NEWS: Twenty governors are forming a new coalition to support abortion rights

by | Feb 23, 2023 | Repro Health Watch

Twenty Governors Are Forming a New Coalition to Support Abortion Rights

The Washington Post, February 20, 2023

Governors supporting abortion rights are forming a new coalition aimed at expanding and protecting access to the procedure, according to details shared with The Health 202. The Reproductive Freedom Alliance will create a more formal structure for governors to regularly collaborate on work to shore up abortion rights, such as administrative actions, budgetary moves and bills moving through state legislatures. It’s also aimed at allowing for a more coordinated response to major decisions with a nationwide impact, such as the lawsuit looming in Texas that could revoke the decades-old government approval of a key abortion drug. Twenty governors are joining the new alliance, which was initiated by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and bills itself as nonpartisan, though only Democratic governors have joined as of this morning. “Each state has a somewhat different political makeup,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who pledged to veto any abortion restrictions the state’s Republican-controlled legislature sends to his desk, said in an interview. “But at the same time, forming this alliance can help us use all of our resources to fight for women’s reproductive freedom from coast to coast.” The new coalition builds on a pact three West Coast states — California, Oregon and Washington — made to protect abortion rights the day the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion in June. And it could lay the groundwork for Democratic states to fight efforts to roll back President Biden’s abortion-related policies if a Republican wins the White House in 2024. The details: The governors involved in the alliance hail from states with Democratic trifectas — such as New Jersey, Illinois and Michigan — as well as those with divided governments like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Other states participating are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington. The idea is for staff of the governors to meet at least once a month and for the governors to meet in person once or twice a year. The alliance has secured at least six-figure totals in contributions to date, with major funding coming from the California Wellness Foundation, a large public health philanthropic institution in the state, along with other financial support from the Rosenberg Foundation, which provides grants for policies aimed at promoting racial and economic justice.

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‘A Slippery Slope’: A Looming Nationwide Abortion Pill Ban Could Undermind the Entire Drug Approval System

STAT, February 23, 2023

Soon after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a former Republican congressman made what might sound like an unusual offer. Did abortion pill makers want him to try to get federal legislation passed to explicitly stop states from restricting medications that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration? His concern was about more than abortion pills themselves. After his stint in Congress, Jim Greenwood had spent 15 years as the president and CEO of one of the biopharma industry’s main lobbying groups. He figured that the 20-year-old approval of mifepristone might be in jeopardy. If an attempted ban prevailed in court, he knew, it could undermine the country’s infrastructure for evaluating all drugs. “Could states ban vaccines of one kind or another? It’s a slippery slope,” he said, adding, “There are lots of anti-vaxxers in lots of state legislatures.” Companies expressed interest in his proposal — but that sort of bill would need broad support, and Greenwood ran out of time before Democrats lost the House. And the scenario he worried about is now looming, not only in red states, but in the nation as a whole. An ultra-conservative federal judge, appointed by former President Trump, is presiding over a closely watched case challenging the FDA approval of mifepristone. If he sides with the anti-abortion groups that filed the lawsuit, the decision could potentially set a sweeping precedent. “We’re talking about a judge who is a non-scientist overriding an agency full of experts about the safety and efficacy of a drug,” said Greer Donley, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School. “That, to my knowledge, has never happened before.” Uncertainty abounds. The outcome depends not only on the judge’s ruling, but how he writes it. It will almost certainly be appealed. It may well end up at the Supreme Court, in front of the same justices that overturned Roe. In other words, abortion pills are teetering on the edge of a legal precipice. If they fall, that would entail the immediate loss of the safest, most effective, least invasive method of first-trimester abortion, which is also the safest, most effective, least invasive method of treating miscarriage, an exceedingly common issue.

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The Underground Abortion Pill Network Is Booming

VICE, February 23, 2023

At least 20,000 packets of abortion pills were shipped to people in the United States in the six months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, two sources with knowledge of the situation told VICE News. The suppliers of these estimated 20,000 packets are neither abortion clinics nor abortion telehealth organizations, but instead operate outside of the U.S. legal health care system. The demand for their pills, as well as their success at shipping them out undetected, are evidence of the thriving underground abortion network that has sprung up since Roe’s demise devastated access to abortion clinics. Meant to be used by people who want to induce their own abortions, these pills—and the people who supply them—are in a legal grey area. Self-managing an abortion is only banned in a few states, but experts have long warned that if a prosecutor is determined to press charges for it, they’ll find a way. “People have always self-managed abortions and will always self-manage abortion. We’ll have to continue to fight back against all of the bans and restrictions that are being implemented on people,” said Christie Pitney, a licensed nurse practitioner, a midwife with Forward Midfwery, and co-founder of Abortion Freedom Fund, a fund for telehealth abortions. Referring to self-managed abortion, she added, “it’s just going to grow more and more.” Pitney works with both Aid Access, an organization that mails abortion pills to states where abortion is legal, through providers like Pitney, and to states where it is not, through a doctor who is based overseas. When she started working at Aid Access, where she legally provides abortion pills to people in two states, Pitney estimated that she used to help roughly 60 people get access to abortion pills each month. Now, she said she helps “hundreds” per month. “Those are specifically for myself, not even the whole organization,” said Pitney, who confirmed to VICE News that at least an estimated 20,000 abortion pills were shipped between the June 2022 Roe decision and December 2022. Aid Access is not one of the suppliers included in the 20,000 estimate, suggesting that the true number of abortion pills that have been mailed out through covert channels since the end of Roe is even higher.

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U.S Abortion Rights Groups and Law Firms Launch Legal Defense Network

Reuters, February 23, 2022

Major abortion rights organizations and private law firms have teamed up to provide legal counsel to patients and providers navigating the complicated patchwork of U.S. abortion laws, the groups said on Wednesday. The newly created Abortion Defense Network, which includes such groups as the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said it will match people providing or supporting abortion services to attorneys who can defend them in a rapidly shifting legal landscape. The Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a nearly 50-year-old precedent that established federal abortion rights, has resulted in a dozen states banning abortion almost entirely. Abortion rights advocates are increasingly concerned about those states’ efforts to prosecute patients who are traveling across state lines or self-managing abortions at home, as well as providers whose medical judgment might conflict with state law. “We’ve created the Abortion Defense Network to help those involved with abortion care navigate this confusing and hostile legal landscape,” Jennifer Dalven, Director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the ACLU, said in a statement. The Abortion Defense Network said it will help cover legal expenses in criminal and civil proceedings, but did not immediately respond to questions about their funding and how much they will cover. The group’s launch comes a day after 20 Democratic governors announced they had formed an alliance to protect abortion rights and access within their states. Abortion rights supporters have been largely dissatisfied with the Democratic-led administration’s response to the elimination of abortion access in large swaths of the country. President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to improve access to medication abortion, which involves a federally approved pill, but an upcoming federal court decision could jeopardize that avenue as well. Abortion providers and those supporting abortion patients can seek counsel through the network, while patients will be referred to a helpline already run by If/When/How, one of the network’s advocacy partners. Among the private firms committed to providing legal resources for the network are Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, Goodwin Procter LLP, Hogan Lovells US LLP, O’Melveny & Myers LLP and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

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Americans Were Becoming More Supportive of Abortion Years Before Dobbs, New Report Shows

The 19th, February 23, 2023

Americans have become more supportive of abortion rights over time, and it’s not necessarily tied to the Supreme Court case last summer that overturned federal abortion rights, according to a new study. The nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released a report Thursday that shows support for abortion legality in all or most cases has risen since 2010, with a notable increase beginning in 2020. Fifteen percent of Americans believed in 2010 that abortion should be illegal in all cases — an opinion that only 7 percent of Americans held at the end of 2022. The report summarizes recent results from the American Values Atlas, an annual survey by PRRI. This year’s survey was conducted online from March to December 2022, and the report also includes findings from a one-off survey in June. The main survey has a nationally representative sample size of 22,984 adults in all states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is 0.8 percentage points. PRRI’s more extensive survey shows abortion attitudes haven’t changed much since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in June that effectively repealed Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave people the right to an abortion. Sixty-four percent of Americans surveyed in March 2022 said they felt abortion should be legal. In June, that figure was 65 percent. Surveys fielded in August, September and December showed a variance of only a few percentage points. As previous polling has shown, Americans across many demographic groups support abortion legality in all or most cases. The majority of all racial and ethnic groups support abortion rights, and those views didn’t change over 2022. The report also shows that a vast majority of LGBTQ+ Americans support abortion rights in all or most cases (83 percent), compared with 63 percent of cisgender heterosexual Americans. The majority of women and men also support abortion in all or most cases (65 percent and 62 percent respectively). There is no nonbinary data in the survey report. The data reveals the increase in support for abortion legality has been driven in part by Democrats: In 2010, Democrats’ support for abortion in most or all cases was at 71 percent.

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