Hi, everyone! Kate Smith here, senior director of news with Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Thanks for coming back for the fourth 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.
As of this week, 15 states have abortion bans in place. For patients in those states trying to access abortion, it’s becoming much more expensive to do so. That’s why abortion funds, which provide patients with the financial support they need to access abortion services, are such a critical piece of the sexual and reproductive health ecosystem.
This week, we spoke to Odile Schalit, the executive director of the Brigid Alliance, a New York-based abortion fund.
“Anyone can imagine what it takes to simply go to the doctor,” Schalit said. “And if that doctor is down the road, then it might require taking an hour off from work, arranging childcare, paying for that subway or that cab ride or getting in the car and paying for gas to get you there. If you think about what, for many of our clients is, on average, 1,000 mile long trip to get to their nearest abortion provider, we're talking about all those surrounding auxiliary factors, but times 10.”
After Texas’s six-week abortion ban went into effect last fall, Schalit said the number of people seeking their help rose by 900%. And in the weeks following the fall of Roe v. Wade, that figure has already increased by 50%. Even before Roe was overturned, Schalit said the average Brigid client needed $1,400 just to cover those costs and make it to their appointment, which doesn’t include any of their medical costs.
Since late June, that number has slowly begun to rise.
“How much that's going to go up remains to be seen,” Schalit said. “I think what is absolutely clear though, is that the number of people that need that $1,400 worth of support is becoming vast.
This week in the states, legislators continued to push ahead with abortion bans, and litigation continued to wind its way through the courts.
On August 5, quite literally in the middle of the night, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed a near-total abortion ban into law, making the state the first to pass an abortion ban since the fall of Roe.
Blowback from the Indiana business community was immediate.
Less than 24 hours after the law passed, Cummins, an Indiana-based manufacturing company that employs about 10,000 people in the state, said they “opposed” the ban. In a statement, Cummins’ Director of External Communications Jon Mills wrote, “Cummins believes that women should have the right to make reproductive healthcare decisions as a matter of gender equity” and added that the new law will not impact Cummins’ right to offer reproductive health care benefits to employees.
Mills also added that Cummins had been “communicating our position on this issue to our employees and directly with legislative leaders prior to, and during, the legislative process.”
Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company in Indiana that also employs about 10,000 people in the state, also spoke out against the law, saying it would “hinder Lilly’s — and Indiana’s — ability to attract diverse scientific, engineering and business talent.”
“Given this new law,” it said in a statement, “we will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state.”
Indiana’s ban is scheduled to go into effect Sept. 15. When it does, abortion at all stages of pregnancy will be prohibited. The new law includes a limited set of exceptions, including to prevent the death or “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment” of the patient, if the fetus is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly, and in situations of rape and incest.
But let’s break down those exceptions.
The new law specifies that the carve out for fetal anomalies is only available through the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Here’s the problem: Many fetal anomalies can’t be detected until about 20 weeks. In other words, under this law, many patients who would seek an abortion for this reason wouldn’t actually have time to get care before the cut off.
Now, take the rape and incest exception. Tucked away on page 14 of Senate Bill One, the law says that this exception is actually only available in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. And, before providing an abortion under this exception, physicians are required to conduct their own examination and share a certification with the hospital using “facts and reasons” to certify that the pregnancy is the result of rape. Effectively, this bill forces physicians to question and investigate sexual assault survivors, rather than believing them.
And to top it off, the new law explicitly bans Planned Parenthood health centers and independent providers from offering abortion even under those exceptions. Instead, patients will be required to seek care at a hospital or hospital-owned clinic.
All of that to say, that while Indiana’s law does technically offer exceptions, those exceptions are very limited and very difficult to navigate.
And in Nebraska, a potential abortion ban is off the table. Governor Ricketts failed to secure enough votes to convene a special session to debate a 12-week abortion ban. He got only 30 of the required 33.
In other words, a razor thin margin will protect access to abortion in Nebraska for now.
Arkansas also went into special session this week. Though the session should not include legislation related to abortion, it is possible that anti-abortion lawmakers will still try to raise the issue, as they attempted to last year. Currently, the state has a total ban on abortion in place that only includes an exception to save the pregnant patient’s life.
Abortion bans continued to wind their way through the courts this week, specifically in Georgia, where the state’s six-week abortion ban was in court on Monday. Attorneys fighting the ban asked a state judge to temporarily block the ban while the case proceeds.
A decision is expected any day.
In Wyoming, the state’s near-total ban on abortion remains blocked. On Wednesday, a state district judge issued a preliminary injunction against the ban, writing that the lawsuit challenging the ban will likely succeed as it appears to violate the state constitution.
Looking ahead to next week, South Carolina lawmakers will reconvene their special session to discuss a potential total ban on abortion. The Senate Medical Affairs committee will begin hearings on the legislation on Wednesday.