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Abortion rights roundup: September 22, 2023

The latest news impacting reproductive rights around the country.

By Rebekah Sager - September 22, 2023
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Abortion rights protesters in Wisconsin
Abortion rights supporters gather for a protest organized by Planned Parenthood in the rotunda of the Wisconsin Capitol, June 22, 2022, in Madison. (AP Photo/Harm Venhuizen, File)

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.

Abortion care resumes in Wisconsin!

This week marks the reopening of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s clinics in Milwaukee and Madison.

The organization indicated that it felt confident it was legally safe to reopen to provide abortion care based on a July circuit judge’s ruling that the state’s 1849 abortion ban only applied to an attack on a pregnant person for the purpose of killing a fetus.

“There is no such thing as an ‘1849 Abortion Ban’ in Wisconsin. A physician who performs a consensual medical abortion commits a crime only ‘after the fetus or unborn child reaches viability,’” Dane County Circuit Judge Diane Schlipper wrote.

In an interview with the American Independent Foundation on Sept. 15, Tanya Atkinson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, said that in the months following the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022, suspending abortion services had been devastating for the people of Wisconsin.

“We’ve seen firsthand the obstacles that people had to face to access care,” Atkinson said.

Alabama attacks birthing centers and midwives.

In the state with the third-highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, the Alabama Department of Public Health is focusing on closing Oasis Family Birthing Center, the one and only birthing center in the state.

Birth centers are clinics where pregnant patients are cared for by nurse-midwives.

”It’s not just a facility, but it’s a whole program that begins with your first prenatal visit all the way through your postpartum follow-up,” Kate Bauer, the executive director of the American Association of Birth Centers, told the American Independent Foundation. … I think it’s a common assumption in our country that the hospital is the best place to be for all of your health care. And that’s not true. We’ve seen that with the advancement of ambulatory surgical centers. There are many procedures that are done outside the hospital.”

According to Whitney Leigh White, a staff attorney for the Reproductive Freedom Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, since the spring, Oasis Family Birthing Center, located in Birmingham, has been prevented from offering care to patients in the community.

In August, the ACLU sued the Alabama Department of Public Health on behalf of Dr. Heather Skanes and her team at Oasis, Dr. Yashica Robinson, an OB-GYN, Stephanie Mitchell, a midwife, and the Alabama affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives and its members over what the suit calls a “de facto ban on freestanding birth centers.”

“As we allege in our lawsuit, these actions are not only unlawful, they’re also dangerous,” White told the American Independent Foundation. “We’re in the midst of a severe maternal and infant health crisis. Alabama has some of the worst maternal and infant health outcomes of the entire country. And instead of doing everything they can to make care more accessible, the Department of Public Health is instead preventing skilled providers from expanding access to care, including by shutting down the only freestanding birth center that was operating in Alabama, despite its perfect safety record.”

White said the ACLU filed a motion for a preliminary injunction after the lawsuit was filed, seeking intervention from the court to prevent the Department of Public Health from continuing to block birth centers from operating. The motion is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 28.

Democratic group releases abortion rights ad targeting Pennsylvania Republicans.

Progress Action Fund, a Democratic group that creates ads targeting Republican lawmakers and candidates in swing districts, has launched a new pro-abortion rights ad in Pennsylvania.

The ad, titled “Republicans Watching Your Daughter,” depicts a desperate father begging a doctor and a Republican member of Congress to explain why his 12-year-old daughter, a rape survivor, is unable to obtain abortion care.

“They’ll put us all in prison if we do the procedure,” the doctor tells the father. A second man appears and says: “I’m your Republican congressman. We banned abortion. No exceptions. … I won the last election, so it’s my decision. I’m just going to watch your daughter and make sure she doesn’t do anything illegal.”

Progress Action Fund is running the ad in Pennsylvania with an eye on this year’s Nov. 7 election for an open seat on the state Supreme Court. The Democrats currently hold a 4-2 majority on the court.

Carolyn Carluccio, a Republican, will face Democratic candidate Daniel McCaffery, an appellate court judge from Philadelphia who recently garnered an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.

Politico reports that McCaffery said of abortion in an interview: “It’s pretty clear from a personal standpoint that I believe those particular issues are best decided between a woman, her conscience, and her doctor.” He added that he would fully support Pennsylvania’s existing law, which allows for abortion care up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

NARAL changes its name.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, the national abortion rights group, announced on Sept. 20 that it had changed its name to Reproductive Freedom for All.

The group was founded in 1969 as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. In 1973, it changed its name to the National Abortion Rights Action League following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that affirmed the constitutional protection of abortion care nationwide. In 1993, the group changed its name to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, and in 2003 became NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“The fight for abortion rights and access is at a critical moment. With the coalition of Americans who support reproductive freedom growing by the day, our leadership identified a clearer and more inclusive path forward to mobilize this new and expanded base of support,” Mini Timmaraju, president of Reproductive Freedom for All, said in a statement.

In an interview with the New York Times, Timmaraju explained that the “pro-choice” wording lacked the support of younger voters.

The Times reports that with the name change, in addition to working for reproductive justice, the group will broaden its focus to include organizing around policies such as voting rights, expansion of the Supreme Court, and erasing the Senate filibuster.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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