Access to abortion pills has grown since Dobbs

“Since the June 2022 decision, abortion rates in states with restrictions have plummeted, and researchers estimated last month that the Dobbs decision led to “approximately 32,000 additional annual births resulting from bans.” Journalists profiled women who carried to term since Dobbs because they couldn’t afford to travel out of their restrictive state.
The total number of abortions in the US, however, has increased since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, driven by more people ending pregnancies in states that have laws friendly to abortion care. And often lost in this conversation is the fact that access to medication abortion has actually expanded in significant ways since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, both in terms of lower costs and avenues to obtain the pills quickly. The problem is many people who would be able to take advantage don’t know about it.”

“One of the biggest expansions to access since Dobbs is via broader access to telehealth abortion care in the US, even for those living in states with bans. Telehealth abortion care means a patient can consult virtually with a provider, either on an app or in a phone call or videoconference. Following that consultation, the provider would fill a prescription for the medication, and it would be delivered via mail.”

“One major facilitator of expanded telemedicine is the profusion of new so-called “shield laws” that would protect blue-state abortion providers who send pills to people living in states where abortion is illegal. Today, six states — New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington, Colorado, and California — have such telemedicine abortion shield laws, though not all have taken effect (California’s won’t until January 1).”

“While these laws have yet to be tested in court, providers expect legal challenges eventually and have been taking steps to protect themselves, like avoiding travel to states with abortion bans in case a prosecutor tries to arrest them for violating their criminal statute.”

“Outside of telemedicine options, there are over two dozen e-commerce websites that sell and ship medication abortion to the US. This international supply chain has grown significantly since Dobbs and most of these sites do not require prescriptions and do not require people to upload their IDs or have medical consultations.”

The Fifth Circuit just made it even more dangerous to be pregnant in a red state

“a notoriously right-wing federal appeals court attempted to rewrite a federal law that, among other things, requires most US hospitals to provide abortions to patients who are experiencing a medical emergency if a doctor determines that an abortion will stabilize the patient.
The case is Texas v. Becerra, and all three of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s judges who joined this opinion were appointed by Republicans. Two, including Kurt Engelhardt, the opinion’s author, were appointed by former President Donald Trump.

The case involves the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal statute requiring hospitals that accept Medicare funds to provide “such treatment as may be required to stabilize the medical condition” of “any individual” who arrives at the hospital’s ER with an “emergency medical condition.” (In limited circumstances, the hospital may transfer the patient to a different facility that will provide this stabilizing treatment.)

EMTALA contains no carve-out for abortion. It simply states that, whenever any patient arrives at a Medicare-funded hospital with a medical emergency, the hospital must offer that patient whatever treatment is necessary to “stabilize the medical condition” that caused the emergency. So, if a patient’s emergency condition can only be stabilized by an abortion, federal law requires nearly all hospitals to provide that treatment. (Hospitals can opt out of EMTALA by not taking Medicare funds but, because Medicare funds health care for elderly Americans, very few hospitals do opt out.)

This federal law, moreover, also states that it overrides (or “preempts,” to use the appropriate legal term) state and local laws “to the extent that the [state law] directly conflicts with a requirement of this section.” So, in states with sweeping abortion bans that prohibit some or all medically necessary abortions, the state law must give way to EMTALA’s requirement that all patients must be offered whatever treatment is necessary to stabilize their condition.”

“when an emergency room patient presents with a life-threatening illness or condition — or, in the words of the EMTALA statute, that patient has a condition that places their health “in serious jeopardy,” that threatens “serious impairment to bodily functions,” or “serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part” — then Medicare-funded hospitals must provide whatever treatment is necessary.

The Texas case, in other words, asks whether a state government can force a woman to die, or suffer lasting injury to her uterus or other reproductive organs, because the state’s lawmakers are so opposed to abortion that they will not permit it, even when such an abortion is required by federal law.

And yet, despite the fact that the EMTALA statute is unambiguous, and despite the fact that this case only involves patients whose life or health is threatened by a pregnancy, three Fifth Circuit judges told those patients that they have no right to potentially lifesaving medical care.”

One Texas case shows why women can’t rely on legal exceptions to abortion bans

“The Texas Supreme Court has ruled against Kate Cox, a 31-year-old woman who sought an abortion in the state. Previously, Cox argued that the lethal condition impacting her fetus and health risks she’d face during the pregnancy meant she qualified for the exemptions outlined in Texas’s abortion ban. The court decision, which comes after Cox left Texas to obtain an abortion, sets a disturbing new precedent in a state that already has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country.
It’s a notable ruling because it further narrows what Texas law considers medical exceptions to its abortion ban, and could have implications for other states with similar policies. Currently, abortion is broadly banned in the state, and there are limited exceptions for conditions that endanger the life of the mother or that cause “substantial impairment” of bodily functions. Given how opaque the law is, it was not clear exactly what those exceptions entailed, and though the court didn’t explicitly clarify that ambiguity in its ruling, its decision suggests that health challenges like those Cox faced — including risks to future pregnancies — don’t qualify for the exemption.

“Some difficulties in pregnancy … even serious ones, do not pose the heightened risks to the mother the exception encompasses,” the court concluded, noting that Cox’s doctor hadn’t effectively affirmed that the complications she could face — including threats to future fertility — reached the threshold for an exception to the ban.

The justices also maintained existing uncertainty when it came to providers’ prerogative to conduct abortions in the state. Some providers have refrained from giving abortion care due to fear of legal consequences: Medical professionals found in violation of Texas’s abortion law can face up to 99 years in prison as well as large fines, while those who are found to have aided in providing abortion access can face civil suits.

The court ruled that the decision about whether a condition constituted a medical emergency, and thus qualified for an exemption, should be left up to physicians and not the courts. “Under the law, it is a doctor who must decide that a woman is suffering from a life-threatening condition during a pregnancy, raising the necessity for an abortion to save her life or to prevent impairment of a major bodily function,” the decision reads. The court didn’t resolve the legal tension inherent in the fact that Cox’s doctor felt an abortion was warranted in her case while the court said it was not.”

Tuberville lifted his military blockade. But those officers are still stuck.

“Top officials say the holdup has real-world effects, as the Pentagon deals with conflicts on multiple fronts, from supporting Ukraine and Israel to fending off attacks on ground forces in Iraq and Syria and naval forces in the Red Sea.
“When it’s unclear whether or not your senior leaders are going to be in place at the time and place they’re needed, that of course creates unnecessary friction and does have impact on readiness,” Ryder said.

In one prominent example, Tuberville is still blocking Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot, the deputy commander at U.S. Central Command, who is nominated to be the new head of U.S. Northern Command. That means Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who was confirmed to replace Guillot at Central Command, can’t do so.

That also means Vice Adm. George Wikoff, who was confirmed to replace Cooper as the top commander overseeing all naval forces in the Middle East, has to stay put. The Domino effect continues down the line.

Similarly at the Pentagon, Tuberville still has a hold on Lt. Gen. Jim Mingus, now serving as the director of the Joint Staff, to be the Army’s No. 2. Even though his replacement, Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, has now been approved for the promotion, he still can’t move into the new position until Mingus gets confirmed.”

Texas Supreme Court rules against woman who sought abortion hours after she says she’ll travel out of state

“”If Kate can’t get an abortion in Texas, who can? Kate’s case is proof that exceptions don’t work, and it’s dangerous to be pregnant in any state with an abortion ban,” Duane said.”

How Many Abortions Did the Post-Roe Bans Prevent?

“The researchers used birth data, by age and race, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2005 through June 2023. They used a statistical method that compared states with similar trends in births before the Dobbs decision to estimate how much a ban changed the expected birthrate. This increased their certainty that the change was because of the policy and not other factors.
They found that births increased 2.3%, on average, in states with bans relative to states where abortion remained legal.

The analysis showed that the increased births were disproportionately among women in their 20s and Black and Hispanic women, which researchers said could be because these groups tend to be poorer, making it harder to travel. They are also the demographic groups that have tended to be more likely to seek abortions.”

“The researchers said these trends could change as more birth data becomes available. The women giving birth in the first half of the year would have already been pregnant when abortion bans began, or they became pregnant soon after. Since the data ended, there have been new restrictions on abortion in some places, and access has expanded in others.

Births could decline. New shield laws aim to legally protect providers who mail abortion pills to states with bans, and people might be changing their behaviors around sex and contraception in response to bans. Or births could increase as more states restrict abortion; some of this might depend on the outcome of a case to restrict the mailing of one of the two abortion pills.

“The abortion landscape continues evolving,” Pineda-Torres said. “People are adjusting, providers are adjusting, laws are adjusting.””

The Supreme Court dismantled Roe. States are restoring it one by one.

“When the right to abortion is on the ballot, it wins. It wins in red states that voted for President Donald Trump. It wins in counties President Joe Biden lost by more than 20 points. It wins when popular Republican officials campaign for it and when they ignore it. And it wins even when the outcome has no immediate effect on abortion access.

Support for abortion cuts across party lines, performing significantly better at the ballot box than Biden and other Democrats. In fact, abortion outruns Biden most in the most Republican areas”

Tuberville won’t bend on military blockade amid Israel crisis

“Sen. Tommy Tuberville is not relenting from his monthslong blockade of military nominations over the Biden administration’s abortion policy — even in the face of one of America’s closest allies going to war.”

“over 300 nominees are in limbo, including two picks for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and top officers slated to command U.S. forces in the Middle East.”

“Democrats could force votes on any of these nominees at any time. Yet Senate Democratic leadership for months has remained steadfast against holding individual votes for military nominations, citing the length of time it would take to get through them all and the precedent of quick, en masse confirmations for uniformed leaders.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately warned his conference that Democrats may ultimately feel compelled to change Senate rules if Tuberville and others don’t relent.”

Trump’s Abortion Triangulation Makes Political Sense but Belies His ‘Pro-Life’ Pose

“Before he ran for president, Donald Trump described himself as “pro-choice.” But when he was seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, he promised to appoint “pro-life” Supreme Court justices. “I am pro-life,” he declared in his October 2016 debate with Hillary Clinton. He said Roe v. Wade would be overturned “automatically” if he were elected thanks to the justices he would choose, meaning that the issue of abortion regulation would “go back to the individual states.”

After that prediction came to pass last year, Trump called it “the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation.” He bragged that the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was “only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong Constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.” But now that Dobbs has shifted public opinion and political energy toward abortion rights, Trump is trying to position himself as a moderate on the issue.

On NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday, host Kristen Welker asked Trump if he would “sign federal legislation that would ban abortion at 15 weeks.” That cutoff would allow the vast majority of abortions—more than 93 percent, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Trump still was reluctant to endorse the idea.

“No, no,” he replied. “Let me just tell you what I’d do. I’m going to come together with all groups, and we’re going to have something that’s acceptable. Right now, to my way of thinking, the Democrats are the radicals, because [they would allow abortion] after four and five and six months.”

As that response makes clear, Trump’s objection is not based on federalist principles. Last year, he told Fox News that Dobbs “brings everything back to the states, where it has always belonged.” Now he is saying that, as president, he would hammer out “something that’s acceptable,” meaning he thinks the federal government does have a role in determining when and under what circumstances women may terminate their pregnancies.”