NEWS: Florida’s 6-week abortion ban is now in effect, curbing access across the South

by | May 2, 2024 | Repro Health Watch

Florida’s 6-Week Abortion Ban Is Now in Effect, Curbing Access Across the South

NPR, May 1, 2024

Starting today, people can no longer access legal abortions in Florida beyond six weeks of pregnancy, except in rare circumstances. The restriction replaces a 15-week ban that’s been in effect since July 2022, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Abortion rights supporters say it will dramatically curb access to the procedure for thousands of residents in Florida and around the South. Proponents of the ban say it “protects life.” Voters will have a say on the matter in November when a proposal to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution will appear on the election ballot. Regardless of what happens this fall, the ban could have far-reaching effects. Opponents of the ban stress that many people don’t realize they are pregnant at six weeks. But for those that do, abortion services remain available in the state until that time frame. Abortion care providers in the state like Planned Parenthood are doing ultrasounds earlier and have extended their hours to accommodate as many patients as they can. “We want to be able to help everyone with information in order to access care as quickly as possible,” says Barbara Zdravecky, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. Still, she expects many patients will be too far along when they reach out for help. “The emotional turmoil that’s going to happen, the anger, the fear, the anxiety is going to be great,” says Zdravecky, who adds centers are ramping up support staff to respond to patients’ concerns and help them navigate their options. Adding to scheduling challenges are Florida’s 24-hour mandatory waiting period and a ban on using telemedicine for abortions. Patients have to attend two in-person appointments, one for a consultation and another for the procedure at least one day later.

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Arizona Lawmakers Repeal 1864 Abortion Ban

The New York Times, May 1, 2024

Arizona lawmakers voted on Wednesday to repeal an abortion ban that first became law when Abraham Lincoln was president and a half-century before women won the right to vote. A bill to repeal the law passed, 16-14, in the Republican-controlled State Senate with the support of every Democratic senator and two Republicans who broke with anti-abortion conservatives in their own party. It now goes to Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, who is expected to sign it. The vote was the culmination of a fevered effort to repeal the law that has made abortion a central focus of Arizona’s politics. The issue has galvanized Democratic voters and energized a campaign to put an abortion-rights ballot measure before Arizona voters in November. On the right, it created a rift between anti-abortion activists who want to keep the law in place and Republican politicians who worry about the political backlash that could be prompted by support of a near-total abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. The 1864 law had gathered dust on the books for decades. But it exploded into an election-year flashpoint three weeks ago when a 4-2 decision by the State Supreme Court, whose justices are all Republican-appointed, said the ban could now be enforced because of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Two Republican state senators, T.J. Shope and Shawnna Bolick, joined with Democrats on Wednesday to force that repeal bill to a vote over furious attempts by far-right Republicans to block it. Before casting her pivotal vote, Ms. Bolick stood up and began a long, deeply personal speech describing her own three challenging pregnancies, including one that ended with an abortion procedure in her first trimester because the fetus was not viable. Would Arizona’s pre-Roe law have allowed me to have this medical procedure even though my life wasn’t in danger?” she asked.

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Personal Data Is Easier to Get Than Ever. Reproductive Health Workers Are at Risk

The 19th, April 29, 2024

In November, a study revealed how easily foreign governments could use companies known as data brokers to purchase personal information about U.S. military personnel. In some cases researchers paid less than a quarter per record for information that included home addresses, cell phone numbers and sensitive health data. Data brokers are analytics companies that compile dossiers about all of us, combing thousands of sources, including DMVs, licensing agencies and social media. They then sell it to law enforcement, immigration authorities and insurance companies. For many people who work at abortion providers or in the reproductive health space, the problem isn’t foreign governments buying their information. It’s fellow Americans who oppose abortion who want to target them, often to directly threaten them. And national legislation to protect digital privacy has stalled for years. Threats of harm or death directed toward abortion providers increased 20 percent from 2021 to 2022, according to the most recent data gathered by the National Abortion Federation. Stalking incidents more than doubled, from 28 to 92. One of the most insidious forms of violence to emerge over the past decade is doxxing, or the public release of personal contact information to facilitate harassment. Part of the reason doxxing is so common is because of the ease of access to this information granted by data brokers, which often charge only a small fee. Jessica Ensley first became aware of data brokers in 2017, when she joined Reproaction, an organization focused on increasing access to abortion and advancing reproductive justice. During her training she was advised to search herself online and remove as much information as possible. “The first time that I did it, I was absolutely horrified at how easy it was to find all of the addresses where I had lived. You could create a very clear trail of where I was, who my family is, where I’ve been, where I went to school, where I live now,” Ensley said. “I found it very disturbing.”

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Florida’s Abortion Ban Will Reach Well Beyond Florida

The New York Times, May 1, 2024

It is the biggest change to abortion access since the period immediately after the reversal of Roe v. Wade in 2022. “This is a seismic event for everyone in the ecosystem,” said Jenny Black, the chief executive of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which operates in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Florida, unlike much of the South, has long had many abortion clinics – more than 50, spread throughout the state. The average Florida woman lives less than 20 miles from one. Last year, clinics in Florida provided around 86,000 abortions, behind only California, New York and Illinois, according to estimates from the Guttmacher Institute. Of those, more than 9,000 were for patients who came from other states, part of an influx after many Southern states banned or severely restricted abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. With few exceptions, women across the South who are beyond six weeks of pregnancy – before many women know they’re pregnant – will now have to travel much farther to a clinic for an abortion. Also, for around a decade, Florida has required two appointments 24 hours apart to get an abortion, making it harder to receive one before the six-week mark. In other states, six-week bans have decreased abortions by about half. Shutting down abortion access in one linchpin state, Florida, could reduce the number of abortions across the entire region, while in swaths of the rest of the country, abortion has remained accessible, and in some places has even become more so. Women in Miami who are beyond six weeks will now need to travel more than 700 miles to reach the nearest clinics – in Charlotte, N.C., where state law requires two visits spread over three days. The current wait time there is a week or more to get an appointment, according to a recent survey of clinics led by Professor Myers. Otherwise, women would need to travel farther, to clinics in Virginia or Washington, D.C.

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Abortion Rights on the Ballot May Not Be Bad News for Republicans Everywhere

NPR, April 30, 2024

Missouri may soon be a barometer for how abortion-related ballot initiatives can affect elections in Republican-led states. If advocates and volunteers turn in enough signatures by May 5, Missourians will vote on an abortion-rights initiative in November. Some Democrats in the state hope it energizes voters enough to help candidates running for key statewide and state legislative posts, but in some respects, having the ability to pick and choose policies through a robust initiative petition process could be a double-edged sword. Voters in Missouri could show that abortion rights initiatives are not a down-ballot Democratic dream everywhere, especially if GOP voters who dislike their party’s views on abortion rights still like candidates on most other issues. Desiree White, a Missouri resident, says the state has the opportunity to break from widespread assumptions about its politics and voting habits. White is a volunteer for Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, a group trying to repeal the state’s ban on most abortions. As she helped gather the signatures needed to appear on the ballot, White says there’s ample evidence that Missouri is not some “throwaway state” when it comes to abortion rights just because it tends to back GOP candidates. “We’re not too red,” White says. “We long for our freedoms here in all aspects.” Public opinion may show the same. “We know from polling, and from results in other states, that there are a fair number of Republican voters who will vote Republican in other elections, but they don’t agree with their party on abortion rights,” says Kyle Kondik, who is with the University of Virginia-based Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “They can place themselves on a spectrum of supporting abortion rights and say: ‘Hey, maybe I even think that this ballot issue is too permissive. However, it’s closer to my position than this current law in Missouri, which is among the most draconian in the country.’ ”

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