In Reproductive Rights News

The U.S. Senate gridlocked over reproductive rights on Wednesday, when Republicans blocked Democrats from advancing a measure that would have expressed support for abortion access.

The failed 49-44 procedural vote was just one in a string of votes Senate Democrats are holding this summer to highlight the differences between the two political parties on contraception, in vitro fertilization and abortion ahead of the November elections.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski were the only Republicans to vote to move the bill toward final passage.

“This is a plain, up-or-down vote on whether you support women being able to make their own reproductive health care decisions,” Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said during floor debate. “It doesn’t enforce anything. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s actually just a half-page bill, simply saying that women should have the basic freedom to make their own decisions about their health care.”

The legislation, if enacted, would have expressed a “sense of Congress” that abortion rights “should be supported” and that the nationwide, constitutional protections for abortion established by Roe v. Wade “should be restored and built upon, moving towards a future where there is reproductive freedom for all.”

From Gender Justice news release
St Paul, MN – Months after lifting a District Court ruling that would have ensured pregnant people in Idaho could get the emergency care they need, the U.S. Supreme Court changed its mind and decided not to make a determination on the merits of the case. The Court reinstated a lower court’s ruling permitting doctors to provide emergency abortion care even where such care conflicts with Idaho’s abortion ban, but not before a number of women had to be airlifted out of Idaho to receive emergency health care in other states because of SCOTUS’ initial decision.
Jess Braverman, legal director at Gender Justice issued the following statement: 
“Today’s ruling exacerbates a public health crisis, placing the health and well-being of countless Americans at risk. By punting on what should be a straight-forward ruling, the Supreme Court effectively condones the denial of emergency abortion care, sending a dangerous message that pregnant individuals’ lives are expendable in the face of extreme anti-abortion legislation.
“Abortion care is still available in Minnesota, where the right is protected. Yet, as we witness relentless efforts by anti-abortion extremists to dismantle abortion rights nationwide, it’s critical that Minnesota take proactive steps to protect our right to bodily autonomy. We urge state lawmakers to prioritize passage of the Minnesota Equal Rights Amendment in 2025 and enshrine the right to an abortion in our state constitution to ensure Minnesotans’ access to life-saving health care cannot be rolled back by future judges.”
Today’s ruling comes after the Court heard oral arguments on April 24th in the consolidated cases, Idaho v. United States andMoyle v. United States, to determine whether EMTALA preempts Idaho’s law criminalizing most abortions in the state. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) is a nearly 40-year-old federal law designed to ensure that patients in need of emergency medical care are not turned away from emergency rooms equipped to treat them. The requirements of EMTALA to provide stabilizing care to patients in emergency rooms conflicts with extreme abortion bans in states like Idaho because EMTALA  requires emergency stabilizing abortion care that is prohibited by the bans.
In Minnesota, this ruling will not impact access to care, as the right to abortion – including in cases of emergency – is protected by the Minnesota Constitution.
In her dissent, Justice Jackson noted there was no reason for the court to punt on the merits of the case, causing chaos, uncertainty, and further harm to pregnant people and physicians. It is notable that this decision comes ahead of the 2024 election; the Supreme Court’s 2022 opinion overturning Roe v. Wade had powerful political repercussions for anti-abortion conservatives. In her partial dissent, Justice Jackson alluded to the timing of the Court’s unusual decision not to rule on the case after oral argument asking, “Will this Court just have a do-over, rehearing and rehashing the same arguments we are considering now, just at a comparatively more convenient point in time?”

June 24, 2024

Reprinted from Reproductive Rights Today, Jennifer Shutt

Advocates in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota have either secured questions for the November ballot or are in the process of doing so, according to the health news publication KFF.

Residents in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Vermont, and Ohio have all previously decided to bolster or add protection for abortion access in the two years since the Supreme Court ruling was released.

Polling from the Pew Research Center conducted earlier this year shows that 63% of Americans support abortion access being legal in all or most cases, while 36% say it should be illegal in most or all cases.

The polling shows that Democrats and Republicans hold views in both directions, with 41% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats saying it should be legal in most or all cases, while 57% of Republicans and 14% of Democrats say it should be illegal in most or all cases.

Both sides plan to spend millions to win over voters.

  • Two years after Indiana became the first state to ban abortion post-Dobbs, a new poll shows voters widely oppose the law. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
  • Kentucky rape survivor featured in Gov. Andy Beshear’s pivotal campaign ad discusses Dobbs’ impact on national television with Vice President Kamala Harris. (Kentucky Lantern)
  • “We know of women who no longer can have children because they lost vital reproductive organs after they were refused timely care.” — Dr. Valerie Sorkin-Wells, retired OB-GYN and medical director for Precision Trials, Arizona Mirror
  • One of the most significant effects of Dobbs is among obstetric providers in the 14 states with abortion bans. The Association of American Medical Colleges published data in May showing fewer new graduates of U.S. medical schools applied to residency programs in states with bans. The decreases were particularly noticeable in ban states such as Tennessee and Alabama, with decreases of about 20% in both between 2023 and 2024. Missouri showed one of the largest decreases at 25.7%, a drop from the previous year, which was still down almost 11%. Arizona experienced an even steeper decline of 26.4%, even though it is a state with a 15-week ban rather than a near-total ban. (Reproductive Rights News)

June 14, 2024

Reprinted from Reproductive Rights Today, Elisha Brown

A saga that began in November 2022, when a group of anti-abortion doctors filed a lawsuit in Texas seeking to revoke the federal government’s 24-year-old approval of a commonly used abortion medication, has ended. For now.

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the case, ruling the doctors lacked standing to challenge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of mifepristone, one of two drugs used in a medication abortion and to manage miscarriages, reported States Newsroom’s Washington, D.C. senior reporter Jennifer Shutt.

The doctors were represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based Christian right law firm, which filed the case in a Texas court led by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who has a history of anti-abortion writings. They asked the court to revert the FDA’s rules on mifepristone to pre-2016 guidelines, which would have narrowed the window for when the pill can be used during the first trimester and banned the pill from being shipped in the mail, among other limitations.

ADF lawyer Erin Hawley said the organization was “disappointed that the Supreme Court did not reach the merits of the FDA’s lawless removal of commonsense safety standards for abortion drugs.”

While the decision means access to mifepristone remains available under the current FDA guidelines, Republican attorneys general in Idaho, Kansas and Missouri who were allowed to intervene in the case at the district court level may continue the fight. ADF said on social media Thursday it is grateful to those attorneys general for “standing ready to hold the FDA accountable.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh authored the main opinion and wrote that the abortion-rights opponents who originally brought the lawsuit already have legal protections that allow them to decline to provide abortion care. The doctors’ additional argument that emergency rooms were overflowing with patients who had complications from medication abortions was largely based on anecdotes and research that was ultimately retracted.

“Not only as a matter of law but also as a matter of fact, the federal conscience laws have protected pro-life doctors ever since FDA approved mifepristone in 2000,” Kavanaugh wrote. “The plaintiffs have not identified any instances where a doctor was required, notwithstanding conscience objections, to perform an abortion or to provide other abortion-related treatment that violated the doctor’s conscience.”

Kavanaugh may have hinted at how the court will rule on the other major abortion case on the docket: Idaho argues it does not have to comply with the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, a federal law that requires emergency room doctors to provide medically necessary abortions. “EMTALA does not require doctors to perform abortions or provide abortion-related medical treatment over their conscience objections because EMTALA does not impose obligations on individual doctors,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas offered a concurring opinion that primarily focused on his objections to allowing third parties to bring lawsuits. “As I have previously explained, a plaintiff cannot establish an Article III case or controversy by asserting another person’s rights,” Thomas wrote.

In reactions to the ruling, Democratic lawmakers and reproductive rights supporters pointed out that abortion policy is still evolving in the nation, regardless of the Supreme Court’s mifepristone ruling. For instance,  abortion referendums could be on the ballot in nearly a dozen states this fall.

President Joe Biden said in a statement that the “decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues.”


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