,000 or more in damages per abortion, as well as their legal costs. If a judge dismisses a case, the defendant cannot recoup their legal costs, so there’s no penalty for bringing a meritless case and pulling abortion providers and anyone else into court. The law doesn’t require a plaintiff to have any connection to the patient.

That unusual structure opened the door for Texas to argue that Pitman didn’t have jurisdiction to consider a sweeping constitutional challenge to the law brought by the Justice Department, or anyone else for that matter — that is, until someone actually brought a lawsuit, any case was based on speculation about what might happen, and there was no one the court could enter a judgment against in the meantime.

During arguments last week, Pitman offered signs that he was skeptical of Texas’s position that there was no way for a court to review the constitutionality of the law, and called out the state for attempting to find a work-around when so many other states had been knocked out of court for trying to adopt early-term abortion bans that ran afoul of Supreme Court precedent. If Texas was “confident” a six-week ban was constitutional, he asked at the time, why did the state “go to such great lengths” to avoid directly enforcing it?

For decades, Supreme Court precedent has held that state abortion bans before a fetus is viable — typically at around week 24 of a pregnancy — are unconstitutional. The justices are poised to revisit that issue in another case already on the court’s docket for the term that started this week, involving a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

As the Justice Department’s case presses on, the abortion providers are waiting to find out if the Supreme Court will consider their latest petition for the justices to intervene. On the eve of SB 8 taking effect, the 5th Circuit had put that case — also before Pitman — on hold after Pitman rebuffed an early effort by the defendants named in that case to have the case dismissed. The law took effect after a majority of the justices declined to disturb the 5th Circuit’s handling of the case.

A 5th Circuit panel later explained that there was a good chance the abortion providers would lose on the question of whether they could sue at all, and the case is now waiting for the appeals court to make a definite ruling on that. The abortion providers on Sept. 23 asked the justices to skip that next step before the 5th Circuit and take up the question as soon as possible of whether anyone could sue. The justices have yet to take any action on the question.

Source: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetillman/judge-block-texas-abortion-law?fbclid=IwAR1Tixkx2CQuz72q3jXP5sv3VLQemjF7EIexWB4Djm9jybJ_N4hr2KNMTng

500 Athletes Urge Supreme Court to Protect Abortion Rights | PEOPLE.com
CREDIT: THEO WARGO/GETTY; NED DISHMAN/NBAE VIA GETTY

Rapinoe said that efforts in Mississippi to enact a highly-restrictive abortion ban were “infuriating and un-American”

More than 500 athletes, including soccer and basketball stars Megan RapinoeDiana Taurasi and Sue Bird, filed a lengthy and persuasive brief to the Supreme Court urging them to protect abortion rights as they prepare to hear a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade.

This December, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on an appeal of a lower court’s decision to block Mississippi’s law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. With the conservative-leaning court, the justices could decide in favor of Mississippi, upending the protections of Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 established the right to abortion through 25 weeks of pregnancy.

The brief, which was signed by athletes and sports groups and included 26 Olympians and 73 active professional athletes, argues that access to abortions has helped women’s sports succeed.

Without access to abortions, they wrote, “women’s participation in athletics would suffer, including because some women athletes would not be able to compete at the same level—or at all — without access to abortion care and without the knowledge that the decision whether to continue or end a pregnancy remains theirs.”

In a statement, Rapinoe said that the Mississippi law and similar legislation from other states are “infuriating and un-American.”

“As women athletes and people in sports, we must have the power to make important decisions about our own bodies and exert control over our reproductive lives,” the Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup champion said.

Another signatory, Crissy Perham, a three-time Olympic medalist in swimming, shared with The New York Times that she had an abortion as a college sophomore, and said that her career would not have been what it was without terminating her pregnancy.

“Ending my pregnancy, I made a decision about which direction to take my life in,” Perham said. “Someone else might decide to go in another direction, and that’s fine. But this was the best decision for me.”

Perham, who won back-to-back-to-back NCAA titles after her abortion and made the 1992 Olympic team, where she won two gold medals in relay races and a silver in the 100-meter butterfly, said that her story is “not uncommon” among athletes.

Along with Rapinoe, Taurasi, Bird and Perham, Ashleigh Johnson, the first Black woman on the U.S. Olympic water polo team and a Tokyo Olympian, signed the brief, as did the player’s unions of the WNBA and the National Women’s Soccer League.

The signers “believe that, like themselves, the next generation of women athletes must be guaranteed bodily integrity and decisional autonomy in order to fully and equally participate in sports.”

A ruling on the Mississippi case is due by June.

Source: https://people.com/health/megan-rapinoe-diana-taurasi-and-500-other-athletes-urge-supreme-court-to-protect-abortion-rights/?fbclid=IwAR3AX-o23GRnXbvfpQC0MyM6mz6S0Cjq1spBjBtG5mI_zM8EpROpmJxtIMs

Volunteer clinic escorts at EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s only independent abortion clinic, are regularly subject to harassment.
 Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The Supreme Court will weigh in on a relatively wonky issue, but abortion advocates say the stakes are still incredibly high for the people in Kentucky.

You may know Daniel Cameron as the man who declined to recommend homicide charges for the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor. But Kentucky’s Republican attorney general is also the reason why the Supreme Court will hear an abortion-related case this month, the first abortion-related case in this new term under its 6-3 conservative supermajority. That’s right, the high court has two abortion cases on its docket so far, not just the high-profile Mississippi one in which the state flat-out asked the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Kentucky case, Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, has gotten less attention because the stakes in the Mississippi case are so high and because of the legal chaos in Texas. Moreover, the Court is weighing in on a relatively wonky issue here: whether Cameron can intervene to defend a law after both a district court and an appeals court found it unconstitutional, and after the state’s Democratic administration declined to appeal that decision. The justices are not considering the merits of the anti-abortion law itself.

But don’t let anyone tell you this case is unimportant procedural stuff.

“Even though the legal question doesn’t have to do with abortion, the stakes here are still incredibly high, especially for people in Kentucky,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, who will argue the case on October 12.

The law Cameron wants to defend is a ban on the most common abortion procedure used after 15 weeks of pregnancy, known as dilation and evacuation (D&E). “If the Supreme Court sides with Attorney General Cameron, then he will get to pursue his goal, which is to overturn the underlying decision striking down the abortion ban,” Kolbi-Molinas told Rewire News Group.

If Cameron is able to intervene and the law gets upheld, it could effectively ban abortion after 15 weeks in a state that has just two clinics and multiple restrictions, including a 24-hour waiting period and bans on insurance coverage of the procedure. Both clinics are in downtown Louisville, which means access is limited for people in other areas of the state.

The plaintiff in the case is EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the state’s only independent abortion clinic and the only one that provides care after 14 weeks of pregnancy. Kentucky’s other clinic, a Planned Parenthood health center, was granted a license in January 2020 and offers care through 13 weeks and 6 days, so the D&E ban would not affect it. The Ohio Policy Evaluation Network (OPEN) estimated that EMW provided nearly 90 percent of abortions in the state between March and December 2020, since the clinic provides care more days per week and later in pregnancy.

EMW has been the state’s only clinic for long stretches of time, and it gets targeted by protesters both for that reason and because of its setup, said Meg Sasse Stern, who has been a volunteer clinic escort for more than 20 years. EMW is on a main thoroughfare with no on-site parking for patients, so they have to park elsewhere and walk through the front door, often through a gauntlet of protesters who may try to block their path, grab them, or hand them anti-abortion pamphlets or baby booties, Stern said. An anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center” right next door offers free parking to EMW patients in an effort to get them inside. In 2017, EMW was the site of the first clinic blockade in almost 15 years, orchestrated by the extremist anti-abortion group Operation Save America. Staff are routinely harassed with threats of harm and hate mail, and, in April 2020, a bomb threat, according to OPEN.“I cannot ignore the vast difference in treatment received by these anti-abortion protesters and the way that our police department treats protesters that are demanding police stop killing Black and brown people.”
-Meg Sasse Stern, volunteer clinic escort

By contrast, Planned Parenthood’s health center has a parking lot and a privacy fence around the property, Stern said. “The protesters do not have the same kind of access to the patients [at Planned Parenthood],” said Stern, who is also the support fund director for Kentucky Health Justice Network, a reproductive justice nonprofit that pairs abortion patients with a case manager and helps them pay for their procedure, transportation, lodging, childcare, and other expenses. “They see EMW as low-hanging fruit.”

Ona Marshall, who co-owns EMW with her husband Dr. Ernest Marshall, said protesters and state lawmakers are always targeting their clinic, but “I think in general, they just want to abolish abortion and access to abortion, so they go through the series of laws to see what they’ll be able to do.”

In May, the Louisville Metro Council voted to create a safety zone around the clinic entrance, and the 10-foot buffer zone was implemented in mid-September. Marshall said advocates pushed for the safety zone because of the lack of enforcement of various city ordinances regulating things like harassment, noise, and sidewalk access. She also noted that these same ordinances were enforced against social justice protests after Breonna Taylor’s death, and the Louisville Metro Police Department is now under a pattern and practice investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. LMPD arrested the state’s only Black woman lawmaker, state Rep. Attica Scott, during a September 2020 protest.

“Anti-abortion protesters are ignored and just treated differently than other protesters,” Marshall said. Stern agreed that the difference is obvious: “I cannot ignore the vast difference in treatment received by these anti-abortion protesters and the way that our police department treats protesters that are demanding police stop killing Black and brown people.”

Both Marshall and Stern are skeptical that the safety zone around EMW will be enforced due to anti-abortion sentiments in the police department. During an August 2020 Metro Council meeting about the proposed safety zone, former council member David Yates, now a Democratic state senator, said he received text messages from police officers asking, “who’s going to enforce this – lol.”

In February, an off-duty officer parked his LMPD cruiser in front of the clinic and protested for about two hours with a “pray to end abortion” sandwich-board sign over his uniform and his gun visible, Stern said. The department placed the officer on administrative leave while investigating the incident, but he was ultimately not disciplined because LMPD hadn’t been consistently enforcing its protesting policies. LMPD said it would require strict compliance going forward.

Stern said the behavior that LMPD tolerates outside the clinic is a public safety risk. “The environment that exists down there just welcomes this kind of extreme behavior where we get these national extremists,” she said, adding that John Brockhoeft, a convicted clinic arsonist who attended the January 6 insurrection, is a regular at EMW.

Like Stern, Marshall is worried that violent protesters feel empowered. “During the last five years, we have experienced a significant and sustained increase in the types of anti-abortion harassment, and those are the types of harassment that have led to tragic outcomes in other cities, so it is something to really pay attention to,” she said.

But not a lot of people are paying attention to either the protesters or the Supreme Court case. “In general in Kentucky, and probably in other states, I don’t think there’s a high level of knowledge about this case,” Marshall said.

And with many people checked out, Cameron is pursuing this piece of his “concerted strategy” to push abortion access entirely out of reach without much fanfare, Kolbi-Molinas of the ACLU said. When the Supreme Court announced it would take Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s direct challenge to Roe, this Kentucky case got somewhat overshadowed.

“Not wrongfully, not malice or anything like that—but the legal question isn’t about abortion,” Kolbi-Molinas said. But remember: “There is more than one case on the Supreme Court’s docket this term that implicates abortion access.”

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/10/04/the-supreme-court-sneak-attack-on-abortion-access-in-kentucky/

A security guard outside the Whole Woman’s Health Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sept. 1.
(LM Otero / Associated Press)

It’s been nearly a month since our country’s cruelest abortion ban went into effect. As of midnight Sept. 1, most Texans seeking abortion care have been left powerless and afraid. Providing abortion care in Texas was difficult before, but now we are living in a dystopian nightmare. Let me share what it was like on the night of Aug. 31 at Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth.

In the hours leading up to midnight, the waiting room was filled with patients hoping to get an abortion before Senate Bill 8 went into effect. Staffers and doctors had been working since 7:30 a.m., and they were still there providing abortions until 11:56 p.m. Outside, the antiabortion protesters kept us under tight surveillance all day long. Come nightfall, they shined flashlights into patients’ cars, the clinic and the parking lot. Inside the clinic, there was love, support, bravery, integrity and deep commitment to human rights. We held out hope that the Supreme Court would bar the law from going into effect. But that justice never came.

Today, it is illegal to provide abortions after about six weeks in Texas. Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance clinics are still open and providing abortions, but every day we turn away most people who need abortion care. We provide abortions for the few we can help — those who are lucky enough to make it in under the narrow limit. Six weeks pregnant means just two weeks past your missed period. As for those who are denied care? They are stunned, numb, frozen.

This law goes against everything we believe in. It prevents doctors from treating patients and turns Texans’ care over to self-appointed vigilantes who are encouraged by a bounty reward system. We’d prefer to defy this unjust ban, but SB 8 is far too terrifying. Our staffers are being surveilled constantly — from the protesters on our sidewalks to the threatening phone calls we get every day. People who are eager to sue us send fake patients into our clinics to see if we will break the law. Our nurses, medical assistants, and counselors are alert, afraid, anxious, worried, and in fear. Many of our physicians have opted out of providing care while SB 8 is in effect. It is just too risky for them. It is a horror tale.

SB 8 puts incredible power into the hands of people who have terrorized us and our patients for decades. And lawmakers in other states are already following in Texas’ footsteps. The Florida Legislature recently introduced a copycat bill, hoping to severely limit abortion access the same way as Texas. There is no saying where this will stop.

SB 8 comes on top of layers of restrictions on people’s access to abortion in Texas. For the last two decades, Texas politicians have imposed forced ultrasounds, a ban on using Medicaid or insurance, two-visit requirements, a mandated 24-hour waiting period, operational regulatory schemes, a ban on a standard abortion method, gestational limits, ambulatory surgical centers facility standards, etc. As if this wasn’t enough, just over a week ago a ban on medication abortion after 49 days was signed into law, and it’s set to go into effect Dec. 2.

With each restriction, more people are unable to get the abortion care they need. People of color and young people are the most affected. These laws haven’t improved health outcomes, made pregnancies safer or prevented unplanned pregnancy. In fact, the maternal mortality rate in Texas is on par with the rates in developing countries.

I founded Whole Woman’s Health in 2003 in Texas because I believe all people — no matter where they live — deserve access to quality abortion care that is delivered with respect and dignity. We take on the shame and stigma that has been created by those who oppose abortion and defend this constitutionally protected right against political interference and intimidation. I now operate four clinics in Texas and five more across the South and the Midwest — where compassionate care is needed most.

Over the last 18 years, the hurdles to operate abortion clinics in Texas have become mountains. We fought against insidious attacks like SB 8 before. In fact, we won our 2016 case, Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, at the Supreme Court. But clinics can’t fix all these problems alone. If clinics close because SB 8 is enforced long enough to drain all our resources, the damage will be done even if it is eventually struck down.

So, why should all Americans care? Because what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas. Texas is a barometer for abortion care in this country — Roe vs. Wade was also a Texas case. The truth about Texas? SB 8 does not reflect Texas values or the feelings and beliefs of most Texans. Yet the powerful few have weaponized abortion stigma into laws like SB 8.

And let’s be clear — there are no “safe haven” states for people who need abortions, only states with fewer barriers. Even in states such as California or New York, with state law protections for abortion, many who need care can’t travel the distance to the nearest clinic, or can’t afford the cost of their care, or can’t take time from work or find child care for their kids.

Millions of people — men and women — have benefited from access to abortion in this country. Abortion bans like SB 8 rob us of our ability to make decisions about our lives and futures, to support our families, to pursue our dreams, to remain safe and whole, to be healthy. The people of Texas are suffering every day this law stays in effect.

Source: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-09-29/texas-abortion-clinic-state-new-ban?fbclid=IwAR2EiGRor3QJF280CwHPNcnZ-WjnJmDoYk9l3zIF5O9Pne5PjlYBwTRbXbI

The man who masterminded the Texas SB 8 strategy for undermining Roe v. Wade listed Alliance Defending Freedom on his disclosure of former income sources.
 Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

Alliance Defending Freedom is the incubation center for this type of legal approach to dismantling protections around LGBTQ and reproductive rights.

The far right has long played a game of bureaucratic whack-a-mole as part of its efforts to roll back civil rights gains. This includes flooding legislative offices with calls from constituents on mailing lists, flooding the lower courts with experimental lawsuits filed by former Blackstone fellows, and refusing to give up when laws are repealed as unconstitutional. Their determination to weasel through loopholes resembles the pedantic genius of a 7-year-old who doesn’t want to go to bed yet—what if I play the rules this way? How about that way? The endurance is formidable.

Alliance Defending Freedom is the incubation center for this type of legal approach to dismantling protections around LGBTQ and reproductive rights. Founded in 1994, ADF funnels young Christian law students through their Blackstone Legal Fellowship and teaches its particular strategy for dismantling LGBTQ protections and pro-choice laws, a strategy that’s been used to great success in cases like Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado. ADF connections show up in every branch of the federal government, thanks to years of slow work to gain footholds over the last 30 years. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri both have close ties to ADF through Blackstone.

Because ADF affiliates show up in nearly every big case like this, when the Texas near-total abortion ban passed into law I immediately went to look up the man who masterminded its particularly appalling strategy for undermining Roe v. Wade, and sure enough—there was ADF on his list of former income sources, revealed in the financial disclosures he had to submit when he was nominated for a position in the Trump administration.

Now, this tells us nothing about where the idea for SB 8 came from in particular, though we learned a bit more about that in the last few weeks. But it does tell us who exactly is supporting the people creating these novel legal approaches.

Texas SB 8 is set up to evade the privacy protections that Roe v. Wade is based upon in part by deputizing citizens to enforce its prohibition on abortion once cardiac activitity is detected. The law employs gossip and experiential observation to allow a civil suit to be levied against anyone who is known to have performed or aided an abortion in violation of SB 8.

The fun part about this bill is that the government doesn’t have to pay for these lawsuits—the minimum $10,000 bounty and associated court fees have to be paid by the defendant if they lose the suit. SB 8 sets up scenarios where similar cases could be filed in every county in Texas against a single abortion provider, by multiple plaintiffs, and the provider would have to pay to defend themself in all those cases.

This is interesting, because it appears to be an attempt to avoid situations like the North Carolina “bathroom” law from a few years back, which posed the problem of: If lawmakers are making it illegal for trans people to use the bathroom consistent with their gender, how the hell will they enforce it? With cops performing genitalia checks at restroom doors to ensure that everyone is using the room with stalls that matches their assigned sex?

Tennessee lawmakers are facing a similar logistical nightmare with their new bathroom laws targeting trans access to facilities. The use of surveillance and the invasion of medical privacy to criminalize medical autonomy around gender and reproduction is so contrary to basic American values that it’s difficult to imagine these attempts working long-term. It’s a running issue of enforcement logistics when any of the trans-kids-in-sports bills get brought to a state house floor. How can you enforce such a requirement without essentially groping children on the soccer field? What is necessary to prove that someone meets such a regulation, and how will it be enforced? Who will be checking up on it and making sure that the law is followed? Such questions ended up getting the North Carolina bathroom bill defanged, and eventually aged out of effect.

The reality is, though, that this new Texas law—despite attempts to use civil court proceedings to sidestep logistical challenges around enforcement—is still quite vulnerable to these same lines of challenge. What’s to prevent every abortion rights supporter with means from filing a lawsuit in every county in Texas against, say, the attorney general of Texas, accusing him of aiding and abbeting an abortion? A lawsuit might prove those allegations to be false and the attorney filing the lawsuit might find themselves subject to financial sanction, but the resulting flooding of an already oversaturated legal system that’s fallen even further behind thanks to COVID-19 would be a nightmare of bureaucratic logistics.

These cases would almost certainly be thrown out as a waste of the court’s time—but what if not all of them were? What if the volume was so overwhelming that the legislature would have to step in and amend the law, defanging its ridiculous scope? The fact that such a strategy might actually work is testament to the failure of the pro-abortion left to strategize on the same level as the right by trying everything that might stick. The pragmatism of blunt strategic force seems to be working.

Ultimately, ADF and similar right-wing groups are succeeding with their strategy of overwhelming our civil systems as a substitute for having the will of the people on their side.

Their strategy—swamping state legislatures with increasingly draconian copycat legislation, and flooding federal courts with bogus “religious liberties” cases attacking civil rights gains—is rapidly rewriting civil rights law and undoing decades of progressive progress. Similar bills will be brought to the floor in other states next year, for certain. But the thing is: When pedantry is the game, both sides can play.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/10/01/this-group-helped-dream-up-texas-vigilante-abortion-ban/?fbclid=IwAR3uJlx8CEa-b6s9f-pSyp55DYRc8xuNaD75dRbh0XT8wFQjf3cbeogektE

JULIE BENNETT

The recent Texas law is part of an onslaught years in the making—yet few heeded the warning.

In Sept. 1, Senate Bill 8 went into effect, banning abortions in the state of Texas after about six weeks of pregnancy with nearly no exceptions, becoming the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. The Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, failed to block the law, so even with a Democrat in the White House and a Democrat-led Congress, millions of women and transgender and non-binary people had their rights stripped away from them like a thief in the night. But for those who have been paying attention to the changing Court and as state-level lawmakers have consistently worked to restrict abortion access, especially over this past year, the news from Texas comes as little surprise. It was an onslaught years in the making, yet few heeded the warning.

Reproductive justice leaders on the front lines have long been sounding the alarm about conservatives consolidating power at the state level, leading to this year’s widespread attacks on abortion access and voting rights. Now, with the midterms fast approaching, we can’t afford to lose voters to burnout and disillusionment. Instead, we have to listen to the leaders who’ve been working around the clock to ensure people have safe and destigmatized access to healthcare. We have to have a new, robust, mainstream conversation about reproductive justice—about where we are failing and where we can still succeed. We have to ground people in the true stakes of this fight and make clear who will be most affected by these restrictive policies. Regardless of the outcome of any one election, we must always be out in the streets, participating in and advocating for the future we want.

To do so, ELLE.com brought together four Black and Latinx women who’ve all had a front row seat to the national struggle for abortion care—and have been directly impacted themselves. Below, these healthcare consultants, advocates, and practitioners discuss the devastating effects of this Texas law and what we can do now to change course.

What was your initial response when the Supreme Court failed to stop this Texas law?

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Angela Doyinsola Aina, MPH, co-founder and executive director of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance: At the root of this racist, heteropatriarchal law is white supremacy. SB 8 not only prohibits most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy but also empowers individuals to sue anyone who aids or abets a person accessing an abortion, including doctors, staff, drivers, and other community members. We know that Black mamas, their families, and communities will face the most dire consequences as a result of these types of laws that restrict their fundamental rights to comprehensive reproductive and maternal healthcare.

All of a sudden, your friends and family are debating the morality of abortion on your timeline or in your group chats, sometimes not knowing they too know someone who has had an abortion.

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Ana Lucia Carmelo, MPH, healthcare consultant, public health advocate, and proud Peruvian immigrant: We know that abortions continue to happen even when they are not legal, and these type of bans disproportionately impact the underserved. It can be easy to feel hopeless, and events like this are especially triggering for people who have had abortions. All of a sudden, your friends and family are debating the morality of abortion on your timeline or in your group chats, sometimes not knowing they too know someone who has had an abortion. That being said, I always think about the quote by Mariame Kaba, “Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.” After allowing myself time to get informed and feel my feelings, I looked for ways to get involved: donating to Texas abortion funds, amplifying messages from activists and community organizers on the ground in Texas, and vocalizing my support for abortion access.

abortion rights rally

BARCROFT MEDIAGETTY IMAGES

What personal or professional experiences have shaped the way you approach this work?

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Cynthia Adriana Gutierrez, first-generation Nicaraguan Salvadoran and reproductive justice organizer: My personal experience of having an abortion at 22 years old has been at the forefront of how I approach this work. At the time of my abortion, I left an abusive relationship, was experiencing housing insecurity, lacked a steady income to support myself, and was living with a substance use disorder. Then, I learned I was pregnant. It was all too much to bear, and having an abortion was the best decision for me. I have no regrets and no shame around it. Being an abortion storyteller with We Testify, an organization meant to foster the leadership of people who had abortions, has transformed my work.

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Chanel Porchia, founder of Ancient Song Doula Services: The stories of my grandmother having multiple miscarriages before having my mother, my sister having a child as a teenager and seeing how she was treated within her care, my own reproductive health experiences from my early 20s, into motherhood, and now into perimenopause. How was I made to feel in every instance of my care? Was it centered in informed consent? Did my grandmother have room to not feel shame when talking about her reproductive struggles? These questions were and continue to be foundational [for me] in centering the voices of others in their reproductive health choices.

reproductive rights rally

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The way we discuss reproductive rights and abortion access has long been debated. In what ways are we still failing to intentionally talk about this topic?

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Ana Lucia Carmelo, MPH, healthcare consultant, public health advocate, and proud Peruvian immigrant: A major failure that comes to mind is the need to find a perfect victim. Folks really emphasized the fact that the Texas law would impact rape and incest victims, especially children. But why does support and empathy have to be conditional? I understand that part of it is to get folks who would not otherwise support abortions to see the worst case scenario of the law, but ultimately that perpetuates the stigma around abortions and makes folks continuously have to justify why they chose to have one. If we only agree with abortion in these worst case scenarios, we are saying that people only deserve bodily autonomy, empathy, and access to abortions once their bodies have been violated. We cannot be content with the bare minimum of legality without critically considering what care, empathy, and access look like for people who get an abortion.

If we only agree with abortion in these worst case scenarios, we are saying that people only deserve bodily autonomy, empathy, and access to abortions once their bodies have been violated.

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Cynthia Adriana Gutierrez, first-generation Nicaraguan Salvadoran and reproductive justice organizer: When it comes to speaking on reproductive justice—the human rights framework centering people of color in ensuring we all are able to decide if, when, and how to grow families free from violence and coercion—and abortion access, we must always prioritize people with lived experiences. We are the experts of our own lives and are the most qualified to shut down false narratives. I hope the Court listens to us. It’s shameful that BIPOC women who have abortions are not prioritized in the national conversation. There needs to be a more intentional attempt to include the voices of abortion storytellers with disabilities, parents, those who are undocumented, and queer, trans, and gender non-conforming folks. RELATED STORYThe Whitewashing of Reproductive Justice

How do you see Black and Latina women specifically being erased from this national conversation yet again?

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Chanel Porchia, founder of Ancient Song Doula Services: Through the intentional silencing of our voices due to a lack of uplifting community-based organizations that directly work with those most impacted. When policymakers, organizations, and others don’t center those most impacted, we already know that the agenda was never set in our favor, but rather continues to center privilege and access through the white gaze. Organizations like SisterWeb, Ancient Song, Mamatoto Village, Birthmark Doulas, Kindred Space LA and more have been working tirelessly to center their communities, and that directly comes from listening and meeting people where they are, not where we think they should be.

Black women and our Latinx sisters are no longer asking to be heard, and out of necessity, we are now formulating our own standards of care.

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Angela Doyinsola Aina, MPH, co-founder and executive director of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance: Black and Latinx women have long been ignored, along with their reproductive rights advocacy work. The fact that there’s a long history of reproductive coercion, obstetric violence, and denial of quality care experienced by Black and Latinx women in the U.S. is a further injustice. Black women and our Latinx sisters are no longer asking to be heard, and out of necessity, we are now formulating our own standards of care. That is what the Black Mamas Matter Alliance is about. We have created a space and network that centers Black mamas’ rights to advocate, drive research, build power, and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice.

abortion rally

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With SB 8 in place, and the upcoming Supreme Court case that directly threatens Roe, many are discussing what a post-Roe America might look like. At a time when abortion is already so inaccessible, what’s your perspective on this?

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Ana Lucia Carmelo, MPH, healthcare consultant, public health advocate, and proud Peruvian immigrant: A lot of people currently live in places where Roe v. Wade exists merely in statute; an abortion is not an attainable reality for them due to costs, lack of nearby facilities, or poor quality care. The possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned is concerning, especially for BIPOC, but legalizing abortion is only one piece of what it would mean to make abortion accessible and destigmatized. Putting meaning behind phrases like “abortion is healthcare” or “my body, my choice” rests on complete access to affordable, dignified, and empathic reproductive healthcare. There is so much about how healthcare works in this country that is related to who we are, what we look like, and where we live. In my own experience getting an abortion at Planned Parenthood, it became clear to me just how impersonal abortion care can be, even in a “progressive” city like New York: the metal detectors upon entering, the lack of Spanish translators, the shuttling back and forth between rooms with no explanation, the open concept recovery rooms with no privacy, the constant mispronunciation of my name. A hyper-focus on protecting Roe v. Wade without considering the consistent access and quality issues that exist disregards the lived experience of so many people who have had an abortion. We need to protect the right to abortion, yes, but we also need to ensure that abortions are humanized, dignified, and accessible to any person that wants one.

What is the most important or impactful thing we can do to shift the tide of abortion access? What or who needs to change?

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Chanel Porchia, founder of Ancient Song Doula Services: The entire conversation needs to change to understand that reproductive healthcare access in the United States is an embarrassment, to say the least, and needs to be addressed on a systemic level. When we continue to separate the full spectrum of care that individuals need at certain points in their reproductive life, of course it is Black, brown, and Indigenous peoples who feel the burden. Black, brown, and Indigenous birthing people and those seeking reproductive health services access deserve to be seen, heard, and loved.

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Ana Lucia Carmelo, MPH, healthcare consultant, public health advocate, and proud Peruvian immigrant: Collectively, I believe the single most important or impactful thing we can do to shift the tide of abortion access is to pass universal healthcare. Radically reimagining healthcare is such an important aspect of access. We have examples where a different world is possible: free COVID-19 vaccines for everyone, for instance. This is on policymakers, but we have seen that they have no impetus to make progress without pressure from us.

Reproductive healthcare access in the United States is an embarrassment, to say the least, and needs to be addressed on a systemic level.

reproductive justice leaders

COURTESY

Cynthia Adriana Gutierrez, first-generation Nicaraguan Salvadoran and reproductive justice organizer: There are so many ways you can get involved, such as driving people to their appointments, making sure they have gas money, helping out with childcare or translations, and offering your home to folks who are traveling for multi-day procedures. And of course, continue donating to Texas abortion funds: La Frontera Fund, Lilith Fund, Texas Equal Access Fund, West Fund. You can donate to all of them at once here.

Source: https://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/a37663086/abortion-access-texas-reproductive-justice-leaders-roundtable/?fbclid=IwAR1DyzNAyvvwDMTGzexrHJvea8-7MWRk5LVHOXj-5ZeeoW-x0Y5RhM7W4lA

After traveling over six hours from Houston, Judith, 33, chats with Dr. Rebecca Taub (right) before getting a surgical abortion as assistant Carissa Blethen (left) looks on at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Judith suffers from Type 1 diabetes, and her partner, with whom she shares four kids, has kidney failure. “ I am sick. Why would I want to bring kids into this world?”Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

OKLAHOMA CITY — Ianthe Davis ended her bartending shift at 4 a.m. one recent morning in Dallas. An hour later, a friend picked her up and drove her three hours up Interstate 35 to this capital city so she could get an abortion — a procedure that became almost impossible to obtain in her home state of Texas after a new law went into effect this month.

At a clinic in Oklahoma City, Davis was treated by another woman who was far from home, Dr. Rebecca Taub. The obstetrician and gynecologist travels once a month from her home in the East Bay to the small clinic, where she performs dozens of abortions over the course of two days.

After the procedure, Davis and her friend turned around and drove home. As a bartender, Davis said, “If I don’t work, I don’t make money.”

A Texas woman, an Oklahoma clinic and a California doctor: The scene offered a snapshot of the landscape under the Texas law that bans nearly all abortions after an embryonic heartbeat is detected — usually around six weeks — and makes no exceptions for rape, sexual abuse or incest.

The new law also enables private citizens to sue anyone who either performs an abortion or “aids and abets” one — and collect $10,000 plus their legal fees if they win the case. The law has narrow exceptions to protect the life of the mother or if continuing a pregnancy would cause “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

Ianthe Davis, 27, who traveled three hours from Dallas, lies still during an ultrasound at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Davis was six weeks pregnant and unable to get an abortion in her home state, so she was forced to drive to Oklahoma.
Ianthe Davis, 27, who traveled three hours from Dallas, lies still during an ultrasound at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Davis was six weeks pregnant and unable to get an abortion in her home state, so she was forced to drive to Oklahoma.Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

The Chronicle spoke to several women on a recent weekend who traveled from Texas to a one-story, mustard-brick building in suburban Oklahoma City called the Trust Women clinic, where Taub has been working.

Clinic officials said they have seen a roughly 50% increase in patients overall since the new legislation took effect, including 110 women from Texas over the past seven days. That is as many as visited the clinic during all of August.

The length of Davis’ journey is not unusual. Before the ban, the average woman of childbearing age in Texas lived 17 miles from the nearest abortion provider, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights. Now, the average driving distance is 247 miles.

The Texans most affected by the new law will be women of color, who constitute 70% of those who received abortions in 2019, according to Guttmacher.

Abortion access is so limited in Dallas, the nation’s ninth-largest city, that Davis contacted a clinic there before the law took effect this month but was turned away. “They said they wouldn’t be able to” perform the procedure, she said. Demand for the clinic was so strong that she would have been 14 weeks pregnant by the time an appointment was available.

The new law confused Davis. She feared telling many people about her situation “because if you do, you might get charged or something like that. I know there are $10,000 rewards for people” who supply information about women obtaining abortions, she said.

She had heard of clinics in Arkansas and New Mexico that were seeing patients, but Trust Women was closer. When she arrived in Oklahoma City, she was just a few days over six weeks pregnant.

Dr. Rebecca Taub performs a surgical abortion at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Taub, an OB-GYN specializing in family planning, travels once a month to the clinic in Oklahoma to perform both surgical and medical abortions.
Dr. Rebecca Taub performs a surgical abortion at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Taub, an OB-GYN specializing in family planning, travels once a month to the clinic in Oklahoma to perform both surgical and medical abortions.Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

Davis said she understands placing limits on abortion. Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that provided women the right to have an abortion, permits the procedure until about 24 weeks, when the fetus can survive outside the womb.

“I do understand putting a limit, I get that part,” said Davis, 27. “Most people don’t find out because it’s like, soon as hell. And then there are people who were raped.”

Davis had a supportive family and a friend willing to drive her to a clinic. But she said she knows other Texas women who, because they can’t afford to travel out of state, are trying scientifically dubious methods of pregnancy termination that are popular online, like taking large amounts of vitamin C.

“But that just didn’t sound that effective to me,” she said. “So I made the drive.”

She worried about the extreme measures that others confronting unwanted pregnancies might attempt.

“It’s probably gonna get bad,” Davis said. “I mean, I heard one girl tried to drink bleach.”

The U.S. Justice Department sued the state of Texas to try to block the abortion law, saying it violates women’s constitutional rights by creating an “undue burden” on those who want to have an abortion. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1 in Texas.

Until then, a steady stream of women like Davis will continue coming to the Trust Women clinic, where they will be greeted by doctors like Taub.

Left: A poster on the wall of the locker room in the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Trust Women is one of the few clinics in Oklahoma to perform abortions. It is difficult for the clinic to find local doctors who will perform the procedure, so several physicians from other states make monthly trips there. Right: A stack of ultrasound images sits on a desk at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City.
Left: A poster on the wall of the locker room in the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Trust Women is one of the few clinics in Oklahoma to perform abortions. It is difficult for the clinic to find local doctors who will perform the procedure, so several physicians from other states make monthly trips there. Right: A stack of ultrasound images sits on a desk at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City.Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

The 35-year-old East Bay obstetrician and gynecologist, clad in blue surgical scrubs, performs roughly two dozen abortions a day when she is in town because it is difficult for the clinic to recruit local doctors, a common situation in states where the procedure is culturally shunned and women are required to scale many hurdles to obtain one.

To Taub, this is a form of activism. After seeing out-of-state patients and calls to the Oklahoma City clinic swell after the Texas law passed — two-thirds of the calls to the clinic inquiring about services are now from the neighboring state — she wants to do more.

On this day, the waiting room was full of women seeking services they couldn’t find close to home. The clinic’s halls and waiting rooms were full of affirming messages, including posters saying, “We Love You!” “Everyone Loves Someone Who Had an Abortion” and “Prove Them Wrong.”

“There’s an urgency to the work that people who work with the clinic follow because they’re activists and they believe in this work,” Taub said. Since the Texas law took effect, her work “has definitely taken on a new urgency.”

The people who work at the clinic see the urgency in the faces of women like Daffnay McCoy. She, too, had an appointment for an abortion scheduled in Dallas. But she said that when the law took effect, clinic providers there explained that things had changed: They could give her a sonogram, they said, but wouldn’t perform an abortion.

After traveling three hours from Dallas, Daffany McCoy, 28, rests in the recovery room after getting a surgical abortion at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City.
After traveling three hours from Dallas, Daffany McCoy, 28, rests in the recovery room after getting a surgical abortion at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City.Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

“It kind of kind of freaked me out.” McCoy said. “I got hysterical and started panicking. I was hallucinating like I was going crazy.”

She said she has suffered from depression in the past and was worried that not being able to secure an abortion “was about to bring me back to that dark place.”

McCoy was already so stressed by her job in the payroll department for a Texas company, she said, that she had been suffering minor seizures. She has two children and felt she wouldn’t be able to adequately care for another. She said she is no longer with the father of her two children — who also impregnated her most recently — though he drove her to the clinic along with their children.

McCoy said she wouldn’t have known she was even pregnant if she hadn’t gone to the hospital because she was ill.

“But at that time, I was already past six weeks,” she said.

Thank-you notes are posted on the wall at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City, one of the few clinics in Oklahoma to perform abortions. It is difficult for the clinic to find local doctors who will perform abortions, so several physicians make trips there from out of state.
Thank-you notes are posted on the wall at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City, one of the few clinics in Oklahoma to perform abortions. It is difficult for the clinic to find local doctors who will perform abortions, so several physicians make trips there from out of state.Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

Once she arrived in Oklahoma City, wearing a T-shirt that said “Fierce and Fabulous,” she said she summoned an inner strength. She wished people who wrote the Texas law — or those who criticize women for having abortions — would be more empathetic toward women with unwanted pregnancies.

“You don’t know how this life came about. You don’t know if someone has been raped. Or if someone is going through an illness or a mental(ly unstable) state of mind. You just never know,” she said. “So to be on the safe side. I just feel as though no one should be obligated to make decisions for another individual. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Judith said she felt the same way. The 33-year-old nurse’s assistant, who asked that her last name not be used because she does not want her family to know about her abortion, was five weeks along when she learned she was pregnant — too far along to find a clinic that could accommodate her before the onset of the law’s time limits.

She left her home in Houston at 6:30 a.m. so she could arrive at the Oklahoma City clinic in time for her surgical procedure. She completed the 6½-hour drive alone, but said it “wasn’t bad. I prayed. And I listened to my gospel music.”

It was worth it, she said, because she didn’t feel healthy enough to have another child. She has diabetes, and her partner has kidney problems that will soon require dialysis. Plus, she already has four children.

“We both are sickly people. We’re just not well,” Judith said. “If anything happens to us, who’s gonna take care of our baby?”

Courtney, who also asked to be identified only by her first name, drove three hours to the clinic from a small town near Dallas. She was eight weeks pregnant.

After traveling more than three hours from Grandview, Texas, Courtney, 20, waits to obtain a medication abortion at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Of visiting abortion clinics in Texas, she said "All of them said they wouldn't do it because the heartbeat bill passed and saying that it was too risky. It was extremely stressful. The reason I'm actually getting an abortion is that I'm worried about what it would do for my mental health and my physical health and my relationship with the rest of my family. I recently found out I have seizures. When I got pregnant it started happening more and more. I'm scared that being pregnant while having seizures would end my life."
After traveling more than three hours from Grandview, Texas, Courtney, 20, waits to obtain a medication abortion at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Of visiting abortion clinics in Texas, she said “All of them said they wouldn’t do it because the heartbeat bill passed and saying that it was too risky. It was extremely stressful. The reason I’m actually getting an abortion is that I’m worried about what it would do for my mental health and my physical health and my relationship with the rest of my family. I recently found out I have seizures. When I got pregnant it started happening more and more. I’m scared that being pregnant while having seizures would end my life.”Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

The 20-year-old’s reasons for seeking an abortion were both personal and medical. She feared that if her devoutly Catholic family learned she was pregnant and unmarried, “they would isolate me from the rest of the family. So going to term with this is not an option for me.”

She also has a medical condition that causes seizures, which had increased since she became pregnant. “And so with that I’m scared that being pregnant while having seizures could end my life,” she said.

She tried to find a clinic in Texas, but “all of them said that they wouldn’t do it because of the heartbeat bill,” she said.

Adding to her stress was a clutch of anti-abortion demonstrators beyond the 6-foot-high wooden picket stockade fence that surrounds the Oklahoma City clinic. As she walked inside, she said she heard them say, “You’re committing murder. You’re sinning. If you need money, or a prayer, we can help. Your baby can be put up for adoption.”

“I’m sitting there having to bite my tongue. Literally having to bite my tongue to keep from speaking,” she said. “My arms are shaking, my hands are shaking, not even able to ignore them, because my emotions were being stirred up.”

Trust Women clinic officials are expecting the flood of Texas women driving north to grow. They’re considering expanding their hours and adding staff, and are trying to recruit more doctors like Taub — even if they have to pay to fly them into town. On Nov. 1, a similar fetal heartbeat bill is scheduled to take effect in Oklahoma. Abortion rights organizations are attempting to block it.

Since the Texas ruling, Taub said some of her California colleagues have asked her about traveling to clinics like she does.

But she has more immediate concerns about her patients once they leave Oklahoma and drive home to Texas.

“There are so many unknowns in how this law can and will be enforced that I am concerned that pharmacists in Texas may not fill prescriptions that they know come from an abortion clinic, even though they are not the medications that are going to enact the abortion,” Taub said, referring to ibuprofen and anti-nausea medication she prescribes.

Her advice to patients before they head back to Texas: “I told them that they had to fill their prescriptions in Oklahoma.”

Volunteer Jennifer Goodner helps patient Judith, 33, in a wheelchair after a surgical abortion at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Judith had to travel more than six hours from Houston to get the procedure. Judith suffers from Type 1 diabetes and her partner, with whom she shares four kids, suffers from kidney failure. " I am sick. Why would I want to bring kids into this world? I know that if I'm gone no one can mother them like I do," she said.
Volunteer Jennifer Goodner helps patient Judith, 33, in a wheelchair after a surgical abortion at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. Judith had to travel more than six hours from Houston to get the procedure. Judith suffers from Type 1 diabetes and her partner, with whom she shares four kids, suffers from kidney failure. “ I am sick. Why would I want to bring kids into this world? I know that if I’m gone no one can mother them like I do,” she said.Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

Source: https://www.sfchronicle.com/us-world/article/texas-abortion-ban-oklahoma-clinic-16483130.php?fbclid=IwAR3QQ9zwbiPJPbfarJOD-WiPaVXABxghKAqIxymbdd9Ut0gnzNeFKcjXHvk