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Abortion rights roundup: October 20, 2023

The latest news impacting reproductive rights around the country.

By Rebekah Sager - October 20, 2023
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Ohio Abortion
Supporters of Issue 1, the Right to Reproductive Freedom amendment, attend a rally held by Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Joe Maiorana)

This series is a weekly roundup of abortion news, covering various statewide laws and bans, those who stand up to them, and the ongoing push by anti-abortion conservatives to restrict abortion care and erase bodily autonomy.

Michigan Senate Democrats pass part of Reproductive Health Act

The Michigan Senate has passed part of a package of 21 bills collectively called the Reproductive Health Act. The approved bills amend or repeal provisions that make it challenging for patients to obtain abortion care and would ultimately expand access to reproductive health care. 

Senate Democrats announced on Oct. 19 the successful passage of Senate Bills 474-477

The bills would remove the requirement by the Department of Health and Human Services that clinics providing abortion care in the state meet the same requirements as independent surgical centers. Abortion care providers said this restriction made it virtually impossible to build new clinics in Michigan, as surgery centers cost millions to build.

It would mean “building a mini-hospital in order to meet all of the requirements, which are not required for the safety of the care that we provide but are financially inaccessible,” Dr. Sarah Wallett, chief medical operation officer of Planned Parenthood Michigan, told Crain’s Grand Rapid Business.

The bills would also allow college and university health centers to provide referrals to students seeking to obtain abortion care. 

“As the new majority, our work must include dismantling unnecessary barriers to reproductive health care. At the end of the day, reproductive health care is health care,” Democratic Sen. Stephanie Chang said in a press release

Eleven other bills in the package were held up in the House of Representatives due to the opposition of Democratic Rep. Karen Whitsett. Whitsett opposes the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortion care and supports a required 24-hour waiting period for patients before they can obtain abortion care. 

Arizona Supreme Court justice accused Planned Parenthood of genocide in 2017 Facebook post

According to reporting by the 19th News, Arizona Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery has indicated he would support a near-total ban on abortion in the state. 

There are seven justices on the state’s high court, and all were appointed by a Republican governor. On Dec. 12, they will hear oral arguments in a case that would reinstate an 1864 state law that would ban abortion in nearly all cases. Arizona law currently bans abortion care after 15 weeks and six days of pregnancy. If the court rules in favor of the ban, the law would criminalize providers and threaten them with prison time. 

Now the question is whether Montgomery should recuse himself from ruling in the case. 

According to the Phoenix New Times, in 2017 Montgomery, then a county attorney in Maricopa County, said on his Facebook page that Planned Parenthood “is responsible for the greatest generational genocide known to man,” adding that the organization “encourages the very behavior that leads to STDs and abortions.” 

The Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct says, “A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 

Ohio voters will decide the fate of abortion rights in the state via ballot measure

In November, Ohioans will vote on Issue 1, a ballot referendum that would enshrine the right to abortion care in the state Constitution. A “yes” vote on the initiative would amend the Ohio Constitution, giving residents the right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to “decisions about abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and continuing pregnancy.”

Republicans attempted to block the measure by raising the threshold needed to pass citizen-led ballot initiatives from a simple majority to 60%. Ohio voters rejected that effort in August.

Ohio Republicans, including Gov. Mike DeWine, are attacking the ballot measure by painting it as extreme.

 Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said recently: “Here we are in Midwestern Ohio, a commonsense conservative state where we may, in just a period of several weeks, have the most extreme abortion law in the country. I think we are all united in making sure that doesn’t happen.” 

Republican State Sen. Matt Dolan, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said, “We have to shed our Republican label and go out and talk to everyday Ohioans irrespective of what party and even what position they have on this issue of abortion.” 

On Oct. 20, over 500 medical students studying in Ohio signed a letter calling on Ohioans to vote yes on Issue 1.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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