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Tag: abortion rights

Supreme Court Strikes Down Constitutional Right To Abortion

Washington (AFP) - The US Supreme Court on Friday ended the right to abortion in a seismic ruling that shreds half a century of constitutional protections on one of the most divisive and bitterly fought issues in American political life.

The conservative-dominated court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that enshrined a woman's right to an abortion, saying that individual states can now permit or restrict the procedure themselves.

"The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives," the court said.

In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said "abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.

"The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion," he said.

Dissenting were the three liberals on the court.

The ruling will likely set into motion a cavalcade of new laws in roughly half of the 50 US states that will severely restrict or outright ban and criminalize abortions, forcing women to travel long distances to states that still permit the procedure.

The opinion shredded the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by the nation's highest court that said women had the right to abortion based on the constitutional right to privacy over their own bodies.

Alito's opinion largely mirrors his draft opinion that was the subject of an extraordinary leak in early May, sparking demonstrations around the country and tightened security at the court in downtown Washington.

Barricades have been erected around the court to keep back the protesters gathered outside -- after an armed man was arrested on June 8 near the home of conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The court's ruling goes against an international trend of easing abortion laws, including in such countries as Ireland, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia where the Catholic Church continues to wield considerable influence.

Victory For Religious Right

It represents a victory of 50 years of struggle against abortion by the religious right but the anti-abortion camp is expected to continue to push for an outright nationwide ban.

The ruling was made possible by the nomination of three conservative justices to the court by former Republican president Donald Trump -- Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The case before the court was a Mississippi law that would restrict abortion to 15 weeks but during the hearing of the case in December several justices indicated they were prepared to go further.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 13 states have adopted so-called "trigger laws" that will ban abortion following the move by the Supreme Court.

Ten others have pre-1973 laws that could go into force or legislation that would ban abortion after six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Women living in states with strict anti-abortion laws will either have to continue with their pregnancy, undergo a clandestine abortion or obtain abortion pills, or travel to another state where the procedure remains legal.

Several Democratic-ruled states, anticipating an influx, have taken steps to facilitate abortion and clinics have also shifted their resources.

Travel is expensive, however, and abortion rights groups say abortion restrictions will severely impact poor women, many of whom are Black or Hispanic.

Underground Abortion Group In Spotlight As GOP Threatens Women's Rights

Washington (AFP) - Heather Booth was a student in Chicago in 1965 when she received a call from a friend in need. His sister, he said, was pregnant but not ready to have a child. She was "nearly suicidal."

Drawing on her contacts in the city, Booth helped the young woman find a doctor willing to perform an illegal abortion -- in what she believed would be a one-off "act of goodwill."

"But word must have spread," the 76-year-old said in an interview from her home in Washington, more than half a century later.

That one act would grow into an underground network of women called "Jane," whose members helped end thousands of unwanted pregnancies, safely and without stigma -- eventually performing 11,000 abortions themselves.

By January 22, 1973 -- when the US Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision created a nationwide right to abortion -- seven "Jane" members were awaiting trial.

One of them was Martha Scott, who at the age of 80 -- and with the court now expected to repeal that right -- looks back defiantly on her decision to break the law many years ago.

"I felt very strongly... that we are doing this illegal thing because it is important to do, because it can't be done legally," Scott said in a video interview from her home in Chicago.

"We were just ladies down the street," she said, but "bad laws require you to choose to act in ways that may be a little risky."

'Caring Community'

Booth and Scott, whose journey with the "Janes" is spotlighted in an upcoming HBO documentary, have stark memories of the time before Roe -- when desperate women would harm themselves attempting to end their pregnancies.

"Some were taking lye (a caustic ingredient in soap), some were using a coat hanger," said Booth. "Some were doing damage to themselves, throwing themselves down stairs or off a rooftop."

Without alternatives, women sought out abortions from illegal providers, many of whom were motivated by profit or unscrupulous in other ways, with little concern for women's health.

Eleanor Oliver, another former member of the network, said when she sought an illegal abortion in Washington, she was told the doctor might want her to be "a little cozier and friendlier than just a patient."

Fortunately, said the now-84-year-old Oliver, "he was very businesslike, very official."

As word got out that Booth could help women get a safe abortion, more and more began contacting her -- and she recruited others to help.

To be discreet, they told callers to leave a message for "Jane" -- and the group, established as a "caring community," was born.

After some time, the group discovered their abortionist was not a licensed doctor -- a shock that led some members to leave.

But others, said Scott, realized that if a man without professional training could learn how to safely perform abortions, so could they.

'Just Furious'

In May 1972, the police barged into the apartment where the "Jane" collective was operating.

"They kept saying 'So where's the doctor?'...'‘Where's the guy who's doing abortions?'" recalled Scott, who was in one of the bedrooms-turned-surgeries.

"Well, of course, it wasn't any guy who was doing abortions… we were doing abortions."

She and six others were rounded up and taken to jail, where they spent the night -- before being released pending trial.

In the wake of Roe v. Wade, the charges against the "Janes" were dropped, and the group disbanded.

Half a century later, though, their work appears relevant all over again, after a leak revealed that the Supreme Court is seriously considering a full reversal of Roe.

Scott was "furious, just furious" at the news -- but "not surprised" either, in light of former president Donald Trump's nomination of three anti-abortion conservative justices, tilting the bench decisively to the right.

If the nationwide right to abortion is struck down -- leaving states free to enact "dangerous" restrictions -- Scott expects a new generation of activists will need to step up.

"What we need to do is use every tool at our disposal," echoed Booth.

While conservative-led states are expected to drastically curb abortion rights if given free rein, it would remain legal in many other states -- "islands in the storm," as Booth calls them.

Some, like Illinois, have already moved to loosen their abortion restrictions in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision.

The poorest women -- less able to travel out of state -- will be the hardest-hit, as seen in Texas where abortions after six weeks have already been effectively banned.

But new medication can safely induce abortions up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy and -- though it would still be illegal -- can easily be sent through the mail.

And so, Scott and Booth hold out hope that the United States will not be going back to the dark days of back-alley abortions.

"The abortions won't stop," Booth said, citing data that shows one in four American women will terminate a pregnancy at some point in their lifetime.

"It's not rare, and it needs to be safe."

How A Texas Primary Exposed Divisions Within The Democratic Party

It’s a race that has some Democratic voters scratching their heads: a young, progressive primary challenger versus a pro-life, conservative Democrat who received an A-rating from the NRA. The primary race between one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, Representative Henry Cuellar, and Jessica Cisneros has become a lightning rod within the Democratic Party.

Cuellar declared victory, but as of Wednesday morning, major media outlets have said the race is too close to call. He is just a couple hundred votes ahead of his Cisneros in Texas' 28th Congressional District primary. When neither candidate won a majority in the March 1 primary, the two highest vote-getters faced each other in Tuesday's run-off election.

Top House Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) backed Cuellar despite his status as the only self-identified pro-life Democrat in the Senate.

Cisneros, 29, was supported by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and the young progressive seized on the news of the Supreme Court leak to overturn Roe v. Wade. She closed the gap between her and Cuellar from two percentage points on March 1 to a photo finish on Tuesday.

Abortion, Gun Safety At Issue

Key issues for the Democrats this fall, abortion and gun violence, are central to Texas politics. Texas Republicans are leading the pack to peel back abortion rights, and on Tuesday a gunman killed 19 children and 2 teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Cisneros attempted to paint Cuellar as a conservative Democrat who would hurt the Democrats’ chance of passing key legislation.

“There's so many key issues where he's always siding with Republicans, and he could become the Joe Manchin of the House. We don't want Henry Cuellar to be the deciding vote on the future of our fundamental freedoms and rights in this country. We just can't risk that,” Cisneros told Meet the Press.

For his part, Cuellar tried to thread the needle, claiming he does not run on his pro-life views and focuses on other important issues.

Top Democrats like Pelosi have come under fire from the progressive wing of their party for directing significant resources to Cuellar’s campaign.

As reported by The American Prospect, a Super PAC with former consultants for President Obama, President Biden, and Senator Sanders donated $241,000 to Cuellar’s campaign. Cuellar also regularly highlighted his endorsements from Pelosi, Clyburn, and Hoyer,

Cuellar came under fire not just for his conservative political views, but also for an FBI raid on his home just a month before the March 1 primary. The FBI raided Cuellar’s home as part of an investigation related to Azerbaijan, but the FBI and Department of Justice have been tight-lipped about the status of the probe.

Democratic Discord

The race put divisions within the Democratic Party on display. And questions remain as to whether those disputes can be set aside before the general election in November -- and whether progresssives will line up with party leaders.

Ocasio-Cortez not only backed Cisneros, but she has spoken out harshly against Cuellar and Democratic leadership. She called the race “an utter failure of leadership," adding, “Congress should not be an incumbent protection racket.”

She continued on Twitter, “on the day of a mass shooting and weeks after news of Roe, Democratic Party leadership rallied for a pro-NRA, anti-choice incumbent under investigation in a close primary. Robocalls, fundraisers, all of it.”

Cisneros was seen as a potential new member of the Squad, a group of more progressive female representatives that has faced backlash from Democratic leadership. Nonetheless, the group has fallen in line with party politics more than conservative Democratic senators such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

But disagreement over primaries has been a regular source of discord between the progressive wing of the party and party leadership. At the end of the day, the story will likely be that Democratic leadership saved Cuellar’s political career. But, the battle between these two wings of the Democratic Party is far from resolved.

Texas Republicans Aim To Punish Firms For Backing Abortion Rights

Far-right Republican state lawmakers want to make it impossible for Texans to buy anything on Amazon, buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or even buy a Tesla, all to further their attack on abortion.

Fourteen Republicans want to pass a law that bans any company from doing business in the state of Texas with companies that have pledged to assist employees in obtaining abortion care outside of the Lone Star State, The Texas Tribune reports.

GOP state Rep. Briscoe Cain and 13 other Republican “members of the state House of Representatives have pledged to introduce bills in the coming legislative session that would bar corporations from doing business in Texas if they pay for abortions in states where the procedure is legal.”

“This would explicitly prevent firms from offering employees access to abortion-related care through health insurance benefits. It would also expose executives to criminal prosecution under pre-Roe anti-abortion laws the Legislature never repealed, the legislators say.”

An NCRM search found a dozen companies that have publicly vowed to assist their employees access abortions outside of Texas, including Tesla, which recently moved to Texas from California.

Other companies include Amazon, Starbucks, Lyft, Uber, Salesforce, Yelp, Match Group, Bumble, Apple, Levi Strauss, and CitiBank.

Back in March Rep. Cain – who was accused by Democrat Beto O’Rourke of making a “death threat” against him – targeted CitiBank, saying “he had sent a cease-and-desist letter to Citigroup’s chief executive, Jane Fraser, calling the policy a ‘misuse of shareholder money,'” The New York Times reported.

At that time Cain threatened to ban local governments from doing business with any company that assisted employees. Now he’s set the bar higher by wanting to ban the companies from doing business in Texas entirely.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

New Poll: Overwhelming Support For Roe Is Moving Democratic Voters

Overturning Roe v. Wade is very unpopular, yet another poll confirms. Nearly two out of three people, or 64 percent, told the NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll that Roe should not be overturned, including 62 percent of independents. The poll also includes some good news for Democrats.

According to the poll, the prospect of the Supreme Court striking down Roe in the most extreme way is motivating Democratic voters more than Republicans: Sixty-six percent of Democrats say it makes them more likely to vote in November compared with 40 percent of Republicans. That echoes a recent NBC poll finding a larger rise in enthusiasm about voting among Democrats than Republicans.

The NPR/PBS/Marist poll has another piece of good news for Democrats: They got an eight-point boost on the generic House ballot. Last month, 47 percent of respondents said they planned to vote for a Republican, while 44 percent said they planned to vote for a Democrat. This month, Democrats have the lead, 47 percent to 42 percent. President Joe Biden’s approval rating, though, slipped to 39 percent.

Confidence in the Supreme Court also dropped to 40 percent — a 17-point plunge since the last time Marist asked that question in 2018.

While people don’t want to see Roe overturned, answers vary on what abortion laws they do think should exist. Some interesting points: 82 percent support abortion at any time during pregnancy to protect the life or health of the pregnant person, and 63 percent say the same about cases of rape or incest. When it comes to the various ways Republicans have been pushing to ban abortion, 80 percent don’t want to see private citizens allowed to sue abortion providers and other people who “aid or abet” abortions; 75 percent don’t want to see abortion criminalized, with fines or prison time for doctors; and 69 percent oppose six-week bans tied to fetal cardiac activity. A 63 percent majority do support states with legal abortion providing safe haven for people from states with bans.

The Supreme Court does not care what voters want, though, and within the current system, Democrats don’t have much recourse. Expanding the court, ensuring that the next several times new justices are appointed it’s by Democratic presidents (something the current court will make more difficult), and passing strong laws protecting and expanding abortion rights in states controlled by Democrats are about it, short of secession. And Democrats must fight hard to do those things, even if they will fail at first, even if it won’t be enough at first. Republicans worked relentlessly for a generation to achieve this result. Democrats may have to do the same to reverse it.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

For Women In Prison, The Only 'Choice' Is No Choice

Abortion is the new protection racket.

Three states among the 28 that will ban or restrict abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned — Arizona, Florida, West Virginia — have specifically vowed to “Protect Life in the Womb at 15-Weeks Gestation.”

If elected, Michigan Republican gubernatorial hopeful Garrett Soldano wants to “protect” the DNA of fetuses by banning abortion.
It is my sincere hope that, in addition to the criminal bill passed this session, this civil liability bill will provide strong, additional protection of the life of unborn children in Oklahoma,” said Wendi Stearman, the Republican state representative who sponsored the bill that defines fertilization as the start of life — one that would be the most restrictive in the country when Gov. Kevin Stitt soon signs it as partial fulfillment of his promise to make Oklahoma the most anti-abortion state in the country.

Even Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito got into the protection game. In his leaked draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Alito wrote that “Roe [v. Wade]’s central holding” was “that a state may not constitutionally protect fetal life before ‘viability.’” He and four other justices want states to protect fetal life at all stages.

One need look no further than prisons and jails to see that the purpose of regulating reproductive rights isn’t to protect anyone but rather to frustrate a woman’s will.

Because women have no choice inside them, prisons and jails would be the perfect place to execute consistent reproductive guidelines; after all, prison is a place devoid of choice. Reproductive rules should be clear in these places because the authorities who make them have absolute control. Policy is much easier to implement when few — maybe none — can effectively challenge it.
But correctional reproductive practices are entirely inconsistent.

Only 21 states have codified anything regarding an inmate’s access to abortion. In the remaining 29, it’s overly generous to describe situations as administrators’ “case-by-case” decisions. Essentially, prisons and jails can make it up as they go.

And that’s exactly what they do. A pioneering study, published online last year by the Guttmacher Institute and Johns Hopkins University, of 22 state prison systems, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and six local jails — places that house 57 percent of incarcerated women — found 11 states that explicitly allow abortion for incarcerated persons in the first and second trimesters and three that don’t allow it at all.

But it’s not clear that the states that say they allow choice and freedom mean it. The abortion rate was 1.4 percent for prisons and 18 percent for jails, the latter being much closer to the national rate of 20 percent.

Their lower abortion rates doesn’t mean that prisons are more restrictive than jails. Jails and prisons aren’t the same facilities; in 44 states, defendants are detained in jails while sentenced inmates live in prisons. It would make sense that women who enter custody pregnant and choose an abortion would make that choice in the earlier part of their incarceration.

The Guttmacher/Johns Hopkins study may be groundbreaking but it has limited utility. Examination of these statistics provide no insight into whether incarcerated women wanted and chose the pregnancy results they live with. And there’s reason to doubt that they do.

Last year a Nebraska prisoner sued for access to abortion services after she was denied transport to a local clinic. But for the ACLU jumping in and filing suit to secure an emergency order, administrators’ decisions might have been final. It was just the most recent example of a woman’s choice being intentionally obstructed; it’s happened in other states like New Jersey, Virginia, and Alabama.

But prisons aren’t so invested in women having babies; what prison administrators want is control. From 2003 to 2014, the California Department of Correction of Rehabilitation sterilized 1400 women prisoners without their informed consent. A documentary released in 2020 titled Belly of the Beast shed more light on this atrocity.

It appears that women who expressed a desire for future childbearing were targeted for these illegal procedures. A doctor asked then-inmate Kelli Dillon if she wanted children in the future and she answered in the affirmative. The doctor then proceeded to perform a hysterectomy on Dillon, telling her both that she could have children in the future and that cancer necessitated his extreme surgical decision. Neither of the doctor’s statements were true. It stands to reason that if Dillon had forsworn children her reproductive organs might have remained intact.

This isn’t some extension of the right to life movement infiltrating correctional spaces. Ann Hose’s case is proof that carceral systems seek to impede a woman’s choice even if she wants to keep a pregnancy. A nurse in a Hawaii prison injected inmate Hose with depo provera, a contraceptive injection, without her agreement. Hose wanted to maintain the pregnancy; she asked to call her husband to discuss her decision but wasn’t allowed.

We know about all of these cases because they made their way to media outlets after someone filed suit over the decisions forced on the plaintiff women. Scores of untold stories await, tales of women who want to give birth being denied that right and women who want to terminate their pregnancies being prevented from doing so.

Those cases will be hard to suss out. In 2015, a woman confined at the Lauderdale County, Alabama Detention Center sued for access to an abortion clinic with lawyers from the ACLU representing her. Before the case was resolved, the woman agreed to carry the child to term and filed an affidavit averring that no one had coerced her to change her mind, but even the woman’s own counsel recognized the immense pressure that jail officials can apply to disabuse an inmate of her choice.

Once advocates and attorneys get involved, the problematic management of women’s reproductive freedom tends to subside. But that’s because courts have consistently held that incarcerated women do, in fact, have an unfettered right to abortion while Roe’s ruling remains in place. Without that right, a woman like the Alabama inmate might not get the assistance she needs to file in court.

Even if the precedent established in Roe v. Wade stayed intact, one national rule on reproductive rights in carceral settings would be almost impossible to develop, as the Tenth Amendment gives power over both public safety — which means policing and corrections — and health policy — such as reproductive rights — to the states.

In the absence of a single sensible, overarching practice, the best way to predict how a correctional facility will react to a pregnant inmate is to ask the incarcerated woman what she wants. Prison administrators will then oppose her choice — no matter what it is.
Decisions made for inmates reveal the truth about anti-choice laws outside of prisons and jails; they’ve never been shields wielded with protective intent, but swords used to separate women from their freedom.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside the facility. She wrote a“Prison Diaries" column for The New Haven Independent and a blog that earned several professional awards. She recently won a reporting fellowship from the Education Writers of America. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.

Democrats Rise As Support For Abortion Rights Hits Record High

A new NBC News poll conducted in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft found support for abortion rights reaching its highest point since 2003, with 60 percent of Americans saying abortion should either always be legal (37 percent) or legal most of the time (23 percent). Meanwhile, 37 percent said abortion should be illegal in most cases or without exception.

Similarly, 63 percent of respondents support maintaining the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, while just 30 percent wanted to see it overturned.

The poll also found Democratic enthusiasm ticking up. The mismatch between enthusiasm among voters on the right and left has become a focus of concern. In the poll, the number of Democrats expressing a high level of interest in the midterms (a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale) jumped 11 points since March to 61 percent.

Republicans' level of interest got a modest 2-point bump to 69 percent in the same period of time.

“How [abortion] plays out in November is to be determined. But for now, it is injecting some much-needed enthusiasm into parts of the Democratic coalition,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates.

News from the survey wasn't all good. President Joe Biden's approval rating registered at just 39 percent and, for the fourth straight time in the poll, people saying the country is on the wrong track topped 70 percent.

"The other times were in 2008 (during the Great Recession) and 2013 (during a government shutdown)," writes NBC.

GOP pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted this survey with Horwitt, called the number a "flashing red light."

Still, the generic ballot was dead even, with 46 percent of Americans saying Democrats should control Congress while another 46 percent said Republicans should. Republicans held a slight two-point edge on the question in March, a change within the poll's margin of error.

But given the "wrong track" numbers, Horwitt said, “It is remarkable that preference for control of Congress is even overall, and that the gap in interest in the election has narrowed."

Overall, the NBC survey isn’t exactly cause for celebration, but it does suggest a continued shift in the political landscape we have been seeing in other polls.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

#EndorseThis: Kimmel Brilliantly Breaks Down Baby Formula Shortage

Jimmy Kimmel opened by weighing in on the national shortage of baby formula, which has left many parents scrambling for solutions. “I don’t know – I’m sure the ivermectin and bleach people could figure this out for us,” Kimmel quipped. “Just mix you up some Gatorade and some baby powder, throw in some breakfast sausage and it blends it up real good, the baby should be fine."

He made sure to point out, however, the utter hypocrisy of our right-wing Supreme Court majority forcing women to have babies in times of massive economic insecurity. You know, like a freaking shortage of baby formula! But hey, it's all about worshipping the fetus and hating the actual child for these Taliban Republicans.

Or as Kimmel noted: “There’s never been a better time for the Supreme Court to force women to have more kids than right now!"

Watch the segment below: