Activists reiterate call on government to liberalise abortion laws

A total of 82 women have contacted the Abortion Support Network (ASN) for help since its services were extended to Malta a year ago today.

In a joint statement, the Voice for Choice and ASN said out of the 82, ASN has funded travelling, consultations and abortion care for 10 women. The women contacting ASN were aged between 19 and 46.

The vast majority wanted unbiased information about the options available to them. The majority were seeking information on reputable providers of early medical abortion pills. Several callers could afford the cost of the abortion and travel and just needed guidance on how to make arrangements.

Those who needed financial help were given a total of £8,882.74 (€10,700.34) in grants from the charity, £2,263.52 (€2,726.69) towards the cost of travel and accommodation and £6,619.22 (€7,973.66) towards consultations and abortion care services, or an average of £888.74 (€1,070.60) per client.

A few callers stopped contacting the charity after their initial email or call, a few were unable to travel due to lack of childcare or immigration status, and some decided, after considering their options, to continue with the pregnancy.

ASN founder Mara Clarke said: “While we are unhappy that people from Malta need to contact our charity for help in order to receive factual information about pregnancy options and help with abortion care, we are glad to be of service to anyone in Malta who wants or needs to terminate a pregnancy and lacks the information or funding to do so.

“We long for the days when our services are no longer necessary, not only for people in Malta, but anywhere else. Until then, ASN remains committed to supporting people in Malta in any way we can, for as long as our services remain needed.”

Christopher Barbara, on behalf of Voice for Choice said: “These numbers continue to confirm that women from Malta have had to rely on other countries and NGOs to receive the healthcare they need, because of the inability of policy makers in Malta to put evidence-based medicine and human rights before personal beliefs.

“It is a shame that Malta continues to deliberately digress from what is internationally considered good medical practice when it comes to abortion care. We do not digress like this in any other medical field, and it is a symptom of women being treated as second class citizens in our country.”



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.


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.


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. 


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


Anti-choice lawmakers in Kansas push a constitutional amendment to ensure abortion restrictions stay in place.

In a 28-12 vote last Wednesday evening, the Kansas State Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature the power to regulate abortion access.


Less than a year after the Kansas Supreme Court declared access to abortion a “fundamental right,” the state’s Republican lawmakers are advancing a constitutional amendment to reverse the ruling and ensure they can continue to restrict that right.

In a 28-12 vote last Wednesday evening, the Kansas State Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature the power to regulate abortion access. If the ballot measure passes the house with a two-thirds majority, the amendment will go before voters in August. Without the constitutional amendment, state Republican lawmakers fear decades of anti-choice restrictions could be invalidated, along with future efforts to make abortion care inaccessible, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Reproductive rights advocates are urging members of the Kansas House to reject the anti-choice amendment. The house has 84 Republican members, which is the exact number of votes needed for a two-thirds majority: the amendment would need the support of every single Republican, unless it wins over any anti-choice Democrats.

The amendment would not need to be approved by the state’s Democratic governor. Still, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, an abortion rights supporter, came out against it in a Thursday press conference, saying the anti-choice amendment would “throw the state back into the Dark Ages,” the Associated Press reported. “I fear for a future in which the legislature chooses to stand between a woman and her doctor,” Kelly said.

The Kansas proposal is modeled on an anti-choice constitutional amendment approved by Tennessee voters in 2014 that opened the floodgates for anti-choice legislation. Five years later, the Tennessee legislature is considering a near-total abortion ban.

“The constitutional amendment to ban abortion approved by the Senate tonight is a vehicle to take away the rights of Kansas women and would put their health and safety in harm’s way,” Julie Burkhart said in a statement Wednesday. Burkhart is founder and CEO of Trust Women Foundation, which operates a clinic in Wichita. “Shame on the Kansas legislators who proposed and supported this flawed and dangerous constitutional amendment.”


Utah’s Republican-controlled legislature could soon consider a so-called trigger law that would outlaw abortion if conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court strike down Roe v. Wade.

State Sen. Dan McCay (R-Riverton) told KUTV that he plans to introduce an anti-choice bill that would ban abortion, except for rare circumstances, and automatically go into effect if the Court overturns Roe. “It will basically say, if the Supreme Court upholds that abortions can be banned at the state level, then we will ban them,” McCay said.

With a state government entirely in the hands of Republicans, Utah could join eight states with “trigger” bans. (Nine additional states have unenforceable pre-Roe abortion bans on the books, according to the Guttmacher Institute.)


An Indiana State Senate committee approved a bill last Wednesday to require medication abortion patients be told they can bring their fetal tissue to a local hospital or clinic for disposal. The bill, SB 299, received the support of every Republican and two of three Democrats on the committee, according to the Times of Northwest Indiana.

A 2016 Indiana law, upheld by the Supreme Court last year, already requires abortion providers to either bury or cremate fetal tissue, instead of treating it like other medical waste. SB 299  would go farther, forcing providers to inform patients receiving a medication abortion that they have the option to collect the tissue they expel and bring it back to the clinic to be buried or cremated. Around 40 percent of Indiana abortions in 2018 were medication abortions, the Times reported.

“I opposed this bill because it is unreasonable to think that women are going to collect the remains from an early-term abortion and bring them back to the clinic. Transporting bodily remains in improper ways is a biohazard,” said state Sen. Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis), the only committee member to vote against the bill, in a Thursday tweet.

Fetal burial laws stigmatize abortion care and impose medically unnecessary regulations, reproductive rights advocates say. Such legislation can increase costs for abortion care providers, according to an Associated Press report.

South Dakota

In a grim new proposal, South Dakota lawmakers want to give abortion patients the chance to see their aborted fetus. A dozen Republicans introduced the measure, SB 87, last Tuesday. The bill says abortion patients must be informed beforehand that they “may request to view the aborted fetus after the abortion is performed up until the time the hospital, clinic, or medical facility disposes of the aborted fetus.”

The measure would add to the biased counseling that patients in South Dakota are forced to undergo before receiving abortion care.