Weekly Link Roundup: Decision Day

The death of Roe (and Casey) has been expected since last month’s leaked draft opinion, but the Dobbs decision still stunned me. As a person of childbearing age who has spent the last few years planning for my reproductive future, I am left feeling gutted. Abortions as a practical matter are essential care, and it’s unthinkable that these procedures are now denied to or vastly limited for millions.

+ “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion” (Joyce Arthur): “… a study in 1981 found that 24% of women who had abortions considered the procedure morally wrong, and 7% of women who’d had abortions disagreed with the statement, ‘Any woman who wants an abortion should be permitted to obtain it legally.’ A 1994/95 survey of nearly 10,000 abortion patients showed 18% of women having abortions are born-again or Evangelical Christians. Many of these women are likely anti-choice. The survey also showed that Catholic women have an abortion rate 29% higher than Protestant women. A Planned Parenthood handbook on abortion notes that nearly half of all abortions are for women who describe themselves as born-again Christian, Evangelical Christian, or Catholic … Many anti-choice women are convinced that their need for abortion is unique — not like those ‘other’ women — even though they have abortions for the same sorts of reasons. Anti-choice women often expect special treatment from clinic staff. Some demand an abortion immediately, wanting to skip important preliminaries such as taking a history or waiting for blood test results. Frequently, anti-abortion women will refuse counseling. Some women insist on sneaking in the back door and hiding in a room away from other patients. Others refuse to sit in the waiting room with women they call ‘slut’ and ‘trash.’ Or if they do, they get angry when other patients in the waiting room talk or laugh, because it proves to them that women get abortions casually, for ‘convenience’.”

+ Roe’s Final Hours in One of America’s Largest Abortion Clinics (The New Yorker): “… after more than forty years, the clinic would be closing. On the phone with one of the medical assistants, a pregnant woman screamed furiously, before dropping the phone, ‘I guess I’ll just have to take matters into my own hands, won’t I?’ The clinic’s counsellors knew of patients who had thrown themselves down a flight of stairs or had seriously contemplated suicide. ‘We’ll see more babies in the dumpsters,’ Lupe, another medical assistant, said. She was most worried about the women who could not travel out of state and Latina patients she had treated throughout the years, some of whom were illiterate. With the staff at the clinic gone, who would pass on information about alternatives now? … Lingering in the parking lot, uncertain, was the Cuban woman who had earlier been given a leaflet that listed options she couldn’t read. As she left the clinic, a picketer named Raúl had tried to lure her into a large bus that could take her to the Houston Coalition for Life, which he referred to as a ‘medical center,’ but she decided to walk past him. ‘I can’t keep the child. I already have three,’ she said, adding that they were aged two, four, and eight. The woman was five weeks into her pregnancy. ‘Why would they do this?’ she said of the Court. The woman said that she couldn’t afford to travel to another state. Even the fund that was meant to pay for her abortion that day had gone dark. But she was convinced that she would find a way. A friend of hers had told her about a Mexican man who could go to her home and perform the procedure. ‘She told me that, if things didn’t work out at the clinic, I could always call him,’ she said hopefully, looking straight at the closed clinic door.”

+ Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion (Philosophy & Public Affairs): “You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, ‘Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you–we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.’ Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says. ‘Tough luck. I agree. but now you’ve got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot ever be unplugged from him.’ I imagine you would regard this as outrageous, which suggests that something really is wrong with that plausible-sounding argument I mentioned a moment ago. In this case, of course, you were kidnapped, you didn’t volunteer for the operation that plugged the violinist into your kidneys. Can those who oppose abortion on the ground I mentioned make an exception for a pregnancy due to rape? Certainly. They can say that persons have a right to life only if they didn’t come into existence because of rape; or they can say that all persons have a right to life, but that some have less of a right to life than others, in particular, that those who came into existence because of rape have less. But these statements have a rather unpleasant sound. Surely the question of whether you have a right to life at all, or how much of it you have, shouldn’t turn on the question of whether or not you are a product of a rape. And in fact the people who oppose abortion on the ground I mentioned do not make this distinction, and hence do not make an exception in case of rape.”

+ Abortion: Not Easy, Not Sorry (Elle): “I’m tired of the rhetoric, even from pro-choice advocates, who in their understandable defensive posture seem to restrict themselves to discussing the most ‘sympathetic’ abortions: those performed because of rape or incest, because the life or health of the mother is in danger, or when the fetus has some devastating disease like Tay-Sachs. All those taken together account for less than a tenth of the more than one million pregnancies terminated in this country each year … So sorry, fifteen-year-old girls who got drunk at a party, single mothers with all the kids they can handle and no money, mothers preoccupied with taking care of disabled children, students with just one more year to a degree, battered women, women who have lost their job or finally just landed a decent one, and forty-five-year-olds who have already raised their kids to adulthood, to say nothing of women who just don’t feel ready to be a mother, or maybe even don’t ever want to be a mother.” … Nearly one in three American women will have terminated a pregnancy by age 45, and six in 10 abortions are performed on women who are already mothers. They’re not—we’re not—’other’ … You can’t live in the abortion-is-murder culture for all of your adult life and not have it affect you, even if you’re pro-choice.”

+ Don’t Count on the Satanic Temple for a Legal Abortion (Jezebel): “TST has gained notoriety for its efforts to oppose injustice and now has more than 700,000 members and 675,000 followers across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter … It is not difficult to become a member of the Satanic Temple—all it takes is a couple clicks on the website to reach the membership signup form, and it’s free to join (though optional membership cards are $35). There’s no swearing allegiance to the devil or the supernatural, as TST doesn’t believe in Satan but rather is devoted to advancing secularism, or the separation of church and state … For its members, TST flatly claims exemption from abortion restrictions in clinics like waiting periods and ultrasounds if they perform the ‘religious abortion ritual,’ which involves looking in a mirror and reciting … The Satanic Temple has announced that its Satanic abortion ritual exempts TST members from enduring medically unnecessary and unscientific regulations when seeking to terminate their pregnancy’ … TST offers a letter of religious exemption for members to show to medical practitioners, allegedly giving members legal grounds to circumvent abortion restrictions. Easy enough—that is, if the abortion provider honors the letter … TST has not explicitly told members they are legally protected when ordering abortion pills, but it also has not officially addressed overly simplistic information spreading online that seemingly indicates TST’s ritual will protect people having abortions. In a worst-case scenario, pregnant people in hostile states who order pills could get arrested if they seek care for complications at a hospital, or if someone reports them to the police. The abortion-seeker will have been thrust into the criminal legal system. The closest TST has come to outwardly acknowledging the risk is saying ‘we will likely have to sue those states to affirm our civil rights, but the law is clearly on our side’ … Abortion bans are tools of oppression, and it would be an incredible win for abortion seekers in hostile states if the Satanic Temple’s legal strategy of claiming religious exemption worked. But so far it hasn’t.”

+ The Most Unexpected Consequence of the Texas Abortion Ban (Slate): “… many patients were often too deep in a state of shock at being turned away … to absorb a generic recommendation. So workers began asking a series of questions to help narrow down a patient’s options. (Can you drive, or do you have the ability to fly? Do you know somebody in another state who can help you? Does anyone else know you need an abortion—and might they have a cousin or an aunt you can stay with?) They also give patients a handout that lists a hotline for financial assistance and contact information for clinics in Tulsa, Denver, and Fort Lauderdale that Kleinfeld knows and trusts … the rush of people keeping close track of their cycles and catching their pregnancies early shows determination and resilience … We know that women will always obtain services they need. History has shown that again and again. This is just one more example of how these laws make it harder, but people who have the resources and the wherewithal and the knowhow can get it done and do get it done … But that resourcefulness can also be understood as a distress signal from a terrorized population whose reproductive capacity has been seized by the state.”

+ Period-Tracker Apps Aim for Anonymity Following Roe v. Wade Decision (The Wall Street Journal): “There are steps users can take to select the most secure period-tracking app … That includes reviewing an app’s privacy policy for details on what steps it takes to protect customer data, if it shares or sells your information, and how the company responds to government requests … While many on social media suggested deleting period-tracking apps after the decision was announced, doing so isn’t an instant fix. ‘Deleting your app from your phone does not always mean you’ve deleted your data anywhere other than your device … Sometimes you have to contact an app’s customer-service support team directly to ensure that your historical data has been wiped on the developer’s end’ … Users can also check the company’s privacy policies, where information on how to delete data is often provided.”

+ Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Abortion (Pew Research Center)

+ Abortion Bans Will Impact Doctors’ Treatment of Cancer, Miscarriage (Bloombeg): “Restrictive abortion laws will likely make it more difficult for women to get appropriate miscarriage treatments, doctors say, because the procedures used to treat it can be exactly the same as those used to terminate an otherwise viable pregnancy … Some miscarriages develop slowly and doctors may remove fetal tissue early to reduce risk of complications such as bleeding … Doctors in states with abortion bans or severe restrictions will have to worry about ‘the legal small print’ instead of doing what think they is best for a patient … Cancer ... occurs during roughly 1 in 1,000 pregnancies … Ideally, doctors treating pregnant cancer patients in situations like these would be able to discuss the risks and benefits of all medical options – terminating the pregnancy and starting treatment, or waiting to treat the cancer until later in the pregnancy or until the baby is born – and let the mother choose. But abortion restrictions curtail that choice.”

+ Justices Are Not Kings (Slate): “On Thursday, Gallup polling showed public approval for the Supreme Court to be at a historic low—25 percent. It’s a precipitous drop from the prior historic low the court received in September, which sat at about 38 percent. The six justices in the majority of Dobbs will comfort themselves that this doesn’t matter. They will tell themselves that they corrected a historical injustice and that they saved unborn babies. They will say that they have lifetime tenure in order to protect against the whims of the majorities. They will blame protesters and they will continue to blame the press. Even the much-vaunted centrism and pragmatism of Chief Justice John Roberts seems to have left the building. Notwithstanding the fact of his seemingly moderate concurrence—in joining with a majority that could not wait to do in three years what they could do in one—it is clear that he has lost his court, and that he is surely less worried about the public regard for the institution than we had believed. The joint dissent, authored together by Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, is elegiac in tone. It includes a shoutout to the three Republican appointees who crossed the partisan line to preserve Roe in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey—not because they liked abortion but because, as they write, they chose to privilege the legitimacy of the institution over their personal wants. Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor wrote of the triumvirate that came before them, and of their unwillingness to harm the standing of the institution they loved.”

+ We’re Not Going Back to the Time Before Roe. We’re Going Somewhere Worse (The New Yorker): “Anyone who can get pregnant must now face the reality that half of the country is in the hands of legislators who believe that your personhood and autonomy are conditional—who believe that, if you are impregnated by another person, under any circumstance, you have a legal and moral duty to undergo pregnancy, delivery, and, in all likelihood, two decades or more of caregiving, no matter the permanent and potentially devastating consequences for your body, your heart, your mind, your family, your ability to put food on the table, your plans, your aspirations, your life … We have entered an era not of unsafe abortion but of widespread state surveillance and criminalization—of pregnant women, certainly, but also of doctors and pharmacists and clinic staffers and volunteers and friends and family members, of anyone who comes into meaningful contact with a pregnancy that does not end in a healthy birth … Both abortion and miscarriage currently occur more than a million times each year in America, and the two events are often clinically indistinguishable. Because of this, prohibition states will have a profoundly invasive interest in differentiating between them. Some have already laid the groundwork for establishing government databases of pregnant women likely to seek abortions … Pregnancy is more than thirty times more dangerous than abortion. One study estimates that a nationwide ban would lead to a twenty-one-per-cent rise in pregnancy-related deaths. Some of the women who will die from abortion bans are pregnant right now. Their deaths will come not from back-alley procedures but from a silent denial of care: interventions delayed, desires disregarded. They will die of infections, of preëclampsia, of hemorrhage, as they are forced to submit their bodies to pregnancies that they never wanted to carry, and it will not be hard for the anti-abortion movement to accept these deaths as a tragic, even noble, consequence of womanhood itself … abortion bans will hurt, disable, and endanger many people who want to carry their pregnancies to term but who encounter medical difficulties. Physicians in prohibition states have already begun declining to treat women who are in the midst of miscarriages, for fear that the treatment could be classified as abortion.”

+ Abortion Rights Are Good Health and Good Science (Scientific American): “Women denied abortions were more likely to end up poor, unemployed or receiving government assistance, even though before they asked for an abortion they were in a similar financial place as women who were able to get one … in a post-Roe world … people are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term because they are denied a most basic form of health care and the ability to make decisions about their own bodies … By forcing people to have children when they don’t want to, these ideologues strip women of political and earning power, in some cases making them dependent upon men. By forcing people to have children when they are not financially secure, these laws prolong patterns of poverty. And the states with the most restrictive abortion policies often have the worst social safety nets, the worst maternal mortality rates and the greatest health care inequities.”

+ The Right of Abortion (The Atlantic): “Starting in the mid-1960s, some erosion of the anti-abortion laws began to take place … compulsory birth control and compulsory sterilization are apparently more palatable than voluntary abortion … Contrary to popular belief, the legal strictures against abortion are of comparatively recent origin. Until the early nineteenth century—at common law both in England and in the United States—abortion before quickening was not illegal at all. It became so only in the early 1800s … the reason for the enactment of the laws was not protection of morals or of the ‘soul’ of the fetus, but rather a reflection of the fact that at the time all surgical procedures were highly risky because of the probability of infection … Abortions were made illegal for this reason except where they were necessary to save the life of the mother; that is, where the great risk of infection which every operation involved was outweighed by the risk of carrying that particular pregnancy to term. The situation is today reversed; abortion under modern hospital conditions is safer than childbirth.”

+ Roe v. Wade Overturned Despite Public Opinion (The Brookings Institution): “Roughly speaking, between 25% and 35% of Americans think that abortion should always be legal, 10% to 15% think it should never be legal, and the remaining 50% to 65% are split between those who think that it should be mostly legal with some exceptions and mostly illegal but with exceptions. Supermajorities believe that abortions should be permitted when the life or health of the mother is endangered, when the fetus has severe congenital abnormalities with little or no life expectancy, and when pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Large majorities reject abortions when a married women wants no more children, when an unmarried woman does not want to marry the father, and when a family has low income and cannot afford another child. By contrast, Americans are divided on whether abortions should be permitted when the child would be born with significant but not necessarily life-threatening physical or mental disabilities … In its most recent survey, Gallup finds that support for abortion without restrictions increased to a record high, as did the share of Americans who identify as ‘pro-choice’ … 56% of Democrats now regard abortion as a ‘very important’ issue, compared to just 42% of Republicans.”

+ Why Adoption Isn’t a Replacement for Abortion Rights (Vox): “The argument that adoption can effectively replace abortion assumes that people who choose the former are able to simply sidestep all the challenges associated with parenthood. But people who choose adoption still become parents — they just don’t raise their children. They often experience significant grief and loss, for which they struggle to get support in a culture that views adoption through rose-colored glasses … Thinking of adoption as a stand-in for abortion also ignores the very real dangers people face when they carry any pregnancy to term. Maternal mortality has been rising in the US for 20 years, and the most recent data places the country a dismal 55th in the world when it comes to the safety of childbirth … Pregnant people often anticipate some of this, which is why adoption is a relatively rare choice in America. They may know, too, that their child may not find a home quickly — there are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the US, and the average child spends nearly two years in the system. In one study of people who wanted an abortion but were turned away, just 9 percent chose to place the baby for adoption … The other 91 percent chose to parent the child … In general, ‘Women are not often choosing between abortion and adoption … Adoption is always the second choice to either parenting or abortion.’ “

+ The Supreme Court’s Rejection of Roe Will Hurt the Poorest Most (The Economist): “In most rich countries abortion is embedded within the hospital system. In America … it happens mainly in standalone clinics that specialise. Most are small businesses that lack the resources to up sticks and move across state lines. As a result they will shut. The heaviest burden will fall on low-income women whose poor access to health care makes unintended pregnancies more likely. They will be forced to travel often hundreds of miles farther, at greater expense. Organising an abortion will become more difficult and time-consuming … The most powerful weapon in the fight to retain abortion access is one that did not exist back when the justices ruled on Roe. Abortion medication, a two-drug regimen that allows women to end pregnancies at home safely until 11 weeks, is cheaper and more practical than going to a clinic. In 2021 the Food and Drug Administration dropped a requirement that forced a woman to collect one of the pills in person from a health-care provider.”

+ With Roe Set to End, Many Women Worry About High-Risk Pregnancies (The New York Times): “Women with high-risk pregnancies and their doctors are already agonizing over what medical bar they need to clear to legally justify an abortion … The issue can be especially complicated in pregnancies in which the fetus is unlikely to survive. Continuing with such pregnancies can endanger a woman’s health, but doctors say serious prenatal anomalies in many cases can be confirmed only after the first trimester, when most abortions would be banned in these states. Being forced to carry a dying baby to term exacts not only a physical toll, but also an impact on a women’s mental health that some doctors argue is life-threatening. But only five states with abortion bans and Republican-controlled legislatures — South Carolina, Louisiana, Utah, Mississippi and Georgia — have some exceptions for fatal fetal defectsOther states make no exception for cases where a fetus is unlikely to survive, and laws in some states, including in Ohio and Arizona, specifically outlaw abortions performed based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other nonlethal conditions … If doctors avoid medically necessary abortions because they are worried the law is unclear, more women will carry high-risk pregnancies to term or delay terminating until they can travel to a different state, and America’s high rates of pregnancy-related deaths could climb even higher.”

+ The Ostensibly Pro-Life Act of IVF Is Now Endangered (Jezebel): “… the chance of IVF being successful stands at just 50 percent, and that’s only when you’re 35 or under … in a post-Roe v. Wade world, a failed IVF cycle could come with more than disappointment. It could carry criminal risk … If a state’s abortion ban implicitly—or explicitly—recognizes embryos as children, as some do, routine embryo disposal in the IVF process and failed IVF cycles could even be prosecuted as manslaughter. With Roe reversed, as many as 34 states could ban or restrict IVF … nearly 40 states have fetal homicide laws that accord embryos and fetuses personhood by recognizing them as homicide victims if a pregnant person is killed or harmed, and loses their pregnancy. These laws were originally created to address the issue of homicide as the leading cause of death for pregnant people but have been co-opted by anti-abortion activists and prosecutors to cast pregnant people as murderers. Between 2006 and 2020, nearly 1,300 pregnant people—a disproportionate number of them people of color—faced criminal charges for their pregnancy outcomes, in cases often involving fetal homicide laws. Notably, several pregnant people faced criminal charges, including manslaughter, following stillbirth.”

+ Homicide Is the Leading Cause of Death for Pregnant Women in the United States, a New Study Found (Insider): “… pregnant women and women who have recently given birth in the United States are twice as likely to die by homicide than pregnancy-related causes such as hemorrhage or hypertension … two-thirds of the fatal injuries occurred in the home, suggesting that the perpetrator was most likely a partner. Studies have long shown that intimate partner violence increases during pregnancy … In 2018, there were 17 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in the US — more than double that of most other high-income countries … But when tracking deaths among pregnant women in the United States, homicide is not even classified as a cause of ‘maternal mortality.’ “

+ Here’s How To Fight For Abortion Rights Now That Roe Is Gone (Buzzfeed News): “Donating to your local abortion funds, which are grassroots organizations that directly provide money and logistical support to people seeking abortions, is one way to help those who need financial assistance to pay for travel expenses, childcare, and other costs … People can also volunteer to drive people to abortion appointments, coordinate lodging, and provide other kinds of practical support to patients. You can also serve as a clinic escort to help physically protect and shield patients facing down anti-abortion protesters … If you live in one of the 26 states where lawmakers are expected to act quickly to ban abortion early in pregnancy or outright, it’s not too late to urge elected officials to reverse course and protect the right to abortion … People in states where abortion is protected can also push their elected officials to do more to expand abortion access and provide resources to patients and clinics … people [should] educate themselves about self-managing abortions at home with medications. Medication abortion, a nonsurgical procedure that involves taking a combination of prescription medications to end a pregnancy of up to 11 weeks, has been widely tested and has a high success rate … Young people can also fight for abortion access on their college campuses … people should also call on major companies to provide time off and cover costs for employees who need to leave their home state to get abortions … If someone is arrested in your community for self-managing an abortion, advocates said, people need to rally behind them to get them out of jail and get any charges dropped … dentist offices, plastic surgeons, and other private practices should be opening their doors and offering blocks of time to abortion providers to come and offer care to patients. Even just making those spaces available one or two days a week could make a difference … Advocates also urged people to share their own abortion stories to help decrease the stigma around choosing to end a pregnancy. On a smaller scale, it might also reach someone who needs help getting abortion care.”

Like many of you, I won’t be taking this setback lying down. There’s so much that we can do to strengthen and expand reproductive freedom. If you are looking to formulate an action plan, the Buzzfeed article I linked above has several good ideas. You can also write your elected representatives (find your elected officials here), attend a local protest (and connect with likeminded activists) at We Won’t Go Back, and donate to your local abortion clinic, the NNAFthe ACLU and/or NARAL.

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