Abortion Access Today

Two more states add “trigger laws”

The election of Tuesday, November 6, brought mixed results for reproductive justice. Women–including many women of color–were elected to office around the country, and the House now has a Democratic majority. However, the Senate remains Republican, and thus retains power over judgeships.

Citizens in three states also voted on ballot measures that would create “trigger laws”–state laws or constitutional amendments that would take effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, leaving abortion regulation to states. In two of the three states–Alabama and West Virginia–the trigger laws passed, meaning that if Roe falls, abortion will become illegal or much less accessible in those states. Alabama’s law has even broader implications as it assigns embryos and fetuses “personhood” status. Oregon voters voted against a proposed trigger law. For details, see Macaela Mackenzie in her Glamour article and Irin Carmon in The Cut.

Meanwhile, an NBC exit poll taken on election day showed that two-thirds of voters favor keeping the Roe decision as the law of the land.

 

Photo: © Can Stock Photo / slickspics

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Preparing for life after Roe

This collection of three short essays is sobering but essential reading: How to Prepare for a Post-Roe America from In These Times. Journalist and author Robin Marty, lawyer Farah Diaz-Tello, and activist, author, and scholar Loretta J. Ross offer warnings and recommendations for dealing with a United States where abortion is again illegal–or at least inaccessible for most of the country. It’s not a happy picture, but there are things we can do.

Abortion Access Today

Free speech for “crisis pregnancy centers”? How about for doctors?

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled, 5-4, that so-called crisis pregnancy centers–places that are set up to look like medical clinics but usually don’t offer medical care and exist solely to dissuade women from getting abortion care–cannot be required to post a statement disclosing what they really are and how women can find actual abortion providers. California’s disclosure law had been upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court.

But the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, based its decision on the First Amendment, saying the law “targets speakers, not speech, and imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.”

The court’s support of free speech rights for these specious crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) poses a question in our minds: If CPC staff have free speech rights and cannot be required to provide particular, legally-prescribed information to their clients, then the same must be true for actual medical professionals, right? Doctors, nurses, and counselors who provide abortion care are currently required in some states to read particular statements to their patients–and some of these legally-required statements contain outright lies. There are state laws requiring doctors to tell their patients that abortion may result in “post-abortion stress syndrome” (fictional), fetal pain (untrue), breast cancer (no), and other ill effects for which there is no evidence, or that a medication abortion can be reversed (not shown). Surely, forcing clinic staff to provide these particular, legally-prescribed statements to their patients violates their First Amendment rights.

We’d love to hear from some lawyers on this.

 

Photo (c) Can Stock Photo / slickspics

 

 

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Clergy uphold full “religious freedom” at Bethesda abortion clinic

“Religious Freedom” is a catchphrase beloved by social conservatives, usually as a way to claim a right to refuse to care for or serve gay or trans people, or to refuse to provide legal medical services such as abortion. But real religious freedom must include the rights of people of any or no religion both to provide any legal service and to receive services and care to which they are entitled.

A reminder of this: The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer reports that area clergy recently gathered outside a Bethesda, Maryland, abortion clinic–one of the few remaining places where women can obtain a late-term abortion–to pray in support of the clinic’s patients and care providers. Rev. Carlton Veazey, a Baptist minister and past president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights, said, “The Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to choose an abortion. But before the Supreme Court did it, God had already done it, because it affirms a woman’s moral agency.”

The positive support of these ministers and rabbis is uplifting. But Zauzmer’s article ends with a dark reminder of the violence that abortion providers, supporters, and patients face from terrorists claiming to be “pro-life”: Dr. LeRoy Carhart, the physician who runs the Bethesda clinic, is a person of faith who has been forced to stop attending regular church services. Zausmer writes, “Carhart said he believes in God ‘very strongly,’ but he stopped going to his Methodist church when his pastor told him he was risking his safety by predictably appearing in the pews every week. . . . But even without church, he feels he is living out his faith by helping women through what is often the worst time of their lives — the illness or other devastating circumstance that leads them to his office. ‘I think in itself, that’s religious,’ he said. Most days, though, he doesn’t have a clinic full of clergy in their vestments to back up his viewpoint.” #ReligiousFreedom?

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Coming attractions: A film about ‘Jane’

The television series “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been a hit for Hulu, and won Elisabeth Moss an Emmy award. (Full disclosure: Margaret Atwood’s compelling and frightening book did not make either of us want to relive the experience as a drama . . . but we hear that it’s great.) Now Moss has signed on to a film project about the 1960s women’s abortion collective Jane–a group that began by referring Chicago women to a safe abortion practitioner. When the women discovered that the provider was not actually a physician, they realized that they themselves could learn to perform abortions–and they did. Jane and the Chicago Clergy Consultation Service had a respectful relationship: the clergy had national contacts as well as social and legal standing as clergy; Jane could offer low-cost local abortions, while the CCS generally referred out of state. For the full story, we highly recommend Laura Kaplan’s book The Story of Jane.

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D.A. Dirks and Dr. Willie Parker on “Faith in Choice” podcast

D.A. Dirks and Dr. Willie Parker meet again, at least on the Seminary Co-op Bookstore‘s new podcast, Open Stacks. This episode, “Faith in Choice,” combines their separate Co-op events from this summer. D.A. talks with Sandra Sullivan-Dunbar, associate professor of Christian ethics at Loyola University Chicago, about the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion. Dr. Parker, author of Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, talks with Dr. Melissa Gilliam, a gynecologist professor at the University of Chicago, about his journey to become an abortion provider in the Deep South. At the June 22, 2017 event, D.A. was delighted to find among the audience a good friend of the late Rev. Dr. Spencer Parsons, chair of the Chicago CCS, and you’ll hear her addition to the conversation during the podcast. Click here to listen or find the Open Stacks podcast on iTunes and elsewhere.

2017-06-22 Dirks Seminary Coop Chicago
D.A. Dirks and Sandra Sullivan-Dunbar at Seminary Co-op, Chicago, June 22, 2017
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‘On the Media’ on Abortion

So many gems to recommend in the August 4 episode of the NPR program “On the Media,” which devotes itself entirely to the topic of abortion . . .  Host Brooke Gladstone talks with with Harvard historian (and New Yorker writer) Jill Lepore about the 1950s and ’60s, when it was generally Republicans who favored access to contraception and abortion–and how that changed. Then Gladstone speaks with Sherri Chessen, now 85, about the obstacles she faced in 1962 when she, a “Romper Room” program host then known as Sherri Finkbine, sought an abortion after taking thalidomide during pregnancy. Chessen went public in order to warn other women of the dangers of the drug; she wound up setting of a media firestorm. Chessen speaks eloquently about her experience and its ramifications. Then the wonderful Dr. Leah Torres, a Utah OB/GYN describes with sanity and humor how she has dealt with restrictive state abortion laws, requirements that she provide patients with incorrect information, and the state legislators who made those laws. Finally, scholar Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, gives one of the most compelling explanations we’ve heard for why reproductive justice, a term framed by women of color to encompass much more than just the legality of abortion, should replace the term  pro-choice. We touched upon all of these topics in To Offer Compassion, and Brooke Gladstone has provided depth and color commentary. Highly recommended.