Hi, everyone! Kate Smith here, senior director of news with Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Thanks for coming back for the fifth second installment of “Planned Parenthood Presents: The State of Abortion.” This week, we’re continuing to document the impact of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade with on-the-ground reports of the latest laws and legal fights that we’re seeing in the states. We’re here to keep you informed so you can decide for yourself.
Earlier this week, the medical professional group Physicians for Reproductive Health wrote an open letter asking news organizations to stop interviewing anti-abortion rights activists and pitting their comments against trained and licensed medical professionals.
“Allow us to be clear: Medicine and science are not up for debate,” the letter read. “Health care is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of fact. And the fact is, abortion is not in the realm of theory or belief.”
More than 600 doctors, nurses, social workers, nonprofit organizations, and abortion support staffers signed on, including Dr. Christina Bourne. She’s the medical director of Trust Women, an independent abortion provider, and a fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health.
“What we're trying to just let people remember is that abortion is normal,” Bourne said in an interview with Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Abortion is health care. Abortion is one of the safest things we do in medicine, and this is not up for debate.”
Bourne said she was inspired to compile the letter after experiencing a flood of media coverage surrounding the Kansas ballot measure on abortion. She found herself getting frustrated when reporters interviewed anti-abortion rights protesters outside of health centers.
“In no other part of health care do we have this compulsion to center people who are so extreme,” Bourne said. “We don't do this with cancer treatment. We don't center folks whose voices are so extreme and not at all aligned with what is fact and what is rooted in our medical and scientific literature.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the most important abortion rights headlines this week.
Last Friday evening, the Idaho Supreme Court cleared the way for the state to ban abortion.
Immediately, as a result of the court’s order, a previously blocked six-week abortion ban took effect. The law is enforced using a bounty hunting scheme that tasks private citizens with bringing lawsuits against providers that they believe violated the ban. The enforcement mechanism was modeled after Texas’s Senate Bill 8, which banned abortion at around six weeks even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe.
That system is as terrible as it sounds. While the ban has an exception for situations for rape, that exception isn’t reflected in the enforcement mechanism. In other words, while a rapist cannot sue, their family members are now allowed to bring suit, for $20,000 or more against any medical professional they believe has violated the statute.
The system is so bad that even anti-abortion rights Idaho Gov. Brad Little has concerns. When he signed the legislation into law in May, he called the enforcement mechanism “unwise” and warned it would retraumatize victims of sexual assault and violence.
But, he signed it anyway, and now it’s currently the law in Idaho.
And, an even more strict abortion ban is set to take effect next week, which will prohibit abortion at all stages of pregnancy. That law is so strict, that it’s at the center of a Department of Justice lawsuit, the Biden administration’s first legal fight to protect abortion access since the fall of Roe. That legal challenge claims the law violates the federal requirement for hospitals to provide life-saving care when a pregnant person faces a medical emergency.
In South Carolina, a six-week abortion ban is on hold.
On Wednesday, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a preliminary injunction against the ban, blocking the state from enforcing the law while a case against it proceeds.
“At this preliminary stage, we are unable to determine with finality the constitutionality of the Act under our state’s constitutional prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy,” the judges wrote in their order granting a preliminary injunction.
But other, even more restrictive bans are being considered by the South Carolina state legislature this special session. Both the House and Senate have held committee hearings this week to consider multiple total abortion bans, including bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy without exceptions for situations of rape or incest. On Wednesday, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee heard almost nine hours of testimony, and we expect the Committee to reconvene in coming weeks to continue moving this dangerous legislation forward.
On Wednesday, a federal judge lifted an injunction on a ban in North Carolina, allowing a law that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy to go into effect. That decision was unprompted, and went against the wishes of all parties in the case, including the state’s attorney general and the providers, including Planned Parenthood, who brought the lawsuit.
Prior to Wednesday’s action, the ban had been blocked for more than three years.
Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban will remain in place, for now.
On Thursday morning, the state’s Supreme Court denied a request to block enforcement of the ban while a case against it proceeds.
And in even more court news, Georgia’s six-week abortion ban will also remain in place, at least for now.
On Monday, a state court judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction to block the ban while a legal case against it proceeds.