Maine Democrats are pushing legislation to allow qualified advanced practice clinicians such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certified nurse-midwives to provide abortions.

Scores of nurses across the United States are equipped to provide abortion services.

Maine’s ban on non-physicians providing abortion care may soon be scrapped thanks to a bill introduced by Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon and Gov. Janet Mills (D-Freeport).

Announced Thursday, LD 1261 would allow qualified advanced practice clinicians (APCs) such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certified nurse-midwives to provide abortion care. “Physician-only” laws are among the barriers aimed at curbing access to abortion; Maine’s physician-only law leaves only three publicly accessible health centers where patients can receive in-clinic abortion care—in Augusta, Bangor, and Portland. Patients in rural areas often travel hours for care even though there are qualified, experienced practitioners in their own communities. Such restrictions particularly affect people who already face systemic barriers to health care, including those with low incomes, people of color, and young people.

Mills introduced a similar bill last year when she was attorney general. Advocates are hopeful it will pass now that the state has a pro-choice governor and Democratic legislative majorities.

This could be significant in the underserved state, said Alison Bates, a nurse practitioner (NP) in Maine with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

“About 80 percent of counties in Maine have no abortion provider. So you can imagine the burden that is placed on patients seeking that care when they can’t afford it in their own communities,” Bates told Rewire.News. “This is an opportunity for us to align state law with the necessary scope of practice that’s within my purview as an APC and, in doing so, affords patients in Maine access to this service more broadly.”

If someone comes to her clinic seeking an abortion, Bates said she’s forced to turn them away, as per state law, because she has an NP and not an MD after her name. Yet scores of nurses across the United States are equipped to provide abortion services. Laws that prevent qualified nurses from providing such care have been challenged by providers in a handful of states, including in Maine.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit in 2017 challenging the Maine ban on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Maine Family Planning, and several nurse practitioners. Bates is a plaintiff in the case, which is pending in the U.S. Court for the District of Maine.

“Enough is enough,” Oamshri Amarasingham, ACLU of Maine’s advocacy director, said in a statement. “Limited transportation options, brutal winters, and a shortage of health care providers—Mainers face more than enough obstacles to accessing needed health care without having medically unjustified laws piled on top. We’re thankful to Gov. Mills and Speaker Gideon for introducing this bill, which would dramatically improve Mainers’ access to safe abortion care in their own communities.”

Maine lawmakers in 1979 passed a law allowing only physicians to provide abortions. The law was drafted to protect women from back-alley abortions but has not kept pace with technology and practitioner abilities, according to Planned Parenthood.

Maine is one of ten states facing lawsuits to eliminate “physicians-only” laws, ThinkProgress reported. Thirty-three states bar advanced practice clinicians from providing abortion care.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the World Health Organization support allowing APCs to perform abortions in early pregnancy.

“Every woman in Maine should be able to access reproductive health care when and where she needs it, regardless of her zip code,” Gov. Mills said in a statement. “Allowing advanced nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform medication-administered abortions, which are already permitted in other states, will ensure Maine women, especially in rural areas of our state, can access reproductive health care services. It is time to remedy this inequity that negatively impacts too many Maine women.”

Advocates are hopeful the bill will pass. Hearings are expected to be held in April.

“For patients and families in Maine, this is a huge gain towards de-stigmatizing abortion and making accessible and feasible holistic and comprehensive reproductive health care. It would be a remarkable success for the state of Maine,” Bates said.


How does this government fail Northern Irish women? Let me count the ways.

While all eyes were on Strasbourg and the result of Brexitnegotiations over the Northern Irish backstop, the committee for the UN convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) published its concluding observations. The committee’s final report reiterated its belief that the UK government violates the rights of women in Northern Ireland by unduly restricting their access to abortion.

The convention is one of seven international human rights treaties the United Kingdom has ratified. By ratifying the treaty in 1986, it committed to taking action to end discrimination against women in all forms and, in light of this commitment, this week’s report makes clear that current abortion law is in breach of human rights. Devolution can be no excuse for denying women in Northern Ireland these fundamental rights.

Yet the committee’s continuing assertion that the government must act on abortion rights is once again coming up against politicians’ need to overlook women’s rights for the sake of political expediency. During oral questions 6 March, Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, was asked what steps she would be taken in light of the concerns raised by Northern Ireland’s women’s sector during evidence sessions for CEDAW. Her response was almost entirely ignored as it came mere minutes after the morally and politically irresponsible claim that killings by police and the army during the Troubles were “not crimes”. That remark received the criticism it deserved, but Bradley’s comments demonstrated the same sleight of hand with statistics and an utter failure to grasp the reality of women’s lives in Northern Ireland.

She reiterated the assertion that “many of the matters raised by CEDAW need to be legislated for in Stormont, which is why we need devolved government in Stormont sooner rather than later.” However the concluding report from CEDAW now indicates that the Good Friday Agreement gives a clear pathway to intervene on abortion access to ensure the UK’s “international obligations are met in respect of Northern Ireland.”

In an attempt to strengthen this assertion, Bradley quoted polling figures suggesting that “64 per cent are very clear that they want those changes to be made in Stormont.” What she neglected to mention, however, was that these figure came from a poll produced by the campaign group Both Lives Matter, and are in direct opposition to recent figures found by Amnesty International. Amnesty’s polling suggested that in fact 66 per cent of Northern Irish adults think that, without their own government, Westminster should act to change the law. This would suggest that it is Northern Irish laws, rather than the views of its public, that are out of step with the rest of the UK.

Debate around polling figures and samples can circle round endlessly, but what is always important not to lose sight of is the people behind these figures. With one in three UK women having an abortion in their lifetime, most people in Northern Ireland will know someone who has travelled to England for a termination or bought abortion pills illegally online.

The pro-choice movement across the island of Ireland has tried many approaches in its calls for free, safe legal and local access to abortion, from high court rulings and UN reports on human rights violations to public protests to highlight the cruelty of forcing women to travel to receive medical care. They were hugely successful in winning the 2018 referendum in the Irish Republic, but it is vital to ensure no one north of the border is left behind.

Recently, 28 women, including the Labour MP Stella Creasy and the stars of Channel 4 TV series Derry Girls, wheeled suitcases across Westminster Bridge to highlight the 28 women a week who have to travel from Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortions in England. In the suitcases were 62,000 signatures calling for the decriminalisation of abortion. Siobhan McSweeney, who plays Sister Michael in the comedy drama, commented that it was a sorry state of affairs when somebody from the telly has to tell [politicians] how to do their job.

But it’s been her from the telly plus thousands of people taking to the streets and signing petitions – and now a United Nations committee too. The calls are overwhelmingly clear: the government can no longer hide behind the claim that abortion is a devolved issue: it is a women’s right and a human right, and they must end the disgraceful inaction on providing abortion healthcare in Northern Ireland.


“About 90% of US counties don’t have an abortion clinic, and it shouldn’t be a privilege to live somewhere that does.”

Throughout our lives, we rely on different clues and impressions to help us determine what is right, and what is wrong. These clues may be large or small, and take many forms; in select cases, they can even appear as financial figures. For while it may be impossible to put a price on human health and happiness, the cost of neglecting them is becoming all too clear.

In the case of Americans’ reproductive health, such numbers clearly show that denying women contraceptives and wanted abortions has a substantial toll on their lives and livelihoods, their children and families, and society as a whole. Evidence in favor of giving women full access to family planning is extensive and varied, with many pragmatic aspects, from the costs of Medicaid-paid births to combating environmental threats.

However, those who have dedicated themselves to tracking the effects of reproductive policy say that the most compelling data of all — gathered from patients and families across the country — suggest that if we truly mean to value human life, we must allow people to choose when to create it.

According to Dr. Diana Greene Foster, Director of Research at UCSF’s Advancing New Standards In Reproductive Health program (ANSIRH), the financial and social costs of restricting abortion and contraceptive access are objective, but are nevertheless “a controversial topic” in our politically charged climate.

At the same time, “People who don’t think about reproductive health as a rights issue might understand that it’s also an economic issue,” Foster said in a phone interview.

Over the past several years, Foster and her team have researched a range of economic and social outcomes relating to abortion, as well as other methods of family planning. During that time, Foster has also penned a number of op-eds addressing common misconceptions in these areas, and spoken to Congress about the need to recognize the effects of restrictive abortion laws on women’s lives “as determined by sound empirical research.”

Pro-choice activists, politicians and supporters of Planned Parenthood gather for a news conference and demonstration at City Hall against the Trump administrations Title X rule change on February 25, 2019 in New York City. The proposed final rule for the Title X Family Planning Program, called the “Gag Rule,” would force a medical provider receiving federal assistance to refuse to promote, refer for, perform or support abortion as a method of family planning. (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)GETTY

The Guttmacher Institute has reported that among the one quarter of US women who have an abortion in their lifetimes, more than half of them already have children at the time of their abortion, and are often concerned about the impact that raising another child would have for extant ones.

According to research conducted by Foster, those mothers’ worries aren’t misplaced: her review of women who wanted abortions, were turned away, and who carried those pregnancies to term found that their other children subsequently had lower developmental scores. Such families were also more likely to receive federal assistance, “but not enough to keep women and their children from being poor,” Foster said.

Mothers who carried unwanted pregnancies to term also showed lower levels of bonding with infants, and were noticeably more financially insecure following such births. Among women polled who wanted an abortion, the top reasons given were not being able to afford a(nother) child, and not being ready for one.

Women who wanted abortions and got turned away for waiting a few weeks or days too long under local laws — typically because they had to spend significant time and money, or because pregnancy symptoms aren’t always clear, especially to younger or recently pregnant women — also had lower incomes than those who received abortions.

After being turned away, regardless of whether they later obtained an abortion, women further reported having lower levels of self-esteem, and more anxiety. On the other hand, women who received wanted abortions were more likely to have a wanted pregnancy in the next five years.

“We also found that when women are able to access an abortion, they are able to continue on a path of working or going to school. When they are denied an abortion, we see an immediate drop in employment,” Foster said.

And for the past ten years, despite the evidence around this kind of care, legal conditions for women’s reproductive rights in this country have steadily gotten worse.

Many states have repeatedly sought to restrict the window when women can legally have abortions, to minimize the number of clinics that provide or make referrals for abortions, to pile on waiting periods and extra consults, and to end or re-appropriate funding for these services at various levels. Federal lawmakers have floated similar ideas, while President Trump has personally moved to restrict federal funds for abortion providers, referrers, and the other forms of contraception they dispense on multiple occasions.

“If the focus were really on trying to make abortions happen as early as possible, then every state would pay for them,” Foster said. “Trying to raise the money is a major cause of delay. And by time you’ve raised that money, it’s [become] a different procedure, and it costs more.”

Regarding the president and others’ attempts to limit funding for contraceptives like birth control (both with and without ties to abortion facilities), she added, “Contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancies, and lots of studies show that the easier you make accessing contraception, the fewer abortions are needed. Making birth control harder to get will absolutely increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.”

According to advocates for women’s rights and health, such laws generally make it clear quite quickly that improving the lives of women and children is not the goal.

In this July 19, 2017 file photo, an abortion opponent stands beside a truck covered in signs during a rally in downtown Louisville, Ky. Attorneys for Kentucky’s last abortion clinic said as a federal trial opened Wednesday, Sept. 6, that state regulators are using “onerous” rules to try to shut it down, predicting some women would “take the matter into their own hands” to end unwanted pregnancies if the state succeeds. (Credit: AP Photo/Dylan Lovan, File)

Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director for the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), commented by phone that laws preventing Medicaid funds from being used for abortions, for example, are a way of “coercing people into continuing pregnancies they don’t want to have.” Like Foster, she also believes that people “are being pushed into later abortions because they can’t afford it earlier.”

At NNAF, Hernandez oversees employees and volunteers working in 41 states to disperse financial support from over 70 funds to US women, particularly those seeking second-term abortions, which cost $2100 on average just for the procedure. “There are so many other costs that are not talked about more widely,” she said. “There’s transportation and traveling within a state or across state lines, medically unnecessary waiting periods, having to miss work, finding childcare, and having somewhere to stay.”

“About 90% of US counties don’t have an abortion clinic, and it shouldn’t be a privilege to live somewhere that does.”

“The fact that there’s such a venomous debate about it completely stigmatizes the issue, and makes people confused about whether they even could or should access the care they need,” Hernandez said. Much of the work her group does, she said, is helping people “navigate the complexities” of that care, from process to payment.

Hernandez also pointed out that even unsuccessful legislation can have a significant negative impact on women’s health and well-being. “There is already a public perception and stigma issue when the president gets on TV and talks about executing babies,” she said, referring to a recent Republican bill that effectively proposed to force doctors into treating non-viable, late-term fetuses rather than let mothers — often in great physical and emotional distress themselves — hold them quietly before they pass, for example.

“It confuses the public,” she continued. “Many people aren’t sure if abortion is legal right now. They call us and have to ask, which is really disturbing, because this a constitutional right.”

In some ways, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the national conversation around women’s reproductive health is both low on facts and extremely contentious in our country.

As journalist Amy Westervelt reflected for The Guardian last year, “The reality is, for all its pro-family rhetoric, the US is a remarkably harsh place for families, and particularly for mothers.” Quite frankly, medical science is still struggling to make up the research gap on women and people of color, too, including in the reproductive realm.

The state of research on women’s reproductive health and well-being is improving, however, and data suggest that it is vital to Americans’ health and bottom lines to acknowledge and move forward with what we do know.

After all, presumably all of us want to be good and thoughtful stewards and see future generations thrive on this planet we must share. And the time has never been better to honor that future by making thoughtful choices, and by allowing others to do the same.


Image copyrightGOOGLEImage captionRichmond Council said protests near an abortion clinic in Rosslyn Road had a “detrimental” effect on patients and staff

Abortion protests will be banned outside a south-west London clinic, a local council has decided.

Richmond councillors approved the order for sections of six streets near the British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinic in Rosslyn Road.

The ban prohibits protesters from trying to engage people attending the clinic in “any form of counselling or interaction” in relation to abortion.

A councillor said the order would protect patients’ human rights.

Councillor Liz Jaeger said: “Following a thorough consultation, there was overwhelming feedback that the vigils were having a detrimental effect on [patients] or others in the local area.”

Image copyrightPAImage captionProtesters were stopped from holding daily vigils outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing in 2018

The Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), made under anti-social behaviour legislation, will last for a preliminary period of three years.

Ms Jaeger said the PSPO “strikes the right balance, protecting the human rights of the patients and staff of the BPAS Clinic to use the services and go to work without fear and in privacy”.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said there had been “no evidence of harassment” outside the clinic.

In an online article, the society said the ruling was the “latest example of official intolerance towards pro-lifers”.

Last year an order came into force to stop anti-abortion and pro-choice campaigners from standing within 100m of a clinic in Ealing, west London.

After the ban was imposed at the Ealing centre, the home secretary rejected calls for buffer zones to be introduced across the country.


Abortion opponents are accusing doctors of infanticide. Here’s the reality of abortion late in pregnancy, according to a doctor.

Anti-abortion and abortion rights activists demonstrate outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on January 18, 2019. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate voted last week on a bill to put in place requirements for the care of babies born after attempted abortions.

It failed, but debate around the issue continues. At an especially contentious time in the abortion debate, opponents of the procedure have focused their attention on abortions that happen late in pregnancy.

Starting in January, after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam made some confusing comments about an abortion bill in his state, abortion opponents claimed that babies are sometimes born alive after failed abortions that happen late in pregnancy, and that they are then “left to die” or even executed by doctors.

“The governor stated that he would even allow a newborn baby to come out into the world,” President Trump told a crowd in El Paso, Texas, last month, “and wrap the baby, and make the baby comfortable, and then talk to the mother and talk to the father and then execute the baby. Execute the baby!”

Abortion rights advocates and abortion providers have responded to rhetoric like this by saying that the case of a baby born after a failed abortion is so rare as to be essentially unheard of, and that if that did happen, doctors would care for the baby like any other patient. But the debate has continued, so I decided to reach out to a doctor who provides abortions for an in-depth explanation of what abortions late in pregnancy actually look like, and how the picture painted by Trump and others compares to reality.

Dr. Kristyn Brandi is a New Jersey OB-GYN with fellowship training in family planning, and a board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health. As a doctor, she delivers babies and cares for pregnant women, and also performs abortions. She told me that because of today’s legal requirements for abortion procedures, it’s essentially impossible for a baby to be born alive after a failed abortion, and that equating late abortion with infanticide is insulting to patients, many of whom are grieving the end of a much-wanted pregnancy.

Trump and others describe “late-term abortion” (which, Brandi explains, is not a medically accurate term) as something that can happen at 40 weeks’ gestation, even when a woman is in labor.

In reality, as Brandi told Vox last month, “patients do not request abortion when they are in labor and doctors do not provide it.” More than 90 percent of abortions happen within the first trimester of pregnancy. But some patients do get abortions after that, in the second and third trimesters (about 1.4 percent of abortions happen at 21 weeks’ gestation or later, according to Planned Parenthood). Brandi explained to me what happens during those procedures, why patients seek them, and what the current political debate about them is missing. Our conversation, via phone and email, has been edited and condensed.

Anna North

Throughout the last few months, there’s been a lot of focus on abortions that happen later in pregnancy. Can you talk a little about why people seek such abortions?

Kristyn Brandi

Thank you for using the more appropriate terminology. A lot of the people I’ve been talking to about abortions that happen later in pregnancy use these weird terms like “late-term abortion.”

Anna North

Can you explain why the term “late-term abortion” is not accurate?

Kristyn Brandi

Usually, as medical professionals, we talk about abortion in relation to gestational age, but we don’t use terms like “late” because it doesn’t really apply. And when we talk about late-term pregnancy, we’re actually referring to pregnancies that are a week after their due date, so 41 weeks’ gestation, which is very different than what we’re talking about typically when people say late-term abortion. Which I think really reflects the fact that people that are having these conversations may not have that medical background, and so we’re not speaking the same language and it creates confusion for everyone involved.

Anna North

Given that, can you talk to me about the reasons that people seek the procedure later in pregnancy?

Kristyn Brandi

I should say that when we’re talking about these abortions later in pregnancy, this is about 1 percent of all abortion care. The majority of abortions happen in the first trimester. Patients that are seeking care later, often it’s related to their health, so either they themselves are diagnosed in pregnancy with some type of medical complication or their fetus was diagnosed with some type of genetic abnormality that makes their quality of life after they deliver really poor. And, unfortunately, we are typically unable to diagnose these things until the second or the third trimester, so it leaves patients to be having these conversations later in their pregnancy.

There’s also structural and socioeconomic reasons why people show up later in pregnancy. For example, I’m at a center where I’m the referral center for the state, and so patients that are seeking care elsewhere may get referred to me and I’m often hours away from where they initially sought care. So it takes a while for them to get up to see me, and that includes not just the time it takes to come up here but also making sure they have child care for the children they already have, getting transportation. There’s so many different types of barriers that are created for health care in general, but specifically abortion care.

Anna North

Can you give some examples of situations you’ve seen where a patient sought an abortion late in pregnancy?

Kristyn Brandi

In recent memory, I had a clinic day where several patients had come to the clinic for abortion later in pregnancy for very different reasons. A person in one room had a fetus with trisomy 13[a chromosomal disorder that can result in severe intellectual and physical disability], which was not diagnosed until later in pregnancy. In the next room, I had a patient for whom I was the fourth doctor she had seen — she kept being referred to other doctors because of her complex medical history and had to save enough for a bus ride for each doctor she saw. The last patient had a history of a near-fatal event in her last pregnancy, and while she didn’t personally agree with abortion, she decided it was the best thing for her to prevent the risk of her own death in this pregnancy.

Anna North

Talk to me all bit more about the structural barriers you mentioned. Can you give some more examples?

Kristyn Brandi

As more and more abortion restrictions come up, it creates a lot of barriers for patients seeking care. For example, there are some laws that say you have to come [for counseling] prior to obtaining an abortion, and that just may not be feasible for a lot of people, particularly if you live three hours, four hours away in a different state from where you’re getting care. It just is not something that our patients can manage, and it’s not their fault.

There’s some new laws that cause clinics that are nearby to close because they just can’t meet these standards that are not medically necessary, but that states put on these clinics to restrict care.

Anna North

Would removing some of those barriers mean fewer abortions later in pregnancy?

Kristyn Brandi

I think so. Again, it’s not the majority of abortions, but there are many people that are having these barriers. It can actually change a lot of what abortion care looks like if just we improved access to patients being able to get care in a timely way.

Anna North

I think a clear picture of what happens during an abortion would be helpful to our readers in making sense of some of the debates right now. I know some abortions are performed with medication, and some are surgical — can you describe both types, and talk a little about how the procedure changes at different stages of pregnancy?

Kristyn Brandi

A patient can decide on a medication abortion up to 10 weeks, with two different pills, mifepristone and misoprostol. A surgical abortion is often a seven- to 10-minute in-office procedure with vacuum aspiration, administered by a licensed clinician who gently dilates the cervix just enough to protect the cervix, then empties the uterus.

If an abortion is performed at 20 weeks or later, a drug may be injected to stop the fetal heartbeat before the uterus is emptied. How we complete the procedure depends on the wishes of the patient, their own medical circumstances, and our medical judgement. Sometimes we use a combination of instruments and aspiration to empty the uterus, and other times we proceed with an induction of labor just as we would with a stillbirth.

Medically, every pregnancy is different, and every person’s health circumstances are unique. There isn’t a bright line, so we can’t say, “We always do this.” We provide the procedure that is best for each patient based on their decision and our medical judgment.

Anna North

What typically happens to fetal remains after an abortion? Does this vary depending on when in pregnancy the abortion occurs?

Kristyn Brandi

Medical facilities dispose of bodily tissue, including embryonic and fetal tissue, in a sanitary manner that minimizes exposure to pathogens and risk of infection. Fetal tissue is treated respectfully and handled in a way that protects the privacy of patients. In some instances, patients may request a different disposition of the embryonic or fetal tissue. Such requests are deeply personal and tend to vary based on a patient’s cultural or religious traditions.

Anna North

Let’s talk a little bit about what’s been in the news the last few weeks. I was watching the debate in the Senate over [Nebraska] Sen. [Ben] Sasse’s bill, and he said, “We know that some babies, especially late in gestation, survive attempted abortions. We know, too, that some of these babies are left to die.” That struck me because it didn’t jibe with what I’ve readand heard from providers, which is that it’s extremely rare, if not unheard of, for a baby to be born alive after a failed abortion attempt. What would be your response to Sasse’s claim?

Kristyn Brandi

I also have been hearing a lot of these types of stories, and it also is shocking me as someone that provides this care every day. I think they’re trying to use extreme language and sensationalization to make people uncomfortable with talking about care that is just part of medical care. I think there’s a lot of confusion about what happens within abortion later in pregnancy and the unique circumstances that involve each individual patient, so it’s really hard to understand a lot of the nuances around this conversation when you’re just having these two sides that are using talking points to argue with each other.

Anna North

What kinds of nuances do you feel like are being missed here?

Kristyn Brandi

I think some of it is just a misunderstanding about what abortion care looks like, and particularly equating it to infanticide, which is really insulting. It’s insulting for me as an abortion provider, but I can’t imagine how insulting it is for my patients or women that have experienced abortion and they’re hearing all these crazy stories. I can’t imagine how disheartening it is and how it further perpetuates the stigma around abortion. How could you talk about your own abortion when you hear all these things in the media?

Anna North

Just to make sure we drill down on some of the claims we’ve been hearing here, I’ve even seen an estimate on an anti-abortion website that more than 900 babies survive attempted abortions every year, extrapolating from a 2007 British study. Is this a thing that happens? Do infants survive abortions, and what would happen medically if that did occur?

Kristyn Brandi

[In] typical abortion care, this is something that can never happen, and part of it is actually because of politics. There was this [2003] partial-birth abortion ban, which restricted this from happening. If we did what these politicians are claiming we’re doing, we’re already breaking the law. No one is actually doing that. At least, I should say, no credible doctor or practitioner is doing anything anywhere even close to what they’re suggesting.

Anna North

Explain that a little bit more to me. What is being suggested that can’t happen under that law?

Kristyn Brandi

Under that law, something has to be done to the pregnancy to stop it from growing prior to the abortion happening, specifically to avoid the scenario where a potential pregnancy is delivered and could survive outside of the patient. We have to do something to the pregnancy in order to prevent this from happening, so it’s already off the table.

But I think a lot of the confusion is that people are conflating abortion care with comfort care. For example, there are some patients that are in a similar scenario where their pregnancy outcome, for whatever reason, either a fetal anomaly or something in their medical situation, did not result in a pregnancy that will survive for very long outside of them. And so some patients elect to undergo something similar to a labor induction, which allows them to deliver what they call their baby and be able to actually spend time with it and be able to offer it comfort care.

Again, thinking about the scenarios that I’ve seen, it’s really terribly heartbreaking scenarios where it’s a desired pregnancy that people want to spend last moments with before this baby passes. And to think of the patients that I’ve seen that have gone through that, where they just want to hold their baby one last time before it passes away, those are the scenarios that these politicians are suggesting that we are performing infanticide on.

It breaks my heart to hear conservative media and politicians using these terms and not holding the hand of patients that are going through this process.

Anna North

Talk to me a little bit about the emotional aspect of the procedure for patients who are ending up seeking this later in pregnancy, especially if these are patients who had a wanted pregnancy and there’s an abnormality.

Kristyn Brandi

I think it’s very emotional for many patients. Someone has been planning this pregnancy and been preparing and getting their nursery all set up and then, all of a sudden, is faced with this devastating news; it’s heartbreaking.

I think to compound that with all of the stigma around abortion — I’ve had many patients come to me and say they never thought they would be in this circumstance, that perhaps they didn’t agree initially with abortion care because they just didn’t see how it would affect them. Many of them are very happy and relieved to be able to have that care available to them when they needed it the most.

Anna North

I think those were all the specific questions I had. Is there anything else you want to say on any of this that we didn’t touch on?

Kristyn Brandi

I think the one thing that is getting a little bit overlooked in this conversation is about how particularly this affects a vulnerable population. Patients that are having abortions later in pregnancy may face additional barriers — [they may be] of lower socioeconomic status, minority patients, LGBT patients, undocumented patients, or immigrant patients. They’re facing a lot of the brunt of this and it’s further perpetuating disparities.

Anna North

They are facing the brunt of this because they’re more likely to face some of those barriers to care earlier in pregnancy?

Kristyn Brandi

Right. Or they may not be able to access prenatal care and they’ll get these diagnoses later in pregnancy, and so a lot of later abortion disproportionately affects vulnerable populations. So not only trying to decrease barriers to abortion care but also improving access to prenatal care, improving access to contraception, improving access to any health care or decreasing a lot of the barriers that are faced by vulnerable populations may actually be able to help people get access to the care they need.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the percentage of abortions that take place in the first three months of pregnancy. It is about 92 percent, not about 99 percent.


Total abortion bans have so far failed to overcome legal hurdles, though GOP lawmakers continue to prioritize the anti-choice legislation across the United States.

“By effectively outlawing abortion in the state of Georgia, Republicans are drawing the line in the sand to hand over their re-elections in 2020. They have made it clear that passing legislation without fiscal notes, medical accuracy and public notice are what Georgians deserve,” Representative Park Cannon said in a text message.
Nagel Photography /

Republicans in the Georgia House passed a ban on abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, effectively a total abortion ban, shortly before 11 p.m. on Thursday.

By a vote of 93 to 73—with 12 representatives absent or not voting and two seats vacant—the measure passed by two votes more than the constitutional majority required. The bill now heads to the state senate for consideration. Georgia’s legislative session is scheduled to end in early April.

HB 481, dubbed the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act,” would ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically at six weeks’ gestation. Many people don’t know they’re pregnant at that point.

Republicans in more than a dozen other states have proposed similar measures since the beginning of 2019. Total abortion bans have so far failed to overcome legal hurdles, though GOP lawmakers continue to prioritize the anti-choice legislation across the United States.

In Georgia, the total abortion ban was fast tracked through the committee hearing process, and sent to the floor for a vote with just hours left on crossover day, the last day a bill can pass out of one chamber and “cross over” to the other chamber. Bills that did not pass out of at least one chamber before midnight Thursday are effectively dead for the remainder of the legislative session.

After the total abortion ban passed out of committee Wednesday evening, state Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) told Rewire.News that her Republican colleagues are “playing politics with women’s lives in Georgia.”

“By effectively outlawing abortion in the state of Georgia, Republicans are drawing the line in the sand to hand over their re-elections in 2020. They have made it clear that passing legislation without fiscal notes, medical accuracy and public notice are what Georgians deserve,” she said in a text message.

HB 481 was officially added to Wednesday afternoon’s agenda for the house health and human services committee about 30 minutes before the committee convened. It passed along a party-line vote of 17 to 14, after three hours of testimony and questions. At 7:30 p.m. the following day, a vote for the bill was added to the state house’s agenda, and limited to one hour of debate and no amendments on the floor.

As in the committee hearing, sponsor Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) told his colleagues that the measure was an attempt at a compromise. “This bill weighs the privacy interest of the mother—which we recognize as being valid—but when you weigh the life interest of this human child, how do we reconcile those two in a fair, balanced, and appropriate way?” Setzler said in closing remarks.

At the committee hearing and during the debate on the house floor, Reps. Cannon and Renitta Shannon (D-Decatur) each shared that they have had an abortion. Shannon was repeatedly told by House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) that her time was up, but she did not leave the floor even after her mic was cut off.

Other Democrats ultimately persuaded her to step down, and she walked away to applause from the gallery, which was quickly silenced by the speaker.

Minority Leader Bob Trammell (D-Luthersville) made motions in an effort to stall the vote on the total abortion ban, including a motion to adjourn, a motion to table the bill, and then a motion to reconsider after the bill narrowly passed. Opponents in the gallery yelled “Shame!” at legislators after the final vote came in.

On Thursday morning, several Democratic legislators showed up with wire hangers and containers of bleach, featuring messages like “No to HB 481” and “This hanger is an abortion device,” in anticipation of the bill making it to the state house floor. They later organized a press conference opposing the measure, and filed a minority report opposing the bill, which gave them extra time for debate on the state house floor.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp came out with a short video on Twitter supporting the measure Thursday afternoon, just after the press conference. “I applaud the health and human services committee for advancing legislation to protect the unborn. I encourage the House and the Senate to do the same. This is a powerful moment in Georgia,” Kemp said in the video.

On the campaign trail, Kemp—whose 2018 election victory is being investigated by the U.S. House of Representatives—committed to signing the “toughest abortion laws in the country.”

Among the state representatives who were not present to vote on the measure, one notable absence was Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), chair of the health and human services committee.

Cooper, who has championed bills funding anti-choice clinics, expressed concerns about several aspects of the bill during the committee hearing Wednesday night. She commented on the likelihood that the bill would result in litigation, as well as the effect it would have on people who do not realize they are pregnant until much further into their first trimester. These comments were echoed by Democrats and other opponents of the bill during both the committee meeting and floor debate.

“There are places where we could use the money much more wisely rather than having to have very expensive lawyers support our attorney general and going at a court case like this,” Cooper told Rewire.News after the committee meeting Wednesday night.

Despite her concerns, Cooper added an amendment to the bill in committee to include exceptions for fetal anomalies incompatible with life. It was the only amendment—of about a dozen offered—that was added to the total abortion ban.

Speaking to the Health and Human Services committee Wednesday evening, Setzler shared his views that life begins at conception and stated that the inclusion of exceptions for rape and incest were part of what made this a compromise bill.

“We recognize that children in the womb—from early biological development, from six weeks and even earlier—all they need is nourishment and a safe place to live, and they are going to grow into ripe old adulthood. That fact that, morphologically, certain organs have not grown or their arms aren’t as visible, doesn’t change the fact that they are living, distinct as human being,” he said.


‘Women seeking abortions continue to live in fear, stigma and shame in our society’

Stock photo of a pro-choice rally in Ireland

It would have been unthinkable in the past, but Malta’s first ever pro-choice movement is set to launch this weekend to campaign for the legalisation of abortion.

Details are still scant at this stage, but the movement is expected to include the Women’s Rights Foundation and Moviment Graffitti, both of whom have been sharing the upcoming launch on social media.

“We are a group of civil society organisations and individuals that together want to work for reproductive rights and justice in Malta,” the movement, which is called Voice For Choice, said. “We are grassroot organisations that represent various sectors of our society, as well as individuals that are passionate about reproductive health and rights.”

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“Abortion continues to remain criminalised in Malta in all circumstances. We know that the reality is that women in Malta are still seeking and having abortions. However, this comes at both a financial and a social cost as these women continue to live in fear, stigma and shame in our society.”

“Malta is a compassionate country that has over the decades ensured full inclusivity. It is time that the laws related to abortion follow suit so as to reflect the reality of people’s lives. We are here to ensure that all pregnant persons, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, beliefs or age are supported, respected and protected whatever their choices.”

The launch will be held at City Lights in Valletta and will include a screening of the documentary ‘The Abortion Diaries’ and a panel discussion.

Abortion remains a particularly taboo topic in Malta, with no politician from Labour or PN openly willing to even discuss loosening the law. However, debate is fermenting within the smaller parties, with Alternattiva Demokratika MEP candidate MEP Mina Tolu calling for a civilised discussion and Partit Demokratiku MEP candidate Cami Appelgren coming out as pro-choice.

Featured Image: A recent pro-life rally in Valletta. Photo: Life Network