Tag Archives: Reproductive rights

“Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness / Are invalidated, kicked aside” – Slate and Mary Susan Gast reflect on Dobbs

[Note from BenIndy: This article from Slate benefits from a special introduction. Mary Susan Gast’s “Criminal,” plucked from the 229th volume of “Going the Distance…Not There Yet,” does this tough job very nicely. Together, they paint a damning picture…and promise a dire future.]


With vicious intent,
With malice aforethought,
Personhood, self-preservation,
Commitment to duty,
Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness
Are invalidated, kicked aside, for anyone
Possessing a functioning uterus.

Swathed in putrid dogma
Spawned by a medieval all male celibate clergy
Hell-bent on their vision of flesh-denying holiness
Who couldn’t for the life of them
Justify the existence of women
Except for procreation,
Lawmakers now are free
To declare full citizenship for every fertilized ovum,
To call abortion murder,
To decree that
If you should conceive,
Whatever the circumstances,
Can keep you from becoming a birth mother—
Or die trying.

The intent smolders blood red with savagery.
To call abortion murder
May be narcissistic projection
In its most polished form ever.

Mary Susan Gast, 2022

Republican Officials Openly Insult Women Nearly Killed by Abortion Bans

Nicole Blackmon, Allie Phillips, and Jennifer Adkins. | Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Center for Reproductive Rights.

Red states would rather let a patient die than let her terminate a dangerous pregnancy. And they’re barely pretending otherwise.

Slate, by Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern, January 9, 2024

For many years before S.B. 8 passed in Texas and was then swept into existence by the Supreme Court, and before Dobbs ushered in a more formal regime of forced childbirth six months later, the groups leading the charge against reproductive rights liked to claim that they loved pregnant women and only wanted them to be safe and cozy, stuffed chock-full of good advice and carted around through extra-wide hallways for safe, sterile procedures in operating rooms with only the best HVAC systems. Then Dobbs came down and within minutes it became manifestly clear that these advocates actually viewed pregnant people as the problem standing in the way of imaginary, healthy babies—and that states willing to privilege fetal life would go to any and all lengths to ensure that actual patients’ care, comfort, informed consent, and very survival would be subordinate.

For many years before S.B. 8 passed in Texas and was then swept into existence by the Supreme Court, and before Dobbs ushered in a more formal regime of forced childbirth six months later, the groups leading the charge against reproductive rights liked to claim that they loved pregnant women and only wanted them to be safe and cozy, stuffed chock-full of good advice and carted around through extra-wide hallways for safe, sterile procedures in operating rooms with only the best HVAC systems. Then Dobbs came down and within minutes it became manifestly clear that these advocates actually viewed pregnant people as the problem standing in the way of imaginary, healthy babies—and that states willing to privilege fetal life would go to any and all lengths to ensure that actual patients’ care, comfort, informed consent, and very survival would be subordinate.

We are only beginning to understand the extent to which pregnant women are dying and will continue to die due to denials of basic maternal health care, candid medical advice, and adequate treatment. The issue of emergency abortions, though, has already rocketed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed on Friday to decide whether federal law compels hospitals to terminate dangerous pregnancies regardless of state bans. No matter how SCOTUS rules, the fallout is already all around us. The stories of Kate Cox in Texas, devastated would-be mothers in Tennessee, and a horrifying prosecution of a mother who miscarried in Ohio all surface the brutal reality of the post-Dobbs zeitgeist: Any woman who seeks to terminate a pregnancy is wicked, any woman who miscarries is evil, and any woman who—for reasons of failing health, circumstance, or simple bad luck—does not prove to be an adequate incubator deserves whatever she gets. Every unborn fetus is the priority over the pregnant person carrying it and must be carried to term at all costs. So goes the moral calculus of the death-panel judges who now determine how to weigh the competing interests between real, existing human life and a state’s dogmatic fixation with a fetus that, by definition, must be seraphically innocent.

One need only look at red states’ scramble to defend their draconian abortion bans to witness this perverse moral hierarchy in action. In the wake of Roe v. Wade’s demise, the victims of these laws are no longer hypothetical: They are flesh-and-blood women, directly and viscerally injured by the denial of basic health care, and some of them have even had the gall to fight for their rights. Republican attorneys general have responded with furious indignation, openly demeaning these women as liars, wimps, partisans, and baby killers.

A recent filing by the office of Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan T. Skrmetti, a Republican, captures the dynamic all too well. Skrmetti has been fighting a lawsuit filed by a group of Tennessee women denied emergency abortions under the ultranarrow medical exception to that state’s ban. The women plaintiffs suffered an appalling range of trauma, including sepsis and hemorrhaging, because they could not terminate their pregnancies. The attorney general’s response to their complaint is a scathing, shockingly personal broadside against the victims of the ban. He accused them of attempting to draw “lines about which unborn lives are worth protecting” by imposing a medical exception “of their own liking.” He mocked them for asserting that ostensibly minor conditions like “sickle cell disease” might justify an abortion. And he insisted that the lead plaintiff, Nicole Blackmon, lacks standing, because she underwent sterilization after the state forced her to carry a nonviable pregnancy and deliver a stillborn baby. The attorney general viciously suggested that, if Blackmon reallywanted to fight Tennessee’s ban, she could have tried for another doomed pregnancy.

Perhaps Skrmetti deserves half credit for candor, because he did not even pretend to treat these plaintiffs like compelling moral human beings. Instead, he wrote that Tennessee may allow different standards of care for pregnant and nonpregnant women. A pregnant woman, the attorney general averred, may be refused a treatment if it “has the potential to harm unborn lives—an issue not implicated” when treating nonpregnant women. “No equal-protection rule,” he concluded, “bars lawmakers from acting on that difference to protect unborn babies.” In other words, once a woman is pregnant, she becomes a vessel for “unborn babies,” giving the state authority to cut off her access to urgently necessary health care. Since nonpregnant women don’t immediately suffer the consequences of abortion bans, those bans don’t discriminate on the basis of sex.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his staff have evinced similar hostility toward plaintiffs in the Lone Star State who brought a nearly identical suit. The lead plaintiff in that case, Amanda Zurawski, was denied an abortion for three agonizing days after her water broke in the second trimester, leading her to develop sepsis; she nearly died in the ICU, and may never be able to get pregnant again. Paxton’s response? Because she might now be infertile—as a direct result of Texas lawZurawski lacks standing to sue. When the case went to trial, Texas’ lawyers asked profoundly insulting questions of the plaintiffs. “Did Attorney General Ken Paxton tell you you couldn’t get an abortion?” they pressed each woman after pressing them for invasive details about their failed pregnancies. One plaintiff vomited on the stand after recounting her horror story.

These arguments are echoed by red-state attorneys general around the country, like Idaho’s Raúl Labrador, who proclaimed that women forced to carry dangerous, nonviable pregnancies merely “disagree with the legitimate policy choices made by the Idaho legislature.” (Should an Idaho resident suffering excruciating pain from a failing pregnancy drive to the statehouse rather than the emergency room? Labrador seems to think so.) Critically, these lawyers and politicians and activists are gaslighting their real victims. During a hearing over Zurawski’s case at the Texas Supreme Court, Beth Klusmann of the Texas attorney general’s office shifted the blame onto doctors: “If a woman is bleeding,” Klusmann said, “if she has amniotic fluid running down her legs—then the problem is not with the law. It is with the doctors.”

Months later, this exact scenario occurred: Kate Cox was bleeding and leaking amniotic fluid. She asked for an abortion. Her doctor could not provide one under Texas law without risking a 99-year prison sentence. That physician sued for permission to obtain one. Paxton immediately fought her lawsuit tooth and nail, accusing Cox of being a shameless liar and threatening to prosecute any health care provider who assisted her in terminating the pregnancy. And he prevailed, securing a Texas Supreme Court decision blocking Cox’s abortion. (She traveled out of state to get it.)

Cox’s problem was not with the doctors. It was with the law. Specifically, it was with a set of judges, state officials, and lawyers who cast her as a selfish liar and a bad mother for valuing her life above that of a nonviable fetus. Nothing Cox, nor Zurawski, nor the Tennessee plaintiffs could have alleged or argued would have saved them from being derided, insulted, and denied treatment for the crimes of failing to put their unborn fetuses before their own lives.

Or look to Dr. Ingrid Skop, an anti-abortion activist who has routinely testified in favor of total abortion bans. During a congressional hearing, Skop assured Zurawski that her doctor could and should have provided her a legal abortion, given the condition to which she had degenerated, and that her physician simply misunderstood the relevant Texas law. Then, Skop filed a declaration in Cox’s case attesting that her doctor could not provide a legal abortion under Texas law. These activists know what to say in public to assure Americans that abortion bans treat women humanely. And then they use every legal, medical, and advocacy weapon they hold at their disposal to strip these women of their humanity when they’re in need of an abortion.

Woohoo! Voters in Ohio reject GOP-backed proposal that would have made it tougher to protect abortion rights

[Note from BenIndy Contributor Nathalie Christian: I’m in a rush to get this out and spread the good news so we’re missing some good pictures from the original article. I’ll drop them in soon.]

AP, by Julie Carr Smyth and Samantha Hendrickson, August 8, 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio voters on Tuesday resoundingly rejected a Republican-backed measure that would have made it more difficult to change the state’s constitution, setting up a fall campaign that will become the nation’s latest referendum on abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned nationwide protections last year.

The defeat of Issue 1 keeps in place a simple majority threshold for passing future constitutional amendments. It would have raised that to a 60% supermajority, which supporters said would protect the state’s foundational document from outside interest groups.

Opposition to the proposal was widespread, even spreading into Republican territory. In fact, in early returns, support for the measure fell far short of former President Donald Trump’s performance during the 2020 election in nearly every county.

Dennis Willard, a spokesperson for the opposition campaign One Person One Vote, called Issue 1 a “deceptive power grab” that was intended to diminish the influence of the state’s voters.

“Tonight is a major victory for democracy in Ohio,” Willard told a jubilant crowd at the opposition campaign’s watch party. “The majority still rules in Ohio.”

A major national group that opposes abortion rights, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, called the result “a sad day for Ohio” while criticizing the outside money that helped the opposition — even though both sides relied on national groups and individuals in their campaigns.

While abortion was not directly on the special election ballot, the result marks the latest setback for Republicans in a conservative-leaning state who favor imposing tough restrictions on the procedure. Ohio Republicans placed the question on the summer ballot in hopes of undercutting a citizen initiative that voters will decide in November that seeks to enshrine abortion rights in the state.

Other states where voters have considered abortion rights since last year’s Supreme Court ruling have protected them, including in red states such as Kansas and Kentucky.

Interest in Ohio’s special election was intense, even after Republicans ignored their own law that took effect earlier this year to place the question before voters in August. Voters cast nearly 700,000 early in-person and mail ballots ahead of Tuesday’s final day of voting, more than double the number of advance votes in a typical primary election. Early turnout was especially heavy in the Democratic-leaning counties surrounding Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

One Person One Vote represented a broad, bipartisan coalition of voting rights, labor, faith and community groups. The group also had as allies four living ex-governors of the state and five former state attorneys general of both parties, who called the proposed change bad public policy.

In place since 1912, the simple majority standard is a much more surmountable hurdle for Ohioans for Reproductive Rights, the group advancing November’s abortion rights amendment. It would establish “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom” with “reasonable limits.”

Eric Chon, a Columbus resident who voted against the measure, said there was a clear anti-abortion agenda to the election. Noting that the GOP voted just last year to get rid of August elections entirely due to low turnout for hyperlocal issues, Chon said, “Every time something doesn’t go their way, they change the rules.”

Voters in several states have approved ballot questions protecting access to abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but typically have done so with less than 60% of the vote. AP VoteCast polling last year found that 59% of Ohio voters say abortion should generally be legal.

The result came in the very type of August special election that Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a candidate for U.S. Senate, had previously testified against as undemocratic because of historically low turnout. Republican lawmakers just last year had voted to mostly eliminate such elections, a law they ignored for this year’s election.

Al Daum, of Hilliard, just west of Columbus, said he didn’t feel the rules were being changed to undermine the power of his vote and said he was in favor of the special election measure. Along with increasing the threshold to 60%, it would mandate that any signatures for a constitutional amendment be gathered from all of Ohio’s 88 counties, not just 44.

It’s a change that Daum said would give more Ohio residents a chance to make their voices heard.

GOP lawmakers had cited possible future amendments related to gun control or minimum wage increases as reasons a higher threshold should be required.

Voters’ rejection of the proposal marked a rare rebuke for Ohio Republicans, who have held power across every branch of state government for 12 years.

A sign asking Ohioans to vote in support of Issue 1 sits above another sign advocating against abortion rights at an event hosted by Created Equal on July 20, 2023, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Orsagos, File)

Ohio Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest anti-abortion group and a key force behind the special election measure, vowed to continue fighting into the fall.

Infant deaths surge in Texas after abortion ban, reversing decade of progress

[BenIndy Contributor Nathalie Christian: Be warned that this article contains graphic descriptions of infant mortality and parent suffering.  If you would like to support choice in Texas, consider donating to Texas-based nonprofits that fund equitable access to this essential medical care. A short list of such nonprofits is available below the article. But, as most of you know, Texas is not the only state rolling back basic protections for parents and children. Please also note how much more Black Americans suffer from shocking infant/patient mortality rates than other demographic groups. Profoundly worse expectations around infant/parental outcomes for Black Americans is a huge issue in the US, even here in Solano County.]
(From L) Plaintiffs Damla Karsan, Austin Dennard, Samantha Casiano, Taylor Edwards, Center for Reproductive Rights attorney Molly Duane and Amanda Zurawski attend a press conference outside the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas on July 20, 2023. A Texas state court will hear arguments from both sides in Zurawski v. State of Texas, a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of thirteen Texas women denied abortions despite serious pregnancy complications. | Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for AP via Getty Images.

Ars Technica, by Beth Mole, July 21, 2023

Deaths of babies born in Texas increased 11.5 percent in 2022, the year after the state banned abortion after six weeks, a period before most women know they are pregnant.

In 2022, some 2,200 infants died, according to data obtained by CNN through a public information request. That is 227 more deaths than the state saw in the previous year, before the restrictive law went into effect.

Infant deaths due to severe genetic and birth defects rose 21.6 percent.

The overall trend of more babies dying in the Lone Star State reverses a nearly 10-year decline in infant deaths there, CNN noted. Between 2014 and 2021, infant deaths in Texas had fallen nearly 15 percent.

The new grim statistics are only expected to worsen. Abortion bans and restrictions are known to increase infant deaths, maternal deaths, and maternal suffering. And the US already has the worst maternal and infant mortality rates of any other high-income country in the world.

In 2020, the maternal mortality rate overall in the US was 24 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is more than three times the rate in most other high-income countries, according to an analysis by The Commonwealth Fund. But for Black Americans, the rate is far higher—a staggering 55 per 100,000. Across the border in Canada, the rate is 8 per 100,000, and the UK sits at 6.5 per 100,000. Infant deaths in the US were also the highest of high-income countries in 2020, at 5.4 per 1,000 live births, while the average was 4.1. In Canada, the rate was 4.5 per 1,000, and in the UK, it was 3.6 per 1,000.

“We all knew the infant mortality rate would go up because many of these terminations were for pregnancies that don’t turn into healthy normal kids,” Dr. Erika Werner, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts Medical Center, told CNN. “It’s exactly what we all were concerned about.”

While other high-income countries have seen improvements in infant and maternal mortality rates in recent years, the US has seen declining trends. And the abortion bans and restrictions sweeping conservative states are expected to worsen the situation. Even in Texas, the declines may yet worsen in the current year because of more restrictions on abortion since 2022 began. When the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June of that year, a trigger law in the state banned abortion at all stages except in the case of medical emergencies, which are undefined.

“No mercy”

Despite the existing body of data on the dangers of abortion restrictions and bans, lawmakers and officials in Texas this week are hearing the lived experiences of pregnant people under the bans. A group of 13 women and two doctors are suing the state, claiming that the new laws are unclear and harmful.

Samantha Casiano took the stand Wednesday to speak about her infant’s death. Casiano learned at 20 weeks into the pregnancy (when anatomical scans are performed) that her fetus was not viable due to anencephaly, a condition in which the brain and skull do not fully form. Due to Texas’ ban, she was forced to carry the pregnancy and give birth to a baby girl, whom she named Halo.

Casiano wept and vomited on the stand as she described the experience, including holding Halo in her arms and watching her slowly die, which occurred four hours after the birth. “She was gasping for air,” Casiano said. “I just kept telling myself and my baby that I’m so sorry that this has happened to you. I felt so bad. She had no mercy. There was no mercy there for her.”

Another Texas woman, Amanda Zurawski, testified about her experience of beginning to have a miscarriage at 18 weeks into a long-sought pregnancy, dooming the fetus. But due to the state’s laws, she was not able to obtain standard medical care—a prompt procedural abortion that would hasten the inevitable termination of the pregnancy to prevent complications—because the fetus still had detectable electrical pulses from cardiac cells. (Embryonic cardiac activity begins to be detectable at around week four of pregnancy, but an actual fetal heart and heartbeat do not fully develop until weeks 17 to 20). As Zurawski waited for fetal cardiac activity to fade, she developed life-threatening sepsis and spent three days in the intensive care unit. The delay in care also caused the development of scar tissue, which may prevent her from having children.

Major medical and health organization support and advocate for access to abortion, including the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They consider abortion “evidence-based” and “essential” health care and have described the current US bans and restrictions as an “assault” on safe medical practice.

So far, 14 states have banned most abortions, one state has a six-week ban, six states have imposed bans between 12 to 18 weeks, and five additional states have enacted bans that have been blocked, at least temporarily, by courts.

Advocates point to the following organizations that could use donations now:

  • Texas Equal Access Fund provides funds and emotional support to people seeking abortion care.
  • Lilith Fund is the oldest abortion fund in the state, serving patients in central and south Texas.
  • Frontera Fund provides financial assistance, lodging, and transportation for patients living in the Rio Grande Valley or who have procedures scheduled at Whole Women’s Health in McAllen, Texas.
  • Clinic Access Support Network provides transportation, lodging, childcare assistance, compassionate care, and occasional procedure funding to patients in Houston, Texas.
  • The Afiya Center was founded by Black women in North Texas to promote the reproductive health of Black women and girls. The center’s Support Your Sistah Fund provides practical help to abortion patients.
  • Fund Texas Choice helps with travel and accommodation costs for Texas residents seeking abortion care in- and out-of-state.
  • The Bridge Collective provides information, transportation, accommodation, and abortion doula services.
  • Buckle Bunnies Fund mobilizes across Texas to help secure funding for people seeking care. You can Venmo @Buckle-Bunnies, CashApp $BuckleBunniesFund, or shop on their website to support this fund.
  • West Fund is a community organization working to create universal abortion accessibility. It provides financial assistance to patients in Texas, Southern New Mexico, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, who are seeking procedures in El Paso, Texas, or New Mexico.
  • Jane’s Due Process provides reproductive health resources, legal aid, and case management to help young Texans navigate parental consent laws and confidentially access abortion and birth control.
  • The Stigma Relief Fund provides financial help to Whole Woman’s Health patients.

This list was compiled by Bustle on September 9, 2021. It may contain outdated information.

Impromptu Benicia pro-choice protest draws cheers and honks of support

On the morning that the Supreme Court abolished women’s reproductive rights

By Dagmar Kuta, Benicia
Photos by Larnie Fox, Benicia, June 25, 2022

I woke up to the news and tried to find a nearby event to share in the collective sorrow and strength of the community. The nearest event I could find was in Napa in the afternoon, and I felt too anxious and upset to wait until then. I decided around 11:30 am to post the event via womensmarch.com, and figured if no one else showed up that was okay, but I couldn’t sit at home and fester in my feelings and doom scroll online.

Luckily Larnie and Bodil picked it up and shared it with their network of activists and we had a few drop ins too.

We know this decision by the Supreme Court is not representative of the desires of the people. Removing our constitutional right to self-govern our bodies is wrong.

There is more work to be done, and more to come.

Dagmar Kuta