NEWS: Florida court allows 6-week abortion ban, but voters will get to weigh in

| Apr 4, 2024

Florida Court Allows 6-Week Abortion Ban, but Voters Will Get to Weigh In

The New York Times, April 1, 2024

The Florida Supreme Court overturned decades of legal precedent on Monday in ruling that the State Constitution’s privacy protections do not extend to abortion, effectively allowing Florida to ban the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy. But in a separate decision released at the same time, the justices allowed Florida voters to decide this fall whether to expand abortion access. The court ruled 4 to 3 that a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to abortion “before viability,” usually around 24 weeks, could go on the November ballot. The Florida Supreme Court overturned decades of legal precedent in ruling that the State Constitution’s privacy protections do not extend to abortion, effectively allowing Florida to ban the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy. The rulings encapsulated, in a single state on a single day, how the country has grappled with the abortion issue since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that recognized federal abortion rights in 1973. The conservative-leaning court found 6-1 that a 15-week abortion ban enacted in 2022 was constitutional. That ruling – in response to a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and several abortion providers – will allow a six-week ban enacted last year to take effect by May 1. “Based on our analysis finding no clear right to abortion embodied within the Privacy Clause, Planned Parenthood cannot overcome the presumption of constitutionality and is unable to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the 15-week ban is unconstitutional,” Justice Jamie R. Grosshans wrote in the majority opinion. In paving the way for the six-week ban, the court cemented the rapid transformation of Florida, once a destination for women seeking abortions in the American South, into a place with restrictive policies akin to those in surrounding states.

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The Comstock Act Is a Backdoor Approach to a National Abortion Ban – And Justices Alito and Thomas Are Interested

Ms. Magazine, April 1, 2024

A general consensus seems to have emerged after last week’s oral arguments in FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine that the Supreme Court is likely to rule that the anti-abortion physicians and their umbrella group, the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, lack sufficient legal grounds to challenge the FDA’s 2016 and 2021 loosening of restrictions on the abortion drug mifepristone. Legal standing to bring suit in federal court requires (among other considerations) that the party bringing suit has suffered an actual or threatened injury. Opposition to abortion does not confer standing, no matter how passionate. While dismissal based on a lack of standing would be a welcome result, it is not a guarantee given the Court’s anti-abortion supermajority. But even if this occurs, the apparent zest manifested by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas towards the Comstock Act from 1873 brings a lurking danger fully out into the open. By way of brief background, this Victorian-era purity law was a proud accomplishment of anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock who “believed that anything remotely touching upon sex was … obscene.” Seeking to cleanse the nation of sexual sin, he successfully lobbied Congress to criminalize the sending of obscene materials through mail, which was defined to include birth control and “every article or thing designed, adapted or intended for producing abortion.” The Comstock Act was subsequently amended to further criminalize the conveyance of “obscene” material, by way of common carriers and interactive computer services. During the first half of the 20th century, a series of court decisions narrowed the scope of the Comstock Act. Consequently, according to a 2022 memorandum issued by the Office of Legal Counsel for the Department of Justice, it was no longer understood to “prohibit the conveyance of articles intended for preventing conception or producing an abortion” unless the sender intended for them to be used unlawfully.

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The Coming Birth-Control Revolution

The Atlantic, April 3, 2024

Within the next couple of decades, a new generation of contraceptives could hit the American market. One, a pill that blocks certain cells from accessing vitamin A, might be able to limit fertility without flooding the body with hormones; another is an injection that temporarily blocks up the reproductive plumbing. The method that’s furthest along in trials is a topical gel that promises to induce temporary infertility when smeared daily on the shoulders and upper arms – without affecting mood or libido. “Overall, we don’t have any serious adverse events at all,” Christina Wang, a contraceptive researcher at the Lundquist Institute in California, and one of the developers of the gel, told me. This coming slew of treatments will be notable not only for their imaginative delivery methods, but for their target audience: men. For decades, men hoping to manage their fertility have been limited to just two imperfect options – condoms or vasectomies. But in recent years, researchers have taken massive steps toward developing simple, convenient, and effective contraceptive options for men with virtually zero side effects. Soon, women may not be forced to bear nearly the entire burden of preventing pregnancy. But the coming innovations won’t just be about expanding the menu of options for men. Better male contraception wouldn’t be on the way if not for the many scientific paths that female contraception has paved. Now women’s birth control – much of which still comes with plenty of irksome, sometimes risky, side effects – seems due for some kickbacks. True, the logistics of keeping an egg from exiting an ovary don’t completely overlap with the mechanics of keeping sperm out of the female reproductive tract. But in principle, “there are a lot of similarities,” Diana Blithe, the chief of the NIH’s Contraceptive Development Program, told me, which means one can easily inform the other.

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Woman Who Was Charged With Murder After Abortion Sues Texas Prosecutor

The New York Times, March 30, 2024

A woman in Texas who was falsely charged with murder over a self-induced abortion in 2022 has filed a lawsuit against the local prosecutor’s office and its leaders, seeking more than $1 million in damages. Lizelle Gonzalez was arrested in April 2022 in Starr County, near the southeastern border with Mexico, and charged with murder after using the drug misoprostol to self-induce an abortion, 19 weeks into her pregnancy. She spent two nights in jail before the charge was dropped. Self-induced abortions can refer to those performed outside of professional medical care, including the use of abortion pills. Under Texas law at the time, abortions after six weeks were illegal, but pregnant women are exempt from criminal prosecution. (Health care professionals who provide abortion procedures and medication, and others who help someone get an abortion, can still be liable.) Ms. Gonzalez, who was known as Lizelle Herrera and 26 at the time of her arrest, filed a complaint on Thursday against Starr County, along with its district attorney, Gocha Ramirez, and assistant district attorney, Alexandria Lynn Barrera. She argues that the arrest and charge resulted in her suffering reputational harm and distress, and seeks to “vindicate her rights but also to hold accountable the government officials who violated them,” according to her lawsuit. Ms. Gonzalez and her lawyers were not immediately available for comment on Saturday. Mr. Ramirez and Ms. Barrera also did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit. A month ago, the state bar of Texas found that Mr. Ramirez had unlawfully prosecuted Ms. Gonzalez without probable cause and fined him $1,250.

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Her Baby Was Going to Die. Abortion Laws Forced Her to Give Birth Anyway

CNN, March 31, 2024

Samantha Casiano spent this month planning her daughter’s first birthday party. The 30-year-old east Texas mother of four knows how to throw a good party for her kids. But this family get-together on Friday was not a traditional party, despite Casiano purchasing a cake and balloons for the event. Instead, Casiano’s family spent the day at the gravesite of Halo Hope Villasana, Casiano’s daughter who was born with anencephaly, a fatal condition that prevents a child’s brain and skull from forming properly. It affects about 1 in 1,000 pregnancies, most of which end in miscarriage or abortion. But Casiano said she didn’t have the choice of an abortion. “Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to do that because of the way the (abortion) law is written,” Casiano told CNN. Abortion in Texas is illegal in almost all cases because of a “trigger ban” that went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. There is an exception: the “medical emergency” statute in Texas allows for abortion if the mother has a “life-threatening” condition or is at “serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.” But these medical exemptions are rare and doctors, experts and patients – including Casiano – argue the wording in the law isn’t clear enough. “I was lost,” Casiano said, remembering when she learned about the condition during her 20-week anatomy scan. “It was a very emotional day.” After Casiano’s OB-GYN told her she wouldn’t be able to provide her with an abortion because of Texas’s restrictive abortion laws, Casiano and her husband, Luis Fernando Villasana, started looking into other options. The closest abortion clinics were in New Mexico and Colorado, but getting there was simply financially and logistically impossible. So, instead of being able to end her pregnancy, she spent months carrying a child she knew likely wouldn’t live more than a day.

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