For people seeking abortion care in the D.C. area, support systems won’t be readily available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus, and the actions required to protect against it, will likely erode access to abortion care—even in a place like Washington, D.C., a hub with few restrictions, an abortion support infrastructure, and providers across the region.

Washington, D.C. has eight facilities that provide abortion care, and there are more in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs (including a couple of clinics that provide abortion care later in pregnancy). Because of this relative abundance, patients from all over the United States, especially east of the Mississippi, flock to the D.C. area to get the care they need, particularly for later abortion services.

But with the domino effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m concerned about patients being able to access abortion care. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are all in a state of emergency. Gatherings are being postponed or canceled altogether, and Metro and Amtrak have already begun reducing service, making it even harder for abortion patients to get around. It could be only a matter of time before the area’s hospitals and medical providers are completely overwhelmed.

This will not be a crisis unique to D.C. residents and people coming here for abortion care. Other areas with abortion clinics are experiencing the same panic during the COVID-19 outbreak, and other medical fields and practices will face similar challenges.

Abortion care, especially further along into pregnancy, is expensive. While abortion medication, which can be taken early in a pregnancy, and in-office abortion procedures in the first half of a pregnancy are not cheap, the surgical methods that are used in the third trimester can cost as much as$15,000.

The D.C. area is fortunate to have one of the most well-funded abortion funds in the nation, the DC Abortion Fund. Last year, they provided more than $300,000 to help cover costs for abortion care patients. Complementing their services is a robust network of volunteers that help get patients the care they need. That network will be hobbled during the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving many patients on their own.

As one of these practical support volunteers, I escort patients, sometimes by car and sometimes by foot, between their hotels and the local clinic. I make sure a patient gets the care they need at the clinic and gets home safe without having to pay for transportation, so that the abortion fund money can be used elsewhere. I’ve met women who have traveled from as far away as Illinois to access the care they need in the D.C. area—sometimes with their children, as they couldn’t find childcare.

My practical support network has begun to only given us the most necessary patients to escort. All clinic escorting has halted, leaving patients to wade through loud and violent anti-abortion protesters on their own. These decisions were justified to help mitigate the spread of the disease and to flatten the curve, but they leave me worried. Without volunteers, and if clinics end up having to shut their doors for days or weeks, people will not be able to obtain the abortion care they need.

What will happen when more people are required to quarantine? What will happen to the folks who can’t leave for two weeks, who will have trouble purchasing pregnancy tests, let alone accessing abortion care? And what will happen if people are unable to enter medical facilities that might soon look like war zones?

In addition to being a practical support volunteer, I’m a clinic escort. Later this month, I was supposed to attend our local Clinic Defense Task Force’s annual meeting. This weekend, I was supposed to begin training to become an abortion doula, someone who aids patients during their abortions. And later this month, I was supposed to participate in a training with my abortion fund. All of these events have been canceled or postponed.

We know what will happen if folks can’t access safe abortions. It certainly won’t mean that fewer people try. Rather, it will mean they will take this procedure into their own hands. Before Roe v. Wade gave us the legal right to have an abortion, women threw themselves down stairs, sat in scalding hot water, consumed herbs and cleaning supplies, and inserted sharp objects into their uteruses. Today, self-managed abortion can be much safer, but it isn’t always. In Louisiana, which might soon have only one abortion clinic, a pregnant friend of mine drank tea she bought online and hemorrhaged. She spent a week in the hospital.

Don’t just wash your hands and practice physical distancing. Consider all the ways you can help. Reach out to your local clinics and ask what they need, especially the independent providers. See if there are practical support networks that need volunteers, or nurses that could use a gift card to a coffee shop. And—if you or the people you live with are not high risk—call your abortion fund and offer your car, your home, and your time to patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken enough lives. Don’t let the pregnant people who can’t access abortion care be next.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/03/19/even-in-places-with-accessible-abortion-care-the-coronavirus-is-drastically-affecting-services/

The Ohio Attorney General’s office has sent letters to two abortion clinics Friday, saying that they’ve received complaints that they are continuing surgical abortions. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Attorney General’s office has sent letters to two abortion clinics Friday, saying that they’ve received complaints that they are continuing surgical abortions despite coronavirus restrictions.

“On behalf of the Department, you and your facility are ordered to immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions,” said each letter, send by Ohio Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson.

The letters were sent to Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio in Cincinnati and Women’s Med Center of Dayton. The Ohio Department of Health asked Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office to issue the letters, said Melanie Amato, a department spokeswoman.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio is complying with the order regarding protective equipment, according to a statement from Iris E. Harvey of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Kersha Deibel of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region.

“PPSWO’s attorney immediately responded to Ohio Attorney General Yost’s letter, assuring him that PPSWO was complying with Director Acton’s order,” the statement said. “Under that order, Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion, and our health centers continue to offer other health care services that our patients depend on. Our doors remain open for this care.”

On Tuesday, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton signed an order telling hospitals that elective surgeries must be canceled in order to preserve gowns, masks and other personal protective equipment needed by medical officials.

The order allowed four exceptions — including a threat to the patient’s life if not performed; threat of permanent dysfunction of the patient’s organs, risk of progression or metastasis of a disease; a time-sensitive risk of rapidly worsening symptoms.

Surgical abortions, Ohio Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson wrote, require personal protective equipment.

“If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical abortions in compliance with the attached order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures,” he wrote.

Fulkerson asked each clinic to acknowledge they’re complying and to send any questions to him.

On Friday, Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said that he had sent a letter directly to the Planned Parenthood clinic.

“Ohio Right to Life and Ohioans across this great state call on Ohio’s abortion facilities to put the health and safety of our children, elderly and other vulnerable populations above profit and above abortion,” he said in a statement. “Lives are literally depending on it. Their current noncompliance will undoubtedly contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and put the lives of first responders, nurses and doctors in danger.”

But NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio executive director Kellie Copeland said abortion is time-sensitive and cannot be significantly delayed without profound consequences.

“Attorney General Dave Yost and Ohio Right to Life president and State Medical Board member Mike Gonidakis should not be exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to further their agenda to close Ohio’s abortion clinics,” she said.

At the Saturday state news briefing, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said, “We cannot allow the politics of things to get in the way of what we need to do in a state emergency.”

Source: https://www.cleveland.com/open/2020/03/ohio-attorney-general-sends-letters-to-2-abortion-clinics-telling-them-to-stop-all-non-essential-procedures.html?fbclid=IwAR3jeubajsZtprgCYEKJ_JYYRDyT90kBazxxiH6FKKoEzygUJruVDAKdrfY

“Would be a shame if I was sick.”

Love Life insists their prayer marches outside clinics are “essential and vital work”—even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Love Life

Abortion clinic staffers and patient escorts watched in horror last weekend as anti-abortion protesters in North Carolina continued to gather in large numbers, hold hands, invade others’ physical space, and—in at least one instance I witnessed—joke about spreading the coronavirus while the government pleaded with people to do what they can to stop the spread of COVID-19.

And even now, they don’t plan to stay home.

The Triangle Abortion Access Coalition in Raleigh, North Carolina, met and continued our normal clinic defense and escorting services on Saturday, March 14, even though the realities and concerns of the rapidly developing COVID-19 outbreak were on our minds. We took extra precautions, such as sanitizing the vests and equipment we share.

We arrived to smaller numbers of protesters, took our normal positions, and began the morning as usual.

Many of the regular protesters began to arrive, and our hopes for physical distance began to diminish. A protester whom I’ll call Sally took a position by the clinic driveway, a spot allowing her to wave away cars. While this might seem like a minor disruption, rerouting patients from entering our private parking lot allows other anti-abortion protesters to confront the parked car and pass along a pamphlet or “blessing bag,” a gift bag filled with scripture, brochures for local anti-choice clinics, and often a single diaper, described by our protesters as a “diaper of remembrance.”

We often station a volunteer on that corner (but not in the protester’s immediate space), and task them with showing cars where to safely park to avoid anti-abortion harassment. This particular morning, a newer volunteer who can handle the direct harassment took the spot and stood stoically, ignoring the protesters and hoping to provide support and guidance to patients navigating a chaotic scene. Protesters will often move their bodies as close as possible to our volunteers, crying foul about their personal space being violated. Our volunteer was ignoring the taunts and holding ground as he has a right to do, especially when standing on clinic property.

I watched in shock as Sally pressed closer to this volunteer, a man in his late 60s or early 70s. The poster she carried was pressed against his arm, leaving her face eight to ten inches away from his face. Sally began to cough without covering her mouth in the direction of this volunteer, whose space she had already invaded.

“Would be a shame if I was sick,” she said, before coughing a few more times in the direction of a man who is clearly in the at-risk groups you hear about in the news.

It was 8:15 a.m. and already I was witnessing an unthinkable scenario: A “pro-life” protester was either making jokes about spreading COVID-19 or, even worse, was possibly trying to get us sick. While I’d like to say I was surprised by these actions, anti-choice protesters were once again demonstrating the true nature of their beliefs.

The morning had just begun and already we were facing an uncertain danger, one we had no guidance or advice on how to handle. We knew the worst was yet to come. Later that morning, a “prayer march” that often numbers between 50 and 100 people was expected to arrive. This group has turned out in large numbers in terrible weather, heat waves, and more. “Love Life,” as this protest movement calls itself, would be at our doorstep before we knew it.

Clinic escort groups across North Carolina faced the same problem. While Raleigh has a robust showing for the “Love Life” prayer marches, this is not a local movement. Love Life has roots in Charlotte, North Carolina, where their prayer marches have happened for years, often in ways that shut down physical access to the clinic. The protests have become so abusive they resulted in the city drafting a new sound ordinance to cut down on the disturbances created by these protests. Love Life expanded to Greensboro and Raleigh in 2018, and began organizing mass prayer marches across the state in 2019.

(Source: Love Life)

As our morning went on in Raleigh, escorts in Charlotte and Greensboro faced their own uncertainty created by anti-abortion protesters and the Love Life prayer marches.

In Charlotte, clinics were open as usual, and clinic escort groups were volunteering as usual.

Angela Anders, director of Charlotte for Choice Clinic Escorts, told Rewire.News she counted the anti-abortion group at well more than 100 people at its peak, and that the group was in no way practicing physical distancing: She said they were holding hands, forming prayer circles, and engaging in other forms of bodily contact (Love Life did not respond to Rewire.News‘ request for comment.)

Anders said the clinic escorts in Charlotte regularly witnessed people with symptoms of illness (sniffling, running noses, coughs) handing out pamphlets and sticking their hands and heads into stopped cars in an effort to “counsel” patients about their options and to share stigma and shame around abortion.

An hour away from Raleigh and two hours from Charlotte, another major metropolitan area was facing a similar reality. Greensboro has only one clinic regularly hounded by protesters. With a particularly rough clinic setup due to neighboring businesses allowing protests to occur on their property, protesters often divert and stop cars, shoving unwanted pamphlets and gift sacks into confused patients’ hands.

Volunteers in Greensboro had already been anxious about the effect of these intrusions on patients’ emotional health, but now these one-on-one interactions could spread a dangerous virus. Greensboro volunteers reported the anti-abortion group grew as large as 80 people this past Saturday, down from 400 the previous weekend. Despite the smaller numbers, volunteers said protesters were still shoving pamphlets into car windows and making direct contact with patients and their companions.

After our shift concluded this past Saturday, I checked out chatter from Love Life and other protester groups on their public social media accounts. What I found was not comforting. While I had been watching a protester in Raleigh cough in a clinic escort’s face, the leaders of Love Life were outside the Charlotte clinic, broadcasting on Facebook Live under the heading, “Bold Christians Witness despite coronavirus.”

In the Facebook Live video that morning, Love Life founder Justin Reeder asked one of the leaders of the Charlotte’s clinic protest movement, Daniel Parks, to speak to supporters who could not attend because they were sick or in an at-risk category.  “With the fears of the virus, we have to use wisdom; we get that,” Parks said. But then he reminded them that they are “called as believers in Jesus to lay our lives down … and that involves risk.” He told listeners, “We have to look past the fear,” said protests would continue as long as the clinics remain open.

While I hoped Love Life might reconsider as the week went on, in a video posted to Facebook the morning of Thursday, March 19, Love Life confirmed they will continue to host prayer walks and “sidewalk outreach” as long as abortion providers remain open. Reeder, the Love Life founder, explained that this should be considered “essential and vital work,” not a social gathering.

“The ministry must go on,” he said, though he clarified that they planned to operate under the CDC recommendations, would split into “very small groups” to gather, and had spoken to the local police departments. And while Reeder told supporters to practice physical distancing, he also encouraged people to do “prayer walks” outside hospitals and nursing homes to pray for people vulnerable to COVID-19.

Our concerns are not only rooted in the risks these groups present to patients, staff, and volunteers at clinics but also to the risks they pose in their own communities—especially to the children that often get dragged along to the protests and are forced to share close quarters with people outside their immediate family, exposing them to COVID-19. And then there are the risks these folks bring back into their immediate communities. When sharing my frustrations with my friend and fellow volunteer Raquel, she said something that has stuck with me: “It speaks volumes about how not pro-life our protesters actually are when they still choose to come out in large numbers, despite all warnings and guidance from local and federal officials, endangering everyone in their own communities without a single moment of consideration.”

One of the most important roles we have as clinic escorts is doing what is needed for our most vulnerable and marginalized communities. Clinic escort groups are being faced with decisions they often don’t feel prepared to make. As the week progressed, we learned of more restrictions being put into place by our local and state governments, had emergency virtual meetings, and met with clinic staff.

Thankfully, the clinics are doing everything they can to support us. Clinics are stepping up and offering training in how to use protective gear like gloves and masks, offering sterilizing wipes and sprays to escorts to help keep common areas as clean as possible, and responding quickly when volunteer groups have questions or concerns. Despite all of this, some clinics have suspended escort services, and some clinic escort groups have suspended services on their own.

Anders in Charlotte and the volunteers in Greensboro said they’re taking many of the same steps we’re taking to stop the spread of COVID-19: monitoring the size and risks presented by our protester groups, increasing our own awareness around sanitizing shared equipment and shared vests, and encouraging volunteers who are at risk or folks who have had potential exposure to stay home. As a leader in the Raleigh clinic escort group, I scheduled a virtual check-in after our shift last Saturday and asked our clinics, which have the ear of local government and local law enforcement, to reach out to find out what can be done if protesters continue to gather in groups large enough to violate the statewide executive order banning gatherings of more than 100 people.

While we wait to learn more about what, if anything, can be done, it’s hard to ignore the anger and frustration that many of us who do this work are left with. We want to stay home. We want to keep our communities safe. We want to keep our families safe. We also want to keep ourselves healthy. I have no idea what this coming weekend will look like for our clinic escort team in Raleigh; I heard much the same from the organizers across the state. We are planning to operate on a skeleton crew, avoiding any spaces where protesters can get close enough to cause problems, and hoping our limited presence will be enough to keep the most abusive anti-abortion protester behavior at bay.

Over the coming weeks, our volunteer group may be preparing to head out into the world, or we may be sitting at home, anxious about what patients will face that day. No matter what, we hope abortion clinics stay open.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/03/20/i-saw-an-anti-abortion-protester-cough-and-joke-about-covid-19/

“The abortion industry is still doing abortions…we are not going away unless we’re banned.”

RICHARD MAHONEY HOLDS A CRUCIFIX DURING A PROTEST VIGIL SPONSORED BY THE CHRISTIAN DEFENSE COALITION AND PRIESTS FOR LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF METROPOLITAN WASHINGTON, D.C. ON JANUARY 17, 2019. (PHOTO BY ZACH GIBSON/GETTY IMAGES)

Across the U.S. and in many other parts of the world, cities and towns that only two weeks ago were bustling with people have since emptied as people try to “flatten the curve” or slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. For millions of people, life as they know it has come to a halt. But there is one group that is relentless in continuing business as usual: anti-abortion protestors.

Those belonging to one group in particular, 40 Days for Life, are committed to disrupting people who wish to enter reproductive health clinics through April 5, despite the possibility of contracting the potentially deadly virus or passing it along to someone else. The organization operates in hundreds of cities across the U.S. where it rallies people to show up in protest outside of clinics and dissuade pregnant people from continuing with their abortions.

“The abortion industry is still doing abortions…we are not going away unless we’re banned,” said CEO & President of 40 Days for Life Shawn Carney in a video titled “Coronavirus and Abortion” posted to the organization’s website on March 18.

Holding a bottle of hand sanitizer in the video, Carney encourages people to show up to vigils (how the organization refers to displays that it places outside of abortion clinics) and comply with the CDC at the same time so that “participating in 40 Days for Life is a safe and healthy thing to do.” But days before 40 Days for Life posted the video, the CDC had already warned the public that social distancing and self-isolation were necessary to slow the spread of the virus. On Sunday, the CDC also recommended that people avoid gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks.

40 Days for Life did not respond to VICE’s request for comment.

On Thursday, Reproaction, an organization that fights for reproductive justice, called on 40 Days for Life to cancel protests immediately in light of the health dangers posed by the gatherings.

“It is a public health hazard,” co-founder of Reproaction Erin Matson told VICE. “It is the opposite of a ‘pro-life’ effort to encourage large groups of people to gather in direct contradiction of the orders of governors around the country.”

“By their very nature, it is unlikely that the protests outside of health centers that provide abortion care are able to abide by these national rules and therefore are posing a risk of infection spread to the community,” said Jen Villavicencio, an ob/gyn in Michigan and a fellow with the Physicians for Reproductive Health.

Matson also worries about the health risks that protesters pose to others, as clinics that provide abortions are often located inside buildings with other businesses. By blocking sidewalks and or attempting to speak with people entering these buildings, protesters could potentially transfer the virus to passersby, people entering the clinic, and one another.

Villavicencio is also concerned about how protesters will increase panic among providers and patients during an already stressful time. “In the time of a pandemic, anxiety and fear are at an all-time high for both health care providers and patients, and protestors are only adding to that, all while putting themselves at risk of contracting a potentially dangerous infection,” she said.

In the 40 Days for Life video, Carney—who says that he just prayed at the vigil outside of a Planned Parenthood in Houston with his wife and eight children during the coronavirus pandemic—seemed sure that supporters could continue the protests despite the CDCs warnings and avoid coronavirus by taking precautions.

“Be sure to be safe, be healthy, keep a distance, use your hand sanitizer, and pray for an end to abortion,” he said.

40 Days for Life has yet to respond to Reproaction’s call.

Correction 3/20/20: We’ve removed a reference to a photo posted by 40 Days for Life on March 19 showing protesters standing in close contact as 40 Days for Life said it was taken before the coronavirus outbreak.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/5dm4ed/anti-abortion-groups-are-still-holding-protests-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak?fbclid=IwAR0b-hae3jeypPWv1g5kEPHPoCsF5d9GkSxjRwzGWUaMRO-6cPPOYTORYBE

Campaigners hail move that will reclassify abortion as a health issue rather than a crime

The justice minister, Andrew Little, speaks in parliament after MPs voted in favour of a bill to decriminalise abortion. Photograph: Nick Perry/AP

New Zealand has passed a landmark bill to decriminalise abortion after decades of campaigning. Andrew Little, the justice minister, said it was long overdue that the procedure would become classified as a health matter and not a criminal one.

The issue was scheduled to be put to a public referendum, but the government scrapped that option late on Wednesday.

“For over 40 years, abortion has been the only medical procedure considered a crime in New Zealand. But from now abortions will be rightly treated as a health issue,” Little said in a statement.

“The previous law required a women seeking an abortion to go through many hoops. That resulted in delays to access a procedure, and that was less safe. The changes agreed to by parliament will better ensure women get advice and treatment in a more timely way.”

Key elements of the bill that passed through parliament included removing abortion from the Crimes Act, allowing women to choose abortion up to 20 weeks after consultation with a GP, and promoting counselling options for women choosing an abortion.

Terry Bellamak, the director of Alranz Abortion Rights Aotearoa, celebrated the move, saying it heralded a progressive step forward for New Zealand.

“Finally the New Zealand parliament has brought abortion legislation into the 21st century – it only took 44 years,” Bellamak said. “Finally after 44 years, New Zealand parliament has recognised that women have bodily autonomy – and that is huge. Being able to control one’s fertility is key to one’s life – it is hard to see how we could achieve equality without that.”

Previously under New Zealand law, abortion was allowed only in cases of incest, “mental subnormality” or foetal abnormality, or where the physical or mental health of the mother was at serious risk. Other factors that were taken into consideration but were not grounds in themselves included “sexual violation” and “extremes of age”.

Jail terms of up to 14 years for those who procured a termination were possible under the Crimes Act, but the law was never enforced and women who underwent abortions were not liable for prosecution. But Little said the change was nevertheless needed.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/18/new-zealand-passes-landmark-law-decriminalise-abortion?fbclid=IwAR1-9jtud-URZ-czmSn3TOFK_C1pPVfbljkB1yMLAZQlm4zyD81ao8iHYN0

I feel that every day is National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers because of the immense appreciation I receive from my patients, day in and day out.

Sunny Soroosh is a registered nurse at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York. For her, being an abortion provider is more than a job. It’s a deeply personal commitment to helping people prioritize their health care needs and determine the future they want.
PPGNYAction / YouTube

Every day, I walk through the doors of the Planned Parenthood health center where I work with a smile, often singing along to a song playing on my headphones. Many find this surprising considering there are usually anti-abortion protesters outside the health center taunting me and my patients or trying to convince me to “find a better job.”
They fail to realize I’m proud to be an abortion provider who puts patients first.

I’m a registered nurse at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York. I work with people who need compassionate, high-quality abortion care. I’m completing my master’s degree to become a nurse-midwife and nurse practitioner. My work at Planned Parenthood has given me not only the clinical skills to pursue a higher education, but also the confidence to support patients during a deeply personal experience.

Abortion is health care, and health care is a fundamental human right that needs to be accessible for everyone. The unfortunate reality is racism, economic inequalities, and hateful biases block people from getting vital health care—including safe, legal abortion care.

Women of color, transgender men, and gender-nonconforming people suffer the most from these systemic injustices that are exacerbated by lawmakers who oppose abortion rights. That’s why I show up to work every day. Despite bullying from anti-choice lawmakers and protesters, health care happens at Planned Parenthood.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration, through its domestic “gag rule,” has forced health-care providers to stop offering a full range of reproductive health options if they are to continue receiving Title X family planning funding. That means Title X recipients can’t refer patients for abortion care even if that’s the option they want. But in the medical community, there’s no debate—everyone deserves accurate information about their health-care options so they can make their own, fully informed decisions.

People must have the freedom to decide on their own if, when, and with whom to have a family, without interference from politicians or anti-abortion extremists fixated on stripping people of their bodily autonomy. I trust my patients to make their own sexual and reproductive health-care decisions, and in return, they trust me to be honest and deliver care with dignity and respect. I will never cower from my vow to my patients or my community.

Today is National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, which was started in memory of Dr. David Gunn, the first provider killed by an anti-abortion activist in the United States. Threats and violence persist against doctors who provide abortion care: The National Abortion Federation (NAF) in 2018 reported a record number of violent incidents at clinics, while incidents of activists obstructing health-care facilities almost doubled from 2017 to 2018. Providers have seen an unprecedented surge in picketing outside clinics, according to NAF, as anti-choice activists are emboldened by an onslaught of legislative attacks against reproductive health care.

Nevertheless, I feel that every day is National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers because of the immense appreciation I receive from my patients, day in and day out.

Being an abortion provider is more than a job for me. It’s a deeply personal commitment to helping people prioritize their health care needs and determine the future they want. Providers are here, protecting the lives and health of millions of people and their families—and we will be here for generations to come.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/03/10/im-a-proud-abortion-provider-heres-why/

Utah anti-choice lawmakers are passing a bevy of abortion restrictions over the objections of voters. Why?

Utah Republicans like state Senate President J. Stuart Adams, state Sens. Dan McCay and Allen Christensen, and state Rep. Francis Gibson have supported radical anti-abortion bills in the 2020 legislative session.
Utah Senate at YouTube/KUTV 2 News Salt Lake City at YouTube/ abc4utah at YouTube/Shutterstock/Rewire.News Illustration

Hey, Utah. It’s Jess. Do you have a minute?

I’m hoping we can chat because, well, I’m a little concerned. OK, I’m a lot concerned. What exactly is happening over there? No, I’m not talking about your women’s soccer team—though I have a few questions there too. I’m talking about the attacks on abortion rights and access that have reached a fevered pitch in the closing days of your legislative session.

Is it the upcoming election? The fact that Justice Brett Kavanaugh is now on the U.S. Supreme Court? For real—what gives?

I suspect the reason your conservative lawmakers are as focused on rolling back abortion rights as my dog is on that squirrel living in the garage next door has something to do with the ideological shift in the federal courts. One in four appellate court judges is a Trump appointee who has pledged to overturn Roe v. Wade. If I were a conservative lawmaker with a particularly regressive anti-abortion itch to scratch, I know I’d be looking at all these young, eager, unfit judges with lifetime appointments and think, “Carpe diem, Jess! Let’s go pass some abortion restrictions!”

What else would explain why your state’s anti-choice lawmakers have pushed a bill that mandates doctors show patients an ultrasound before an abortion? Like every other forced ultrasound law, HB 364 serves no legitimate medical purpose and offers no medical benefits. The purpose of these mandatory ultrasound laws is to shame patients and pressure them into continuing their pregnancies, while creating logistical and financial barriers to care. These requirements are so offensive that even some Republican lawmakers in the state walked out of the vote in protest.

I don’t need to tell you this, Utah. You were there!

HB 364 is essentially the same terrible ultrasound law as a Kentucky restriction the Supreme Court allowed to take effect late last year. And it’s essentially the same awful ultrasound law that is working its way through statehouses in MissouriIowa, and Maryland.

That’s a lot of copycat bills running around so soon after the Roberts Court blessed Kentucky’s mandatory ultrasound law. And with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals now even more conservative, thanks to appointments like Judge Allison Eid, maybe you can you can see why I suspect that Utah lawmakers are legislating with their eyes to the courts rather than constituent need. After all, new polling suggests a majority of Utahns, like a majority of people in the United States, support abortion rights. And they don’t just support abortion rights—they also don’t want Utah lawmakers restricting access any further.

So I have to ask you again, Utah. What gives?

Because it’s not just your mandatory ultrasound law I’m talking about. What on earth is going on with this fetal burial bill? SB 67 mandates burial or cremation of fetal remains following an abortion. This law is modeled after an Indiana measure the Supreme Court recently allowed to take effect and, like other fetal burial requirements, is really about establishing a backdoor for fetal “personhood.” And once fetal personhood is established, recriminalizing abortion and many kinds of contraception is possible.

But seriously. What is going on with SB 67? Do your lawmakers even know?

OK, Utah. You know I have to ask you about this abortion ban. What are your lawmakers thinking passing SB 174?  The bill bans all abortions, with a narrow exemption that allows for an abortion to avert the death of the pregnant person or the “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” of the pregnant person. The bill has an exception that allows for an abortion in cases where two doctors practicing in maternal fetal medicine agree, in writing in the patient’s medical record, that the fetus “has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal” or has a “severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable.”

The rape and incest exception in SB 174 also requires two doctors who practice maternal fetal medicine verify in writing, in the patient’s medical record, that the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. If it was, and if those two specialists agree in writing, then before the patient can have an abortion, the doctor who performs it— who may or may not be the maternal fetal health practitioner who certified the rape in the medical records—must independently verify that that the rape or act of incest has been reported to law enforcement.

The penalty for violating the measure—including for patients who self-manage their own abortion—would be second-degree felony, punishable with a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine up to $10,000.

SB 174 has a trigger clause and would only go into effect should the Supreme Court overturn Roe. Yay, I guess?

Seriously Utah, SB 174 is way out of character for you, which is why I wanted this check in. SB 174 is dangerous. It’s mean and Utah, you and I may not agree on everything, but you are not a mean-spirited state. I don’t understand how a state could expand Medicaid (albeit with that weird work requirement) in part to help pregnant Utahns in one breath and turn around and threaten vulnerable pregnant Utahns with 15 years in prison for self-terminating a pregnancy in another.

Explain this for me because I can’t make any sense of it whatsoever.

Utah already mandates patients wait 72 hours and watch a state-approved “information module” that presents adoption as the state’s preferred “choice” for a patient prior to abortion care. Just a reminder: Adoption is not an alternative to pregnancy; it’s an alternative to parenting. And Utah requires abortion providers maintain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, which, again, is an abortion restriction that sounds preeeeetty familiar.

Let’s not forget that last session, lawmakers passed an 18-week ban in addition to a ban on abortions based on a possible fetal Down syndrome diagnosis. The 18-week ban is on hold while a lawsuit challenging it proceeds. But maybe those bills from last session, both of which should unquestionably be declared unconstitutional, were early cries for help.

Anyways, Utah, it seems like things there have been escalating, and I’m worried because it’s so out of character and out of step with your residents. So I just had to stop and ask if you are OK. Because it seems like something’s up.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/03/17/mandatory-ultrasounds-abortion-bans-utah-are-you-okay/?fbclid=IwAR0ph5fnjY8anI2okH5tei7h3EISqsvIpzsjP9KuldvqtJEqUZNaHw7HKJs