NEWS: Abortion rights are at the forefront of midterm elections this November

by | Oct 20, 2022 | Repro Health Watch

Abortion Rights Are at the Forefront of Midterm Elections This November

Prism, October 19, 2022

The fate of abortion rights and abortion access will be determined this November at the state and local level during midterm elections. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June of this year, most abortions have been banned in 14 states and are actively threatened in seven. Now, voters will directly influence the future of abortion in five states, while local gubernatorial and judicial races across the country will similarly shape the makeup of each state’s abortion access—either acting as stopgaps between the state and abortion bans or paving the way for expanding an already staggering abortion desert. “It’s never been a more important time for voters to really make our voices heard, and the time is now for candidates to have the boldest plans that they can have on abortion rights and access,” said Morgan Hopkins, interim executive director of campaigns and strategies at All* Above All. “It’s not enough to say that you would restore protections or restore the right to abortion, especially if you were in a state that has had restrictions for decades. We really need to see full, comprehensive policy platforms from all candidates running for office.” All eyes will be on battleground states like Pennsylvania and Florida, where conservative legislators have continuously threatened abortion rights. In Pennsylvania, the GOP-controlled General Assembly has repeatedly tried to pass an abortion ban. In July, they sidestepped Democratic and pro-abortion Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto power by approving a constitutional amendment that would allow for a statewide abortion ban in the future. With Wolf’s term ending this January 2023, voters will have to choose between two gubernatorial candidates with starkly different positions on abortion access. “We have a really consequential midterm election here in Pennsylvania, and the potential outcomes are pretty scary,” said Julie Zaebst, senior policy advocate for ACLU of Pennsylvania. “We’ve had an anti-abortion majority in our state legislature for a long time. For many years, the only thing that stood between us and abortion restrictions and bans in this state has been the governor’s veto.” According to Zaebst, if Pennsylvania elects an anti-abortion governor on top of the existing anti-abortion majority, they could see access to abortion vanish overnight as early as January. In addition to the gubernatorial race, voters will determine the fate of nationwide abortion restrictions through the U.S. Senate race.

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Covert Network Provides Pills for Thousands of Abortions in U.S. Post Roe

The Washington Post, October 18, 2022

Monica had never used Reddit before. But sitting at her desk one afternoon in July — at least 10 weeks into an unwanted pregnancy in a state that had banned abortion — she didn’t know where else to turn. “I need advice I am not prepared to have a child,” the 25-year-old wrote from her office, once everyone else had left for the day. She titled her post, “PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!” Within hours, she got a private message from an anonymous Reddit user. If Monica sent her address, the person promised, they would mail abortion pills “asap for free.” Monica didn’t know it at the time, but her Reddit post connected her to a new facet of the battle for abortion access: the rise of a covert, international network delivering tens of thousands of abortion pills in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down Roe v. Wade. The emerging network — fueled by the widespread availability of medication abortion — has made the illegal abortions of today simpler and safer than those of the pre-Roe era, remembered for its back alleys and coat hangers. Distinct from services that sell pills to patients on the internet, a growing army of community-based distributors is reaching pregnant women through word of mouth or social media to supply pills for free — though typically without the safeguards of medical oversight. “You’re truly [an] angel,” Monica wrote in a string of messages reviewed by The Washington Post. “I think tonight will be the first night i will actually be able to sleep.” This account of the illegal abortion movement that has grown quickly since the Supreme Court ruling is based on interviews with 16 people with firsthand knowledge of the operation, and includes on-the-ground reporting in four U.S. cities and Mexico. Many who spoke to The Post did so on the condition of anonymity to discuss activity that potentially breaks multiple laws, such as practicing medicine without a license and providing abortions in states where the procedure is banned. The Post was permitted to observe distributors handling pills in antiabortion states on the added condition that their locations not be identified. Those interviewed described a pipeline that typically begins in Mexico, where activist suppliers funded largely by private donors secure pills for free as in-kind donations or from international pharmacies for as little as $1.50 a dose. U.S. volunteers then receive the pills through the mail — often relying on legal experts to help minimize their risk — before distributing them to pregnant women in need.

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First Look: Biden Backs Federal Fund for Abortion Support

Axios, October 20, 2022

President Biden would support a federal fund for people who need to take time off work and pay for childcare to obtain an abortion, he said in an interview forum with NowThis that will air Sunday on social media. Why it matters: It’s one of his strongest public comments in favor of federal support for those seeking abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Details: Biden was responding to a question from Danielle Mathisen, a 26-year-old medical resident, who noted that some companies have begun helping their workers pay for abortions and asked whether Biden would support federal funding for the same services. “The answer is absolutely … I do support that, and I’ve publicly urged companies to do that. I’ve urged them publicly as president of the United States saying, ‘This is what you should be doing,” he said. “I urge you to do it because there’s so many, and imagine the women who need that kind of assistance, but have no money at all to be able to do this. None. How, how — what do they do? They don’t have the option,” Biden said. Between the lines: The interview represents a strategic effort by the president to communicate to young voters about various social issues ahead of the midterms. NowThis has a significant social media presence, with over 80 million followers across its Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram accounts. The majority of its followers across TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat are under 35. The company was founded in 2012 as a millennial-oriented video brand that focused on social change content and newsmaker interviews with mostly progressive politicians. The company interviewed every major Democratic candidate for president last presidential cycle. What to watch: The interview, which was taped on Tuesday, will debut Sunday across NowThis’ social media channels. It was part of a wider forum moderated by NowThis correspondent Alejandro Alba. President Biden spoke with six young adults about six key issues this election cycle, including abortion access, trans rights, criminal justice reform, gun safety, economic insecurity, and climate injustice.

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‘Am I a Felon?’ The Fall of Roe v. Wade Has Permanently Changed the Doctor-Patient Relationship

TIME, October 17, 2022

Winchester is just one of many doctors throughout the country struggling to navigate the complicated and rapidly shifting legal landscape of abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. With abortion rights now left up to the states, physicians and other medical providers are confused about what services they are legally allowed to provide, often forced to consult lawyers on decisions they used to be able to make on their own, and scared for their patients’ lives…TIME spoke with more than a dozen doctors, health care lawyers, and hospital ethics committee members in nine states, who all said their efforts to interpret state laws are failing to clarify the chaos of conflicting, sometimes century-old or hastily written laws. Those laws have created new regulations, reporting requirements, penalties, and definitions that many argue do not take into account the complex and inherently dangerous reality of pregnancy. For a half-century, physicians have provided abortions to treat a wide range of medical situations including hemorrhaging, miscarriages and even cancer. Now 14 states ban or tightly restrict abortion, with at least 10 other laws tied up in court. Most provide only narrow exceptions. The laws are often vague, and the few that try to spell out conditions that qualify for abortions do not cover all possibilities. Doctors say they are being forced to navigate legal concepts they don’t have the training for while being prohibited from using their own expertise to treat patients. Attorneys with little experience in reproductive health care say they are likewise scrambling to understand complex medical situations and develop procedures for ever-growing lists of complications, knowing their guidance could be challenged any time someone disagrees with their interpretation of untested laws. Many warn the dynamic will permanently change the doctor-patient relationship. While some physicians and lawyers have spoken out about this dynamic, many others are afraid to do so. Some universities and hospitals have told their staff not to give interviews about abortion, while others have made it clear they would rather their staff not speak publicly or have said they can only do so without identifying their employer. Doctors and lawyers at major private and public institutions in multiple states told TIME they weren’t comfortable speaking about their handling of abortion post-Roe, and many of those who did said they would only do so as private citizens, unaffiliated with their official positions.

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What It’s Like Being an Abortion Doula in a State With Restrictive Laws

NPR, October 19, 2022

In the hectic days after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Ash Williams, an abortion doula, welcomed panicked pregnant people into North Carolina’s abortion clinics. His job has become even more challenging after the state tightened its abortion laws. In general, an abortion doula is a person who provides support to a patient, and the term is often used to describe someone who gives guidance during labor. As an abortion doula, Williams provides physical, emotional or financial help to people seeking to end a pregnancy. If he can, Williams does all three. “My goal is to get people the best abortion they can have because I know that it is possible,” Williams said…Demanding gender-affirming care: For years, North Carolina was an abortion safe haven, especially for people of color in bordering states with more restrictive abortion policies. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, North Carolina was poised to become the nearest provider of abortions to an additional 11.2 million women from surrounding states, under the most restrictive scenario. That’s according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. But in August, U.S. District Judge William Osteen lifted a three-year injunction, forcing North Carolinians to travel elsewhere for an abortion after 20 weeks, or carry out a pregnancy against their will. Before Osteen’s ruling, people in North Carolina were able to get an abortion before fetal viability — typically sometime between 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. “The 20 week ban came very unprovoked; there was no reason for it,” Williams said. “I really see it as an attack.” With the ban in place, some abortion clinics in North Carolina refuse to treat people who are even 17 weeks pregnant. Now, Williams refers patients later in gestation to clinics outside the state, including as far as Washington D.C. As a transgender man, he intentionally provides gender-affirming care — for example, he insists hospital staff address his clients by their correct names and pronouns. “Trans folks often have to travel [farther] to get a doctor to use their pronouns,” Williams says. “I might be the only one asking, that’s a part of the care as well.” Time is an undue burden: In North Carolina, various restrictions make it difficult to access abortion, including a mandatory 72-hour waiting period and state counseling every pregnant person must undergo. This waiting period was implemented to lead to fewer abortions. Williams said this is one of the longest waiting periods in the country. “Time is an undue burden. It costs more,” Williams said.

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