The Comstock Act, the long-dead law Trump could use to ban abortion, explained

“On the one hand, Trump frequently claims credit for the Supreme Court’s decision eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion — and well he should, since the three Republicans he appointed to the Supreme Court all joined the Court’s 2022 decision permitting abortion bans. As Trump told Fox News last summer, “I did something that no one thought was possible. I got rid of Roe v. Wade.”
At the same time, Trump at least claims that he has no interest in signing new federal legislation banning abortion. When a reporter asked Trump if he would sign such a ban last month, Trump’s answer was an explicit “no.”

Behind the scenes, however, many of Trump’s closest allies tout a plan to ban abortion in all 50 states that doesn’t require any new federal legislation whatsoever.”

https://www.vox.com/abortion/351678/the-comstock-act-the-long-dead-law-trump-could-use-to-ban-abortion-explained

New Survey Finds Abortions Increased Slightly in 2023, Despite Widespread Bans

“The survey also found that the abortion rate in 2023 was slightly higher than in 2022, despite total abortion bans in more than a dozen states.”

https://reason.com/2024/05/15/new-survey-finds-abortions-increased-slightly-in-2023-despite-widespread-bans/

The astonishing radicalism of Florida’s new ban on abortion

“In spring 2022, just months before the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Republicans in Florida passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, down from the previous legal threshold of 24 weeks. It took effect that summer, but advocates for reproductive rights challenged it in state court as unconstitutional.
One year later, Republicans in Florida took even more aggressive action against reproductive freedom: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new bill to restrict abortion at six weeks of pregnancy. But the fate of that law rested on what the court would decide about the 15-week ban. If it decided that ban was legal, the six-week ban would be, too.

In early April, nearly two years after challengers first filed their lawsuit, the Florida Supreme Court finally issued its ruling: The 15-week ban is constitutional under state law, and therefore the six-week ban would take effect 30 days later, on May 1.

In practical terms, six weeks is a total ban. Many people do not even know they’re pregnant by then. Even if they are aware, Florida requires patients seeking abortions to complete two in-person doctor visits with a 24-hour waiting period in between, a challenging logistical burden to meet before 15 weeks and a nearly impossible one before six.

Not only will the six-week ban decimate abortion access for Florida residents, but it will also significantly curtail care for people across the South, who have been traveling to Florida from more restrictive states since Roe was overturned. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group, there were 8,940 more abortions in Florida in 2023 compared to 2020—a 12 percent increase that researchers attribute largely to travel from out-of-state patients. Residents of Florida’s bordering states face either a total ban (Alabama) or a six-week ban (Georgia).”

https://www.vox.com/policy/2023/4/5/23668272/florida-abortion-six-week-ballot-measure

A Cruel and Risky Abortion Ban Versus an Overreaching Interpretation of Federal Law

“Abortion bans with no health exception are horrible for women and for medical professionals. Oregon doctor Jennifer Lincoln referred to them as “not dead enough yet” rules. If a pregnant woman shows up at a doctor’s office or hospital with serious and potentially-but-not-yet life-threatening complications, doctors’ hands are tied.
Under such a paradigm, performing an abortion is illegal until it’s certain a woman’s life itself is in jeopardy. This leaves women in the terrible position of having to wait while their health worsens, knowing all the while that a (possibly much-wanted) pregnancy cannot continue and also that the longer they wait, the greater the chance of damage to their reproductive organs or other body parts. And steep penalties for performing an abortion outside of life-threatening emergencies may lead some doctors or health systems to be overly cautious from a liability perspective, further putting pregnant women’s health at risk.

Meanwhile, doctors are put in the position of having to either send women in such circumstances out of state if possible or simply watch and wait while their patient’s condition deteriorates.”

https://reason.com/2024/04/24/a-cruel-and-risky-abortion-ban-versus-an-overreaching-interpretation-of-federal-law/

Trump says abortion should be up to states. Here’s where it’s banned — and where it’s protected.

“Abortion remains legal in 26 states and D.C.
Abortion is legal for now in 3 states.

Abortion is legal earlier in pregnancy in 5 states.

Abortion is illegal in 16 states.”

https://www.politico.com/news/2024/04/09/abortion-laws-by-state-where-abortions-are-illegal-00151228

Florida and Arizona show why abortion attacks are not slowing down

“Since the beginning of April, state Supreme Courts in Florida and Arizona have both issued rulings that will effectively ban abortion care in the third and 14th most populous states.
While both states already had curtailed abortion after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, now Florida’s Supreme Court ruling will trigger a six-week ban (before many people know they’re pregnant) beginning on May 1. And Arizona’s Supreme Court revived a near-total ban that will take effect in two weeks and carries with it a minimum two-year prison sentence for doctors who perform abortions that are not essential for saving their patient’s life.

It’s perhaps fitting that these extreme rulings would come down at the same time that former President Donald Trump attempts to wipe his hands clean of abortion policy in his 2024 presidential campaign.”

https://www.vox.com/2024/4/11/24126617/florida-arizona-abortion-rights-trump-2024

Opinion | Why Christians — and Republicans — Should Reconsider the Premise that ‘Life Begins at Conception’

“The belief that abortion is murder is founded on the premise that life begins at conception. That premise drove my evangelical politics as a zealous young convert, and it continues to motivate millions of Americans when they go to vote in local, state and national elections. It is also the foundation of the recent ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that classifies frozen embryos created during IVF as human persons.
Chief Justice Tom Parker’s opinion in the case, which draws on the Bible, Christian manifestos, theologians such as St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and the Reformer John Calvin, is an openly theological document. Parker argues that since life starts at conception, humans, especially lawmakers and judges, are called to implement policies and make decisions that will protect the sanctity of human life, whether in utero or outside it.

So it’s easy to think that the premise that life begins at conception is a timeless theological component of Christian belief. But it’s not.

The idea that life begins at conception is neither a unanimous belief in the history of Christianity, nor a classic American Protestant doctrine. When Parker writes about protecting the sanctity of life from the moment of conception, he is not carrying on a longstanding Protestant theological tradition by basing his decision on stalwarts of American evangelicalism like Cotton Mather or John Wesley or Jonathan Edwards. Those Protestant forefathers were more likely to believe that abortion, while inadvisable, was not murder until the “quickening” of the child — when the mother feels it move — somewhere near 18 weeks of the pregnancy.

Instead, Parker is repeating a political mantra concocted by Republican operatives in the late 20th century in a successful effort to create a conservative Catholic-Protestant voting bloc capable of taking over the GOP — and implementing their religious-political vision throughout the country.

In fact, within the lifetimes of many of today’s evangelical Christian believers, their churches either supported abortion rights or were neutral on it. In the 1960s and 1970s, Southern Baptists and other historically conservative Protestant denominations held that abortion was not only permissible, but also should be left to individual choice. In 1968, a group of evangelical leaders from a variety of denominations wrote in a document titled “A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction” that they could not agree whether or not abortion is sinful outright, but they could agree “about the necessity of it and permissibility for it under certain circumstances.” They even argued that “the preservation of fetal life … may have to be abandoned to maintain full and secure family life.””

“The famed evangelical theologian Norman Geisler put it in the clearest terms in the 1971 and 1975 versions of his work Christian Ethics: “The embryo is not fully human — it is an undeveloped person.”

It’s not Protestants, but Catholics in the United States who, as a religious community, have opposed abortion forcefully going back to the 19th century, and it is in Catholicism that we find the view that life begins at conception. Starting with an 1869 document called Apostolicae Sedis, Pope Pius IX declared the penalty of excommunication for abortions at any stage of pregnancy.

Yet, prior to 1869, there were varying approaches to abortion and the understanding of when life begins even within the Catholic Church. (And to this day there are many Catholics who, in disagreement with their Church, advocate for reproductive choice.) There are certainly church documents and early church theologians who argued that abortion is infanticide because life begins when the embryo is conceived. However, there were also forceful and influential voices that argued fetuses did not become persons until they were “ensouled,” or when God gave the developing fetus its soul, and therefore its life. This was the view of St. Augustine, the most important theological source in early and medieval Western Christendom. In his commentary on Exodus, Augustine argues that “abortion of an unformed fetus is not murder, because the fetus is not yet ensouled, that is, not yet a human being, and that abortion of an unformed fetus is therefore a less serious offense than abortion of a formed and ensouled fetus.”

More examples abound. There are Irish “saints” who performed abortions in circumstances of rape and fornication, and who considered it, in some cases, a less serious offense than oral sex. And then there is Thomas Aquinas, the most influential Catholic voice of the medieval period, a thinker whose work continues to shape Catholic theology today. According to scholar David Albert Jones, Aquinas believed that “the body was formed gradually through the power transmitted by the male seed but the spiritual soul was directly created by God when the body was ready to receive it. Thus the embryo was believed to live at first the life of a plant, then the life of a simple animal, and only after all its organs, including the brain, had been formed, was it given, by the direct and creative act of God, an immortal spiritual soul.”

Conservative Catholic and Protestant theologians will argue either that contrary to these passages, other works by Augustine and Aquinas reveal a belief that life begins at conception, or that these theological giants were simply wrong on this issue. But this is the point exactly: There is a widespread and nuanced theological debate about the beginning of life in the history of Christianity. The idea that life begins at conception is far from a universally agreed upon matter of historical Christian doctrine. When viewed in the long history of the Christian tradition, it is actually a minority opinion.”

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2024/03/21/life-conception-christian-theology-00147804

The anti-abortion playbook for restricting birth control

“If the idea that birth control could be at risk in America strikes you as hard to believe, I understand. There’s no proposed legislation on the table to ban it, and it does seem unbelievable that contraception — which an overwhelming majority of US women, including religious and Republican women, have used and support — could one day disappear.
But attacks on reproductive rights have never really been about public opinion, as the overturn of Roe showed and the current national debate over IVF has further proved. While it’s not an immediate threat, anti-abortion leaders have been laying the groundwork to curtail contraception access for many decades, despite birth control being one of the most reliable ways to reduce the incidence of abortion.

Their fundamental opposition is rooted in a belief that penetrative sex is sacred and should only occur within a heterosexual marriage and in the service of having children. In their eyes, birth control has encouraged sex outside of marriage — a development they charge with weakening families, absolving men of responsibility, and steering women away from domestic duties.”

“Randall Terry, who founded the group Operation Rescue — known for blockading and protesting abortion clinics and patients — once laid out the logic against birth control plainly: “Any drug or device that prevents us from having children” is “anti-child,” he said. “How do we expect to defeat child-killing in the world when we cannot defeat child-rejection in our own midst?”

The political playbook for attacking birth control shares some similarities with the playbook for attacking abortion — a slow and steady chipping away of rights and access. Both efforts rely on measures like slashing funding for low-income patients, enacting parental consent laws to restrict minors’ use, and empowering ideologically supportive lawmakers and judges who push friendly legal frameworks.

But the major difference between pushing to restrict abortion access and pushing to restrict birth control is that leaders are typically much quieter about their goals for the latter, aware that open discussion will prompt fierce backlash. They typically try to paint those who suggest they’d take aim at contraception as alarmists and conspiracists.

When Democrats in Congress introduced a bill to codify access to birth control following the overturn of Roe, for example, they were met with emphatic performances of exasperation.

“This bill is completely unnecessary. In no way, shape, or form is access to contraception limited or at risk of being limited,” declared Florida Republican Rep. Kat Cammack during debate on the House floor. “The liberal majority is clearly trying to stoke fears and mislead the American people.”

Still, a growing number of Republican lawmakers — including Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Mike Braun — have recently declared that Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to birth control, was wrongly decided. Griswold relies on the same legal right to privacy that underpinned Roe, and in his concurring Dobbs v. Jackson opinion in 2022, Justice Clarence Thomas encouraged the Supreme Court to “reconsider” Griswold and other privacy-related decisions. Former Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters went so far as to pledge to “vote only for federal judges who understand that Roe and Griswold” should be overturned.”

https://www.vox.com/24087411/anti-abortion-roe-dobbs-birth-control-contraception-ivf

Living in an abortion ban state is bad for mental health

“The false idea that getting an abortion makes women irreparably depressed and anxious, that it causes a deep psychic wound, has for decades been used by anti-abortion activists to support abortion restrictions.
But the argument is entirely based on anecdotes, personal beliefs, and vibes. No good science has demonstrated this link.

That’s not because nobody’s tried to answer the question of what the mental health impacts of abortion are on the women who obtain them. It’s because the answer to that question, over and over again, is: none. In study after study, researchers have consistently shown that getting an abortion does not cause mental health problems.

What does reliably worsen women’s mental health, however, is banning or restricting abortion access.

A wealth of research has shown that when people are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies, it negatively impacts their physical health and finances — and mental health. In a survey conducted before the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion, women living in states with more abortion restrictions had higher rates of mental distress. In another study, states enforcing abortion restrictions between 1974 and 2016 had higher suicide rates in women of childbearing age in particular.

But when the court decided to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022, it wasn’t making a decision grounded in science.

Now we’re more than a year and a half into living with the consequences. And when it comes to women’s mental health, the fallout is following the exact pattern scientists predicted.”

“Using data gathered as part of US Census Household Pulse surveys, the researchers looked at respondents’ self-reported anxiety and depression scores from about six months before and six months after the Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. They compared scores on a scale of zero to 12 among people in states with and without trigger bans, abortion restrictions that went into effect as soon as the Supreme Court issued its ruling.

What they found was, frankly, predictable: Before the Court’s decision, anxiety and depression scores were already higher in trigger states — a population-wide average of 3.5 compared with 3.3 in non-trigger states. After the decision, that difference widened significantly, largely due to changes in the mental health of women 18 to 45, what the authors defined as childbearing age. Among this subgroup, anxiety and depression scores subtly ticked up in those living in trigger states (from 4.62 to 4.76) — and dropped in those living in non-trigger states (from 4.57 to 4.49). There was no similar effect in older women, nor in men.”

https://www.vox.com/24071802/abortion-roe-overturn-trigger-ban-states-mental-health