Texas Rep. Scott Sanford’s “lawyers for fetuses” bill is as ludicrous as you might imagine. What if a fetus doesn’t want to be born?

Last month, Texas Rep. Scott Sanford introduced the “lawyers for fetuses” bill, which would allow a court to appoint an attorney to represent the “unborn child” during the judicial bypass proceeding.
 Collin County Votes/YouTube

If you are a pregnant minor living in Texas and you want to get an abortion, you might have to go to court and be cross-examined by your fetus’ attorney.

Yes, you read me correctly—your fetus’ attorney. Try not to pass out at the sheer absurdity of it all while I explain.

Texas is one of 36 states that require a pregnant minor who wishes to get an abortion without involving a parent or guardian to go through judicial bypass, a process that involves going to a judge for a court order.

The judicial bypass procedure is absurd on its own, consisting of a hearing before a judge who will ask the minor a bunch of questions to determine whether they are mature enough to decide to get an abortion on their own. If the court determines that, no, this child is not mature enough to decide to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, then it will decide that the child is, apparently, mature enough to be a parent—or at least to give birth, if the child decides to give the baby up for adoption.

This process is bizarre enough without adding a layer of sheer nonsense. But that’s what state Rep. Scott Sanford, who introduced the “lawyers for fetuses” bill last month, is trying to do: to turn an already pain-in-the-ass process into a ludicrous exercise by allowing a court to appoint an attorney to represent the “unborn child” during the judicial bypass proceeding.

I have questions.

How is this representation supposed to work exactly? Usually when attorneys represent a client, they meet with the client to ensure that they are actually representing the client’s interests rather than what the attorney thinks the client’s interests should be. How is an attorney supposed to meet with the “unborn child”? How is that “unborn child” supposed to instruct the attorney regarding the scope of the attorney-client relationship? What if the “unborn child” wishes to remain that way—unborn? How is the attorney supposed to know? Are attorneys supposed to just presume that every fetus wants to be born? What if the fetus were aware that being born might lead to a life of poverty? Or that it’s being born to a minor who doesn’t have the resources or maturity to care for it? What if the unborn child doesn’t want to be put up for adoption?

How is the attorney supposed to glean this information? By way of educated guess? Does the lawyer yell into the pregnant minor’s belly button and hold up a glass to their belly in hopes of hearing a response?

Besides, I know people who had difficult upbringings who have remarked that their mother never should have had them. What is the remedy for the child who feels this way? The law doesn’t provide them one. Indeed, the Texas law provides immunity for the attorney appointed for the fetus as long as the attorney acts in good faith. But how do we even know what good faith is? It seems to me that Rep. Sanford is making a lot of presumptions about the wants and desires of a fetus that cannot speak for itself.

This “lawyers for fetuses” trend is not new.

Just two years ago in Alabama, a probate judge appointed the would-be father of a fetus, Ryan Magers, as the fetus’ legal representative so that Magers could file a wrongful death lawsuit against the abortion clinic that provided abortion care to his ex-girlfriend. That case was ultimately dismissed.

In 2014, Alabama passed a law that not only permitted a judge to appoint a lawyer for the fetus, but also expressly permitted the prosecuting district attorney—and in some instances even the minor’s parents—to cross-examine the minor and to oppose the request for an abortion. The law actually permitted the minor’s parents to participate in the proceedings, which obviates the entire purpose of the judicial bypass: permitting a minor to get an abortion without notifying their parent. The law also permitted disclosure to other people in the minor’s life, including their teachers, employers, and friends, and even permitted the district attorney to call those people to testify in court. (The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging Alabama’s law, and a district court blocked the law, ruling that it violated a pregnant minor’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion without the involvement of their parents or legal guardian.)

And before that, as Molly Redden reported in Mother Jones, state court judges in Alabama had been appointing lawyers for fetuses for years. One such judge, Walter Mark Anderson III, appointed anti-choice advocate and attorney Julian McPhillips to represent fetuses in dozens of judicial bypass proceedings in his court through the 1990s and 2000s.

Consider this exchange published in Mother Jones between McPhillips and a 17-year-old girl who sought an abortion. McPhillips cross-examines the girl on behalf of her fetus—which he creepily dubbed “Baby Ashley”:

MCPHILLIPS: You say that you are aware that God instructed you not to kill your own baby, but you want to do it anyway? And are you saying here today that notwithstanding everything that you want to interfere with God’s plan for your baby?
MINOR: I think that is between me and God.
MCPHILLIPS: And you are not concerned after you have had the abortion that some day you may wake up and say my gosh, what have I done to my own baby?
MINOR: It may happen.
MCPHILLIPS: You are not worried about being haunted by this? Here you have the chance to save the life of your own baby … And still you want to go ahead and snuff out the life of your own baby?
MINOR: Yes.

What, I ask you, the fuck?

After the court granted the parental consent waiver in the Baby Ashley case, McPhillips tried to appeal the decision, but the court ruled that a fetus couldn’t appeal. And why should they be able to appeal? It makes no sense to appoint a lawyer to a fetus in the first place.

Texas’ proposed law does not seem to be as hostile as Alabama’s; it doesn’t expressly permit the fetus’s lawyer to cross-examine the pregnant minor and treat them like an accused criminal.

But it doesn’t exclude the possibility either.

Legal proceedings are inherently adversarial in nature. An attorney appointed to represent the interests of the fetus that a pregnant minor is carrying will necessarily be adversarial to the minor who is trying to terminate that attorney’s client. Just saying it out loud reveals the absolute absurdity.

Simply put, allowing a pregnancy to have its day in court is preposterous. And it’s just another way that Texas legislators are trying to make abortion inaccessible.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/ablc/2021/02/16/texas-thinks-your-fetus-needs-a-lawyer/?fbclid=IwAR3gauWllY2PJija4WpwaIfgimtU-ngRWWikjRlUgCGYbWOdV24wwXgrDk8

A bill that would likely ban almost all abortions in South Carolina has moved closer to final approval

The Associated Press
Melissa Anne “Mac” Cunningham-Sereque shows the wand used to do ultrasound on pregnant women during a South Carolina House subcommittee hearing on an abortion bill on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. The bill would outlaw almost all abortions in the state. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A proposal that would likely ban almost all abortions in South Carolina moved closer Tuesday to final approval in a committee vote split along party lines.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 15-8 to pass the “ South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act.” The bill has already passed the Senate and the governor promises he will sign it, although the law is likely to be the subject of lengthy court battles before it could take effect.

The proposal would require doctors to use an ultrasound to try to detect a fetal heartbeat if they think pregnant women are at least eight weeks along. If they find a heartbeat, and the pregnancy is not the result of rape or incest, they can’t perform the abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger.

A fetal heartbeat can be detected as soon as six weeks after conception and before many women know they are pregnant.

About a dozen other states have passed similar bills, although they are tied up in court challenges. The main sponsor of the bill, Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, said during his explanation of the bill he expects the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its 1973 abortion rights decision because of recent conservative justices added by former President Donald Trump.

“The Constitution in our nation has devolved into whatever nine justices say it means,” McCravy said.

Numerous public hearings have been held about the bill over the past several years, but GOP lawmakers plan no more public testimony on it.

Republicans stayed mostly quiet after explaining the bill, allowing several Democrats to speak.

“This is an issue we should not be legislating,” said Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Columbia. “It’s a decision that needs to be made between a woman, her family and her doctor.”

Democrats unsuccessfully tried to change the bill. Rep. John King, D-Rock Hill, proposed amendments that the state would “assume full financial responsibility” for a child if the mother is denied an abortion, calling it “truly pro-life.”

Another failed amendment said if the proposal became law it would only be enforced if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds similar laws in other states. Both failed on party-line votes.

A third amendment would have allowed pregnant women and the fathers of their babies to carry guns openly to protect their fetuses. That also did not pass.

Democrats made arguments that Republicans don’t care enough about children after they were born. They also questioned the constitutionality of the bill and components of the proposal, like how the state would handle requiring doctors to show the ultrasound to visually impaired women.

“According to this bill, the doctor shall ask the woman if he wants to hear the heartbeat. So I guess we’ll have to train our doctors in sign language,” said Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg.

Democrats said the bill would require an invasive ultrasound to be able to hear a potential heartbeat so early in a pregnancy instead of one on the outside of a woman’s belly. To illustrate the point, Bamberg held up a wand used internally as he spoke, but Republicans questioned that argument.

“I can find that nowhere in the bill whatsoever,” said Rep. Weston Newton, R-Bluffton. “I want to make sure we are factually considering what was offered as opinion.”

Tuesday’s discussion in the committee meeting is likely a preview of the debate that will take place on the House floor later this month.

Some Democratic representatives plan amendments to try to stall passage as long as possible, Republicans will likely try to avoid any changes to the bill which could send it back to the Senate, where it had been tripped up for years prior to 2021.

The full House passed a similar bill 70-31 in 2019.

Republicans were able finally to get the proposal through the South Carolina Senate after flipping three seats from Democrats in the 2020 elections.

Democratic Rep. Cezar McKnight told lawmakers South Carolina had a lot more pressing issues including improving education, finding a way to make life better for poor children and increasing the budget of the Department of Social Services to help families.

“We’ll do everything we can when they are in the womb, but after that it is survival of the fittest,” the Democrat from Kingstree said.

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/sc-house-committee-considers-ban-abortions-75769395?fbclid=IwAR1SqrkEOq5MopihbOs2bWvxsw0AA4CZ6LeF9h9nHdep7Oa8_V-VYWJOEfA

Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta—Argentina’s minister of women, genders and diversity—was behind the country’s landmark decision on abortion. (Eli Gomez Alcorta @EliGAlcorta / Twitter)

On Dec. 29, 2020, Argentina legalized abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy—becoming the third country in Latin America (after Cuba and Uruguay) to do so. This landmark victory was the result of many years of arduous activist work to raise awareness of the harm that comes with the criminalization of abortion.

In 2005, the women’s movement launched the Campaign for Safe, Free and Legal Abortion (La Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal Seguro y Gratuito), which grew more powerful, reaching massive support across the country in the past three years. From there, activists drafted a bill and sought the support of legislators to advance abortion reform in Congress. In 2018, the campaign’s bill was discussed in Congress for the first time. It passed in the Lower Chamber but was rejected in the Senate by a vote of 38-31.

In 2019, a new administration was elected, led by President Alberto Fernandez, who ran on a women’s rights platform, including pledging his support for abortion reform. He also created the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity, to include a gender perspective across government policies—led by Minister of Women, Gender and Diversity Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta.

In November of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, the government delivered on its promises and introduced a bill to legalize abortion, in line with the demands from the women’s movement which was passed by Congress at the end of 2020.

Ms. reporter Cora Fernández Anderson, assistant professor at Mount Holyoke College, conducted an online interview with Gómez Alcorta to discuss the recent abortion reform and the role of this new ministry in the process. From the challenges to implement the new law, to new topics such as the gender gap in caregiving tasks, Gómez Alcorta shares her experiences and plans to tackle the ministry’s feminist agenda. 

Meet the Public Official Behind Argentina's Landmark Abortion Ruling: Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Minister of Women
 Argentina’s abortion legislation is part of President Alberto Fernandez’s broader efforts to elevate women’s rights in his government’s policy agenda, and the fulfillment of progressive campaign pledges which touched on gender equality and LGBTQ rights. Pictured: Gómez Alcorta, Argentina’s minister of women, gender and diversity, with President Fernandez. (Eli Gomez Alcorta, @EliGAlcorta / Twitter)

Cora Fernández Anderson: Could you introduce the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity that you lead? What was its role in legalizing abortion in Argentina?

Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta: The Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity was created recently on December 10, 2019, and its main function is to work on policies that are aimed first at reducing gender-based violence—which is a pressing problem in the world, in the region and in our country. And to carry out policies that reduce or eliminate gender inequalities.

So, when we talk about violence, we are talking not only about violence against women, but violence against sexual diversity. We understand gender inequality as the other side of the coin of gender violence: the lack of economic autonomy, the lack of autonomy in our decisions, the lack of autonomy in our bodies, result in violence. And we always speak of violence in plural, because in addition to the more easily visible violence—such as physical violence—there is also psychological violence, economic violence, institutional violence, media violence, symbolic violence, labor violence that have an enormous impact as well.

We believe that without a ministry, it is very difficult to include a gender perspective in all the policies of a state, and we think that’s the main reason behind the creation of the ministry: that there is a public works plan with a gender perspective, a production, economic and transportation plan with a gender perspective.

Regarding the role that the ministry had [in the legalization of abortion], together with the legal and technical secretariat and the Ministry of Health, I was part of the team that drafted the government’s bill. We all worked as well to introduce the bill in Congress and obtain the needed consensus so that we could say today we have a law. We worked with legislators from the government’s party but also with those from the opposition—this is something we want to highlight.

Fernández Anderson: How would you explain the process that led to the legalization of abortion? What changed in Argentina to make this possible?

Gómez Alcorta: Well, first I think that in a way nothing has changed—meaning that the deaths resulting from clandestine abortions did not diminish. There were 39,000 hospital admissions in the public health system in 2019 as a result of clandestine abortions. It’s been already 14 years since congress passed the Comprehensive Sexual Education law—a key factor to prevent unwanted pregnancies—but there have been huge obstacles to implement it, and we still have high rates of unwanted pregnancies among adolescents. More than 80 percent of teenage pregnancies are unwanted. In a way, nothing has changed.

In another sense, what did change was the level of organization and mobilization on the part of the women’s movement in Argentina. The possibility of sustaining the struggle for so many years allowed the abortion bill to be discussed for the first time in Congress in 2018. In light of the ‘green tide’—[the massive mobilization of mostly women carrying green scarves demanding legal abortion]—a high official said: ‘We looked at the crowds in the streets and didn’t understand where they came from; how come there were two million people demanding legal abortion?’ This was another factor that explained the creation of the ministry.

Since June 3, 2015, the women’s movement, which have always had an important role in Argentina, became massive, and in particular facing a neoliberal government [Mauricio Macri’s government 2015-19], it took on the place of a key anti-neoliberal actor. This unprecedented growth of the feminist movement made the 2018 discussion of the abortion bill possible, and one year later in 2019, made it possible for the issue of abortion to enter the presidential campaign, something that had never happened before. Then we see the emergence of a candidate (Alberto Fernández) who strongly believes that it is unbelievable that in the 21st century women cannot decide over their own body. But this was more of a contingency, the growth of the movement has been a historical process that without doubts is what allows us to get to where we are today.


“This unprecedented growth of the feminist movement made the 2018 discussion of the abortion bill possible, and one year later in 2019, made it possible for the issue of abortion to enter the presidential campaign—something that had never happened before.”


Fernández Anderson: The bill was signed into law on January 14. What are the obstacles that your ministry and the government have identified in terms of its implementation?

Gómez Alcorta: Those who opposed the legalization of abortion made already their first judicial presentation to declare the law unconstitutional. We knew this was going to happen, even one senator stated they would do it when she voted against legalization. This doesn’t have us worried, but it will imply a large investment of time and resources to fight this. But the process of implementation to make abortion access equal across the country will be arduous.

There are some places in which there will be no problems, but some others will require very meticulous and constant attention: Identify the public health services willing to provide the service, and we know that there are because there is a network of health professional for the right to choose that is present throughout the country, and they are the ones that were providing abortions under the previous law. The main question mark now is what will be the response of the private health care system. In the places in which most health professionals declare themselves conscientious objectors, we will have to organize clear referral networks so as not to hinder access to abortion.

The implementation work is done by the Ministry of Health. The one in charge is the Program on Sexual and Reproductive health, which has already been working to provide legal abortions under the previous legal framework.

Meet the Public Official Behind Argentina's Landmark Abortion Ruling: Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Minister of Women
“El aborto seguro, legal y gratuito es ley,” tweeted Fernandez. “Safe, legal and free abortion is law.” (Alberto Fernández, @alferdez / Twitter)

Fernández Anderson: In closing, a more personal question. You identify yourself as a feminist. How did you arrive at feminism?  

Gómez Alcorta: I think I was always a feminist. I always felt the gender injustices from a very young age. I used to get angry about things that happened between my mother and father, or differences in how brothers and sisters were treated. I read those events through a gender lens. It is not fair that because I am a woman, I am not treated equally … I think that it came very naturally, but later I was able to apply a theoretical framework and explain those events. I am a feminist and human rights activist. I remember the first time I wrote an academic article and chose to define myself as a feminist lawyer. It was not the first time I felt feminist but there was something about reaffirming this identity in a particular moment.

In the past years in our country, there is something very beautiful happening with feminism, because it goes beyond the logic of representation. Unions for example have representation. The women’s movement doesn’t. There is some element of anomie in the movement. If you have been to one of the Women’s National Meetings [Encuentro Nacional de Mujeres], you understand what I am referring to: There is perfect synchrony in the middle of the most absolute anarchy, but it works. There is almost something magical about it.

Everybody is now asking what is the next issue feminists will be focusing on, because the demand for legal abortion was one that provided strong unity within the multiple and diverse feminisms. For me the most beautiful thing for those like me who study these processes is to analyze the process through which the next big issue of feminism is defined. Because this is not a matter of going to an assembly and voting, this doesn’t happen this way, we will have to be alert to the processes of constructing of a new agenda.


On average we work four hours more than men on caregiving activities—that is 1,400 hours more a year. When we ask why is it harder for women to become university presidents, athletes, CEOs, union leaders or presidents—well, give me those 1400 hours back, and then we’ll talk.”


Fernández Anderson: In your opinion, what will be the next issue the feminist movement should tackle?

Gómez Alcorta: For me is the unequal distribution of domestic and caregiving tasks. It is impossible to put an end to gender inequality and gender violence if we do not address this issue. If we continue to be the main caregivers in society, we won’t be able to eliminate the disparities.

On average we work four hours more than men on caregiving activities—that is 1,400 hours more a year. When we ask why is it harder for women to become university presidents, athletes, CEOs, union leaders or presidents—well, give me those 1400 hours back, and then we’ll talk.

There is also a class dimension to this issue. Because women that can outsource caregiving, increase their availability, but those who cannot do it have even more time devoted to these activities. There is a double deficit based on class and gender which reproduces inequality. This issue is the main reproducer of patriarchy.

Do you want to work out of the house? Great, do so but you are the one that takes care of our child when he is sick, you are the one that misses days at work. This is a much more complex issue than that of abortion. You cannot solve it with a law or a particular demand. We need a very strong political will; we need deep transformations with investments in infrastructure and changes in cultural norms.

But a more equal society can only be built with a better distribution of caregiving tasks. This is our priority in the ministry. Argentina has many policies to address violence against women and sexual diversity. But there is nothing on this new issue. 

Source: https://msmagazine.com/2021/02/02/argentina-abortion-ruling-feminist-latin-america-elizabeth-gomez-alcorta-minister-of-women-gender-diversity/?fbclid=IwAR1uNcAzJ0iufIu6VHUPK-W20zcqcH3XXvXyOPKxOF-Sh9byvn4ik5n8OF0

New laws on abortion are due to come into force in Thailand this week [File: Narong Sangnak/EPA]
New laws on abortion are due to come into force in Thailand this week [File: Narong Sangnak/EPA]

Amendments expected to come into force this week, placing Thailand among more liberal Southeast Asian nations on reproductive rights.

Thailand’s parliament has passed changes to the country’s criminal code, giving women full abortion rights in the first trimester of their pregnancy, almost a year after a top court ruled that existing curbs ran counter to the constitution.

Pro-choice groups have met the move with muted praise. They say the amendments do not go far enough and warn that many women may still turn to risky illegal abortions unless the government also commits to raising awareness and expanding access.

“It is a positive development to have certain legal grounds that allow abortion, but it is not enough to ensure that all pregnant women can access abortion and that their reproductive rights are advanced,” said Jihan Jacob, a senior legal adviser for Asia with the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Until now women in Thailand could get a legal abortion only if the pregnancy resulted from rape, or if giving birth posed a physical or mental health risk to the mother, or the foetus was impaired and only at the discretion of a licensed health care provider.

The amendments legislators approved on January 25 will leave the decision entirely up to the woman for the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy. Between 12 and 20 weeks women can seek an abortion under the old rules, or if they insist they have no alternative. All other abortions will still be a crime, although maximum jail time will drop from three years to six months.

“It’s not exactly what we want, but I think it’s progress,” said Dr Wayo Asawarungruang, a physician and legislators for the opposition Move Forward party who had pushed for broader abortion rights.

The changes will place Thailand among the more liberal countries on reproductive rights in Southeast Asia, where Vietnam sets no term limits for abortion while the Philippines deems any induced abortion a crime except to save a woman’s life.

The amendments are due to take effect by February 12. That is nearly a year after Thailand’s constitutional court ruled that the country’s abortion laws violated a woman’s rights to life and liberty and gave the government 360 days to fix them.

Human rights groups were hoping to divorce abortion from the criminal code outright so that it would be treated strictly as a healthcare issue, and worked with Move Forward to draft a bill of their own. Wary of blowback from staunch conservatives, the party settled on proposing a 24-week limit on abortions but still failed to get its bill out of committee.

By leaving abortion in the criminal code and merely making room for more exceptions, Wayo worries the stigma surrounding abortion – a sin under strict Buddhist dogma – will stick. And by splitting the rules for abortions before and after 12 weeks between separate articles in the code, he fears some women will still think that any abortion after the first trimester is a crime and continue to turn to illegal alternatives.

“They will not come for mainstream medical therapy because they’re afraid that they will be a criminal,” he said.

Sulaiporn Chonwilai, a consultant and researcher for local pro-choice group Tam Tang, said most women who choose to go ahead with an illegal abortion turn to the internet to buy pills of unknown provenance and quality, putting their lives at risk. She said local media last year reported on two women who had taken that route and died.

The abortion rights advocate said she was “very disappointed” by the amendments parliament passed and, like Wayo, believes shame, fear and confusion will continue to drive many women committed to terminating their pregnancies to risky, illegal options.

They also say the 12-week cutoff for unconditional abortions is too short as some women might not know they are pregnant for one or two months, or more, leaving little if any time to make a potentially life-changing decision.

‘I felt scared’

Napatt, a Tam Tang volunteer, said she did not know for months when she got pregnant in 2006 because years of taking contraceptives had upset her menstrual cycle. After a few more months of agonising over what to do, she was 24 weeks in when she finally found a local clinic that sold her a few abortion pills under the table.

“I felt scared of everything, that I might die, that the clinic was dirty, that the police would arrest me,” she recalled.

The pills worked, but the bleeding was profuse and the pain from the periods that followed excruciating. It was only a year later that she visited another doctor and learned that pieces of the foetus were still in her womb. Once the doctor removed them the pain finally dulled but it has never gone away.

Napatt said the new amendments would not help women in the same position as she was in 15 years ago and that they would not have helped her back then given the timing of her abortion.

“I still would have gone to an unsafe abortion clinic, so it would not have helped,” she said.

Statistics on abortions in Thailand are either outdated or incomplete. But judging by her own work on the issue, Sulaiporn estimates that about one in five women in the country who choose to have an abortion do so after the first trimester.

“In general we know that criminal restrictions do not deter the incidence of abortion and they just force many pregnant persons to undergo unsafe abortions,” said Jacob, of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“So without actual access … to safe abortion, they are forced to undergo unsafe abortions, which then means that they are risking their lives and their health.”

But now that more women will have access to legal abortion in theory, human groups say authorities need to make sure that is true in practice.

Sulaiporn said many women who would qualify for legal abortions under the old rules did not know because the government and healthcare sector did little to spread the word and that the 100 or so hospitals and clinics licensed to terminate pregnancies are not enough.

“If they didn’t plan for the budget, they didn’t set up the doctors, they didn’t do anything, it cannot help women to get access to abortion easier, [and] I think it will be the same like before,” she said.

Government spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek said plans to bolster abortion services and advertise the new rules were in the works but defended putting some legal limits on when a woman could choose to terminate a pregnancy.

“We understand the expectations, but from the government perspective we have consulted with several medical agencies; it’s not just based on the law perspective, but it’s from the health perspective for women as well,” she said.

The Medical Council of Thailand and the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists both recommended the 12-week limit.

“Before we didn’t allow any kind of abortion except that would harm the mother’s health or for the [rape] case,” Ratchada said.

“Now we allow women to have abortions, so I think this is progress, big progress, and the way to show that society should respect the rights of women.”

Source: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/9/thailand-legalises-early-abortions-pro-choice-groups-want-more?fbclid=IwAR2RVgUrGFHZ9CuQN7n09MFoZKsSpphRY6Wd4sCJoNEzkl8mfeTHDvXIuvg

For reproductive rights defenders, the mood and some of the faces in the crowd were familiar.

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Brent Stirton/Getty Images

Some 30 years ago a man named John Brockhoeft planned two bombings at abortion clinics and women’s health centers in Ohio and Florida. Brockhoeft was sentenced to seven years in prison (he served five) for the firebombing of one clinic; he had already served 26 months for scheming unsuccessfully to bomb another. Brockhoeft called himself a “freedom fighter” and kept a prison newsletter detailing his missions. It was an era when headlines were filled with the number of abortion providers who were either targeted or assassinated.

Three decades after his last clinic bombing, the same Brockhoeft livestreamed his arrival at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He called the moment his fight “for our beloved President Donald J. Trump.”

Brockhoeft is, at once, a longtime anti-abortion extremist and a Trump-loving rioter. He’s not alone.

Few of the anti-abortion activists who were Trump rioters are quite as extreme as Brockhoeft. But there were plenty of still-quite-zealous activists inside the Capitol mob on Jan. 6. This spectrum of pro-life extremists included Derrick Evans, the now-former West Virginia legislator, whose presence in Washington that day led to his arrest and forced resignation. Evans was previously known for his hobby as a harasser of women at a local abortion clinic, where he wore his MAGA hat for the occasion. Also there that day was Abby Johnson, known for her purported conversion from Planned Parenthood worker to anti-abortion and anti–birth control extremism. Also, there was Jason Storms, who worked for the anti-abortion group Operation Save America and called Jan. 6 “Revolution 2.0.”

The link between longtime anti-abortion extremists and today’s Trump rioters and white nationalists hasn’t been sufficiently scrutinized. But there is a “strong tie between anti-abortion terrorism and Christian white nationalism,” said Mary Alice Carter, senior adviser for the reproductive rights research group Equity Forward. Abortion is unacceptable to white nationalists, Carter said, “because of the white supremacist idea of having as many white Christian babies as possible, both to fight the declining birth rate and to hold off the rising immigrant population.”

Perhaps the connection between the two populations and their methods is not being made often because crimes against women and their health—and the people of both genders who care for them, like doctors—are rarely equated with other kinds of terrorism.

Yet at least 12 other anti-abortion activists all along the extremist continuum showed up at the Capitol that day, according to the reproductive rights group Abortion Access Front.

“The reason people don’t take the anti-abortion terrorists seriously is due to what I call abortion exceptionalism,” Carter said. This exceptionalism is based on the thinking that pro-life extremism is different from other radical movements, that it’s a single-issue form of activism and mostly religiously motivated. This is not always the case.

I’ve reported at clinics in Mississippi, Indiana, and New York and talked to the anti-abortion protesters who throng in front. These crowds tend to be uniformly white, older. The majority of those within them are male. These activists had no problem regularly hassling or yelling at the much younger women entering or leaving by the clinics’ doors.

Groups like these, as well as more formal older groups such as Operation Rescue in the 1980s and ’90s, have a playbook. In addition to persistent harassment, in 1991, say, more than 2,000 anti-abortion activists were arrested in Wichita, Kansas, where they sought to shut down the city’s three abortion clinics. There were also years of terrorism against abortion providers where the extremists were both anti-abortion and general-interest Christian supremacists. That included Eric Rudolph, a serial clinic bomber best known for his attack on the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, who wrote in his 11-page confession, “Because I believe that abortion is murder, I also believe that force is justified in an attempt to stop it.” His bombing spree—which included bombing a lesbian bar—was, in his mind, part of a single struggle against a “monstrosity of a government” that permitted abortion.ADVERTISEMENT

The clinic invasions of the past parallel tactics at the Capitol earlier this month, David Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University who specializes in abortion rights, told me. Just like the rioters on Jan. 6, participants of both movements have aggressively invaded buildings, with the object of terrifying those inside and shutting down all activity. Until it was limited by the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994 and other measures like it, clinic harassment was the method of the most vocal anti-abortion groups.

Both QAnon, the conspiracy subculture that a number of the Trump rioters were a part of, and anti-abortion radicals share another similarity in their worldview, reproductive rights historian Karissa Haugeberg of Tulane University told me: Manichean simplicity. “Good women have children, bad women don’t. Good people want to protect children from pedophiles, so they support Trump, and bad people do not,” said Haugeberg. It is a kind of thinking, she said, that can “justify committing heinous acts.ADVERTISEMENT

These groups also rely on their own sets of so-called alternative facts. Anti-abortion activists I’ve interviewed, for instance, like to claim that there is a correlation between having an abortion and a woman getting breast cancer (there is not). Similarly, the Trump rioters had their own set of untrue beliefs, including the overarching insistence that more votes had been cast for the former president than for Joe Biden.

And both employ a dodge-and-weave approach to promoting violence. Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion activist groups often ranted about doctors who performed abortions, singling them out by name, only to profess dismay when those same doctors were targeted by threats or assassination. The organizers of Trump’s Jan. 6 rally and the speakers there similarly told the crowd that the election was being stolen from them, that they were the equivalent of Revolutionary War patriots, and that the moment of crisis had arrived—and then, feigning surprise, denounced the attack on the Capitol after the mob took them at their word.

The entwining of these groups has been on full display over the past year. The January action wasn’t Brockhoeft’s first Trump-era rally; he also showed up at the Ohio Statehouse, protesting COVID protection measures in April. He posted to his Facebook page that week: “I was happy to stand with fellow Ohioans yesterday in a rowdy protest against the house arrest that the government has been using ‘covid-19’ as an excuse to subject us to.”Abby Johnson posted to Facebook proudly on Jan. 6, “Got a little bit of pepper spray in my lungs.” Activists had arrived from the group Operation Save America as well as March for Life and Apologia Studios, the production arm for the anti-abortion right-wing media.

While this mishmash of pro-lifers who rioted for Trump might feel new, in truth anti-abortion extremists and white right-wing activists have shared common cause for decades. They are united by a sense of grievance and the readiness to pursue escalating violence. Reproductive justice supporters have long known what happens if these kinds of threats aren’t taken seriously. The Capitol attack confirmed it.

Source: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/02/before-the-capitol-attack-there-were-the-abortion-wars.html?fbclid=IwAR3qWvARwjmT1bNfbjrVhEbRtQCakum-n35BzBpDmdFD5N_6IYvYbn40J6s

Doctors in Germany offering any information about the procedure online face two years in prison or jail time.

IMAGE: GETTY IMAGES

Jasmin Schreiber isn’t a doctor. Yet, you’ll find more information about abortion on her website than that of just about any medical professional in Germany. 

That isn’t because German doctors are particularly adverse to informing their patients about abortion, but rather because of Section 219a, a Nazi-era law that prohibits doctors from ‘advertising’ abortions. In practice, this means that doctors in Germany providing any information online about abortion beyond the fact that they offer them—including cost, available methods, and procedure—can face two years in prison or a fine. Meanwhile, anti-abortion websites that promote the widely disproven “silent scream” theory and falsely claim that medication abortions leave “the child to slowly starve in the womb” are allowed to stay online. ADVERTISEMENThttps://8f4cbe7c40e8d3bba605f0443e7d0c86.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Last week, it was this law that was cited by a court in Frankfurt while upholding a conviction against gynecologist Kristina Hänel—a face of the pro-choice movement in Germany—for providing a PDF factsheet about abortion on her website. Citing the financial costs of potential fines, Hänel has since taken the factsheet down from her own site, but it can still be found here. 

The move sparked outrage online, with some including Schreiber (herself a popular German writer) and information rights campaign group FragDenStaat posting the information to their own sites in solidarity with Hänel. 

“I went into action that same evening [of Hänel’s conviction] and published the link the next day,” Schreiber wrote to Motherboard over email. “My first reaction was not shock or similar, since I have been following the case from the beginning. I would have been very surprised if anything else had come out of it, as bitter as that sounds.” 

“The view that someone (cis women, but also trans men or non-binary people) would just ‘spontaneously’ or ‘just for the hell of it’ have an abortion if they were allowed access to this medical treatment and the associated information and therefore shielded from it ‘for safety’s sake’ is deeply patriarchal and authoritarian,” she added. 

Experts that Motherboard spoke to said that regressive laws such as Section 219a continue to keep abortion stigmatized and out of sight, hamstringing medical professionals’ ability to inform their patients and, in the process, creating an information asymmetry capitalized on by conservative anti-abortion groups. Because of this, Germany faces an ever increasing shortage of doctors offering the procedure, causing long waiting times and leaving rural areas of the country critically underserved. 

They described the situation as a “catastrophe.”

It is exactly this information asymmetry that Merle (who asked that Motherboard not use her real name) ran into when she unexpectedly found out she was pregnant in 2011. A 23-year-old emigrant from Eastern Europe living in Hesse—a state in central Germany—at the time, the idea of having an abortion was still something shrouded in stigma and shame, but she began looking for factual information about the procedure online anyways.

What she found instead was pictures of bloody fetuses and other anti-abortion propaganda. 

“All you read is that you are going to suffer horrible pains, a mental illness, you might even get cancer,” Merle wrote to Motherboard over instant messages. “This was stressful, because I still believed in the horrible pains and suffering so the anxiety was building up.”  

“There was no transparency at all and you can’t make an informed decision,” she added.  ADVERTISEMENT

Despite the lack of credible information on the web, after consulting her gynecologist in person Merle was able to make an informed choice about her pregnancy and easily terminated it without any medical complications. Her story, however, is indicative of how Section 219a continues to harm those who are often already in a vulnerable position. 

Abortion is still technically illegal in Germany and is punishable with prison time up to three years or a fine. Authorities will not, however, prosecute any doctor or patient involved in an abortion if its because of sexual violence, or if the pregnancy is a threat to the patient’s life. Abortions for other reasons are permitted within the first trimester, but counseling from a state-approved organization and a three day waiting period are still mandatory. 

This legal criminalization of the procedure has filtered into the wider medical system, says Alicia Baier, a physician at Family Planning Center BALANCE in Berlin and cofounder of Doctors for Choice, and even doctors themselves can lack proper knowledge about abortions. In the past, gynecologists have even had to organize separate “papaya workshops” where interested medical students are taught the basics of vacuum aspiration (suction abortion) using papaya seeds. 

“Abortion is [often] treated as an ethical topic for those studying medicine in German universities,” Baier told Motherboard over the phone. “[They often] only ever learn about the ethics of the procedure, but little to none of the actual medical aspects behind it.” 

“I’ve conducted a number of interviews with medical students regarding this subject,” she continued. “What I’ve often heard in them is that the first thing many medical students associate with abortion is religion class. One student I spoke to who was specializing in gynecology said that the only time he had come into contact with the topic in an institution was religion class in high school, where they were simply shown big images of fetuses. I’ll always remember that.” 

While access to factual information is a long-standing issue in Germany, increasingly access to doctors who will even perform abortions is becoming one as well. Out of the 19,000 practicing gynecologists in Germany, public broadcaster Tagesschau reported, only 327 are officially registered as performing abortions. (The number is estimated to be higher, but some doctors intentionally don’t register for fear of harassment). In the conservative state of Bavaria there are only eight officially registered practices offering abortion services—five of which are in its capital, Munich. 

The result of this? A disaster, said Kersten Artus, a pro-abortion activist, journalist, and member of Pro-Choice. 

“There is an acute emergency,” Artus wrote in an email to Motherboard. “Fewer and fewer doctors offer abortions, and entire cities and regions are without resident doctors to carry them out. And, because many hospitals now belong to the churches, it is even more difficult to have an abortion carried out. The consequences are long journeys and waiting times, which, given the legal situation—legal terminations are only possible up to the 12th week of pregnancy—is a catastrophe.” 

While laws such as Section 219a show that social conservatism is nothing new in Germany, the growing reach of the far-right into German politics has only further empowered fundementalist groups and conservative politicians to stifle change on both the federal and local levels. In some cities, local governments have even prohibited municipal clinics from performing abortions. 

With the number of doctors offering abortions having decreased by a factor of 40 percent between 2003 and 2018, even the removal of regressive regulations like Section 219a—although necessary—probably won’t be enough on its own. ADVERTISEMENT

That’s why feminist groups like Stimmrecht Gegen Unrecht (Right To Vote Against Injustice) continue to emphasize that the issue needs to be looked at through an intersectional lens. 

Since abortion is not covered by insurance in Germany, partially because it is illegal, cost can also be a barrier, Stimmrecht Gegen Unrecht said. While one can apply for the state to cover the procedure if they earn below a certain amount, this process often requires complex paperwork that can be difficult for non-native German speakers. 

They also point out that transgender or non-binary people seeking an abortion can face extra hurdles and institutionalized transphobia within the medical system. 

Then there’s the social stigma surrounding the procedure. One woman who had an abortion in Southern Germany told Motherboard that the first gynecologist she visited vehemently tried to convince her not to terminate her pregnancy.

“He tried to talk me out of it,” she wrote in an email to Motherboard. “It was not his place and I wish I would have had the power to stand up for myself and told [sic] him to shut up. I actually remember exactly how he warned me that women who abort suffer from mental health problems later on and regret their decision (which is false).” 

“One of the friends I told tried to influence me as well and our relationship suffered greatly from it,” she added. 

It’s this same stigma, said Leoni Vollmar, a member of Stimmrecht Gegen Unrecht, that causes misinformation to be normalized. 

“The stigma around abortion in Germany goes hand-in-hand with more misinformation,” she told Motherboard over Zoom. “Restrictive regulations like 219a create an information imbalance. But, one thing we are seeing is that in pop culture abortion is starting to be associated with a positive connotation and an empowering connotation. This cultural sphere is incredibly important as well and a necessary movement if we want to get over this imbalance of misinformation.” 

For now, the combination between social stigma, lack of factual information, and dwindling doctors willing to perform the operation continue to make an often difficult decision even more difficult. But the people Motherboard spoke to who had gone ahead with the procedure had a message for those who might be struggling: trust yourself. 

“They know better than anyone what’s good for them,” Merle wrote, “and whatever decision they make, it’s the right one.” 

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/4ad5pm/germans-are-posting-abortion-information-online-to-protest-nazi-era-law?fbclid=IwAR11qX4azv1YrgA3kuxuSOWxzOunOV0f9zXzYQYJSw9jXtaCq6S0wb2VkhI

Self-managed abortion is the future of abortion access; neither courts nor legislatures can fully block it.
 RNG Illustration

In July, as this country lurched in fits and starts to address the COVID-19 pandemic that had by then already claimed nearly 150,000 lives, a new possibility for abortion access bubbled up in a Maryland court. U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang took the first step in deregulating abortion pills.

In response to a request from abortion providers and reproductive justice advocates, Judge Chuang ruled that the Trump administration could not enforce a restriction that prevents patients from accessing medication abortion without an in-person doctor’s visit, finding the requirement unduly burdened abortion rights in the middle of a pandemic.

The decision sent immediate shockwaves across the abortion rights landscape.

Abortion rights advocates, who had spent the last 20 years arguing medication abortion was exceptionally safe and overregulated, applauded the decision as a commonsense approach to abortion care generally, let alone in a pandemic. Activists in the 19 states where anti-choice lawmakers had years earlier banned the use of telehealth for medication abortion were quick to point out that Chuang’s decision would do nothing to ease the crisis of access in their states. And because of the unique place abortion rights hold in this country’s political landscape, both camps were correct.

The decision promised to change both everything and nothing, at all once.

Mifepristone was first developed in France in 1980, but it took two over two decades and at least one trip to the Supreme Court to even get it approved for use in abortions in this country. Under George H.W. Bush’s presidency, the Food and Drug Administration first banned importing mifepristone to this country for use in abortions. Once it was finally approved, anti-choice advocates in Washington, D.C., layered regulatory burden after regulatory burden on use of the pills. Anti-choice lawmakers in states across the country followed up by banning the use of telemedicine to distribute the pills.

Anti-choice advocates have fought so hard against the abortion pill because they know it’s a game changer.

As if to underscore just how much the anti-choice forces understand what’s at stake in the fight over regulating abortion medications, the Trump administration appealed Judge Chuang’s decision to the Supreme Court not once, but twice. In January the conservative justices on the Court voted to reinstate the in-person requirements. The Biden-Harris administration could lift them again. But meanwhile states like Ohio have doubled down on efforts to restrict access to medication abortion, showing that even as this country faces nearly 500,000 COVID-19 deaths, anti-choice conservatives will prioritize attacking abortion access over literally anything else. This has left patients in an increasingly untenable ping-pong match. Abortion remains legal in this country but increasingly out of reach and defined by the happenstance of a ZIP code.

In the backdrop of this legal and legislative fight over medication abortion, a new future for abortion care is taking hold, one in which patients increasingly manage their abortions entirely on their own. To be clear, abortion via herbs has existed as long as people were able to get pregnant. And even a medication abortion done with physician supervision involves the patient managing some aspects of that abortion on their own. But as the legal and political threats to abortion care reach a fevered pitch in this country, more and more people are choosing to terminate pregnancies on their own, without the supervision of a medical professional. The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated this reality.

Self-managed abortion is the future of abortion access; neither courts nor legislatures can fully block it. Patients are taking care into their own hands.

That future is not without legal risk, though. While only five states have laws that explicitly make it a crime to self-terminate a pregnancy, that hasn’t stopped some prosecutors from trying to use other statutes—like child endangerment and fetal harm law— to jail patients for ending their own pregnancies. Predictably, it is patients of color and low-income patients, who already face heightened surveillance and scrutiny by both health-care providers and law enforcement, bearing the brunt of those prosecutions. Medically, self-terminating a pregnancy via pills remains extremely safe. The legal risks, however, are potentially much greater.

That’s why, for our first special edition of 2021, Rewire News Group is diving into medication abortion and self-managed care as the future of abortion access. From COVID-19 to the courts, the legal right to abortion has never been more tenuous. But thanks to the internet and the ingenuity of advocates, abortion pills have never been easier to access.

Abortion is good medicine, and self-managed abortion is the future of access in what’s shaping up to be a post-Roe world.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/02/08/editors-note-the-future-of-abortion-access/

Argentina became the first major Latin American country to legalize abortion. What other nations are in the spotlight for change in 2021?

Jan 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Argentina became the first major country in Latin America to legalize abortion on Wednesday, allowing the procedure through the 14th week of pregnancy and bucking the traditionally strong influence of the Catholic Church in the region. [nL1N2JA0D9]

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted abortions around the world, with lockdowns complicating access in some places, while other countries made it easier to get at-home medical abortions.

But despite stay-at-home orders, the world’s legislatures, courts and politicians have continued to make key decisions to expand or roll back rights.

In October, 33 countries including the United States, Egypt and Brazil, signed a declaration that critics say was aimed at restricting access to abortion.

Previously in Argentina women were only allowed to abort in cases of rape or serious risk to the mother.

Here are some of the hotspots for abortion rights in 2021:

1. Poland

A court ruling last October in staunchly-Catholic Poland banned abortions in most circumstances and led to huge protests. Calls to an abortion support hotline in the country have increased more than five-fold since the ruling.

The  verdict restricting access to abortion went into effect in January, three months after it sparked nationwide protests.

Under the ruling, abortions are now only permitted in cases of rape and incest, and when the mother’s life or health is endangered, pushing Poland further from the European mainstream.

2. South Korea

A 2019 constitutional court ruling struck down a decades-long ban on abortion. That forced the government to propose new legislation in October that would allow abortion up to 14 weeks  and in some cases up to 24 weeks.

The proposal has yet to be voted on and implemented.

3. United States

Outgoing President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett – a devout Catholic favored by conservatives – was confirmed in October. Rights advocates worry her appointment could tip the bench towards overturning a landmark 1973 ruling that said women had a right to abortion.

A case involving access to medical abortion drugs is currently before the court.

4. Slovakia

Last October, the country’s parliament narrowly rejected a bill that would have made it harder to get an abortion. But at least one lawmaker reportedly said she will try again in six months.

5. Thailand

Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled in February that existing laws criminalizing abortion were unconstitutional. Thai lawmakers in January voted in favour of allowing abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy while retaining penalties for later terminations, a move that pro-choice activists said fell short of protecting the rights of the mother.

Under the amendment, an abortion after 12 weeks would be allowed only in certain conditions and would otherwise be punishable by up to six months in prison, or a fine of up to 10,000 baht ($334) or both.

6. Mexico

Legalization proposals have been presented in several state Congress including in Michoacan and Chiapas, with rights activists hoping they will follow Mexico City and Oaxaca which allow abortion up to 12 weeks.

Amnesty requests under a new law for women imprisoned for abortion have not yet been granted. Large protests over abortion and other women’s rights issues are expected to continue.

7. Philippines

In the Philippines – where abortion is illegal and carries a jail term of up to six years – women’s rights groups have drafted a bill to decriminalize abortion, and are looking for a lawmaker to sponsor it.

Past decriminalization efforts have been opposed by the powerful Catholic church.

8. El Salvador

The Central American country, which has a strict outright ban on abortion – even in cases of rape – will likely continue to face pressure from international organizations.

In 2020, a United Nations expert group said three women put in prison under the law were detained unfairly. More than a dozen women have been jailed for abortion-related crimes.

Source: https://news.trust.org/item/20201230133353-lmsat/?fbclid=IwAR2E2qaI3I6BajE5GFvip2FEfhVGQcoLcJSBE3G_mYhwovKHoNGMfTBlSCA

“We [had] a president who centered his work on denial, division and denigration: denial of the pandemic, of climate change and of racism; division between red and blue, white and Black, us versus them politics; and denigration of women, immigrants and the LGBTQ community,” Rep. Katherine Clark (D- Mass.), the newly elected assistant speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told Ms. “But 80 million people voted for change, to restore integrity and truth and science and equality.”

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have their work cut out for them, to say the least. The new administration has pledged in The Biden Agenda for Women to pursue an “aggressive and comprehensive plan to further women’s economic and physical security and ensure that women can fully exercise their civil rights.” It’s part of the Biden blueprint to “build back better,” and after four years of the Trump administration’s destructive roll-backs of women’s rights, it’s about time.

“We cannot squander a moment because the damage is so great,” said Catherine Lhamon, former assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department in the Obama administration and current chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “We need to have a forward-looking plan for how we use every moment of the next four years of the Biden administration to ensure that the safety net that we long have believed in is actually present for people in this country.”

The Biden-Harris administration has already established its ambitious agenda for advancing women’s rights in areas such as health care, reproductive rights, economic security, family life, education and gender-based violence. With this plan in mind, Ms. spoke to leading policymakers, advocates and activists to learn what women can expect—and hope for—in 2021 and beyond.

Health Care and Reproductive Rights

It’s now widely acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women, people of color and lower-income people—who are more likely to experience life-threatening illness because of racial disparities or dangerous work conditions as essential workers, or who may need to care for sick family members or supervise children learning remotely.

“The pandemic has put all the inequities that we knew were there into stark relief,” Clark noted.

Understanding these disparities, Biden and Harris have pledged to take—and are already taking—the public health and economic steps necessary to get the virus under control, to deliver immediate relief to working families and to reopen schools and businesses safely.

Most critically, Biden and Harris will fight ongoing Republican attempts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will battle to expand access to affordable, high-quality health care with a public insurance option for all. And they will reverse former President Donald Trump’s devastating restrictions on access to reproductive health care.

A New Era for Women: The Biden Administration's Vision on Health Care and Reproductive Rights
Last week, President Biden issued an executive order rescinding the Mexico City Policy, also known as the global gag rule. (Twitter / @POTUS)

“The most immediate step should be to publicly express the new administration’s commitment to protect and expand access to comprehensive reproductive health care and uphold reproductive rights, including abortion care in the U.S. and around the world,” said Katherine Gillespie, the senior federal policy counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

With a stroke of a pen, Biden revoked the global gag rule, which blocked U.S. humanitarian assistance to health organizations providing abortion information or referrals to patients. The Biden-Harris administration has also pledged to reverse Trump policies that gutted the ACA’s birth control coverage mandate and his domestic gag rule, which for the first time blocked U.S.-based reproductive health clinics from receiving federal Title X funding if they make referrals to patients for abortion health care. As a result of this policy, Planned Parenthood lost $60 million from its annual budget and the Title X network’s capacity was slashed in half, according to the Guttmacher Institute. 

Gillespie said advocates also hope that Biden will direct the Food and Drug Administration to review and remove unnecessary restrictions on the abortion pill.

To guard against the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, which threatens to obliterate the constitutional right to abortion, Biden and Harris support legislative efforts to protect abortion rights. The Women’s Health Protection Act would codify abortion rights and ban medically unnecessary restrictions. The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which blocks Medicaid coverage for abortion, and prohibit federal, state and local legislators from interfering with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care.

To address the high maternal mortality rate in the U.S.—where Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than non-Hispanic white women—Biden and Harris support the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act. If passed, it would provide grants for maternal mortality review committees, innovative maternity care models and other programs to save women’s lives.

The new administration has pledged to prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from detaining pregnant or postpartum women, and to incentivize states to expand Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage for immigrants. Advocates hope it will also require protection of detainees against reproductive coercion. 

“The Trump administration over the last four years has amounted to an all-out war on immigrants, people of color and women,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. She said she believes that “Biden and Harris share a pro-immigrant vision of America” but that “there is a lot of work to undo the harm of the Trump administration.”

A New Era for Women: The Biden Administration's Vision on Health Care and Reproductive Rights
A pro-choice demonstration during oral arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Wikimedia Commons)

Whereas the Trump administration withdrew U.S. funding for international organizations supporting sexual and reproductive health rights globally, the Biden-Harris administration has rejoined and reendowed the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund, the U.N.’s sexual and reproductive health agency. Biden and Harris support the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (Global HER) Act to permanently repeal the global gag rule and the Helms Amendment, ending the ban on U.S. funding for safe abortion internationally.

Furthermore, the new administration will resume monitoring global human rights abuses that disproportionately impact women and girls, including maternal mortality and unmet contraceptive needs. Advocates also hope that Biden will exit the anti-abortion Geneva Consensus Declaration, a global pact the Trump administration cosponsored and signed that disavows the international human right to abortion, and rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Committee in promoting safe, legal and affordable access to sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion.

Source: https://msmagazine.com/2021/02/03/biden-harris-health-care-reproductive-rights-abortion-gag-rule-maternal-mortality/?fbclid=IwAR0r5yhhrLH-B1Hqjj1qw_eV2XzNiY7FBxuj3_tE9xnmPRbd9QGHWvju49U

Our son was gone. It was nothing I had done.
 Shutterstock/RNG illustration

In Letters to My Abortion, Rewire News Group elevates the voices that matter most: people who’ve had abortions.

My son’s name was Giovanni. He had onesies, diapers, a nursery, and stuffies all waiting for him. His sisters drew pictures to decorate his room and sang songs to my belly. His father kissed us all goodbye every time he left.

We were the ideal family: 2.5 children, four dogs, and a modest home that featured build-it-yourself furniture. Gio was loved. Everything was perfect.

I was literally singing and smiling as I walked into the bathroom that morning. We had just seen Daddy off to work, the kids and I were prepping to bake a cake, the windows were open, the playlist was fuego.

Perfect.

Perfect went out the window when I saw the blood. Hours later, doctors confirmed what we already knew.

Our son was gone.

They were so sorry. It was nothing I had done. They told us we could take a few moments to ourselves and someone would come back to address any questions we had.

Those few moments would become the only time I was able to grieve for my son disconnected from the political process. The politics of abortion didn’t apply to us—or so we thought. We were about to learn exactly how much abortion laws apply to wanted pregnancies.

The doctors told us I would need help “passing the products of conception”—medical speak for my son’s body—since I was so far along, but that they could not help me there. I needed an abortion and that was, essentially, against the law.

Yes, the hospital had a labor and delivery department.

Yes, there were doctors available who knew what I needed and how to do it.

Yes, the medical professionals and I agreed on what the best course of action was for my health.

But no, they could not help.

The word “abortion” means the premature exit of the products of conception—why or how they exit makes no difference. It’s an abortion in the eyes of medicine and the law.

My son had died, and I needed help to remove his body before it made sick. A medical professional had to look me in the eye and explain that they could not do their job because policymakers said no; because that job was to provide an abortion.

There’s never a good time for your child to die, but this was an added layer of complication I wasn’t ready for. Hospital staff laid out my options:

I could find an OB-GYN to take me as a new patient, confirm my son was dead, and then schedule the procedure to remove his body. Or I could go home and wait for his decay to make me sick enough to require emergency intervention, and then I could come back. (Since I had no fever or signs of sepsis, I was not considered an emergency case.)

The doctors couldn’t just wheel me to another room to have the medical procedure that I needed because my son’s corpse had more say over my body than I did. I couldn’t just schedule the procedure for a later point with whichever doctor was available. There was red tape I needed to cut through.

We were naive and ill-prepared for what we would be up against. We truly thought it would be easy.

Doctors help—and I needed heartbreaking help. My condition was dangerous—physically, psychologically, and emotionally. We believed that any OB-GYN who took our insurance would tell us to come right in.

How could it not be easy? Who wouldn’t want to help us?

We were not ready for what happened next.

The first place I called hung up on me. Another place turned us away and locked the office doors behind us. More than one person called me a monster who would go to hell for wanting an abortion so late.

I didn’t want an abortion. I wanted my son, but he was gone. I needed an abortion.None of what happened to me was necessary. There were so many points where passionate—or even just medically accurate—policies would have changed everything.

None of what happened to me was necessary. There were so many points where compassionate—or even just medically accurate—policies would have changed everything.

I wanted to live and be a mother to my other kids. I wanted to grieve for my baby. I wanted to cry in my partner’s arms over all of the dreams that stopped along with our son’s heartbeat. I wanted to hold my babies while they mourned the baby brother they were so excited for.

I didn’t ask or expect to be stuck in the splash zone of “the abortion issue.” Giovanni wasn’t supposed to be an abortion.

But I was stuck. I was repeatedly denied medical care that I needed for my own health. My son’s body had a right to rot inside of me. My right to be alive and healthy didn’t matter. My right to my body didn’t matter. My living children’s right to have a mother didn’t matter.

I wish I could tell you we found a loving and compassionate provider, but we didn’t.

It took a long time to find help, and when we finally found someone willing to talk to us, they wouldn’t perform an abortion. I was forced to labor and deliver my son vaginally because “it’s policy.”

They didn’t care that none of my previous children had been vaginal deliveries. They ignored my medical history. I labored without pain management.

There are some things even abortion storytellers won’t share readily; the finer details of our medical abuse and humiliation are mine. I’ll just say that I honestly don’t know how long labor went. However long it was, I was in pain the entire time due to a misplaced epidural. When I complained, they called me a liar who demonstrated drug-seeking behavior.

Pain and fever have a way of pulling at your mind like taffy. Hours passed in screams and sobs.

I was able to push his little body out, but the placenta would not budge, no matter how many contraction-inducing meds or “manual attempts” they tried.

Well after my son had died and we had endured harassment, embarrassment, shaming, psychological trauma, unspeakable heartbreak, and hours spent in painful and medically traumatic vaginal labor, I found myself walking (yes, walking: turns out I wasn’t drug-seeking—the epidural truly had no affect) into an operating room to get the medical procedure that the initial team of doctors wanted to do in the first damn place.

I had been forced to wait so long that the surgery was more difficult and dangerous than it ever needed to be. “Extra efforts” needed to be taken to bring me back, but I have no idea what those “efforts” were or how “extra” things got.

None of what happened to me was necessary. There were so many points where compassionate—or even just medically accurate—policies would have changed everything.

Medical professionals knew what needed to be done. I consented. This story should have ended there; I should have been able to get an abortion, and we should have been able to grieve the death of our baby. But policy and legislation said no because my son’s dead body had “rights.”

Those policies didn’t honor him or protect his body. They did the exact opposite by delaying his removal to the point that his body was no longer “salvageable.”

Salvageable.

I asked if anything could be donated, if any use or good could come from his passing, and a doctor had to tell me that he had been dead far too long, decomposition had already set in, and nothing would be salvageable.

My son’s body wasn’t “salvageable,” but I was still forced to carry it around inside of me and then vaginally deliver it in order to protect its rights.

Someone’s political agenda forced doctors to look at me and say, “We want to help you, but our hands are tied.”

Conversations around abortion have been weaponized so much that we don’t even stop to think about what abortion really is. It’s just health care.

I almost died because I was denied access to the safe and healthy abortion of my already-dead son. In the United States. In 2018.

Why? How? Was this ever going to stop happening?

We made our way through a sea of police as we left the hospital. Far-right pipe bomb terrorist Cesar Sayoc was being arrested 1.3 miles down the street.

Giovanni Fazio was disposed of as medical waste.

Source: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2021/02/05/the-dead-son-in-my-womb-had-more-rights-than-i-did/?fbclid=IwAR1107HbTbwqFydT66BlcSSdphy2CxTqtx9fwoCHW_h3pu2cAsN3_nK51gs