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Abortion rights roundup: August 25, 2023

The latest news impacting reproductive rights around the country.

By Rebekah Sager - August 25, 2023
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Ann Johnson
Texas Democratic state Rep. Ann Johnson works in the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas, May 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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.

In the first Republican primary debate of the 2024 presidential campaign on Aug. 23, eight candidates fielded questions on everything from climate change, which all essentially denied existed, to gun control, the economy, and a notably losing issue for the GOP: abortion rights.

On the topic of abortion, nearly every candidate identified as “pro-life” and argued for bans on the procedure at the state or national level. But the most egregious part of the abortion section of the debate was the constant misinformation from the candidates.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina all offered the myth that Democrats want abortion care “all the way up till birth.”

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Donald Trump, said: “What I would love is for someone to ask Biden and Kamala Harris: Are they for 38 weeks, are they for 39 weeks, are they for 40 weeks? Because that’s what the media needs to be asking.”

“We cannot let states like California, New York, and Illinois have abortions on demand up until the day of birth. That is immoral. It is unethical. It is wrong,” Scott said.

According to Pew Research, 93% of abortions occurred during the first trimester, the first 12 weeks of gestation. Only 6% of pregnant people had abortions between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, and only 1% at 21 or more weeks of pregnancy.

Supreme Courts of South Carolina and Indiana uphold abortion bans.

In a 4-1 ruling, the all-male South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of S. 474, a law that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

The law contains exceptions in cases in which the life of the pregnant person is at risk or there are fatal fetal abnormalities. In cases of rape or incest, the ban allows abortion care at up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

In the majority opinion, Justice John Kittredge wrote: “[T]he legislature has found that the State has a compelling interest in protecting the lives of unborn children. That finding is indisputable and one we must respect. The legislature has further determined, after vigorous debate and compromise, that its interest in protecting the unborn becomes actionable upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat via ultrasound by qualified medical personnel.”

The ban was initially signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster on May 25, but hours later, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, the Greenville Women’s Clinic, and two physicians filed a lawsuit challenging the ban’s constitutionality. South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman then ordered a temporary hold on the law, maintaining the state’s ban at about 20 weeks of pregnancy.

In a 4-1 ruling on Aug. 21, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state’s near-total abortion ban, denying a request for a rehearing on a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and Planned Parenthood.

Indiana’s abortion law bans the procedure except in cases of fetal anomalies, when a pregnant person’s life is at risk, or in cases of rape or incest, but only if the pregnancy is terminated prior to 10 weeks after fertilization.

The high court certified its June 30 decision, which upheld the restrictive abortion law and declared that it does not violate the state Constitution, according to USA Today.

The law has also been challenged in a separate lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana arguing that the abortion law violates the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. According to the website The Indiana Lawyer, oral arguments in that case are scheduled for Dec. 6 before the Court of Appeals of Indiana.

Texas Democratic lawmaker quietly changes abortion law in the state.

Texas Democratic state Rep. Ann Johnson successfully sponsored a law that could save the lives of pregnant people in her state.

The law, which passed with bipartisan support and was enacted by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on June 17, 2023, provides for what the text calls “affirmative defense in certain actions arising from certain pregnancy complications.” It allows doctors to provide “medical treatment to a pregnant woman” in cases of ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus) or if a pregnant person’s water breaks before a fetus is viable without facing criminal liability.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Johnson explained that she obtained bipartisan support for the law because she omitted the word “abortion,” and “because of that, it did not become a political football.” She said that she was inspired to author the bill after talking with doctors and learning that the abortion laws in Texas were creating situations that could catastrophically harm pregnant people.

The physicians explained that because of their fear of potential fines, loss of medical licenses, and even jail time for providing abortion care, they were being forced to delay critical care of patients.

Abortion is banned in Texas, with exceptions only in “situations in which the life or health of the pregnant patient is at risk.”

“The doctors and the hospitals and their lawyers were reading all of the Texas [abortion] statutes, some of them from the early 1900s, and saying, ‘Look, we can’t tell you what to do here – the language is confusing, the terminology and the definitions are confusing,'” Johnson told NPR.

A Republican member of the Wisconsin State Senate is working to find more money for crisis pregnancy centers.

In June, Republican State Sen. Romaine Robert Quinn introduced S.B. 345, a bill that “requires the Department of Health Services to award a grant to Choose Life Wisconsin for that organization to provide grants to pregnancy resource centers.”

The bill seeks $1,000,000 per fiscal year, with each center to be granted $50,000.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health in 2022: “Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are nonprofit organizations that present themselves as healthcare clinics while providing counseling explicitly intended to discourage and limit access to abortion. These facilities engage in purposefully manipulative and deceptive practices that spread misinformation on sexual health and abortion. CPCs have also been shown to delay access to medically legitimate prenatal and abortion care, which negatively impacts maternal health.”

Abortion rights organizations have battled these centers for years.

In the year since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Democratic lawmakers have worked to defund them in their states.

On July 27, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker of Illinois signed a law barring crisis pregnancy centers from “using misinformation, deceptive practices, or misrepresentation in order to interfere with access to abortion services or emergency contraception,” according to a press release posted to the governor’s official website.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and Department of Human Services Secretary Val Arkoosh announced on Aug. 3 that the state’s contract with Real Alternatives, which partners with several anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, would end on Dec. 31.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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