Abortion Information


 

As an obstetrician-gynecologist, I have a busy obstetrics practice where I provide prenatal care, deliver babies and treat mothers after they give birth.

I also provide abortion care. I believe patients deserve the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare options.

I came to this work because of my passion for young people, one that is deeply connected to my personal experience with teen pregnancy. Prior to finishing high school, I learned I was pregnant. As a result of fear and lack of resources, by the time I confided in my mother and grandmother, I had no choice—I was going to be a mother.

Becoming a mother as a teenager came with many harsh realities. I love my children with all my heart, but I know that everyone should be able to make the decision to parent for themselves. I have been in the shoes of many of the young people I see in my clinic, and it’s important for them to know that regardless of their decision, that I am here to support them.

I support the Women’s Health Protection Act because it would help ensure that access to care does not look differently depending on your zip code.

(Copyright NARAL Pro-Choice America)

(Copyright NARAL Pro-Choice America)

In states like California or Maryland, today a patient can access abortion care without the state forcing medically inaccurate information on them, or making them endure a medically unnecessary waiting period.

This is what care should look like. Unfortunately, today that is not the case for my patients in Alabama. Just last year, the legislature passed a near total ban on abortion; under that ban, a physician could be sent to prison for 99 years for performing an abortion.

This law, should it ever go into effect, would threaten doctors like myself with prison for providing ethical, medically appropriate care. There is no other area of medicine where politicians threaten physicians with prosecution for doing their jobs. Thankfully, the ban was blocked, and abortion remains legal in Alabama, as it is in every other state. I am proud to continue to provide patients with compassionate, quality care when they enter our doors, but I know all too well that getting to our doors is too hard, as a result of decades of medically-unnecessary restrictions that have slowly chipped away at access.

It is not unusual for patients to travel up to eight hours, or from as far away as Louisiana and Florida—because so many other providers have been forced to shut their doors. Then, they are required to wait an additional 48 hours before I can provide the care they need due to a state-imposed waiting period. I know of people who have slept in their cars as a result of this mandatory delay period, because they had no other options.

The state also requires that my patients receive outdated materials as part of so-called “counseling” that are filled with misinformation that I then need to correct. We are required to do ultrasound examinations, even when they are unnecessary and provide no medical value.

These restrictions only add needless costs and delays. Their effects on my patients are painful for me to see.

Alabama also bans abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization; patients needing care after that point have to travel out of state, making care even more expensive. Young people in Alabama have to navigate an onerous, time-intensive process to have an abortion if they cannot involve a parent. I have cared for a 12-year-old victim of incest who faced many delays before finally getting judicial approval for the abortion she needed. Even though I met her in her first trimester of pregnancy, she was nearing Alabama’s legal limit by the time she navigated all of these hurdles.

Additionally, over the years, Alabama Women’s Center has been forced to comply with onerous, medically unnecessary building requirements. For example, we were forced to outfit our clinic as an ambulatory surgical center having to install 24-hour lighting. Having 24-hour lighting does not make abortions safer, as we do not see patients after 5 p.m. What it does is make abortion care expensive to provide.

Because I practice full spectrum obstetrics and gynecology, I have hospital admitting privileges like the ones at issue in June Medical Services v. Gee, currently before the Supreme Court. I can say unequivocally that admitting privileges are unnecessary for provision of abortion care and nearly impossible for an abortion provider to obtain. For admitting privileges, hospitals require a provider to maintain a certain number of hospital admissions and major surgical cases.

Given the fact that abortion is incredibly safe, hospital admissions are rare making these numbers nearly impossible to meet. On the rare occasion that a patient requires hospitalization following an abortion procedure, there are already procedures in place to facilitate transfer and ensure continuity of care. The transferring physician calls the receiving physician, gives pertinent background information and arranges transport. This is no different than the protocols followed by pediatricians or other medical professionals who do not have privileges to admit patients to a hospital.

I currently have a highly qualified board-certified physician who works with me who cannot get admitting privileges because they will never attain the number of admissions or major cases in a two-year period to meet the hospital’s requirement. In fact, in 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) published a comprehensive study affirming that abortion is extremely safe and the biggest threat to patient safety is the litany of medically unnecessary regulations that raise costs and delay procedures, ultimately putting women’s health at risk.

They confirmed what we already know: that access to safe abortion care all too often depends on where you live and how much money you have.

Alabama is a state with unconscionably high maternal and infant mortality rates. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) nearly two-thirds of Alabama counties lack hospitals that offer obstetrical care. Moreover, the number of pregnancy-related deaths across the country has steadily increased. In Alabama, Black women are nearly five times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

There are many pre-existing conditions that can be made worse by pregnancy, and other serious health conditions can be caused by pregnancy. We know that racial disparities in health care are exacerbated by policies that make accessing health care more challenging. Without access to abortion, maternal mortality rates will rise even more.

By attempting to criminalize practitioners who provide abortion care, the abortion bans we have seen enacted in Alabama and other states, threaten those women and communities that are already suffering from lack of health care providers, and compound the complex scenarios that obstetricians routinely balance as they try to make the best decisions they can about managing complicated pregnancies.

Every patient, regardless of where they live or how much money they have, deserves access to abortion care. Though Alabama’s all-out abortion ban has not taken effect, patients are already suffering from the cumulative effect of years of medically unnecessary restrictions.

I wish you all could hear how worried patients are. One told me of the nightmares she had prior to coming to the clinic about being turned away and denied services because of these restrictive laws.

The bottom line is this: Abortion care is healthcare! The Women’s Health Protection Act would bring needed federal protection for my patients and safeguard their right to abortion care. Health care in any specialty should be patient-centered, and medical decisions should remain between the patient and her physician—without political interference.

The following is the testimony of Dr. Yashica Robinson, Physicians for Reproductive Health Board Member and Medical Director of Alabama Women’s Center, from this week’s House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect access to abortion and other reproductive health care nationwide.

Source: https://msmagazine.com/2020/02/12/abortion-care-is-health-care-and-we-must-protect-it/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=actionfacebook&utm_content=ms-feb2020&fbclid=IwAR0FJzSGyztbsumxBaAh71NhI2f1J2dUlP6o9R8b-FoHHVAAc_xkVg-Iu9s

A bill that would reinstate a parental consent law declared unconstitutional 30 years ago — requiring minors seeking abortions to first get consent from a parent or guardian — is just a House vote and pen stroke away from becoming law.

The Florida Senate on Thursday pulled off what it couldn’t in 2019, when the parental consent bill stalled in committee. The House version of the bill, which was fast-tracked through a single committee stop, is set to go before a floor vote next week in the majority Republican chamber, where it is expected to pass. Soon after, Gov. Ron DeSantis will sign it into law, as he promised in his State of the State speech last month.

Florida law currently requires that parents or guardians are notified if a minor gets an abortion. Minors can also obtain a judicial waiver to bypass that requirement.

The Senate bill — SB 404 — passed 23-17 along party lines.

Senate bill sponsor Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, said her legislation is “not a pro-choice or pro-life bill.”

“This is about whether or not you’re going to have adults involved in difficult decisions with children,” she said.

Stargel, who had a child as a teenager herself, said the purpose of the bill is to “strengthen” families by requiring that parents and children have conversations before minors make the decision to get an abortion.

When she learned she was pregnant and told her mother, she said, her mother told Stargel she thought it was best to have an abortion. Stargel thought otherwise and had the baby.

Stargel’s bill also makes not caring for an infant born alive during an abortion punishable as a third-degree felony, rather than a first-degree misdemeanor, as state law currently maintains.

In his annual State of the State address, DeSantis challenged the Senate to pass the bill off the floor this year.

“I hope that the Legislature will send me this session the parental consent bill that last year was passed by the House but not by the Senate,” he said. In a meeting with the Herald/Times, Senate President Bill Galvano said he wouldn’t be surprised if the parental consent bill was the first one to make it onto the governor’s desk.

Just five states require both parental notice and consent — Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

The bill drew heated debate during the 2019 legislative session and passed in the House but failed to clear a more moderate Senate after stalling in committees.

The debate remained heated in 2020, bringing clashing pro-life activists clad in black and pro-choice activists in pink to cleave the Capitol rotunda in a striking visual divide. Activists on both sides of the issue packed meeting rooms and presented emotional testimony in front of the committees.

On the Senate floor, debate also got personal.

Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, spoke of the 4,000 babies delivered while her husband was an obstetrician. She said parents must be involved with “children having children” because minors cannot make such choices for themselves.

“We have delivered 13-year-old children having children,” Harrell said. “How can a 13-year-old make decisions … they can’t even decide what they are going to wear tomorrow. We need parents to be part of that decision.”

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, a former school principal, held up his own conservative leanings toward abortion with his experience with young, pregnant women confiding in him. He noted that not all parents are willing to put their daughters’ best interest first.

“I’m not sure there’s anyone in this room who has dealt with more young people facing this issue. This issue has been brought to my attention more than you could imagine” he said. “A young lady would say, ‘I am afraid of my parents.’ There are some parents who are not parents.”

Plantation Democrat Sen. Lauren Book, who filed a slew of amendments that failed during the bill’s first hearing, kept her comments short. She listed the medical associations that have come out against the bill, and emphasized, “My body, my choice. My voice, my vote,” she said. “Today, I’m going to use both.”

Of about 70,000 abortions done in the state yearly, about 1,500 are performed on minors. In 2018, 193 minors petitioned the court for a judicial waiver.

Stephanie Pineiro, president of Florida Access Network, a group that supports payment and logistics for abortions, said the judicial waiver process is not an easy one.

Pineiro first had an abortion when she was 16, after she was sexually assaulted at a party. Her father reluctantly took her to get the procedure after her mother wouldn’t go. He threw away her birth control after the family returned home, and their relationship deteriorated.

“He signed a notarized statement. Even though he didn’t agree, he didn’t have to consent or approve it,” she noted. Current Florida law requires that parents or guardians be notified in writing when their minor daughters seek an abortion.

Stephanie Pineiro, president of Florida Access Network, an opponent of SB 404, known as the “parental consent” bill, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Tallahassee, Fla. The bill requiring that girls under the age of 18 get a parent’s consent before having an abortion was approved Wednesday in its final committee stop. On Thursday, it was passed by the Senate. Aileen Perilla AP

The next year, when she was 17, Pineiro got pregnant again. Her boyfriend, who was 18, tried to buy her Plan B, an emergency contraceptive pill, but could not purchase it for a minor. She knew this time she had to hide the pregnancy from her parents, with whom she no longer had a stable relationship.

“I felt shame and that my parents would force me into parenthood,” said Pineiro, now 28. “I wasn’t ready for that.”

She called a hot line that set her up with a lawyer, and Pineiro built a case to show a circuit court judge in Duval County a compelling reason for allowing her the abortion. Three weeks after she learned she was pregnant, she had her abortion.

Pineiro said her judicial bypass gave her what she needed to keep attending high school and taking classes at Florida State College in Jacksonville.

Had she needed parental consent, she says she would have been forced into a situation that would have changed the course of her career path.

“Aside from its real purpose, which is to undermine abortion access in Florida and restricting the right to privacy, this impacts real people,” Pineiro said. “This impacts young people.”

Abortion in Florida has long been a controversial issue. Laws around access to abortions have regularly sparked dispute, even though the state’s courts have held that a broader right to privacy applies to a woman’s pregnancy in Florida.

In 1989, the state Supreme Court struck down a previous law requiring parental consent for abortion. In 2003, courts struck down a law requiring parental notification, but voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment to recreate a similar law.

In 2015, the Legislature passed a bill that would create a 24-hour waiting period before abortions. The law quickly became the subject of several court decisions and appeals.

Opponents have decried the bill as a “Trojan horse” that is meant to put the issue — protected in Florida by a constitutional right to privacy — before a more conservative state Supreme Court.

Not just opponents see it that way.

Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who doubles as the state GOP chair, said the abortion bill will be the “first test” of the new Supreme Court, reshaped by like-minded DeSantis appointments.

“I think the abortion bill that will pass this year, parental consent, that’s directly attributable to the changing of the guard of the Florida Supreme Court,” he told the Herald/Times. “It will be interesting to see what happens after this year.”

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reporter Emily L. Mahoney contributed to this report.

Source: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article240035053.html?fbclid=IwAR3DYonVKaFlPwcJATq9pXajcko3XjyL2_eGsn08Lfd8AKBriZC7igqsEjA

On February 6, Republican lawmakers — with Governor Ron DeSantis’s blessing — moved forward on a draconian piece of anti-abortion legislation. It is all but certain that DeSantis will sign the parental consent bill and put into law the requirement that minors must obtain parental consent prior to obtaining an abortion.

Terrie Rizzo, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, blasted DeSantis and Republican lawmakers:

“Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida Republicans have just set into motion their plan to dismantle abortion rights in Florida. We know they will not stop with this bill, flimsily masked as a bill to protect children, in their desire to rob women of our rights to our own bodies.

As long as Republicans are in power, they work to take away abortion rights. The only way to protect the rights of women now is to vote the Republican party out of office in November and make DeSantis a one-term governor.”

Floridians Demand A Right To Privacy: In 1980, Florida voters created a state constitutional right to privacy. Nine years later, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled the state’s newly enacted parental consent law on abortion was unconstitutional — it violated our state constitution’s privacy rights.

In 2012, voters were asked to weaken their own rights on privacy and, unsurprisingly, flatly rejected the idea. Now the State Senate continues to move a new parental consent bill that Republican lawmakers’ hope will finally undo the will of the people. Floridians believe that women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies and our laws should reflect it.

Source: https://www.floridadems.org/news/the-republican-plan-to-dismantle-abortion-rights-in-florida-has-begun?fbclid=IwAR0V5Z83CXcJHhlHCKmbx9VqwGEgGTqn7ENDUALu0YuFFvvL9eCiDBmg1QQ

Anti-choice legislation advanced in Oklahoma and Arizona last week, and a Mississippi Republican proposed a bill even more extreme than the state’s near-total abortion ban.

The Oklahoma bill stipulates that a doctor would lose their license for one year if they’re found to have provided abortion care. Shutterstock

This week, we take a look at an Oklahoma bill that would punish doctors for providing abortion care, Arizona legislation to funnel taxpayer money to anti-choice groups, and a total abortion ban in Mississippi. 

Oklahoma 

The Oklahoma House passed legislation last Thursday that would strip doctors of their medical licenses if they provide abortion care. The bill’s sponsor called it part of the ongoing effort to end legal abortion in the state, the Associated Press reported.

The bill, HB 1182, stipulates that a doctor would lose their license for one year if they’re found to have provided abortion care, with an exception for when a patient’s life is at risk. The 71-21 vote to approve the bill came after four hours of debate, according to the AP. Oklahoma Rep. Cyndi Munson (D-Oklahoma City) called the anti-choice legislation “dangerous.”

The legislation, if passed by the state senate and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), is likely to face a court challenge.

Mississippi 

Less than a year after Mississippi passed a near-total abortion ban that’s been blocked by the courts, a Republican lawmaker has introduced a total abortion ban. According to the “Human Life Protection Act,” or HB 627, a physician who provides abortion care would be subject to up to two years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

The legislation shares a name with the total abortion ban passed by Alabama last year, and like that ban, it would end legal abortion, with an exception to prevent a serious health risk to the pregnant person. (The health risks would need to be confirmed by two doctors.) Rep. Randy Boyd (R-Mantachie) filed the legislation in the state house last Thursday, and it has been sent to the judiciary committee; the bill has no co-sponsors yet.

Arizona 

Arizona Republicans advanced a proposal to fund anti-choice organizations’ efforts to dissuade people from abortion care. The legislation, which was approved last week by committees in the state senate and house, promises $1.5 million dollars a year to set up a “family health pilot program” to “support childbirth as an alternative to abortion”

The legislation, SB 1328 and HB 3288, would require the department of health to contract with a nonprofit to run a statewide system to provide “direct services, support services, social services case management and referrals to the biological or adoptive parents of children under two years of age, including unborn children.” Money dedicated for the program “may not be used for abortion referral services or distributed to entities that promote, refer or perform abortions,” according to the bill.

A similar bill, pushed by the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy, failed in the senate last year after two Republicans opposed it. The center describes the proposal as similar to the Texas Alternatives to Abortion program, which gives taxpayer money to deceptive anti-choice pregnancy centers.

The legislation would also provide funds to maintain Arizona’s information and referral telephone line—on the condition that the service is barred from giving information about abortion, or referrals to any entity that provides abortion services. Although the service received only three calls in 2018 related to abortion, according to the Arizona Mirror, the Center for Arizona Policy and its allies in the legislature have blocked funding the last few years.

Michigan

In late January, Michigan House Rep. Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan) and 30 co-sponsors introduced a bill that would force doctors to tell patients about the unproven concept of “abortion reversal.” Such legislation is based on the medically dubious—and potentially dangerous—idea that a person can stop a medication abortion after they have already taken the first pill in the two-pill regimen.

HB 5374 is now in the house committee on families, children, and seniors. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), a supporter of abortion rights, would likely veto the bill if it reaches her desk. Republicans control both chambers of the Michigan legislature.

Dr. Sarah Wallett, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Michigan, said the idea is “pseudo-science, and it is a demonstrated danger to patients to even suggest it as a ‘reversal’ option,” in a statement to the Holland Sentinel.

“Legislators under the guise of helping women want to force physicians like myself to do something that (as a highly trained medical professional) I know to be harmful,” Dr. Wallett continued. “This is infuriating. Legally requiring physicians to lie to and endanger their patients is abominable.”

Lawmakers in five states (North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arkansas) passed “abortion reversal” laws last year.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/02/10/oklahoma-republicans-want-to-suspend-abortion-providers-medical-licenses-spotlight-on-the-states/

Trump’s administration is pushing a Christian nationalist agenda — but a diverse coalition is pushing back hard

Imagini pentru Religious wars: With the Christian right on the offensive, activists are fighting back

Religion and secular iconography (Getty Images/Salon)

Last Thursday, Jan. 16, was Religious Freedom Day. As befits his mendacious nature, Donald Trump “honored” it by promoting two policies profoundly at odds with the original meaning of what religious freedom is all about: a license to discriminate with federal funds, both in employment and in provision of services, and new pressure on public schools to allow student prayer and religious use of school facilities.

The actual substance of the second policy was vastly over-hyped, noted Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Religion had never been banned from education by the Supreme Court in the 1960s, she pointed out — only “mandatory Bible readings and prayers written by the government. It should not be controversial to oppose government-dictated religious practice.” But that’s clearly the direction Trump was signaling toward, and the public pressure of presidential posturing has real-life consequences, regardless of written laws and regulations.

Trump’s actions drew swift condemnation from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Center for Inquiry, among others. As CFI noted:

[I]f a homeless atheist or LGBTQ teenager went to a federally-funded Catholic soup kitchen seeking nutritional aid, the organization could turn them away without so much as notifying them that alternative sources of aid exist.

This amounts to a religious litmus tests to access public services. Welcome to “Handmaid’s Tale” America.

But this was no surprise, given Trump’s dependence on Christian nationalist support, and the fact that he’s touted their line before, as I noted last year at this time. As Americans United president Rachel Laser said to Salon, “The Trump administration’s constant entanglement of church and state should make our founders turn over in their graves.”

So what is surprising is the dramatic growth of a broad progressive pushback against this attempt to kidnap the meaning of America’s most distinctive contribution to the history of human freedom.

It began in 2016, with the publication of “When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right,”  written by Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at Political Research Associates. Last year, Clarkson helped draft a model Religious Freedom Day resolution highlighting the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, whose anniversary the day celebrates. But this year has seen a marked change, Clarkson told Salon.

“This was the year that the Christian right finally began to show signs of weakness,” Clarkson said. “Organized efforts by an historically broad movement began to gain traction in opposing the theocratic politics of the Christian right,” he explained. “In my view, a movement is so much more than a coalition or coalitions.”

Laser sees similar signs as well. “The importance of church-state separation and religious freedom has made it back into the progressive community’s vernacular,” she said, adding, “Concerned citizens are raising church-state separation in town halls with presidential candidates and we are hearing about the misuse of religion to discriminate on the presidential debate stage.” And beyond that, “Our recent public opinion research shows that 60 percent of voters see church-state separation as a high-priority issue to them personally. And despite the Trump administration stacking the deck against us, we’re seeing victories in state legislatures, in Congress and in the courts.”

Those victories reflect a lot more battles, as Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer Pizer told Salon. “In 2019, our litigation teams were in overdrive, back and forth to courthouses all over the country getting orders blocking examples of the Trump-Pence administration’s grotesque religious-exemption overreach,” Pizer said.

There have also been broader results, Clarkson noted:

Religious, secular and civil rights groups have maintained a sustained effort of exposure and opposition, and were joined in 2019 by the [Baptist Joint Committee], which waged an unprecedented campaign, based on a strong manifesto called “Christians Against Christian Nationalism,” which was joined in by top leaders of other Christian denominations. This unity frightened Christian right leaders who sought to smear the effort, but who were so fearful that they could not even bring themselves to say the name of the BJC.

Movements draw together a wide range of people, communities, ideas, and aspirations. This was reflected in a range of stories I covered last year — which only scratch the surface of all the emerging activism:

  • The expanding pushback against the state-level legal agenda of “Project Blitz” (the Christian nationalist equivalent of ALEC), which I first wrote about when Clarkson first exposed “Project Blitz” in 2018.  (“Project Blitz lost significant momentum; having introduced and passed fewer bills than the year before,” Clarkson told Salon.)
  • Congressional hearings on the “Do No Harm” act, which would curb discriminatory abuse of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (The act now has 170 House co-sponsors, and 27 in the Senate. “This means the public education process is well underway about how the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA] has been distorted and abused both by Supreme Court decisions and the Trump-Pence Administration,” Pizer said.)
  • The lawsuit challenging the Trump HHS “Denial of Care” rule, which would have given free rein to a wide range of bigoted decision-making impacting the health and welfare of millions. (Rule since blocked by courts.) While LGBTQ and reproductive rights activists have long battled attacks from the religious right, the right’s own reframing has helped allies more directly see those attacks as directed at everyone, not just those explicitly targeted.
  • The creation of Christians Against Christian Nationalism, noted above by Clarkson. [Salon story here].
  • Publication of “The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American,” [author interview here] which provides a wealth of information & has gained significant attention.
  • The ongoing growth of the “ex-vangelical “movement, exposing the abusive, authoritarian reality behind the “wholesome, all-American” facade of white evangelicalism.

The last story I only covered indirectly, by including ex-vangelical perspectives in my overall coverage. Because they have the most intense first-hand knowledge of the stakes involved, their perspective is necessary for any truly comprehensive coverage — even if (or because) it makes things more complicated.

“Having grown up steeped in Christian nationalism, which I’ve come to vehemently reject, I have difficulty performing patriotism, though I do love my country and democracy,” ex-vangelical author Chrissy Stroop, co-editor of “Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church,” told Salon. “I don’t know the extent to which it’s possible for us to reclaim the messaging around religious freedom from the Christian right,” she said, “but I do think there is value in trying to reclaim the original meaning of the concept and in celebrating robust pluralism.”

Also worth noting is another important story I only touched on in passing — the religious freedom struggles of progressives whose faith is mocked and trampled on by Trump and his allies. I referenced the continued prosecution of humanitarian aid volunteer Scott Warren on two charges related to aiding migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But Warren is only one example among many. In November, the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School released a report, “Whose Faith Matters? The Fight for Religious Liberty Beyond the Christian Right,” which provides a comprehensive account of the wide range of contexts “in which people of faith engaged in humanitarian and social justice work have fought for the right to exercise their religion.”

Finally, earlier this month American Atheists released its “2019 State of the Secular States” report, authored by Alison Gill, its vice president for legal and policy. States were classified into three categories: Just 10 qualified as having “strong protections for religious equality,” including “constitutional guarantees for religious freedom, protections against religious harm, and few religious exemptions,” while 21 states — among them Florida and Texas — were found to have “religious exemptions that undermine equality,” including  “provisions that instill Christian Nationalism into the law,” as well as “a lack of explicit protections to ensure the separation of religion and government.” Between those two extremes, 19 states were found to provide “basic separation of religion and government,” but with “few protections against religious harm.”

This report makes vividly clear the landscape of an ongoing cultural battlefield that’s been ignored — or purposely hidden — for far too long. While Project Blitz and Trump’s policies were promoted under the banner of “religious freedom,” Gill said, “This is nothing more than the cynical misappropriation of this fundamental American principle. In reality, these forces have undermined religious freedom by attempting to enshrine Christian privilege into the law,” while eroding separation of church and state.

“Exposing their agenda is the key to defeating it,” Gill said. “This is why the State of the Secular States is such an important tool — the report provides benchmarks and helps us understand whether the states have faithfully executed, or eroded, this historical understanding of religious freedom.”

She went on to say, “Recognizing the threat is just the first step. With this awareness, we can work together to stop this erosion of religious equality.”

With all the activity noted above, and much more, a significant watershed has been crossed. The rich diversity of views outside the religious right has long been a significant disadvantage in confronting a highly focused minority. At long last, that’s beginning to change.

The literal map that American Atheists provides is matched by other kinds of maps that are starting to emerge — maps of history, ideas and experience. Without such maps to help guide us, we can easily be mislead by claims that “here be dragons” that no one has actually ever seen. Or we can think that some very real things can’t possibly exist at all.

One such example is the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), founded way back in 1936. It’s the only national faith-based group focused solely on protecting religious freedom for all. Not only does such an organization exist — with deep roots in American Baptist history — this past year it played a leading role in reaching out to other like-minded Christians, regardless of denomination, in launching Christians Against Christian Nationalism.

“Religious Freedom Day provides an annual reminder of how our country protects religious liberty in a unique way — one that has served us well for centuries,” BJC executive director Amanda Tyler told Salon. “Americans must reaffirm our promise of equal citizenship without regard to religion in these challenging days. The thousands of people who have signed the Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement are defending these principles.”

A more expected form of opposition to Christian nationalism and its perverted notion of “religious freedom” comes from Andrew Seidel, an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. But if the form isn’t surprising, the scope and strength of his arguments are.

“Christian nationalism is the false claim that America was founded as a Christian nation, that we were based on Christian principles and, most importantly, that we’ve strayed from that foundation, from our godly roots,” Seidel told Salon. “They use the language of return to justify their harmful public policy,” he said. “But there is hope. The very identity of the Christian nationalist [is] based on a host of myths and lies. Right now, America is in a desperate fight against Christian nationalism, a political theology that is an existential threat to our republic. That’s why I wrote ‘The Founding Myth’.”

He ticked through an exhausting list of lies his book refutes:

We’re one nation under God; “In God we Trust”; the Declaration of Independence relies on the Christian God four times; the Founders were all evangelical Christians; those founders prayed at the Constitutional Convention; Washington knelt in the snow at Valley Forge in prayer; our country is based on the Ten Commandments. All lies. All wrong.

Stroop cited Seidel’s book for the powerful case it makes. “Andrew Seidel emphasizes the point that there can be no freedom of religion without freedom from religion, and he’s absolutely right about that. … I think he unfortunately undercuts that critical point, however, in devoting so much of the book to pitting the Bible against American secularism and democracy, not considering that there are indeed progressive and inclusive interpretations of the text.

“That move plays into the Christian nationalists’ attempt to define ‘religious freedom’ as exclusive to right-wing Christians, who must, the way they see it, be free to impose their will on others in order for them to consider themselves to have ‘religious freedom’ at all.”

Consonant with Stroop’s point, the “Whose Faith Matters?” report notes that “the commonly held position that ‘religious liberty should not be a license to discriminate’ seems to accept at face value the notion that carve-outs from antidiscrimination law for religious conservatives do in fact protect religious liberty.” Rather, “the very opposite is true: weakening civil rights law necessarily weakens religious freedom. Ceding the domain of ‘religious liberty’ to the Christian right overlooks the ways in which equality and religious freedom are mutually reinforcing rights, each dependent on the other.”

This kind of criticism is actually a sign of the health and growing vitality of the broader movement. We increasingly see multiple different perspectives engaging with each other, producing a richer, more nuanced framework for developing a multi-layered, multi-faceted understanding of the issues involved.

Today’s Christian nationalist ideology builds on much earlier foundations, as historian Steven Green explores in his 2015 book, “Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding.” A presentation on his book by Green precipitated one of the most disturbing attacks ever seen from a Project Blitz group last year, which threatened the funding of Minnesota’s nonprofit historical association.

The myth Green describes originated in the revolutionary period and was solidified shortly after that. “It was in the early 1800s, however, that the narrative that the nation had a Christian founding and was specially blessed by God took hold,” Green said, “as members of the second generation sought to sanctify the nation’s origins and to distinguish it from other countries.” Heirs always have insecurities, it seems, and we were no different as a nation. Since then, the narrative has waxed and waned, he said, with a resurgence in the last 30 years. “These Christian nationalists are reacting to the nation’s shifting racial and religious demographics, as well as to decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court limiting government promotion of religion and extending protections to previously marginalized groups such as members of the LGBTQ community.”

White Protestants are still culturally predominant, but that power is waning, so a different sort of insecurity is driving the current resurgence. “Even though much of their work is rhetorical, convincing religious conservatives that they are under attack,” he notes, they have gained some tangible victories

such as convincing the Texas State Board of Education to incorporate material about the nation’s Christian origins into the state’s social science curriculum. The Congressional Prayer Caucus’ Project Blitz has also mounted an ambitious agenda to encourage state legislatures to enact policies that reflect a Christian perspective.

Likely the greatest success of Christian nationalists and their allies has been to convince legislators and judges to adopt an exaggerated understanding of regulatory burdens on the free exercise of religion.

In contrast to Green’s broad historical perspective, stands the chilling concrete issue of personal survival raised by the Trump administration’s Denial of Care rule. As I noted last June, when the lawsuit to challenge it was filed, religious conscience exemptions are neither new nor controversial in themselves:

There have long been provisions for health care providers to abstain from practices for religious reasons, in carefully balanced ways that preserve patient access to care and maintain patient health as the central focus of medicine. But the “denial of care” rule turns all this upside down, placing an imaginary right to discriminate at the center, and requiring everything else to accommodate them.

Indeed, it extended religious exemptions to virtually all employees, not just medical personnel. Three different federal courts have thrown the rule out, but those decisions are under appeal, and with so many Trump-appointed judges throughout the judicial, there is legitimate concern over what may happen. Freya Riedlin, federal policy counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, explained:

The vacated rule, if reinstated on appeal, could embolden an immensely broad array of health care workers, including receptionists and ambulance drivers, to turn away and refuse to serve patients based on moral or religious grounds. Patients seeking services like contraception, abortion or gender-affirming care would be most impacted by the rule. Because the rule does not provide exceptions even in emergencies, it could even mean being denied life-saving medical care.

The Denial of Care Rule applies to virtually every kind of health care provider.  Health care facilities risk losing all federal funding if they do not grant employees carte blanche to deny information and services.   Because the Rule is infeasible to implement, if allowed to go into effect, it could coerce many health care facilities to eliminate reproductive health care and LGBTQ health care, leaving millions across the United States without access to critical health care.

This is only one of multiple “attacks on women and other vulnerable populations” from the Trump administration “that are purportedly in the name of religious liberty [and] front and center of its ideological agenda,” Riedlin said. “This trend shows no signs of abating and we expect to see more of the same throughout 2020.”

Pizer agreed: “As the next election approaches, we are seeing a fast-accelerating pace of regulatory changes aiming to expand religious rights to discriminate across the areas governed by federal law, and to secure the flow of federal tax dollars to private religious agencies that want to perform public functions and impose their religious views on as much of society as possible.”

So the battle to reclaim the true meaning of religious freedom has inextricably become increasingly central to the 2020 election, and to the political concerns of virtually all Americans, whether they realize it or not.

“These snowballing threats have prompted stronger partnerships, growing public awareness, growing congressional support and public distancing from discrimination by some who led the national charge against LGBT equality not long ago,” said Pizer.

“In all that progress lay the seeds of public awareness that can blossom into public rebuke of the outrageous distortion and misuse of religious liberty that put so many of us at risk.”

Source: https://www.salon.com/2020/01/20/religious-wars-with-the-christian-right-on-the-offensive-activists-are-fighting-back/?fbclid=IwAR1p0WHtF9Ck90JFOkb4TB10JVhuwOsXNNLVcVZzhVxuIpx35gTtkLKjUsc

Fighting for the Right to Make Decisions About Your Own Body

Credit: Courtesy

As the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches on January 22, our attention should be directed toward maintaining and enhancing reproductive and sexual health care that best addresses the needs of diverse people. Anti-abortion movement advocates and politicians anticipated the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, and the movement has successfully worked to create obstacles to both abortion care and contraception.

Roe itself, often shorthanded as providing “the right to choose,” faces significant threats. But reflecting on how we arrived at the current state of reproductive policy reveals that the crisis of access to reproductive care is widespread and experienced unequally. According to the Guttmacher Institute, an “unprecedented wave of bans” on abortion in 2019 resulted in 25 new laws, mainly in the South and Midwest. I advocate for defending Roe and intervening in the policies and practices that continue to erode this landmark decision and intentionally institute reproductive inequalities.

Historically in the U.S., reproductive- and sexual-health-care policies have been shaped by social, political, and legal contests over gender, class, race, sexuality, immigration, and religion. Abortion care may be legal, but for many women and girls, it is effectively inaccessible.

Some barriers have high media visibility, such as the 2003 federal law prohibiting a medical abortion-care procedure when then-President George W. Bush approved the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Also highlighted were the bombing of abortion clinics, the murder of doctors and clinic workers, and the installment of anti-abortion U.S. Supreme Court judges. But innumerable low-visibility practices and policies in many states curtailed abortion-care access, including a lack of abortion-care providers in many regions, insurance bans, government-mandated waiting periods, and medical procedure limitations. Low-income women and women of color are most affected by these constraints and have fewer resources to work around them.

A range of federal funding restrictions contribute to unequal access to reproductive information and care. The Global Gag Rule, established in 1984 as the Mexico City Policy, prohibits U.S. funding for organizations that provide or even discuss abortion. This logic is now applied within the U.S. to restrict Title X funding. The nonprofit Planned Parenthood and other holistic reproductive-care providers have turned down this federal funding to avoid complying with the silencing of abortion-care information. By so doing, they provide safe, legal, low-cost reproductive care.

Federal bans on Medicaid funding for abortion care, with exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman or in cases of rape and incest, were established by the 1976 Hyde Amendment and are reenacted annually. The amendment also applies to women in the military, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, federal prisoners, and Peace Corps employees, and it is meant to shrink the reach of Roe. A movement to repeal the Hyde Amendment has been led by women of color for decades, and in 2016, the Democratic National Committee Platform supported it. This is expected to be featured during the 2020 presidential election.

This is a critical time to resist policies that restrict reproductive options. Public health decision-makers, voters, and everyday women and girls, by joining coalitions, can raise their voices. Legal collaboration can look like the multistate coalition of 22 attorneys general, including California’s Xavier Becerra, who filed a December 2019 amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court. They support a constitutional challenge to a Louisiana law that requires abortion care providers to have local hospital admitting privileges; an identical Texas law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016.

Collaboration for women’s rights is also supported by reproductive justice advocates. The SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective defines reproductive justice as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities. This framework requires that equitable policies be built by working from the grassroots with those who have the least access to reproductive health care. The Intersection of Our Lives, formed by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda; and National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum found in a 2019 poll that “84 percent of women of color voters believe that candidates should support women making their own decisions about their reproductive health.”

Reproductive justice, as a theory, strategy, and set of practices, acknowledges the decisions that women, men, gender nonbinary, and transgender individuals make about their bodies and lives, setting their options within families and communities. This framework mobilizes us to focus on how power operates: U.S. policies have not applied evenly to all people, and appeals to “choice” do not reach the majority of low-income women and women of color or address the disparities in our society.

Activists for reproductive justice, in coalition with allies, provide dynamic ways to enhance our reproductive rights and health. The personal and political stakes are high, and there are many ways to raise awareness of the threats to women’s rights and support reproductive justice. March, protest, lobby, educate, collaborate, and, above all, vote.

Laury Oaks chairs UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Feminist Studies.

Source: https://www.independent.com/2020/01/14/threats-to-roe-v-wade/?fbclid=IwAR2qJQDMkeQy9eHvpf9pSTmT1yRZJ6VRrR185ij2GuWjHRfKlgg0ehVTrd8

The answer: Republicans expect a conservative state Supreme Court will ignore precedent and uphold a parental consent law.

State Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, speaks during a Senate Rules Committee hearing regarding SB 404, known as the “parental consent” bill, at the Capitol, in January in Tallahassee. The bill requires girls under the age of 18 get a parent’s consent before having an abortion (Associated Press I Aileen Perilla) [AILEEN PERILLA | AP]

The Florida Senate is poised to approve legislation this week that would require minors to obtain parental consent before receiving an abortion — even though the Florida Supreme Court decided decades ago that restriction violates the Florida Constitution. Why pass legislation that is unconstitutional? Because Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican lawmakers are confident the conservative justices who now dominate the court will ignore precedent and uphold an abortion restriction that will jeopardize the safety and health of some pregnant teenagers.

This assault on abortion rights is an election-year effort by Republican lawmakers to energize conservative voters without embracing more extreme restrictions. For example, legislation that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected is not moving. But Gov. Ron DeSantis mentioned his support for the parental consent bill last month in his State of the State address. And the Senate, which last year stalled similar legislation that passed the House, is going first this time and expected to vote along party lines Thursday to approve SB 404. Expect a court fight, but don’t count on the Florida Supreme Court to protect the constitutional rights of pregnant teenagers this time.

This issue has been long settled. The Legislature passed a similar parental consent law in 1988, and a year later the Florida Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional and violated the state Constitution’s right to privacy. That privacy right has not changed. What has changed is the court is more conservative, and it has demonstrated it has no qualms about going off in a new direction. Already this year it has decided it was wrong for the court to consider the intent of the voters when evaluating constitutional amendments, and it concluded the court also was wrong to require juries to unanimously recommend death sentences.

There is no need for the state to interfere with this most personal of decisions. Florida already has a parental notification law, and there is no indication that the abortion rate is significantly rising. There were 12,000 fewer abortions in 2018 in this state than there were a decade ago, and more than nine of every 10 abortions were in the first trimester. Requiring parental consent will put more teenagers who do not have close relationships with their families in a more desperate situation.

The supporters of the legislation note pregnant teens who can’t seek their parents’ permission can seek a judicial waiver to obtain an abortion and that a lawyer may be appointed to represent them. But going to court can be intimidating for anyone, particularly for a teen who already is in crisis. Abortion rights supporters also point out that clerks for many circuit courts are not particularly prepared to help a teen inquiring about the judicial waiver process.

One by one, the Senate already has rejected virtually every change proposed by Democrats such as Sens. Janet Cruz of Tampa and Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg that would have made the parental consent legislation marginally more workable. Expect Thursday’s debate to be vigorous, but don’t expect minds to change. This attack on abortion rights is on the fast track to the governor, who will sign it into law. The question is whether the conservative justices on the Florida Supreme Court will decide those rights are still protected by the privacy amendment to the state Constitution. What was once a given is no longer certain.

Source: https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/2020/02/03/why-would-the-florida-senate-approve-an-unconstitutional-abortion-restriction-editorial/?fbclid=IwAR2g7gE8LKtr5CDmDAoJWnCJmWau8k1w67yryA2F_MXtHTHDC3cm5ZWTS4s

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