NEWS: Illinois to invest more than $23 million in abortion access

| Aug 3, 2023

Illinois to Invest More Than $23 Million in Abortion Access

Illinois Times, August 3, 2023

As another of the states bordering Illinois is set to enact a near-total abortion ban this week, Gov. JB Pritzker on July 31 announced several new programs to help address the influx of out-of-state abortion seekers the state has seen in the 13 months since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. On Tuesday, Aug. 1, Indiana was scheduled to join Missouri and Kentucky with a near-total ban on the procedure, but courts put a hold on the law going into effect while legal issues are being decided. Meanwhile, court battles are ongoing over Republican attempts to restrict abortion in Iowa and Wisconsin. “While our neighboring states revert to forcing back-alley abortions, Illinois will remain a safe haven for women,” Pritzker said Monday at an event in Chicago announcing the investments. “And I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure widespread equitable access to reproductive rights.” To expand Illinois’ capacity to care for the sharp increase in abortion-seekers, the state’s Department of Public Health will spend $10 million to create a hotline to aid callers in finding providers and making appointments. Pritzker had proposed the funding in February, and Democratic lawmakers included it in the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget this spring. The hotline is in its beginning stages as IDPH puts out a request for proposals. The state’s spending plan also included $8 million in additional training for reproductive health care providers and a specialty consultation program for at-risk patients. And on Monday, Pritzker said the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will open a $5 million grant program for reproductive health care providers in Illinois. That money comes from the non-transportation portion of Illinois’ $45 billion infrastructure program, Rebuild Illinois. It can be spent on improvements, repairs, new construction, security upgrades and equipment, including vehicles that can be turned into mobile care units. Additionally, Pritzker announced a new collaborative meant to help patients who need more complex reproductive health care.

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The Future of Abortion in Florida Could Hinge on Hispanic Voters

The 19th, July 31, 2023

The campaign to secure abortion rights in Florida and create a haven for access in the South is facing a tough road to success. To build a winning coalition, rallying support from the state’s Hispanic voters will be crucial. A proposed ballot measure, backed by a coalition of reproductive rights groups under the banner Floridians Protecting Freedom, would guarantee the right to an abortion until fetal viability. Backers are racing against time to get a million Florida voters to sign a petition to say they want it on the ballot. Then they must rally 60 percent of the vote in the November 2024 elections — the threshold to change the state constitution. The campaign will have to navigate the erosion of support for Democrats in the state and overcome Republicans’ grip, which led to the six-week abortion ban signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis last spring. None of that is possible in this state without engaging Hispanic voters, who make up more than a fifth of the state’s electorate and who swung toward the GOP in 2022. The task will require the kind of extensive grassroots organizing and culturally competent Spanish-language messaging liberal campaigns in Florida have been lacking for years, experts and grassroots advocates told The 19th. Based on recent elections and ongoing efforts to hamper the campaign, it’s clear that conservative anti-abortion activists will not readily cede any ground on Hispanic voters. “We’re working on this ballot initiative, and there’s a whole group of folks that we’re historically not getting to because we’re not talking to them in Spanish or in a way that resonates,” said Charo Valero, who is spearheading efforts to reach Spanish-dominant Hispanic voters in Florida for the campaign backing the amendment. “It’s become the perfect urgency to do something that has suffered from a lack of infrastructure, lack of investment and lack of leaders for a long time. “This ballot initiative is the only thing giving me hope in the state of Florida.”

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Federal Judge Blocks Interpretation of Idaho Law That Prohibits Out-of-State Abortion Referrals

The Hill, August 1, 2023

A federal judge in Idaho has granted a preliminary injunction to block an opinion from the state’s attorney general prohibiting referrals from physicians for out-of-state abortions, even though the opinion had already been withdrawn. Idaho has some of the harshest abortion restrictions in the U.S., with the termination of pregnancy being banned except for cases that threaten the mother’s life, or in cases of rape or incest where an incident has been reported to law enforcement. In March, Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador (R) sent a letter to Idaho state Rep. Brent Crane (R), clarifying the extent of the state’s abortion laws. Labrador wrote in the letter that Idaho state law “prohibits an Idaho medical provider from either referring a woman across state lines to access abortion services or prescribing abortion pills for the woman to pick up across state lines.” U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Monday granted an injunction requested by health care providers including Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI) to block this interpretation of the law. “While we’re glad to see this outcome, the truth is that we should never have gotten to this point. The legal opinion issued by Attorney General Labrador was the result of Rep. Crane partnering with an extremist anti-abortion group to try to game the system, and all parties are complicit in denying Idaho patients critical medical information since the letter was shared,” PPGNHI CEO Rebecca Gibron said in a statement. This letter was meant to be private and was not issued as formal guidance, but the anti-abortion group Stanton International obtained the letter and posted it on its website. The attorney general later withdrew the opinion and said his letter was “mischaracterized as law enforcement guidance sent out publicly to local prosecutors and others.” Despite Labrador’s withdrawal, the plaintiffs in the case expressed concerns that this interpretation of the law might still be enforced, leading to physicians incorrectly being found in violation.

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What to Know About Ohio’s Abortion Ballot Initiative

TIME, August 2, 2023

In Ohio, Democrats are trying to add abortion protections to the state constitution through a ballot initiative. But Republicans are attempting to block the move in the political bellwether state by raising the threshold for a ballot initiative to succeed. In an August 8 special election, voters will decide whether ballot initiatives need to pass with 60 percent of the vote instead of the current simple majority; this vote takes place before Ohioans head to the polls in November for the abortion measure. That could make all the difference for abortion rights in the state: A USA Today/Suffolk University survey that polled 500 likely voters in July found that 58% supported a constitutional amendment that would add abortion protections. An Ohio Northern University poll of registered voters conducted in July found that neither side had majority support—with 42.4% approving of Issue 1, the measure to increase the passing margin, and 41% disapproving. Abortion is currently legal in Ohio until fetal viability, around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy, but isn’t protected by the state constitution. The state enacted an abortion ban that kicked in at around six weeks of pregnancy after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year but a lower court issued a stay; that ruling is being appealed. The proposed constitutional amendment would preserve the ability for abortion to occur until viability. Here’s what to know about the fight over Ohio’s proposed ballot initiative. The proposed amendment to codify abortion rights in the state constitution would ensure a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom” with “reasonable limits”. Restrictions would apply after a fetus’ viability outside the womb, which was the standard under Roe v. Wade. Abortion-rights activists collected more than 700,000 signatures to secure a November 7 ballot initiative. As of July 25, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said nearly 496,000 of those were valid signatures, which was enough to put the amendment to a vote.

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Abortion Providers Sue Alabama to Block Prosecution Over Out-of-State Travel

Reuters, July 31, 2023

Healthcare providers and an abortion rights group on Monday sued Alabama in an effort to block the state from criminally prosecuting people who help others travel out of state to get abortions. In a lawsuit filed in Montgomery, Alabama federal court, the West Alabama Women’s Center, the Alabama Women’s Center and its medical director Yashica Robinson said any such prosecutions would violate a basic right to travel between states under the U.S. Constitution. The Yellowhammer Fund filed a separate, similar lawsuit. Alabama in 2019 passed the Human Life Protection Act, a law banning nearly all abortions. The law took effect last year after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its previous ruling in Roe v. Wade that had guaranteed abortion rights nationwide. Before that ruling, the healthcare providers suing the state had provided abortions, and the Yellowhammer Fund had helped people raise money to obtain the procedure, according the lawsuits. Both lawsuits cited remarks made by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in an August 2022 radio interview that Alabamans who help others travel to states where abortion is legal in order to obtain them could be prosecuted as criminal accomplices. The healthcare providers said the threat of prosecution prevents them from advising patients about where they could travel to get abortions, and the Yellowhammer Fund said it had been forced to shut down its abortion funding in Alabama. “When we cannot share information with patients about all of their options during pregnancy, including those options that are legal and available outside Alabama, the physician-patient relationship is put in jeopardy and our patients are harmed,” Robin Marty, operations director at West Alabama Women’s Center, said in a statement. “Attorney General Marshall will continue to vigorously enforce Alabama laws protecting unborn life which include the Human Life Protection Act,” Amanda Priest, a spokesperson for Marshall, said in an email. “That includes abortion providers conspiring to violate the Act.”

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