Biden Signs Second Executive Order to Protect U.S. Abortion Access
The Guardian, August 3, 2022
Joe Biden signed a second executive order on Wednesday that aims to protect access to reproductive healthcare after the US supreme court struck down the constitutional right to abortion. Most significantly, the order directs the health and human services department to consider ways to expand coverage for patients traveling out of state for reproductive healthcare. Biden’s order does not detail how this could be achieved; currently, government-subsidized Medicaid health insurance plans cover medically necessary abortions in only 16 states and do not reimburse patients who leave their state to seek an abortion. A senior administration official told the Guardian that HHS will soon have more details on provisions to help women served by Medicaid health coverage cover certain costs of traveling for reproductive care. Following the supreme court’s June decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that codified abortion rights for half a century, the procedure is now banned in at least 10 states and partially banned in another four. Bans and restrictions are being legally challenged in several other states, with abortion rights in about half the country under threat. On Tuesday, abortion rights were on the ballot in Kansas, where voters overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would pave the way for abortion restrictions. Republicans “don’t have a clue about the power of American women,” Biden said prior to signing his order. “Last night in Kansas they found out.” People in states where abortions are restricted or clinics are scarce have been more frequently pushed across state lines to seek treatment. Many are unable to afford to do so – or are turning to non-profit abortion funds to help defray the costs. This latest order, which Biden signed at the kick-off meeting for an interagency taskforce on reproductive rights led by Kamala Harris, will also direct HHS to help health workers navigate the confusing and shifting rules on abortion care following the supreme court decision, and track maternal and reproductive health outcomes to better assess the impacts of the court’s decision.
Here’s How Abortion Rights Supporters Won in Conservative Kansas
The New York Times, August 3, 2022
Supporters of abortion rights won a huge and surprising victory on Tuesday in one of the most conservative states in the country, with Kansas voters resoundingly rejecting a constitutional amendment that would have let state legislators ban or significantly restrict abortion. Results were still coming in as the night wore on, but with more than 90 percent of ballots counted, the pro-abortion-rights side was ahead by about 18 percentage points, a staggering margin in a state that voted for President Donald J. Trump in 2020 by a margin of just under 15 percentage points. Here is a look at what happened. Abortion opponents underperformed even in conservative areas. Going into Election Day, many observers believed the outcome of the referendum would be determined in increasingly Democratic areas like the Kansas City suburbs — that is, by whether enough voters turned out there to compensate for the very conservative lean of the rest of the state. But abortion opponents did surprisingly poorly even in the reddest places. Consider far western Kansas, a rural region along the Colorado border that votes overwhelmingly Republican. In Hamilton County, which voted 81 percent for Mr. Trump in 2020, less than 56 percent chose the anti-abortion position on Tuesday (with about 90 percent of the vote counted there). In Greeley County, which voted more than 85 percent for Mr. Trump, only about 60 percent chose the anti-abortion position. We can talk about the cities all day long, but Kansas is known as a rural Republican state for a reason: Rural Republican areas cover enough of the state that they can, and almost always do, outvote the cities. The rejection of the amendment has as much to do with lukewarm support in the reddest counties as it does with strong opposition in the bluest ones. Yes, the swing areas swung left. Certainly, though, the cities and suburbs deserve some credit. The comparatively slim margins of victory for abortion opponents in western Kansas left the door wide open, but abortion rights supporters still had to walk through it, and they did. Wyandotte County, home to Kansas City, Kan., voted 65 percent for Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020, but 74 percent for abortion rights on Tuesday.
The Justice Department Sues Idaho Over Its Abortion Ban, Citing ‘Medical Emergency’ Violation
The 19th, August 2, 2022
In its first legal action to protect abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Idaho. The state’s trigger law, set to take effect on August 25, would ban nearly all abortions and make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide emergency medical treatment. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the lawsuit in a press conference on Tuesday and said that Idaho’s trigger law would violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires any emergency departments that receive Medicare funds to treat emergency medical conditions regardless of a patient’s insurance status or ability to pay. And according to the Supremacy Clause in the constitution, Garland noted, federal law takes precedence over state laws when they conflict. “In the days since the Dobbs decision, there have been widespread reports of delays and denials of treatment to pregnant women experiencing medical emergencies,” Garland said, referring to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that led to Roe‘s reversal. “Today, the Justice Department’s message is clear: It does not matter what state a hospital subject to EMTALA operates in. If the patient comes into the emergency room with a medical emergency, jeopardizing the patient’s life or health, the hospital must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that patient — this includes abortion.” According to the lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in Idaho, the United States says Idaho’s law violates the constitution and conflicts with federal law. The federal government also seeks to stop Idaho from criminalizing physicians or putting them in such a precarious legal situation that they may be afraid to provide emergency medical treatment to pregnant people. If appealed, the lawsuit will go to the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, a court that has been traditionally liberal but that also saw an influx of conservative judges under President Donald Trump’s administration.
At Least 43 Abortion Clinics Shut in Month After Supreme Court Overturned Roe, Research Says, With More Likely to Close
CNN, July 28, 2022
At least 43 abortion clinics have shut their doors in the 30 days since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, according to new research. The research was published Thursday by the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization focused on sexual and reproductive health that supports abortion rights. The closures are concentrated in the South and Midwest, regions that have banned or significantly restricted access to abortion. Guttmacher predicts that the state of abortion access, already “dire,” will get even worse as more states ban abortion in the coming weeks and months. “We knew that bad things were going to come off the decision when it came out on Friday, the 24th, and unfortunately, we’re not particularly surprised,” said Rachel K. Jones, a principal research scientist with Guttmacher who worked on the report. There was one element of the closures that was a surprise, said Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst with the organization who worked on the report. “Even before Dobbs fell, we knew this would happen, but I think the speed of the closings is a little bit surprising to everybody,” Nash said. “It’s happening lightning quick.” The landscape for abortion access has changed dramatically since the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health late last month. The opinion ended a US constitutional right to an abortion, giving states the green light to implement bans or extreme limits on the procedure. Since then, several states have sought to enforce abortion restrictions that were previously on the books but blocked by federal court orders or that were designed to go into effect if the Supreme Court reversed its abortion rights precedent. Abortion providers have had some success getting those bans blocked in state court in a handful of places, but in at least 11 states, laws restricting abortion at about six weeks into pregnancy or banning it outright have been allowed to go into effect. As of July 24, according to Guttmacher, seven states have been able to enact complete bans on abortion: Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. Four states have implemented restrictions on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy: Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee.
‘We Were Forced’: Abortion Clinics Move Across State Lines to Stay Open
Rewire News Group, August 1, 2022
As soon as news broke that the Supreme Court would hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the team at CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health began seriously considering a second location in a state where abortion would remain legal should the Court overturn Roe v. Wade. Tennessee’s “trigger” law meant that abortion would be banned in the state after Roe was overturned. The plan for a second CHOICES location was solidifying in December 2021, by the time the Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “We had provided abortions for almost 4,000 people that year,” CHOICES President and CEO Jennifer Pepper said. “We knew those folks were going to need somewhere to go.” That’s why, shortly after the majority draft opinion was leaked in early May, CHOICES was prepared to announce a new location in Carbondale, Illinois that will be state’s southernmost abortion provider. Carbondale is about three hours by car from both Memphis and Nashville, and it’s also accessible by Amtrak. In addition to its relative accessibility for abortion seekers traveling from the Southeast, the location is critical because Illinois is relatively protective of abortion access, but is surrounded by states that are expected to ban abortion (or, in the case of Missouri, already have). CHOICES hopes to open its newest clinic in September. The Memphis center will continue to provide sexual and reproductive health services even after Tennessee’s “trigger” law goes into effect August 25, outlawing abortion. Knowing this moment would eventually come, Pepper said she’s been communicating with staff about their options since January. Those who had been involved with providing abortion care may relocate to work in Carbondale, while others will stay in Memphis and be retrained in other services, like birthing. Pepper said CHOICES delivered just under 100 babies last year after opening a birthing center in 2020. “This year we’re on track to almost double that. Ultimately, we want to be doing about 450 births a year,” Pepper said. CHOICES also hopes to expand access to other services it already provides in Memphis, including gender-affirming care, gynecology, and general wellness.
ICYMI: In Case You Missed It
Julie Rikelman, who has spent her career fighting for reproductive rights, is exactly the kind of person we need in our nation’s courts during such a critical time. Thank you @POTUS for this important and monumental nomination https://t.co/TTbRbX5lgH
— National Partnership (@NPWF) August 1, 2022
Note: The information contained in this publication reflects media coverage of women’s health issues and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Partnership for Women & Families.