Updated at 11 a.m. April 20 with Gov. Eric Greitens’ comment — A federal judge on Wednesday blocked Missouri’s restrictions requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges and abortion clinics to meet the specifications of ambulatory surgical centers.
U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs said two weeks ago that he planned to enter a preliminary injunction against the requirements, so the ruling came as no surprise.
But in his 17-page decision, Sachs made clear that he was bound by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down similar abortion restrictions in Texas.
“The abortion rights of Missouri women, guaranteed by constitutional rulings, are being denied on a daily basis, in irreparable fashion,” Sachs wrote of Missouri’s abortion restrictions. “The public interest clearly favors prompt relief.”
In Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court found that, “in the face of no threat to women’s health,” Texas had required women to travel to distant surgery centers.
The two Planned Parenthood affiliates that challenged the restrictions said that, in the wake of the decision, they would soon be offering four more locations in Missouri where women would be able to obtain abortions. The only clinic in Missouri that currently performs surgical abortions is Planned Parenthood’s facility in St. Louis.
Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the locations that will be offering abortions are in midtown Kansas City, Columbia, Springfield and Joplin.
Mary Kogut, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said it was a “great victory.”
“And what it will do is it will expand access to safe and legal abortion throughout the state of Missouri,” she said.
Attorney General Josh Hawley, who defended the restrictions blocked by Sachs, said he plans to appeal.
“Today a federal court struck down large portions of Missouri law that protect the health and safety of women who seek to obtain an abortion,” Hawley said. “This decision was wrong. I will appeal. Missouri has an obligation to do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of women undergoing medical procedures in state licensed medical facilities.”
Gov. Eric Greitens weighed in on Twitter on Thursday morning, saying: “Missouri is a pro-life state. We will beat this on appeal and keep fighting every day to protect the innocent unborn.”
In his ruling, Sachs said that accepting Missouri’s contention that he should reappraise the abortion safety issue would be akin to trying to undermine the Supreme Court’s 1954 school desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
Sachs noted that the Supreme Court found that the hospital affiliation requirement in Texas cured no significant health-related problem. And he cited the high court’s finding that tens of thousands of women in Texas would have been forced to travel more than 150 miles to find an open clinic had the affiliation requirement been allowed to stand.
“This case is not a close one in any event, as the absence of a clinic in central Missouri requires hundreds of miles of travel, round-trip, with two trips needed unless a woman has the means and time available for a long stay in St. Louis or other rather distant clinics,” Sachs wrote. He added that the hospital affiliation requirement, rather than furthering women’s safety, probably creates health hazards for them.
Missouri’s hospital affiliation requirement forced the Planned Parenthood facility in Columbia to stop offering abortions there in 2015.
Similarly, Sachs blocked the ambulatory surgical center law requiring abortion clinics in Missouri to have facilities suitable for major surgery. The requirements include wide hallways and other physical specifications.
Sachs pointed out that the law would require Planned Parenthood’s Kansas City facility, which offers only medicinal abortions, to remodel the facility at a possible cost of millions of dollars.
The lack of necessity and “nearly arbitrary” imposition of the requirements, Sachs wrote, “adequately establishes that these plaintiffs are very likely to receive relief” – a requirement for the issuance of a preliminary injunction.
Sachs said the likelihood that the plaintiffs in the case – Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri – would prevail at trial “is very high.”
“The ability to function as abortion clinics and to perform abortions is crippled in Columbia, Springfield and Joplin, and to some extent in Kansas City, by reason of the statutory and regulatory hospital affiliation requirement for doctors,” Sachs wrote.
“Especially in Springfield and Joplin, but to a lesser extent in Columbia and Kansas City, the ASC (surgery center) requirement imposes burdens that have closed or prevented development of clinics.”
He went on to say that a failure to act promptly would “seriously frustrate the opportunity to open clinics in Springfield and Joplin and the restoration of clinical service in Columbia and Kansas City.”
In a joint statement, the Planned Parenthood plaintiffs said, “Today’s victory means countless Missourians will have expanded access to safe, legal abortion. It is also the resounding affirmation we’ve long awaited – that medically unnecessary restrictions like admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements are state mandated laws thought up by extremists in Jefferson City. We will continue to fight these restrictions until they are permanently blocked in the state of Missouri.”
An extreme anti-abortion bill in Montana is poised to deal a major blow to abortion rights in the state, should the governor sign it.
The bill, S.B. 282, defines fetal viability at 24 weeks’ gestation and prevents abortions past that point, even in a medical emergency. A pregnant person whose fetus stands a 50 percent chance of survival outside the womb would be forced to undergo a C-section or induced labor. Additionally, under the proposed law, a doctor who provides an abortion past 24 weeks could face charges of homicide.
The bill passed the Montana House on April 6 and enjoyed final passage in the Senate five days later. It will now be sent to Governor Steve Bullock (D).
“It is the policy of the state to preserve and protect the lives all human beings and to provide protection for the viable human life,” said Rep. Theresa Manzella (R), who carried the bill on the floor.
Manzella and her conservative colleagues are leveraging S.B. 282 to advocate for questionably viable fetuses at the expense of (undeniably viable) pregnant women. Most people who have later term abortions do so out of necessity, not flippancy. Discounting this reality oversimplifies the complexities of such a situation and infantilizes people by confiscating their bodily autonomy. What’s more, forcing a patient to undergo a major surgical procedure like a C-section out of political ideology — not medical necessity — is dangerous and unethical.
Not every legislator agrees with Manzella. “I don’t think the legislature should stand in the way of a doctor’s ability to decide what is best for his patient,” Rep. Virginia Court (D) told Montana Public Radio. “This is the right of a woman and her doctor, in the privacy of the doctor’s office. These decisions should be made between the two of them with open, careful, honest, truthful consults. Not by the body of the Legislature.”
It is unclear whether Governor Bullock, a Democrat, will sign the bill. He has previously gone on record in defense of women’s right to choose, saying, “As governor, I will defend a women’s right to choice. I think these are complicated and difficult decisions, but they shouldn’t be made by the government. They should be made by women and their doctors.”
Nevertheless, according to the Guttmacher Institute, Montana “does not have any of the major types of abortion restrictions — such as waiting periods, mandated parental involvement or limitations on publicly funded abortions — often found in other states.” And NARAL Pro-Choice America grades the state as having “strongly protected reproductive rights access.”
In other words, try as they might, Montana legislators haven’t been wildly successful in getting anti-choice laws on the books.
Montana’s anti-abortion crusade (albeit an unsuccessful one) isn’t an isolated case; it fits neatly within an alarming national trend. Legislators across the country, emboldened by an anti-choice president and administration, are doing their best to undermine abortion access however they can.
Dangerous 20-week abortion bans are advancing in several states, including Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, and more. Others are getting more creative with their tactics: Kansas passed a regulation requiring changes to fonts used on abortion information sheets, Arizona will require doctors who perform abortions to try and “revive” fetuses if they show signs of life, and Arkansas will force doctors to investigate abortion patients. Other states, including Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma, have likewise tried to make abortion a felony but failed.
Whether Montana will officially join the ranks of hostile states remains to be seen. But if Governor Bullock signs S.B. 282, he will undoubtedly set a dangerous and irresponsible precedent.
In the wake of Trump’s criticism of late-term abortions, three mothers shatter the misconceptions about why women make the choice
Last year, Donald Trump suggested that current abortion laws allowed doctors to “rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby”. His statement erroneously described abortion procedures, and also triggered an uproar among the women and men who know first-hand the devastation of ending a late-term pregnancy.
Nearly 99% of abortions occur before 21 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but when they are needed past that point, it is in response to harrowing circumstances.
“Abortions that occur at this stage in pregnancy are often the result of tragic diagnoses and are exactly the scenarios wherein patients need their doctors, and not obstructive politicians,” says Dr Jennifer Conti, clinical assistant professor at Stanford University. “Asking a woman to carry a fatally flawed pregnancy to term is, at the very least, heartbreaking. I’ve often heard women say that they chose to end such pregnancies because of unselfish reasons: they couldn’t bear the thought of putting their fetus through even more pain or suffering.”
Just this year, 400 abortion restrictions were introduced in 41 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights. Among them, Republicans introduced the first-ever federal “heartbeat” bill earlier this year – which would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected. Meanwhile, Congress is considering a bill that would also ban abortion at 20 weeks nationwide – which is when ultrasounds can offer the first signs of anomalies in fetal anatomy.
Here, three different women agreed to share their experiences to end misconceptions about late-term terminations, and to explain to politicians and the general public why they’re necessary in the first place.
Kate Carson, teacher, outside Boston, Massachusetts
That warm June day, the recovery room was silent. The doctor entered carrying Laurel, a bundle of just five pounds wrapped in a pink-and blue striped cotton blanket. He gently passed her to her mother, Kate. She bent forward to smell her. She touched her skin. Her daughter was warm, but not as warm as she should have been.
“I just needed to know it happened. I needed to know that I had a baby,” Kate Carson says.
At 27, Kate had her life planned out. She and her husband were going to have four kids, and she was going to be an engineering professor. Her first pregnancy went fine, and she had a healthy baby girl. But while pursuing her PhD in engineering, she suffered three miscarriages. “It was a long road,” she says, but by age 29, she was finally expecting another girl, Laurel. She was due in the summer of 2012, and both parents were elated.
At 19 weeks, an ultrasound revealed a shadow of concern but the finding was reversed with full confidence at a level-two ultrasound. “I’m not seeing any problems. Everything looks fine,” the specialist told the parents.
But Kate had a nagging worry. “My husband and I did not feel like everything was fine,” she says. She asked the nurse how sure the specialist was. “He would have to be so certain. They would never reverse a diagnosis without being super sure about it,” the nurse replied.
Yet her husband encouraged her to book a second level-two ultrasound, a “peace of mind ultrasound”.
Expecting only reassurance, Kate knitted a pink sweater for Laurel while chatting freely with the technician who quickly grew silent. There was a big black spot on Laurel’s brain. “This baby is different,” the technician said. She left the room and returned with a maternal fetal specialist and a specialist in training.
“That’s when they started telling me,” Kate says. The fetus had Dandy-Walker malformation, a set of abnormalities of the cerebellum.
“The problems we didn’t see last time, we are seeing today,” said the specialist. She offered Kate adoption and abortion, “if it was still a legal option”. They used to send women to Kansas for abortions, she told her, but that was before Dr Tiller was shot in the face at a Sunday church service.
Kate asked if children with Dandy-Walker malformation are ever normal. “Yes,” said the specialist.
“And that, honestly, is so hard to hear because you just want something definitive”, Kate recalls. “On the one hand, of course you want your child to be normal. On the other hand, you want to know, is your kid going to be okay, is your kid going to receive a devastating diagnosis?” But the specialist had no definitive answers and recommended an MRI to determine whether Laurel would be okay or “incompatible with life”.
Kate couldn’t get the MRI for the next 48 hours. The wait was excruciating. At home, she could find no peace and substituted knitting her baby’s sweater for sleeping. She curled up on her living room sofa and cried until her husband scooped her up each night and took her to bed.
“When you’re imagining futures beyond the miracle happy ending, it’s sinking in,” she says.
The day of the MRI finally arrived. She was 35 weeks, 0 days. By the end of it, Kate and her husband had the hardest answers they’ve ever received.
Their daughter had moderate to severe Dandy-Walker malformation. But that wasn’t the only diagnosis; Laurel also had a brain condition in which fluid builds up in the ventricles, eventually developing into hydrocephalus and possibly crushing her brain. She had a congenital disorder too, in which there was complete or partial absence of the broad band of nerve fibers joining the two hemispheres of the brain.
What this meant was Laurel was expected to never walk, talk, or swallow. That was if she survived birth.
Kate asked her doctor: “What can a baby like mine do? Sleep all the time?”
“Babies like yours are not generally comfortable enough to sleep,” the neurologist said.
“That is when it became very clear what I wanted to do,” she says. “The MRI really ruled out the possibility of good health for my baby.”
For Kate, giving a child life and peace are the two gifts a mother can offer. “Most babies get to have life and get to have peace, but this baby, I had to choose. I could choose life, with the outside chance of peace or occasional peace, or I could choose certain peace without life. And for me, certain peace without life was the choice I wanted to make.”
On their ride home, Kate and her husband were silent as they drove in rush hour traffic across the Zakim Bridge. She was unable to say it herself, but Kate’s husband uttered the word abortion. “I think we should ask about it,” he said.
“I had been in this dark, awful prison of a place inside myself,” she says. Her husband’s words comforted her.
When they arrived home, Kate immediately called the doctor and left her a message. Her mother arrived to pick up their daughter and before leaving said she would have done the same. An hour later, the phone rang. Kate grabbed it. If they wanted the abortion, they had 30 minutes to call a clinic in Colorado before closing time or wait out the weekend. The procedure would last four days. And they would need $20,000. Massachusetts does not allow abortion after 24 weeks unless it’s necessary to save the life of the mother.
Kate and her husband live a modest life, certainly not one with $20,000 readily available. Kate’s younger brother offered his life savings of $5,000, but it was her parents who gave them the money from their retirement fund. “This is exactly why these abortions exist,” said her father.
Three days later, they were driving up to Dr Hern’s Boulder Abortion Clinic, where surveillance cameras and razor-wired fences surrounded them. She was 36 weeks pregnant.
Inside the clinic, Kate took a blood test followed by exhaustive counseling sessions, then the consent form. Dr Hern wanted to make sure she was doing this of her own free will.
By the end of the day, Kate and her husband knew it was time. Dr Hern took Kate to a room for the injection. It would slow her baby’s heart to a stop as soon as it penetrated. Sometimes, it happens quickly. For Kate, it happened over the course of a couple of hours. Just as she and her husband were planning to grab a bite of food, Laurel kicked. “I lost it,” says Kate. She retreated to her hotel room and lay there until the moving stopped. When Laurel went still, Kate’s stomach sagged low and lifeless, she says. “It was really sad and really hard.”
“I did not ever doubt I was doing the right thing for her but that did not make it easier,” she says. Kate says Laurel got the “tightest hug”. Her body was hugging her.
Next, it was time to get dilated, which was painful for Kate because she couldn’t receive an epidural. On the last day in Colorado, in early June, Kate, who was in labor for two and a half hours, delivered Laurel.
In the recovery room, Dr Hern brought Laurel to her. She smelled right, she felt warm, but not as warm as a live baby.
“She was beautiful,” Kate says.
When Kate returned home, they scattered Laurel’s ashes in the ocean. It was time for closure, but Kate worried about judgment so she didn’t tell anyone what happened for months. Then the self-doubt came.
“I feel like myself got fragmented into a million different selves. And I had my angry guard dog piece and my jealous piece, had my sad piece, I had the guilt, the religious piece. All of these pieces, and I had to figure out who I was.”
For some time, Kate wondered about the human error piece in the equation and wondered if her first doctor might have misled her on purpose. A little research later proved it was just an honest mistake. “I can live in a world where people make mistakes,” she says. “I felt like the only one in the entire world who has had such a late abortion, and it is true that we are rare, but we are not entirely alone. Just hidden.”
Kate has since given birth to another healthy daughter.
Kate Carson speaks about her experience to doctors, lawyers, and neighbors. You can also read about her experience here
Lindsey Paradiso, wedding photographer, Virginia
The moment Lindsey, 27, found out she was pregnant, she wrapped the positive test strip in a used gold metallic gift bag and surprised her husband, Matt, with it. Two months later, they named her Omara Rose.
This was not the easiest pregnancy for Lindsey. She suffered from sciatica nerve pain and had to undergo daily injections for her blood clotting disorder. But she was over the moon about the pregnancy.
At first, it looked like a bubble floating on the ultrasound. At the routine 18-week visit in February 2016, the doctor speculated the peculiarity could be cystic lymphangioma, a group of cysts found mostly in the neck. Or it could be nothing. They immediately booked an appointment at the University of Virginia (UVA).
After seeing the ultrasound at UVA, Lindsey noticed the growth had enveloped half of Omara’s face and spread around her neck to the back of her head. When the doctor entered, they expected the worst. Again, the term lymphangioma came up. But so did cervical teratoma. Only an MRI could determine decisively, but whether it was malignant or benign, it could be fatal to the baby.
“You could just tell the energy in the room was like: you should end it, it’s not going to turn out well,” she says. The doctor told them they could terminate the pregnancy since Omara’s chances of survival were slim. Matt and Lindsey were crushed by the prospect. They wanted to fight.
Twenty days after seeing the first signs of trouble, they learned that Omara had an aggressive form of lymphangioma growing out of her neck. The diagnosis came in the form of a dense two-page MRI report. The fast-growing, inoperable tumor had grown into her brain, heart, and lungs. It had wrapped around her neck, eyes, and deep into her chest. It was so invasive, it was pushing her tongue out of her mouth.
Her chances of living to the age of viability or birth were slim. Lindsey and Matt made the heartbreaking decision to follow through with an abortion at about 24 weeks. They were just a few days away from it being an illegal termination.
On 26 February 2016, Omara Rose’s heart stopped beating. Shortly after, Lindsey was admitted into the hospital for labor induction but the epidural stopped working. “I felt like my insides were being ripped apart,” she says. When the doctor administered a second epidural, Lindsey became nauseous. Her ears rang. The room spun. The doctor rushed in to administer a third epidural.
She was conflicted the whole time because while she was in pain, she didn’t want it to stop because she knew by the end of it, “your child is going to be dead”, she says. Matt held her hand the whole time.
When she finally delivered Omara Rose 40 hours later, she was so small, “I barely felt her leave me but I knew she had,” she says.
Over the next few hours, Lindsey and Matt got to hold Omara Rose, dressed in a tiny dress with a hat the size of the cup of Lindsey’s hand. Then Lindsey’s and Matt’s family came, each taking turns to say their goodbyes. “I wanted her to be alive so badly but I knew it was for the best. She went without pain,” she says.
The next day, they buried their daughter in a cemetery four hours away from where they live now.
“I don’t think people understand the gravity of how sick she was. How fatal her tumor was,” says Lindsey.
But it took some time for them to be open about it, especially Matt. Lindsey found comfort in blogging while Matt focused on completing his education at Virginia Tech.
“To hide something because you’re ashamed of it is just going to continue to perpetuate misunderstanding,” says Lindsey. People automatically assumed that the abortion had been out of convenience. On the contrary, she says: “It’s something that will stick with you forever.”
For those who believe these babies are unwanted, Matt says: “You’re not going to wait until halfway through your pregnancy to finally have an abortion.”
Prompted by Donald Trump’s statements on late-term abortions, Lindsey shared her experience more widely in a Facebook post, which was shared more than 100,000 times.
“Abortions are hard decisions made by real people,” she says. “Being open is a call for empathy.”
Lindsey Paradiso testifies against bills to limit access to safe and legal abortions. She’s also blogged about her experience here
Darla Barar, Austin, Texas, copyrighter
On 22 June, at 3.30pm, the doctor let them see Cate one last time. She danced for them and then kicked. Her mom told her it was going to be okay. And then, guided by the ultrasound, the doctor injected a medication into Cate’s heart, stopping it. When they checked for a heartbeat 30 minutes later, the silence was deafening.
Darla, then 29, and her husband, Peter, had tried for years to get pregnant. When treatments failed, they traveled to the Czech Republic to use donated eggs. A week after the transfer, Peter got a dinner dessert with a message: “Congratulations daddy.” They were expecting twins.
Darla and Peter had named their twins Catherine “Cate” and Olivia, and by their 20-week anatomy scan they already knew their distinct personalities. Olivia was a “diva” and Cate was shy, a “cuddle bug”. “We loved them more fiercely than I ever thought possible,” Darla says.
But during a routine anatomy scan, the technician was abnormally quiet. Cate was measuring a little behind but she was always the smaller of the two, so Darla didn’t worry much. After a long wait, the OBGYN entered the room and asked Darla to sit next to her husband. “I just knew something was wrong,” Darla says.
Darla recalls hearing the doctor say he had never seen this combination of anomalies before.
Darla and Peter saw additional specialists, and all confirmed a number of issues. Cate had encephalocele, which is a neural defect that causes brain matter to leak out, slow growth, microcephaly, a very large cleft lip and possible fused digits. Her cerebellum was so underdeveloped that one doctor had trouble finding it and her brain’s midline was shifted, indicating “severe disorganization”.
To make matters worse, Olivia’s life was in danger. Cate’s amniotic sac was growing and restricting the growth of Olivia’s sac.
If she carried to full term, the restriction on Olivia’s sac would likely mean an early delivery. Darla says that every specialist they saw disclosed there was a high probability that Cate would not survive the delivery but if she did, there was no guarantee the surgeries – removing the encephalocele and placing her brain tissue back into her skull – would save her.
Darla cried and Peter prayed. “We needed a miracle and we knew as the day went on we weren’t going to get one.”
Their other option was abortion, one they did not take lightly, but one that felt rushed because of Texas’s restrictive abortion laws, which bans abortions after 22 weeks. Darla and Peter had 12 days to decide. “If laws were different … we would have done more testing – one doctor mentioned an MRI, for example, to try to test the level of her brain function. But we didn’t have that, and knowing what timeline we were on, we spent a lot of sleepless nights researching, making appointments, talking to each other and our therapist, and really just spending time being the four of us,” she says.
“Finally, we just looked at each other and said it was okay. We had to do what was best for her. So we knew what we had to do to bring home one.” Darla says she was prepared to deal with it all, but “if it meant Cate was going to suffer, we just couldn’t do that to her”.
At 21 weeks and six days, Darla had an injection, and Cate’s heart stopped. “For us, it was completely humane,” she says.
In the case of an additional fetus that gets aborted in the womb, the tissue is usually reabsorbed back into the body, but that wasn’t the case this time.
“I kept telling Peter, I’m carrying our healthy baby and our dead baby. I can’t reconcile that in my brain. At the same time, it was a comfort to know that I didn’t have to say goodbye right then,” she says.
Thirteen weeks after the diagnosis, Darla delivered Cate and then gave birth to Olivia, a healthy 5lb baby. The family took turns holding Cate and later in the afternoon, the chaplain came to take her away.
“And then we had to grasp that we were only a family of three,” she says.
Darla says she couldn’t face people after the abortion. She called it a stillbirth. “I knew I was dealing with more than just grief and I couldn’t explain that to people,” she says. She was also dealing with guilt. But she never felt regret, she says. She knew she did the right thing.
Spurred on by Donald Trump’s comments about later abortions, Darla used social media to share her story and the response was overwhelming, both good and bad. The meaner comments focused on abortions as a version of birth control, or a way to rid oneself of an imperfect child.
“I can tell you, knowing how much the procedure cost, nobody is doing that for birth control,” she says. “Ask us why we’re getting it. Don’t assume that you understand our lives.”
Nonetheless, “being open has allowed me to be a better mom. I’m much more free with my emotions,” she says. Knowing that she could become a voice for women and men who needed it empowered her.
“It’s always the health of the mother but the health of the baby is never taken into consideration [in laws], and in situations like ours, it could have meant two dead babies on our hands,” she says.
ALBANY — Concerned about possible federal cuts to programs like Planned Parenthood, a Queens legislator wants the state to step in.
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic said she will be introducing legislation this week requiring the state Health Department to create a program that would make up funding to Planned Parenthood and other family-planning programs cut by the feds. Designed to “ensure the continuity of family-planning services in the state,” the bill is modeled after one that recently passed in Maryland.
“With the uncertainty coming out of Washington, it is critical that we take the necessary steps to ensure access to quality care is maintained in New York State,” Democrat Rozic said.
The state program would fund providers like Planned Parenthood that offer services like cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease testing, contraception, pregnancy care, and general well-woman visits. It would also cover providers that perform abortions.
Rozic said the idea is to ensure that groups that provide women’s health services are not forced to close due to federal cuts.
Trump last week signed a bill into law that allows states to deny federal family-planning money to groups like Planned Parenthood that perform abortions.
Rozic fears Trump in May will seek to further erode family-planning service groups by eliminating funding for those offering abortions. If the federal government defunds Planned Parenthood, the organization in New York could see a loss of about $25 million in Medicaid reimbursement money and potentially another $10 million in direct federal grant dollars for preventive services, said Fern Whyland, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts.
The Assembly, during recent budget negotiations, sought to include a $20 million contingency fund for family-planning services, but the allocation did not make the final spending plan. The budget contains $750,000 in state funding for family-planning services that has been included in years past.
A spokesman for Gov. Cuomo said the administration would have to see Rozic’s bill before commenting.
Robin Chappelle Golston, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, praised the assemblywoman’s bill for “sending a message to extreme politicians that every New Yorker deserves access to basic health care.”
Allowing federal family-service funds to be cut “hurts those who are already struggling to get by and those who already face barriers accessing health care — especially people of color, those with low to moderate incomes, as well as people who live in rural areas,” Golston said.
The bill faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate.
State Conservative Party Michael Long said lawmakers should reject any legislation that would continue funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups that perform abortions.
He said he would not be against the state making up for lost federal funding for other family-planning services like prenatal care — but only if they find the money by making cuts to other parts of the budget.
“We have a large enough budget that you don’t have to create something new to adjust to any shortages from the federal government,” Long said.
Rozic said her bill, if passed, would build on a provision in the new state budget that allows the governor to come up with a plan to address federal cuts that total more than $850 million. The governor’s plan would automatically go into effect unless the Legislature comes up with one of its own within 90 days.
“I’m just happy that our story didn’t die with our daughter, and that some good can hopefully come out of this.”
Meet Lindsey Paradiso, a photographer who lives with her husband, Matt, in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
On Oct. 19, 2016, Paradiso posted about her experience having a “late-term abortion” at 23 weeks. Since then, the post has gone viral, with over 100,000 shares.
In February 2016, Paradiso was 18 weeks pregnant with her daughter Omara when doctors discovered a mass on the baby’s neck during a routine ultrasound.
“We wanted her no matter what,” Paradiso said, so they planned to wait until Omara was viable at 27 weeks to deliver her surgically so doctors could operate on the tumor, which ensured the best chance of survival.
“We had to have her delivered early by an EXIT procedure, which is basically like a larger and riskier C-section, because her tumor was so massive that at 27 weeks she would be too big to deliver vaginally,” Paradiso said.
Along with the EXIT procedure necessary to save Omara’s life, Paradiso said she faced the risk of infertility with the procedure but was willing to go through with it if it meant Omara could survive.
Three weeks later, Paradiso got an MRI that confirmed their worst fears: The tumor had tripled in size and was growing into her head, chest, lungs, and eyes. It was inoperable.
After Paradiso and her husband went to two other hospitals for more opinions, they sought out experts at the nation’s top children’s hospital, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for an MRI.
“We still had hope, they said they saw one or two cases per year of this and showed us a little girl with the same tumor as Omara who survived until viability and spent her first year in the NICU but now lives a somewhat normal life,” Paradiso said.
However, doctors learned from the MRI that Omara’s case was far worse, and the tumor was growing inside her brain as well. “It was aggressive lymphangioma, and it was three times the size of her head by now and they were 99% sure it was fatal,” Paradiso said.
The doctors believed the tumor would kill Omara before 27 weeks, at which point Paradiso would have to have an EXIT procedure, as the tumor would be too large for her to have a D&C.
“I was in labor for 40 hours, it was so painful and exhausting but I wanted to deliver my daughter so I could hold her and say goodbye,” Paradiso said.
In Virginia, abortion is legal in the first trimester, legal in the second trimester only at licensed hospitals, and illegal in the third trimester except under certain circumstances.
“If there was an abortion ban, I worry that I would’ve been forced to carry her and never been able to hold her in my arms,” Paradiso said.
To those working in reproductive rights in the US, doctor Willie Parker is a hero. “A colored boy from Birmingham,” Alabama, as his 1962, pre-Civil Rights Act birth certificate described him, Parker grew up in abject poverty, fourth of six children, raised by a fierce single mother. Against all of the obstacles his country stacked against poor, African-American boys and young men, he became a doctor. Parker progressively expanded the horizon of his dreams and ambitions. First, he aimed to get any education at all. Then he made it to college, summer school at Harvard, and eventually onto med school.
It’s perhaps because of all those obstacles that he became a crusader. After years as an ob-gyn, in 2005 he had what he calls his “come to Jesus moment.” As a devout Christian, he realized he could not justify his choice to not perform abortions—not as a doctor, and not as a believer.
Since then, he’s been on the front line of what in the US is a war, and not just a legal one. While over 200 state laws have been passed in the past decade to try and curtail the right to abortion, 11 health practitioners, including Parker’s own mentor, Dr. George Tiller, have been murdered by anti-abortion activists. “No one on earth expects a large, bald black man in sweats and a baseball cap to be a doctor at all, let alone one of the last abortion doctors in the south,” Parker writes in his memoir Life’s Work: a Moral Argument for Choice. With courage and just enough lightness, he does not let threats deter him or racist insults provoke him. He continues providing safe and compassionate abortion care to the women who need it in the southern states where they are least likely to see their rights honored—Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.
As the Trump administration moves forward to cut funding to clinics that provide abortions—the main providers of reproductive care and education for millions of American women—and opposes support for women’s reproductive rights at home and abroad, Parker’s book provides a tight moral and religious case in favor of choice. It has the potential to speak to an audience far beyond those who are pro-choice.
As a doctor and as an advocate (Parker chairs Physicians for Reproductive Health), Parker debunks the myths around abortion with scientific precision and moral clarity, stripping away political interests, social prejudice and religious misconceptions to show it exactly for what it is, a medical procedure that offers womencontrol over their own bodies. The scientific rationality with which he speaks about the practical, routine elements of his work are educational and eye-opening. Yet what’s most poignant about his book is how Parker demonstrates that he has made his medical and ethical choices, not despite his faith, but because of it.
For Parker, the moral and religious arguments against abortion are misguided at best: The will of God, he says, manifests itself in human’s free will. That extends to the freedom to choose whether or not to take part in the reproductive process, a divine freedom accorded to women as it is to men, regardless of their biologies.
“Decision-making should not stratify by gender,” Parker told Quartz, “and so if the most essential thing is to men so to be self-determining, and to be able to make complex decisions, women are no less capable of that.” Yet, as he writes, abortion is subject unparalleled social and government oversight and stigma, something that finds no equivalent in medicine. “By accidental biology, the procreation process plays out in the body of a woman,” the writer told Quartz, so “if women have equal agency to men, that process should not trump the ability to be self-governing, to have bodily integrity, or moral authority to make decisions about her body, including reproduction.”
In the US, one in three women have an abortion in their lifetime—and fewer than 5% ever regret doing so. Anti-abortion activists describe women who seek or contemplate abortion as full of doubt, misery, and regret. Parker says his experience is quite the opposite. He serves women who overwhelmingly know exactly what they want, and why, and are capable of making the choices they need to make with rationality and conviction.
“How can a pregnancy be more important that the woman herself?” Parker asked rhetorically during the interview. Any attempts to force a woman to carry forward a pregnancy she does not wish to have denies rights to a life that already exists. Limiting a woman’s right to self-determination renders the label “pro-life” disingenuous. Parker highlights how abortion is exploited as political currency to get votes, most notably in the election of 2016 when US president Donald Trump turned anti-abortion only when he sought to the Republican nomination.
Parker traces how opposition to abortion rights has become an “effort to save a patriarchy that is in its last vestige as a society becomes more diverse, with gender identity, race, class, religious identity.” In that, he doesn’t spare just conservatives politicians and their supporters. He takes on religion, too.
“In the world of the Bible, bearing many children was a woman’s most important job,” writes Parker. Yet “in that ancient cultural context, however, abortion is never mentioned…The death of a fetus is regarded as a loss but not a capital crime. Throughout Jewish scripture, a fetus becomes human when—and only when—its head emerges from the birth canal.” The New Testament doesn’t mention abortion at all. Thus, for Parker, the idea that life begins with the mere meeting of sperm and egg is offensive to God.
What he calls a “theology of abortion” is an appeal to religious people of all faiths to look beyond what they are taught by the patriarchal ranks of their churches:
“[I]f you set aside the idea that God is like Siri, telling you to go left and go right, then the whole business is sacred. All of it. A pregnancy that intimates a baby is not more sacred than an abortion. …The God part is in your agency. The trust—the divine trust—is that you have an opportunity to participate in the population of the planet. And you have an opportunity not to participate…The process is bigger than you are. The part of you that’s like God is the part that makes a choice. That says, I choose to, Or, I choose not to. That’s what’s sacred. That’s the part of you that’s like God to me.”
Parker uses his personal journey to shed light on an often foggy matter with compassion and understanding. He speaks about finding inspiration for his work, and life, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, learning from him “not to be compassionate by proxy.” He identifies a thread of radical solidarity that runs through all civil progress—be it for race, gender, or income equality.
“My decision to go home and to practice was informed by the reality of people who look like me,” he explains.
Parker understands oppression in its most pervasive and insidious forms—masked as a right to suppress, determined to blame the victim. In this light, being able to provide abortions for the women who need it most is nothing more, and nothing less, than a form of social justice.
On Season 5 of “Scandal,” protagonist Olivia Pope has an abortion. The scene is minimal, short (about a minute long) and a revelation. Viewers saw Pope dressed in a hospital gown, laying on a doctor’s table with her feet in stirrups. It’s clear that she is having an abortion ― and yet no words are used to describe it, only images.
“I said, ‘Go ahead, alter the scene. We’ll just have a lot of articles about how you altered the scene,’” she said. “We had done an abortion on a military woman who had been raped earlier on, and we were doing nothing different than we did in that scene — they just didn’t like that it was happening to Olivia.”
“I don’t think abortion had ever been presented as an emancipated woman’s option before,” added Young. “And it’s set to ‘Silent Night.’ The balls to pick that song.”
Anyone who watches “Scandal” knows how this ended. Rhimes stood her ground, and the world got to see abortion treated as something that isn’t shameful, but a fact of life for many American women.
As NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said at the time in an interview with Variety: “The impact of popular culture on public opinion and on taking what are thought of as ‘taboo’ issues and putting them front-and-center and giving permission to talk about them, that is a very significant impact and can’t be overstated.”