• You can temporarily take it at home during the Coronavirus pandemic

Our ability to offer abortions is a vital part of healthcare and cements the right among women and girls across the world to make decisions about their own bodies.

It’s estimated that that one in three women in the UK will have an abortion by the time they’re 45.

Knowing this, it is essential that we are as informed as possible about what abortions are, the different ways a woman can undergo a termination, how to access the health service and what the process entails.

As well as more invasive procedures, if a pregnancy is at an early enough stage, one of the types of termination offered is the ‘medical abortion’, which involves taking two different medicines in tablet form, to end a pregnancy.

From how an abortion pill works and how to organise a termination, to the cost of an abortion pill and understanding the ‘pill by post’ service, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about this form of termination.

What are the different methods of abortion?

The are two main types of abortion: a medical abortion (otherwise known as the abortion pill) and a surgical abortion.

The abortion pill involves taking a medicine to terminate the pregnancy, whereas a surgical abortion involves the removal of the pregnancy via a procedure at a doctor’s surgery.

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In the UK, we allow terminations to occur up to the 24th week of pregnancy. However, in certain circumstances, an abortion can take place after this time period for reasons including a risk to the mother’s life or if there are severe issues with the foetus’ development.

The NHS states that patients should be offered a choice of which method they’d prefer whenever possible. And, according to Dr Yvonne Neubauer, Associate Clinical Director for MSUK, ‘in theory, both medical and surgical abortion can be offered up to the legal limit of 23 weeks and 6 days. However, abortion services may only offer certain methods within a particular pregnancy range depending on local protocols and expertise.’

Between six and nine weeks of pregnancy, the abortion pill is usually the preferred method of termination, as it involves very little time at the clinic.

‘Beyond 10 weeks’ gestation, [while medical abortions are still possible] women have to stay overnight and so most women opt to have a surgical procedure, since it’s a quicker process,’ a spokesperson from the The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) tells ELLE UK.

Official government figures show that approximately 180,000 abortions are carried out in England each year, with medical abortions the most common choice to end a pregnancy.

What is the abortion pill?

An abortion pill (actually a series of two different tablets) is not to be confused with a morning after pill. Their chemical components are entirely different.

Planned Parenthood clarifies this common confusion, explaining: ‘The morning-after pill, also known as emergency contraception, helps prevent pregnancy; the abortion pill, also known as medication abortion, ends pregnancy.’

‘There is no evidence that emergency contraception can cause an abortion if it is taken when already pregnant,’ adds a BPAS spokesperson.

A medical abortion involves taking not one tablet but two different types of medicines.

The first tablet contains a medicine called mifepristone. Its job is to block the main pregnancy hormone, progesterone. Without this hormone, the lining of the uterus breaks down, ending the pregnancy’s viability.

The second medicine called misoprostol. This is a chemical that forces the womb to begin cramping, a bit like the contractions of labour. This drug helps your body to eject the now inviable pregnancy.

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How do you take the tablets?

These medicines are prescribed by the hospital or abortion clinic and are usually taken one to two days apart.

Following an assessment, those who decide to proceed with the termination will usually be asked to sign a consent form and the clinic or hospital will arrange a date for the abortion. Patients are able to change their mind at any point up to the start of the abortion.

‘The mifepristone tablet can be taken at the hospital or clinic, and you’ll be able to go home afterwards and continue your normal activities,’ the NHS explains.

A day or two later, a patient must take the second medicine, the misoprostol. This tablet should be placed under the tongue, between the cheek and gum or inside the vagina.

A BPAS spokesperson tells us that it is inadvisable for someone to take the first pill without the second.

‘The first pill (mifepristone) is regarded as the start of the abortion procedure,’ they explain. ‘Some anti-abortion campaigners have tried to claim that the effects of mifepristone can be reversed, but there is no evidence to support this.’

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Within a period of four to six hours after taking the second medicine, the lining of the womb will break down, which can involve pain, bleeding and ultimately, the passing of the pregnancy from your body. In most cases, the vaginal bleeding and discomfort should subside within several hours, or up to a day, but some discomfort and bleeding can continue for up to two weeks.

‘Sometimes you need to take more doses of misoprostol to get the pregnancy to pass,’ the NHS adds.

The abortion pill does not require surgery or an anaesthetic. However, occasionally, the pregnancy does not pass and a further procedure is needed to remove it.

Can you take the abortion pill at home?

For years, medical abortions in England have had to be initiated in a hospital, by a specialist provider or a licensed clinic.

However, in March, the governments in England, Wales and Scotland made a landmark decision to change the law, now allowing women and girls to take the abortion pill for early medical abortions (up to 10 weeks into the pregnancy) in their own homes during the Covid-19 outbreak.

‘This measure will be on a temporary basis and must follow a telephone or e-consultation with a doctor,’ the Department of Health in England stated at the time of the announcement.

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In response to the news, Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: ‘This change in practice will reduce pressure on the health system while limiting the unnecessary risk of infection for women, their families and health workers.’

The at-home medical abortion is now commonly referred to as ‘pill by post’ or ‘remote abortion pill treatment’.

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‘This service is a safe and legal way to end a pregnancy at an early gestation without needing to attend a clinic for treatment,’ explains BPAs.

Those wanting a pill by post will have to complete a consultation and medical assessment over the phone. During the consultation, BPAS will explain the known risks and complications of the treatment, which can be read here.

If you opt for a pill by post, you will receive the treatment package from a pharmacy from one to three days after the telephone consultation. If, for any reason, the package is delayed in the post, the organisation advises women take the tablets as directed once they do arrive.

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Note: The package is plain with no indication of its contents, it will be tracked but not signed for.

The package will contain the following:

  • Abortion pill medication (one tablet mifepristone and six tablets of misoprostol – packaged together or separately)
  • Pregnancy test
  • Codeine (only provided if suitable)
  • Progestogen only contraceptive pills (if requested and suitable)

When it comes to passing the pregnancy, BPAS advises women to use sanitary towels to monitor the bleeding and notes that a woman’s next period might be heavier than usual.

The majority of patients will pass their pregnancy at home, or a place of their choosing, and decide how they wish to dispose of its remains. ‘They can be flushed down the lavatory or wrapped in tissue, placed in a small plastic bag and put in the dustbin,’ BPAS notes.

How much does an abortion pill cost?

In the majority of UK cases, the abortion pill is free of charge.

BPAS and abortion provider Marie Stopes UK (MSUK) state that the majority (97-98 per cent) of women who require their services have their treatment paid for by the NHS (or another governing body).

In order to assess a patient’s eligibility for an NHS-paid abortion, BPAS requires their address and the name and address of their GP. Those who choose to be treated privately at the organisation will need to pay for their abortion.

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According to the service’s prices from April 10 2019, the total price (including an initial consultation and treatment) of an abortion pill (under 10 weeks) is £480. You can see the full list of prices here.

BPAS also offers special prices for women from the Republic of Ireland, and the Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey).

The majority women who require abortion services have their treatment paid for by the NHS

‘While abortion care is not available on the NHS for women in Northern Ireland, in June 2017 the UK Government announced they would commit to cover the cost of abortion care for women from Northern Ireland who are treated in England,’ explains Marie Stopes.

Visit the Abortion Support Network to donate to fund abortions and travel of clients from outside of the UK here.

What risks are involved with the abortion pill?

Common side effects for women following an early medical abortion can include feeling dizzy, nauseous, a headache and temporary flushes or sweats which usually pass after a few hours.

However, there are more serious risks associated with both a medical and surgical abortion depending on far along you are in your pregnancy.

The NHS explains that before 14 weeks of pregnancy, the main risks of an abortion pill include requiring another procedure to remove parts of the pregnancy that have stayed in the womb, plus heavy bleeding.

From 14 weeks of pregnancy, the risks include needing a follow-up procedure to remove parts of the pregnancy that have stayed in the womb and there is more risk of infection or injury to the womb. Find out more about any complications here.

Abortion is an extremely safe procedure, and it’s even safer the earlier it is performed,’ states a BPAS spokesperson.

‘With early medical abortions, there is a small chance of infection, or that the procedure may not be successful, which is why we provide all women with information on the signs and symptoms to look out for and a pregnancy test to take home with them.’

Dr Neubauer tells us that the majority of women choosing to have an abortion ‘are sure that this is the right option for them, but a small number prefer to have counselling to help them with their decision’. Both BPAS and MSUK offers pre-and post-abortion counselling to all clients.

Does an abortion pill affect fertility?

Having an abortion will not affect your chances of becoming pregnant and having normal pregnancies in the future, the NHS outlines.

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BPAS emphasises this in the Q&A section on its website, noting: ‘There is absolutely no evidence that safe, legal abortion will lead to infertility. In fact, after an abortion, fertility returns almost immediately.’

The NHS notes that many women are able to get pregnant immediately after a termination and advises them to start using contraception right away if they don’t want to get pregnant again.

‘There’s a very small risk to your fertility and future pregnancies if you develop a womb infection that is not treated quickly. The infection could spread to your fallopian tubes and ovaries – known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).’

However, most infections are treated before they develop to this stage.

Can you buy abortion pills online?

Abortion pills are sold online but it is illegal to take them without medical approval in the UK.

According to data from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates medicines in the UK, there were 375 abortion pills seized in 2018, up from 270 in 2015 and 180 in 2014. In recent years, some women have been jailed for taking abortion pills bought online.

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In July 2020, The Independent reported that several charities and MPs called for the law to change when it comes to the consumption of online abortion pills at home.

Abortion is an extremely safe procedure, and it’s even safer the earlier it is performed

They argue the law disproportionately affects women and girls in ‘abusive relationships who seek illicit medication online’ who are unable to visit clinics ‘for fear their abuser will discover their pregnancy’.

How do you organise an abortion?

When it comes to getting an abortion, it’s important to note that terminations are only carried out under the care of an NHS hospital or licensed clinic.

There are three main ways to get an abortion on the NHS which include:

  • Speak to a GP and ask for a referral to an abortion service. The GP should refer you to another doctor if he or she has any objections to abortion
  • Contact a sexual health clinic and ask for a referral to an abortion service
  • Self-refer by contacting an abortion provider directly (eg. BPAS or Marie Stopes UK).

A BPAS spokesperson tells us that in the UK, GP surgeries don’t fall under the category of a ‘licensed clinic’ so many women ‘prefer to skip the GP visit and self-refer instead’.

If you want to go ahead with an abortion, you can find pregnancy termination services via the NHS website here. All you need to do is enter your location (postcode or town) into the website and it will give you a list of locations where you can enquire about a termination.

If you want to book a termination through BPAS, for example, you will have to make a consultation before your treatment to ensure it’s legal and safe to proceed. Call 03457 30 40 30 to book an appointment or make an enquiry, request an appointment via this form or request a callback.

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You can make an appointment directly with BPAS without first consulting your GP or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic.

‘If you come to us for an abortion, we’ll ask for your reasons for wanting one, which we’re required to do by law,’ Marie Stopes explains on its website. ‘Two doctors need to make sure the requirements of the Abortion Act are met, and sign the relevant certificate. We will arrange this for you.’

The NHS notes that you should not have to wait more than two weeks from when you (or a doctor) first contacted an abortion provider regarding the termination.

Will an abortion be on a person’s medical record?

This entirely depends on how a patient has gone about organising their abortion.

‘If you ask your GP to refer you for an abortion it will automatically be put on your medical records at the time of your visit to your GP,’ the UK Health Centre explains.

However, if you go to a private abortion clinic, it won’t be automatically put on your medical records due to confidentially rules.

‘It is possible that sometimes if you are to be referred for an abortion through the Family Planning Association or Sexual Health Clinic that your abortion information is not sent onto your GP,’ the Centre states.

‘This may not be automatically be put onto your medical records even though it would be NHS funded.’

If a patient calls BPAS or Marie Stopes for advice regarding an abortion, they are not required to tell the service who they are and they won’t receive a call back unless they request one.

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When it comes to contacting a GP, both BPAS and Marie Stopes state that they won’t disclose information to a patient’s GP or contact them without their permission.

The latter adds that the only circumstance where it would do this would be ‘when needed for emergency medical care or safeguarding concerns’.

It explains: ‘All clinical professionals are bound by the code of confidentiality and data protection laws.’

Additionally, BPAS says that while it wouldn’t contact a GP without a patient’s permission, they might need to share some personal information with other healthcare providers or organisations in order to provide care, such as gaining NHS funding or to understand a person’s medical history. You can read more about how BPAS uses your information here.

What are the laws surrounding abortion in the UK?

According to the Abortion Act 1967, in England, Scotland and Wales, you can legally have an abortion up to 23 weeks and six days of pregnancy.

In March 2020, Northern Ireland changed its abortion laws to allow terminations to be carried out in all circumstances in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy. After that time period, abortions are legal in some cases – for example, there is no term limit in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

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In England, Scotland and Wales, there is no gestational limit for abortions if there’s proof of a fatal foetal abnormality or a significant risk to the mother’s life if they were to proceed with the pregnancy.

Source: https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/culture/a33233965/abortion-pill/?fbclid=IwAR2Vf6JUvPpDnBSR_b47ZGukZdxyO6LdtVEtnr4wuyQ9Nw0kbMDeCi75gXk

The Supreme Court ruled broadly Wednesday in favor of the religious rights of employers in two cases that could leave more than 70,000 women without free contraception and tens of thousands of people with no way to sue for job discrimination.

In both cases the court ruled 7-2, with two liberal justices joining conservatives in favor of the Trump administration and religious employers.

In the more prominent of the two cases, involving President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, the justices greenlighted changes the Trump administration had sought. The administration announced in 2017 that it would allow more employers to opt out of providing the no-cost birth control coverage required under the law, but lower courts had blocked the changes.

The ruling is a significant election-year win for President Donald Trump, who counts on heavy support from evangelicals and other Christian groups for votes and policy backing. It was also good news for the administration, which in recent weeks has seen headline-making Supreme Court decisions go against its positions.

In one of those earlier cases, the court rejected Trump’s effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants. In another, the justices said a landmark civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment.

Another particularly important decision for Trump is ahead. The justices are expected to announce Thursday whether Congress and the Manhattan district attorney can see the president’s taxes and other financial records he has fought to keep private.

In its second big ruling on Wednesday, the court sided with two Catholic schools in California in a decision underscoring that certain employees of religious schools can’t sue for employment discrimination.

Lay teachers whose contracts had not been renewed had sued their schools. But Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion: “When a school with a religious mission entrusts a teacher with the responsibility of educating and forming students in the faith, judicial intervention into disputes between the school and the teacher threatens the school’s independence in a way that the First Amendment does not allow.”

The court’s birth-control decision was cheered by conservative groups, and White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany joined in. “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a big win for religious freedom and freedom of conscience,” she said in a statement.

Liberal groups and Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, decried the decision, which she called a “fundamental misreading” of the health care law. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said the decision will make it “easier for the Trump-Pence Administration to continue to strip health care from women.”

The Trump administration is still seeking to overturn Obama’s Affordable Care Act in its entirety. It has joined Texas and other Republican-led states in calling on the justices to do just that. The case is scheduled to be argued in the court term that begins in October.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority of the court, said in Wednesday’s decision that the administration has the authority to make its birth-control coverage changes and followed appropriate procedures in doing so.

The government has estimated that the rule changes would cause between 70,000 women and 126,000 women to lose contraception coverage in one year.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited those numbers in dissenting.

“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” she wrote in a dissent joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Birth control coverage has been a topic of contention since the health care law was passed.

“The ACA’s contraceptive mandate … has existed for approximately nine years. Litigation surrounding that requirement has lasted nearly as long,” Thomas wrote.

Initially, churches, synagogues and mosques were exempt from the contraceptive coverage requirement. The Obama administration also created a way by which religiously affiliated organizations including hospitals, universities and charities could opt out of paying for contraception, but women on their health plans would still get no-cost birth control. Some groups complained the opt-out process itself violated their religious beliefs, and years of legal wrangling followed.

After Trump took office, officials announced changes. Under a new policy issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, can opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious objections. The policy also allows some employers, though not publicly traded companies, to raise moral objections and do the same.

The changes were blocked by courts after New Jersey and Pennsylvania challenged them.

Future administrations could attempt to alter the Trump administration rules. And two liberal justices who sided with the administration, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, suggested the legal fight over the administration’s changes may continue.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement after the ruling, “This fight is not over.”

In the religious-schools discrimination case, the court had ruled unanimously in 2012 that the Constitution prevents ministers from suing their churches for employment discrimination, but the justices didn’t rigidly define who counts as a minister.

___

Associated Press writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

Source: https://apnews.com/65d64e383b5b90cb8620c35ab2bcaecc?fbclid=IwAR39Wc7VBl6kFCq7cOHKCzvGuAdtRYD7eYj7_FcaT_lJoSM9Rprp47Pmzwo

For five years, a team of researchers asked women about their experience after having—or not having—an abortion. What do their answers tell us?

The Turnaway Study, about the fallout of receiving or being denied an abortion, will be understood, criticized, and used politically, however carefully conceived and painstakingly executed the research was.Photograph by Ievgeniia Pidgorna / Alamy

There is a kind of social experiment you might think of as a What if? study. It would start with people who are similar in certain basic demographic ways and who are standing at the same significant fork in the road. Researchers could not assign participants to take one path or another—that would be wildly unethical. But let’s say that some more or less arbitrary rule in the world did the assigning for them. In such circumstances, researchers could follow the resulting two groups of people over time, sliding-doors style, to see how their lives panned out differently. It would be like speculative fiction, only true, and with statistical significance.

A remarkable piece of research called the Turnaway Study, which began in 2007, is essentially that sort of experiment. Over three years, a team of researchers, led by a demographer named Diana Greene Foster, at the University of California, San Francisco, recruited 1,132 women from the waiting rooms of thirty abortion clinics in twenty-one states. Some of the women would go on to have abortions, but others would be turned away, because they had missed the fetal gestational limit set by the clinic. Foster and her colleagues decided to compare the women in the two groups—those who received the abortion they sought and those who were compelled to carry their unwanted pregnancy to term—on a variety of measures over time, interviewing them twice a year for up to five years.

The study is important, in part, because of its ingenious design. It included only women whose pregnancies were unwanted enough that they were actively seeking an abortion, which meant the researchers were not making the mistake that some previous studies of unplanned conceptions had—“lumping the happy surprises in with the total disasters,” as Foster puts it. In terms of age, race, income level, and health status, the two groups of women closely resembled each other, as well as abortion patients nationwide. (Foster refers to the study’s participants as women because, to her knowledge, there were no trans men or non-binary people among them.) Seventy per cent of the women who were denied abortions at the first clinic where they sought them carried the unwanted pregnancies to term. Others miscarried or were able to obtain late abortions elsewhere, and Foster and her colleagues followed the trajectories of those in the latter group as well.

While you might guess that those who were turned away had messier lives—after all, they were getting to the clinic later than the seemingly more proactive women who made the deadline—that did not turn out to be the case. Some of the women who got their abortions (half of the total participants) did so just under the wire; among the women in the study who were denied abortions (a quarter of the total), some had missed the limit by a matter of only a few days. (The remaining quarter terminated their pregnancies in the first trimester, which is when ninety per cent of abortions in the United States occur.) The women who were denied abortions were on average more likely to live below the poverty line than the women who managed to get them. (One of the main reasons that people seek abortions later in pregnancy is the need to raise money to pay for the procedure and for travel expenses.) But, in general, Foster writes, the two groups “were remarkably similar at the first interview. Their lives diverged thereafter in ways that were directly attributable to whether they received an abortion.”

Over the past several years, findings from the Turnaway Study have come out in scholarly journals and, on a few occasions, gotten splashy media coverage. Now Foster has published a patiently expository precis of all the findings in a new book, “The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having—or Being Denied—an Abortion.” The over-all impression it leaves is that abortion, far from harming most women, helps them in measurable ways. Moreover, when people assess what will happen in their lives if they have to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, they are quite often proven right. That might seem like an obvious point, but much of contemporary anti-abortion legislation is predicated on the idea that competent adults can’t really know what’s at stake in deciding whether to bear a child or not. Instead, they must be subjected to waiting periods to think it over (as though they can’t be trusted to have done so already), presented with (often misleading) information about the supposed medical risks and emotional fallout of the procedure, and obliged to look at ultrasounds of the embryo or fetus. And such scans are often framed, with breathtaking disingenuousness, as a right extended to people—what the legal scholar Carol Sanger calls “the right to be persuaded against exercising the right you came in with.”

Maybe the first and most fundamental question for a study like this to consider is how women feel afterward about their decisions to have an abortion. In the Turnaway Study, over ninety-five per cent of the women who received an abortion and did an interview five years out said that it had been the right choice for them. It’s possible that the women who remained in the study that long were disproportionately inclined to see things that way—maybe if you were feeling shame or remorse about an abortion you’d be less up for talking about it every six months in a phone interview with a researcher. (Foster suggests that people experiencing regrets might actually be more inclined to participate, but, to me, the first scenario makes more psychological sense.) Still, ninety-five per cent is a striking figure. And it’s especially salient, again, in light of anti-choice arguments, which often stress the notion that many of the quarter to third of all American women who have an abortion will be wracked with guilt about their decision. (That’s an awful lot of abject contrition.) You can pick at the study for its retention rate—and some critics, particularly on the anti-abortion side, have. Nine hundred and fifty-six of the original thousand-plus women who were recruited did the first interview. Fifty-eight per cent of them did the final interview. But, as Foster pointed out in an e-mail to me, on average, the women in the study completed an impressive 8.4 of the eleven interviews, and some of the data in the study—death records and credit reports—cover all 1,132 women who were originally enrolled.

To the former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, among others, it seemed “unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.” In a 2007 abortion-case ruling, he wrote that “severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.” It can, but the epidemiologists, psychologists, statisticians, and other researchers who evaluated the Turnaway Study found it was not likely. “Some events do cause lifetime damage”—childhood abuse is one of them—“but abortion is not common among these,” Foster writes. In the short term, the women who were denied abortions had worse mental health—higher anxiety and lower self-esteem. In the longer run, the researchers found “no long-term differences between women who receive and women who are denied an abortion in depression, anxiety, PTSD, self-esteem, life satisfaction, drug abuse, or alcohol abuse.” Abortion didn’t weigh heavily in determining mental health one way or the other. Foster and her co-authors note, in an earlier article, that “relief remained the most commonly felt emotion” among women who got the abortions they sought. That relief persisted, but its intensity dissipated over time.

Other positive impacts were more lasting. Women in the study who received the abortion they sought were more likely to be in a relationship they described as “very good.” (After two years, the figure was forty-seven per cent, vs. twenty-eight per cent for the women turned away.) If they had been involved with a physically abusive man at the time of the unwanted pregnancy, they were less likely to still be experiencing violence, for the simple reason that they were less likely to be in contact with him. (Several of the participants interviewed for the book talk about not wanting to be tethered to a terrible partner by having a child together.) Women who got the abortion were more likely to become pregnant intentionally in the next five years than women who did not. They were less likely to be on public assistance and to report that they did not have enough money to pay for food, housing, and transportation. When they had children at home already, those children were less likely to be living in poverty. Based on self-reports, their physical health was somewhat better. Two of the women in the study who were denied abortions died from childbirth-related complications; none of the women who received abortions died as a result. That is in keeping with other data attesting to the general safety of abortion. One of Foster’s colleagues, Ushma Upadhyay, analyzed complications after abortions in California’s state Medicaid program, for example, and found that they occurred in two per cent of the cases—a lower percentage than for wisdom-tooth extraction (seven per cent) and certainly for childbirth (twenty-nine per cent). Indeed, maternal mortality has been rising in the U.S.—it’s now more than twice as high as it was in 1987, and has risen even more steeply for Black women, due, in part, to racial disparities in prenatal care and the quality of hospitals where women deliver.

Yet, as Foster points out, many of the new state laws restricting abortion suggest that it is a uniquely dangerous procedure, one for which layers of regulation must be concocted, allegedly to protect women. The Louisiana law that the Supreme Court struck down last Monday imposed just such a rule—namely, a requirement that doctors performing abortions hold admitting privileges at a hospital no more than thirty miles away. As Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion noted, “The evidence shows, among other things, that the fact that hospital admissions for abortion are vanishingly rare means that, unless they also maintain active OB/GYN practices, abortion providers in Louisiana are unlikely to have any recent in-hospital experience.” Since hospitals often require such experience in order to issue admitting privileges, abortion providers would be caught in a Catch-22, unable to obtain the privileges because, on actual medical grounds, they didn’t need them. The result of such a law, had it gone into effect, would have been exactly what was intended: a drastic reduction in the number of doctors legally offering abortions in the state.

The Turnaway Study’s findings are welcome ones for anyone who supports reproductive justice. But they shouldn’t be necessary for it. The overwhelming majority of women who received abortions and stayed in the study for the full five years did not regret their decision. But the vast majority of women who’d been denied abortions reported that they no longer wished that they’d been able to end the pregnancy, after an actual child of four or five was in the world. And that’s good, too—you’d hope they would love that child wholeheartedly, and you’d root for their resilience and happiness.

None of that changes the fundamental principle of human autonomy: people have to be able to make their own decisions in matters that profoundly and intimately affect their own bodies and the course of their lives. Regret and ambivalence, the ways that one decision necessarily precludes others, are inextricable facts of life, and they are also fluid and personal. Guessing the extent to which individuals may feel such emotions, hypothetically, in the future, is not a basis for legislative bans and restrictions.

The Turnaway Study will be understood, criticized, and used politically, however carefully conceived and painstakingly executed the research was. Given that inevitability, it’s worth underlining the most helpful political work that the study does. In light of its findings, the rationale for so many recent abortion restrictions—namely, that abortion is uniquely harmful to the people who choose it—simply topples.

Source: https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/the-study-that-debunks-most-anti-abortion-arguments?fbclid=IwAR3dAGDZnHYQYaX0HOm6F5_OGRYFmXF4VeWIPjZTq261Ig4TRFa_zWbIUy4

Planned Parenthood also received funding from Paycheck Protection Program, which some lawmakers demanded it return

Anti-abortion advocates hold signs as they stand in front of the US supreme court while participating in the 47th annual March For Life in Washington. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Christian anti-abortion lobbying organizations received millions in taxpayer-backed forgivable loans from the US government’s coronavirus aid program, even as lawmakers demanded the nation’s largest abortion provider return federal loans.

Pro-reproductive rights groups have also received funding from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Planned Parenthood, America’s largest network of abortion and sexual health clinics, received $80m in PPP loans.

However, the government agency that oversees the program later tried to claw back loans from Planned Parenthood after Republican criticism, whereas Christian conservative groups were not subject to such efforts.

“What we’re seeing with this is a lightyear leap into direct government financing of major Christian right political entities on a scale we’ve never seen before,” said Frederick Clarkson, a senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, an expert on the American religious right.

The discrepancy in how Planned Parenthood and Christian anti-abortion groups were treated after they received coronavirus stimulus money, “is absolutely a double standard”, Clarkson said. “That’s an egregious violation of ethical norms.”

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the vice-president of government relations, Jacqueline Ayers, called the clawback, “a clear political attack on Planned Parenthood health centers and access to reproductive healthcare”.

Among the Christian right organizations that received Cares Act funding were the American Family Association (AFA), an influential conservative Christian group which opposes abortion and LGBTQ+ rights.

The AFA has been described as a hate group by tracking experts at the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the past, AFA has described homosexuality as, “a poor and dangerous choice” and blamed the Holocaust on gay people.

The American Center for Law & Justice, an anti-abortion group led by Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow, also received funding.

Notably, the groups received PPP loans in early April, about a week before the loan program ran out of money, and at a time when many large companies were under intense scrutiny to return loans.

The US treasury department released the names of companies that received more than $150,000 in funding on Monday. The disclosure represents less than 15% of all the loans made under the PPP, according to a Washington Post database. Nearly 11,000 religious organizations received at least $3bn in funding from the Paycheck Protection Program.

The AFA, which is based in Tupelo, Mississippi, received between $1-2m, and said it protected 124 jobs with the money. Its non-profit mission statement is, “to promote the biblical ethic of decency in society”. A recent AFA blogpost described abortion as, “an evil running rampant in the United States for a long time”.

The AFA also invests a huge amount of money in lobbying every year. Between 2014-2017 the group spent more than $874,000 trying to change public opinion, according to its non-profit disclosures.

One of the most important efforts housed by the AFA, according to Clarkson, is the American Renewal Project, an electoral project of the Republican campaign strategist David Lane. Lane believes the United States needs to “re-establish a Christian culture”, and called for a religious war in a 2013 essay headlined “Wage war to restore a Christian nation”.

American Center for Law & Justice also works to end abortion, and also received between $1-2m in PPP loans. In the past, the ACLJ has hired telemarketers to raise money off the back of the Trump administration’s investigations of Planned Parenthood, saying in a script that abortion providers had been put “on their heels”, and before citing Sekulow in their pitch.

“Can I let Jay know you’re standing with him with a gift?” telemarketers asked potential donors. More recently, the ACLJ promised to sue California for restricting singing inside churches, because it is believed to spread Covid-19.

Pay to the ACLJ’s staff of attorneys could amount for a large proportion of their PPP loan. The group’s senior litigator alone earns more than $514,000 a year. He is one of a dozen key employees, most of whom earn six-figure salaries.

Neither the AFA nor the ACLJ responded to the Guardian’s request for comment.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/08/anti-abortion-groups-covid-19-ppp-aid

A bill by state Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, to expand mail-in voting failed Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in a House committee. Photo provided by Rep. Mandie Landry

All eyes were on Louisiana as the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in June on Medical Services vs. Russo, striking down a clearly unconstitutional law passed by the Louisiana Legislature several years ago.

The case in question involved an admitting privileges requirement for abortion health care providers which, had it taken effect, would have left Louisiana with a single clinic, leaving only one doctor to provide needed abortion care for nearly one million of our residents. In a state with high rates of poverty and limited access to health care, the effects would have been devastating for many. Politically motivated, medically unnecessary abortion restrictions are always harmful, and this one would have hurt pregnant people throughout our entire country had it been upheld.

As a lawyer who has represented one of our state’s last three remaining abortion clinics, and now as a state representative elected on a strong pro-choice platform, I join hundreds of local and state officials in working to protect abortion care and reproductive freedom in our communities. All of us — no matter where we live or how much money we have — must be able to make our own decisions about our bodies and families, free from coercion and stigma.

Like all modern abortion restrictions, the law that was challenged had nothing to do with the safety of women, and everything to do with making abortion access inaccessible and burdensome, particularly for poor women and women of color. Since the passage of Roe v. Wade, Louisiana has passed 89 abortion restrictions, more than any other state in the nation. This long, oppressive list includes burdens such as requiring a medically unnecessary ultrasound and forcing a patient to undergo an in-person “counseling” session with patently false and stigmatizing information prior to receiving a medication or surgical abortion. Notably, these barriers are not required for any other medical service.

Louisiana’s admitting privileges law, the focus of the June Medical case, was yet another deceptive ploy by politicians whose goal is to politicize health care and eliminate access to abortion care completely. The fact that a nearly identical law out of Texas was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016 makes it clear that their intention was to harm. The court’s commitment to upholding precedent and striking down this bad law is important, but it’s not the end of the story for women in Louisiana or for lawmakers in this country.

Research shows that states with the most abortion restrictions have fewer supportive policies in place for women and families. As elected officials in Louisiana, we should ask ourselves: Have we done everything we can to ensure better maternal and infant health? What are we doing to promote pay equity and paid family leave for working families? Louisiana has no minimum wage requirement; not surprisingly, two-thirds of the people in our state who make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour are women. Why aren’t we working toward a living wage instead of creating imaginary problems about abortion care, which is already extremely safe and overly regulated?

Louisiana has the worst maternal mortality rate in the country, and ranks 48th in the health of women and children. Black women in the state are four times more likely to experience pregnancy-related death than White women. For our most marginalized communities who already face inequities in our health care system, these abortion restrictions have a particularly devastating impact.

We cannot keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result. As lawmakers, we have a duty to support the people of Louisiana and chart a new course, one where our residents make a living wage; where they have access to health care, including abortion care; where they have paid family and sick leave; and where all Louisiana residents are protected and supported — not actively harmed — by their own state government. The future of our country depends on it.

Mandie Landry is a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, representing District 91 in New Orleans.

Source: https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/opinion/article_27795ce2-bb0f-11ea-a024-4f87e28fd54e.html

The Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for the Trump administration to expand exemptions for employers who have religious or moral objections to complying with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

The 7-2 ruling reverses a lower court decision that had blocked Trump’s move nationwide.
The ruling is a win for President Donald Trump, who has vowed to act aggressively to protect what he and other conservatives frame as religious liberty, as well as for the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious order for women who, along with the Trump administration, asked the court to step in.
It came the same day the court also sided with religious schools in a different case, ruling that teachers at religious institutions aren’t covered by employment discrimination laws.
The White House called it a “big win for religious freedom and freedom of conscience” in a statement from press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Trump had complained in recent weeks when the court ruled against him on issues such as abortion, LGBTQ rights and the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. After Chief Justice John Roberts sided with liberals in significant cases in recent weeks, he joined the conservative majority in Wednesday’s two cases.
The Little Sisters case required the justices to balance concerns for women’s health care against claims of religious liberty. The law requires that employer-provided health insurance plans cover birth control as a preventive service at no cost. Wednesday’s ruling means that by the government’s own estimate, thousands of women will have to search elsewhere for coverage.
Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion, wrote that the justices held that the government “had the statutory authority to craft that exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption.” He was joined in full by Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Thomas commended the Little Sisters of the Poor for their efforts.
“For the past seven years, they — like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today’s decision — have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs,” he wrote.
Thomas continued, “After two decisions from this Court and multiple failed regulatory attempts, the Federal Government has arrived at a solution that exempts the Little Sisters from the source of their complicity-based concerns — the administratively imposed contraceptive mandate.”
Liberal justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan agreed with the court’s judgment but under different rationale. They said that the Trump administration had the authority to issue a rule expanding exemptions from the contraceptive mandate, but suggested that a lower court might still find that the government’s rule was “arbitrary and capricious.”
“That issue remains open for the lower courts to address,” Breyer wrote, opening up the possibility of future challenges — though the rules can go into effect for now.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the Court’s opinion, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” Ginsburg wrote.
“This Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets,” she said and noted that the government had acknowledged that the rules would cause thousands of women — “between 70,500 and 126,400 women of childbearing age,” she wrote — to lose coverage.
The dispute — the latest concerning the Affordable Care Act to come before the justices — pit supporters of the contraceptive provision against those who said it violated their religious and moral beliefs.
Churches and some other religious entities could get an exemption and others such as religious universities, hospitals or charities with religious objections get an accommodation. The accommodation means that plan participants could still receive the coverage, but it would be paid for by the insurer or employer’s health insurance administrator.
Over 61.4 million women in the US have birth control coverage with zero out-of-pocket costs, according the National Women’s Law Center.
After Trump took office, the government moved in 2017 to allow exemptions for more employers.
Under the religious exception rule, any private employer, including publicly traded corporations, could receive exemptions based on a “sincerely held religious belief.” A second rule extends the same provision to organizations and small businesses that have objections “on the basis of moral conviction which is not based in any particular religious belief.”
By the government’s own estimate, between 75,000 to 125,000 women would lose coverage. At oral arguments held over the phone because of the coronavirus, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — participating from a hospital bed because of a gall bladder condition — lambasted the government’s position, arguing it would leave women “to hunt for other government programs that might cover them.”
Pennsylvania and other states challenged the federal government move in court, arguing in part that they would have to step in and provide coverage for women seeking coverage.
A federal appeals court blocked the rules nationwide, holding that the states would suffer irreparable harm and “unredressable financial consequences” from subsidizing contraceptive services and “providing funds for medical care associated with unintended pregnancies.” The court said that the states’ financial injury “outweighs any purported injury to religious exercise.”
The Trump administration and the Little Sisters of the Poor asked the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco had argued that the accommodation still made some entities feel complicit in providing contraceptive coverage to their employees. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, designed to prohibit the federal government from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion, gives agencies discretion to offer an exemption, he said.
But Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, joined by New Jersey’s attorney general, told the Supreme Court that the lower court got it right. He pointed out that an accommodation is already in place that allows certain objecting employers to exclude contraception for the benefit packages and allowing third parties to provide the coverage directly.
“This approach,” Shapiro said, “balances the employers’ sincere religious belief with the health of their female employees.”
He said that such a balance was “disrupted” when the Trump administration moved to allow more people, including publicly traded corporations and large universities, to receive an exemption.
“The existing accommodation respects both the health of women and the religious liberty interests of employers,” he argued.
Shapiro lamented the court’s decision Wednesday, but vowed to continue fighting the administration’s rule in the lower courts.
“While I am disappointed with much of the majority opinion, I am pleased the Court allowed our challenge to the Administration’s overly broad rules to proceed,” he said. “We now return to the lower courts to address whether the exemptions are arbitrary and capricious. This fight is not over.”
Shapiro added that the challenge brought by Pennsylvania and other states against the rule “was never about requiring religious groups to provide contraception — organizations like the Little Sisters are already exempt. Our case is about an overly broad rule that allows the personal beliefs of CEOs to dictate womens’ guaranteed access to contraceptive medicine.”
Twenty states and the District of Columbia supported the states, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 185 other members of Congress.
Texas and 19 other states, meanwhile, supported the Trump administration and the Little Sisters, arguing that some employers “believe sincerely that it is incompatible with their religious convictions to provide health insurance when it means contracting with a company that then, because of that relationship, becomes obligated to provide contraceptives that the employers regard as abortifacients.”
The lawyers who brought the challenge indicated they also plan to carry on fighting.
“America deserves better than petty governments harassing nuns. The Court did the right thing by protecting the Little Sisters from an unnecessary mandate that would have gutted their ministry,” said Mark Rienzi, a lawyer behind the challenge and the president of Becket, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty issues.
“Governments don’t need nuns to distribute contraceptives. But they do need religious groups to care for the elderly, heal the sick and feed the hungry,” Rienzi said. “These governments all have real work they ought to be doing rather than dividing people with old and unnecessary culture wars.”
This story has been updated with additional details from the ruling, as well as reaction to it.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/08/politics/supreme-court-obamacare-contraceptive-mandate/index.html?fbclid=IwAR0KQlFHSXY40FUSLULhOXnquTlJ_y7BA9ITvNWxgnhpbDCOkrIkAQFYesM

Pro-choice activists holds signs during a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Anna Moneymaker/Bloomberg)

Nancy Northup is the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

When the Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana abortion law designed to shut down clinics, it sent a clear message affirming our constitutional right to abortion.

This should be a pivotal and promising moment for reproductive rights. And yet, I have never been as concerned about the future of abortion accesswhich is being hollowed out by a game of constitutional whack-a-mole. It’s past time for Congress to step in and end it.

Determining whether or when to have a child has a profound impact on a person’s health and life. For this reason, the Constitution protects our personal liberty and dignity to make such decisions for ourselves. But today that right is in peril.

Although we just won the case before the Supreme Court, June Medical Services v. Russo, this is a fight we shouldn’t have needed to wage at all. The Louisiana law at issue in the decision was identical to a Texas law we challenged, and which the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. Because states such as Louisiana continue to defy the Supreme Court’s abortion rulings, we have to go to court again and again and again, with no end in sight.

Relentless state-by-state attacks on abortion are only ratcheting up. Politicians have passed more than 450 state laws restricting abortion access over the past decade. Those laws are pushing abortion access out of reach. Nearly 90 percent of U.S. counties are without a single abortion provider. Six states — Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia — are down to their last clinic. In 2019, nine states passed brazenly unconstitutional bans on abortion starting at six weeks of pregnancy — before many people know they’re pregnant. And at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, governors and officials of more than 10 states shamelessly took advantage of the crisis and tried to restrict abortion care.

This insidious campaign against abortion access hurts communities of color, young people, rural communities and people living in poverty the most. These restrictions mean that because there are fewer clinics and patients may have to travel considerable distances to reach them, a person’s ability to access abortion care often depends on where they happen to live, how much money they have and whether they can take time off work. This is just wrong. A right is not a right if you can’t exercise it.

It’s time to end this grinding, wasteful state of uncertainty. The Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) is the answer.

WHPA takes the Supreme Court’s precedents and solidifies them into a clear federal standard for preserving the constitutional right to abortion and treating abortion for what it is: health care.

The bill creates a federal statutory right for health-care providers to deliver, and for their patients to receive, abortion care free from medically unnecessary limitations and bans. It applies only to those restrictions that single out abortion care and no other comparable medical procedure. If states wouldn’t impose waiting periods or unnecessary protocols on patients seeking colonoscopies; if they wouldn’t limit early, less invasive medical treatment to help patients get care more quickly; and if they wouldn’t require doctors to provide medically dubious counseling for patients seeking those procedures, then they won’t be able to restrict abortion care in these ways under the WHPA.

Congress has taken this kind of corrective action before when abortion rights were under threat: Thirty years ago, during a particularly heightened period of terror, when doctors and clinic workers were murdered, and clinics were being bombed, vandalized, torched and blockaded. Federal action was needed, and in 1994, Congress passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Today, access to abortion services is being blocked through an avalanche of pretextual laws designed to accomplish by the pen what could not be accomplished through brute force: the closure of facilities providing essential reproductive health care to patients in large swaths of the country.

Though the bill would face likely insurmountable hurdles in the current Senate, if the House passes the first proactive federal abortion rights legislation in decades, it would give Americans an opportunity to consider an alternate reality to continue fighting for — one in which basic health care is not constantly under attack.

For nearly half a century, the Supreme Court has continuously affirmed that a woman has the right to make personal decisions about her body, her family and her life. Now Congress must act and pass WHPA to stop these whack-a-mole state attacks, and ensure that the right to abortion first recognized in Roe v. Wade is a reality for people all across the country.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/29/its-time-congress-stop-states-playing-whack-a-mole-with-abortion/?fbclid=IwAR0dU3xmFEK7NJwwvsFZYG_3kmI2oEYsqtGAynpt_O3NuBnKyO4KauiEzK4

Washington — The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to consider a pair of disputes involving abortion restrictions in Chicago and Pennsylvania, leaving intact laws that create buffer zones outside of abortion clinics.

The first case rejected by the high court involves an ordinance in Chicago that makes it illegal for a person within a 50-feet radius from an abortion clinic to come within eight feet of another person “for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education or counseling.”

The challenge to the Chicago law was brought by four people and two anti-abortion rights groups that engage in sidewalk counseling outside of abortion clinics and argue the ordinance violates the First Amendment.

But a federal district court and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the ordinance to stand, citing a 2000 Supreme Court decision upholding a similar law in Colorado.

Justice Clarence Thomas said he would have granted the request to hear the case.

The second dispute involves an ordinance enacted in the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that makes it unlawful for a person to “knowingly congregate, patrol, picket or demonstrate in a zone extending 20 feet from any portion of an entrance to, exit from, or driveway of a health care facility.”

As in the case out of Chicago, a group of citizens who engage in sidewalk counseling challenged the law and sought to block enforcement on the grounds the buffer zone violated their First Amendment rights.

The federal district court denied their request to block the law, and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to take up the two legal battles over the abortion restrictions follows its 5-4 ruling Monday striking down a Louisiana law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the bench in invalidating the Louisiana law, citing a 2016 Supreme Court decision striking down a nearly-identical Texas regulation.

The legal battle over the Louisiana abortion restriction was the first involving abortion rights to come before the Supreme Court’s new 5-4 conservative majority, which was cemented with the additions of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both appointed by President Trump, to the high court.

In light of its ruling Monday, the Supreme Court tossed out lower court rulings blocking two Indiana laws from taking effect and sent the cases back to the lower courts for further consideration. One of the measures requires a woman to undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before an abortion and the second requires parents of minors to be given notice of a court-authorized abortion.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/supreme-court-abortion-clinic-buffer-zones/?fbclid=IwAR2mlkrYo390REyI9ttFQgfYz3D3O1Q_cZLMbFbxvcPVTb-vbJpNmCiJ4ac

“We’ve been fighting for this for years,” one pro-abortion rights activist said.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) speaks during a news conference on June 4, 2020 in Richmond, Va.Zach Gibson / Getty Images file

Virginia’s Reproductive Health Protection Act goes into effect Wednesday, overturning many longstanding abortion restrictions in the state.

“No more will legislators in Richmond — most of whom are men — be telling women what they should and should not be doing with their bodies,” Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said in a statement.

For the first time in a generation, Virginia Democrats took control of the General Assembly last year and they have been active in pushing through changes.

The new law repeals regulations that require those seeking an abortion to undergo state-mandated counseling, a mandatory ultrasound and a 24-hour waiting period prior to the procedure.

It also removes the requirement that health centers performing five or more abortions a month be classified as hospitals. In addition, the act allows nurse practitioners to provide abortions within the first trimester of pregnancy, whereas previously, only physicians could provide care.

“We’ve been fighting for this for years,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “The new law rolls back years of egregious, politically motivated, medically unnecessary anti-abortion laws that were simply put in place to shut off a woman’s access to abortion care.”

According to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, 170 restrictive abortion bills and regulations have been introduced in the state since 2011.

But Kathy Byron, a Republican member of the state’s House of Delegates, said that the legislation is a major setback.

“The law sacrifices the health, safety, and rights of pregnant women, prioritizing the interests of the abortion industry over those of Virginia women,” she said.

“What the pro-abortion majority in our General Assembly advocated for this year was not something that will benefit women looking for information regarding their pregnancy, but rather an action taken to protect the abortionists,” said Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life.

However, Dr. Shanthi Ramesh, an OB-GYN in Virginia, said that the law does not negatively impact a pregnant person’s health, instead it allows medical professionals to do what’s best for the patient.

“The decision about if and when to perform an ultrasound, the counseling before an abortion and what type of abortion someone has are all medical decisions,” she said. “It’s using the expertise of the provider and the patient’s unique needs to make those decisions.”

The new law marks a turning point for access to abortion care in the state, advocates said.

“It makes Virginia the first state in the south to proactively protect a woman’s access to abortion care and reproductive health,” said state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, a Democrat who sponsored the bill. “We want to be proactive in protecting the doctor-patient relationship and a woman’s access to care.”

Jamie Lockhart, executive director at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, agreed and said that rural and low-income communities have felt the brunt of abortion restrictions for too long.

“It’s tragic how Virginia conservative leaders for years put all these obstacles in place, likely knowing that they would impact Virginians who could least afford to go through those obstacles,” she said.

Since health centers, performing five or more abortions a month, are no longer under hospital regulations, Lockhart expects that more centers in rural areas and across the state will begin to provide abortion services.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2017, 93 percent of Virginia counties had no clinics that provided abortions, and 80 percent of women in Virginia lived in those counties.

“I have driven from Richmond to Virginia Beach to make sure someone had a ride from an appointment, because they had to be discharged to someone in order to have that procedure,” said Ayé Johnson, community and volunteer engagement accomplice at the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project.

She said that for most people, traveling more than an hour away to receive care would require additional planning and resources.

Johnson added that the abortion fund anticipates an influx of patients traveling to Virginia from neighboring states as a result of the legislation taking effect.

The law establishes Virginia as a safe haven for abortion care, not just for Virginians, but for those nearby, according to Keene.

“We’ve already taken our first step, and we obviously have a long way to go, but we are in it for the long haul,” she said.

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/easing-abortion-restrictions-virginia-s-new-democratic-majority-takes-effect-n1232671

The headlines this week that almost 7,000 abortions had been carried out in Ireland last year were both a shock and a relief.

After all haven’t we been reading for decades of how thousands of Irish women had travelled to the UK to get abortions because they were not available in their home country. The difference now is these terminations of pregnancy are taking place on home turf. The vast majority of women do not have to book an airline ticket and go through the horrors of getting an abortion in a foreign country.

It is two years now since we made the historic decision to vote so decisively — more than 66% of us — to allow abortion in Ireland. The system has settled in, as it were, and the report by the Minister for Health on abortion notifications in 2019 shows that under new legislation, which allowed legal terminations of pregnancy, 6,666 abortions were carried out in 2019.

In the run-up to the referendum campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment the then health minister Simon Harris — who leaves the Department of Health with a patchy record in some areas, but success on the issues of the Eighth Amendment, and his handling of the pandemic — stood in the Dáil and read into the record the numbers of Irish women who’d travelled to the UK for abortions in 2016. He named each county and gave the relevant figure for each place — bringing home the fact that it was an issue that affected women in every town and village, women that everyone knew.

“These are not faceless women. They are our friends and neighbours, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts, wives,” he said.

The publication of this first annual report since those changes in law, means we can now look at a map of Ireland and see that, for instance, 606 women in Cork had abortions last year; 2,493 in Dublin; 48 in Kerry; 213 in Louth; 280 in Galway, and so on.

You can have an abortion now in Ireland if your pregnancy is less than 12 weeks. You do not have to pay for it. If it is less than nine weeks you can take the abortion pill which involves two consultations and a three-day waiting period in between. Later than that in the pregnancy involves getting a surgical abortion.

The vast majority of those abortions, 98%, took place in early pregnancy at less than 12 weeks gestation. We were not told whether they were performed in hospitals or in the community, but logic dictates that at this early stage of pregnancy, most, if not all, came about through use of the abortion pill. In the very few cases where it does not work a woman then needs to undergo a surgical abortion.

For huge swathes of those who voted yes there will have been little joy in seeing the number of abortions that took place. This is not a happy subject. More than most countries we had cultural and religious baggage that meant jumping that hurdle to remove the Eighth Amendment in the referendum was a massive step. People wanted solutions. We made emotional trade-offs, but decided ultimately to be caring and humane. So many of us knew women who’d had to travel for abortions and understood the pain that involved.

So if you look askance at those 6,666 abortions you may need to remind yourself you voted yes at that time for the women in your life that you loved and cared for, and did not want to see them having to undergo undue suffering by travelling to another country at a time when they were especially vulnerable. There are also a significant number of people who are simply pro-choice who voted yes, and for whom the right to an abortion is just an automatic entitlement for women who must be in charge of their own reproductive rights.

During the referendum campaign Irish people listened to these women and their stories, some of them heartbreaking. They told of their experiences of having “to travel”. But they also listened very closely to doctors who spoke in terms of women needing care in their own country.

They are two exceedingly different subjects, yet the common ground between Covid-19 and Ireland’s abortion referendum, are the exceedingly high levels of trust that Irish people had and continue to have, in the medical profession.

It has been interesting to see how the high level of trust in doctors has been so much to the fore during these last few months of the pandemic. It is hardly unusual for people to want medical and scientific advice at such a time, but opinion polling has repeatedly shown very high levels of approval for the advice that has been dispensed and observed. Similarly the manner in which the medical profession stepped up during the abortion referendum, carrying consistent messaging, ultimately ensured its success.

The pandemic also brought to the fore what a horror story it would have been for women if the law had not been changed and no one would have been able to travel for a termination over such a long period of time. According to An Garda Síochána there was a 25% increase in reports of domestic violence during lockdown. There is no doubt but there will be women included in those figures who will have become pregnant against their will, who would not have been able to travel for an abortion either, but could now get one at home.

Following the publication of the report executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, pointed out there remain some serious gaps in the legislation. Statistics published by the UK’s department of health and social care in early June revealed that 375 women and girls travelled from Ireland to access abortion services in England and Wales in 2019.

“We know that women’s health and wellbeing are harmed when they have to travel for abortion, and people voted to end that very harm.” Next year we are due to have a review of our abortion laws and how they operate. Hopefully ahead of that we will have legislation for exclusion zones outside hospitals and other healthcare centres where anti-abortion protesters gather to hassle and intimidate women.

Abortion will never be an easy subject to discuss. But we can hold up our heads that we finally faced it head on two years ago. This week’s figures may not rest easily with many people, but the availability of abortion to Irish citizens is a sign of a mature society.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/07/01/one-of-these-cases-could-be-the-next-big-fight-for-abortion-rights/