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     By Kate Queram


It’s been seven months since the fall of Roe v. Wade, and abortion access remains a mess of uneven access, ongoing legal battles and ever-evolving policies that continue to spark confusion for providers and patients across the country. The chaos is a predictable feature of the post-Roe world, where 50 individual governments are forced to regulate one extremely complex and controversial issue. It’s political free-for-all, and it’s by design.

 The Big Takeaway

Having said all that, abortion doesn’t always feel chaotic — because at the macro level, things are actually pretty stable. As of Tuesday, 13 states had outlawed abortion and another five had partially banned it — numbers that haven’t changed in months. Another eight statewide bans are still on hold pending the outcome of legal challenges, all of them plodding slowly along through the court system. Nationally, the upheaval appears to have plateaued.

That’s not for lack of trying. Lawmakers in states that have already restricted abortion access are keen to restrict it further, either by enacting all-out bans or adding new limits to existing regulations. That’s the case in Florida, where Republicans are rumored to be considering a six-week abortion ban — despite ongoing legal challenges to the state’s existing law, which prohibits the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy, per the Florida Phoenix.

Ah yes, a 2023 anatomy lesson, depicting the uterus in its natural location between the stethoscope and the gavel. (Photo by Getty Images)

Ah yes, a 2023 anatomy lesson, depicting the uterus in its natural location between the stethoscope and the gavel.
(Photo by Getty Images)

That intel comes from John Stemberger, president of the anti-abortion Florida Family Policy Council, who said he expects lawmakers to propose a more restrictive ban in the upcoming legislative session. It’s unclear who might sponsor the measure, he added — mostly because there are so many options in the GOP-supermajority legislature.

“Because there are so many brand-new legislators, and so many former representatives that are now senators, and then brand-new leadership in both [the] House and Senate, it’s hard to say who will carry these bills,” Stemberger said in an email. “The heartbeat bill is the most likely legislation to be supported by leadership, and ultimately, they will have great influence as to who the prime sponsors are.”

Republicans haven’t commented on their plans beyond broad platitudes acknowledging their own “pro-life” majority. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been similarly vague, saying only that he was “willing to sign great life legislation.” But the fledgling proposal is familiar territory for GOP lawmakers, who have made previous attempts to ban abortion care after six weeks of pregnancy. Democrats said they expected to see a version of those policies when the legislature reconvenes in March.

“I suspect Republicans will file another extreme abortion ban as they continue to take away our freedoms and get in between Floridians and their doctors,” said state Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat from Orange County.

Depending on where you live, that is! (Photo by Spencer Platt/Newsmakers)

Depending on where you live, that is!
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Newsmakers)

The uncertainty is typical in the post-Roe era, where every win — or setback — can be halted by an election or a legal challenge. Earlier this month, abortion advocates celebrated a Food and Drug Administration ruling that allowed certain patients to collect prescription abortion medication at the pharmacy. The party was curtailed 10 days later as anti-abortion activists filed a legal challenge to the FDA’s approval of the drug itself.

The lawsuit, filed in a conservative Texas court district, argues that the FDA overstepped its authority in 2000 by approving the use of mifepristone and misoprostol to terminate pregnancies in the United States. Attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice noted in their reply that courts have never second-guessed the FDA’s ability to assess the safety or efficacy of a drug, which abortion advocates said was proof that the lawsuit was nothing more than a last-gasp attempt to restrict the procedure without letting voters weigh in.

“That’s why these radicals are bringing legal challenges in states residing in conservative circuit court districts — they know it’s their best chance to weaponize the legal system to buck support of abortion access,” Karen Middleton, president of a Colorado-based reproductive rights advocacy organization, told Colorado Newsline. “Americans support access to abortion care, including making medication abortion more available. A small minority of anti-abortion extremists are trying to go against the will of the voters with these lawsuits, and we hope voters will continue to see through that.”

You can see through the water right to the pills! (Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images)

You can see through the water right to the pills!
(Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images)

Dozens of congressional Republicans took the opposite tack in a Jan. 26 letter characterizing the FDA’s decision as a dangerous change that “promotes dangerous do-it-yourself abortions by mail” and “turns brick-and-mortar pharmacies and post offices into abortion centers.” Among the signatories: Four Republicans from Idaho, where a near-total abortion ban remains in effect following a Jan. 5 ruling from the state Supreme Court, per the Idaho Capital Sun.

The 12-page letter demands that the FDA reverse its decision, which lawmakers say violated federal law by disregarding doubts about the safety of the drug. (More than 20 state attorneys general, including Idaho’s Raúl Labrador, made a similar argument in their own letter to the FDA.) There’s no real evidence to support the argument, though that doesn’t really matter — either way, the fate of the drug will be decided in court as early as next month.

Dispatches from disarray: A state abortion coordinator? Hawaii lawmakers consider overcoming barriers to accessIdaho attorneys ask federal judge for time to file new brief in abortion caseIndiana Supreme Court won’t fast track abortion caseAs states seek to limit abortions, Montana wants to redefine what is medically necessaryFBI investigating abortion-related attacks in Oregon, nationwideVermont lawmakers take up landmark abortion ‘shield law,’ but protections could only go so farGov. Walz signs bill codifying abortion rights in Minnesota law


  State of Our Democracy

Florida Republicans on Monday introduced a proposal for permitless concealed carry, a change they said was needed to ensure that citizens could fully embrace their constitutional right to wield weapons in public. It’s God’s will, or something.

“The Constitution did not give us those rights; our creator gave us those rights,” said Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, standing at a lectern among a phalanx of sheriffs. “But it does put it down on paper in the Second Amendment. And the courts have interpreted that to mean an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.”

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner and the sheriffs and their guns. (Photo by Michael Moline/Florida Phoenix)

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner and the sheriffs and their guns.
(Photo by Michael Moline/Florida Phoenix)

The bill, introduced two weeks before the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, would allow adults 21 and older without criminal records to carry handguns (and knives, tasers, gas guns and billy clubs — but not machine guns) without obtaining a permit or taking gun safety classes. (Anyone over the age of 18 could carry a handgun in a private car, provided it’s locked up or not “readily handy.”) Guns would still be prohibited in “sensitive areas” like schools, restaurants and government buildings, per the bill.

The measure was backed by Republicans and law enforcement officers, some of whom gave bizarre explanations for their support. One sheriff said that allowing untrained citizens to carry concealed weapons was a great example of government fulfilling its responsibility to “protect its citizens,” while a senator said he was proud to champion the measure “as a husband and a father.” But the oddest statement came from Renner, who attempted to frame the proposal as a uniting measure and a win for equality.

“I think it’s important in the age of political division to know that what we’re about here today is a universal right that applies to each man and woman regardless of race, gender, creed, or background,” he said.

The bill will probably pass the GOP-led legislature, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has already vowed to sign it, but Democrats were still vocal in their opposition, saying the measure was reckless and politically motivated.

“Permitless carry doesn’t belong in a civilized society, but it’s a priority of Florida’s ‘golden boy’ governor and presumptive presidential candidate, and this Legislature will never stand in his way — regardless of the public safety implications in doing so,” said state Rep. Dan Daley, a Broward County Democrat.

At least one gun advocate agreed that the bill was flawed, albeit for the opposite reason — it doesn’t allow permitless open carry, so it doesn’t go far enough.

“Why are they not going all the way?” mused Luis Vales, state director of Gun Owners of America.

All the way: Gov. DeSantis lambastes ‘ideology’ in Florida’s university system and threatens tenure for profsNew bill in Idaho Legislature would eliminate March and August school elections(Indiana) Former Gov. Daniels opts out of Senate runKansas Senate bill funnels $1 billion into rainy-day fund to bridge economic downturnsMissouri Senate leader’s tweet about drag performance helped kickstart controversyAhead of DNC meeting, tensions mount over New Hampshire’s political futureFate of former Ohio House speaker could hinge on whether he took an “official act”Oregon lawmakers propose bills to tamp down prescription costsNashville Mayor John Cooper declines second run for top city officeMost gun storage bills appear doomed in Virginia General Assembly

   From The Newsrooms

One Last Thing

A NASA orbiter found a smiley face on the surface of Mars, which observers said was probably a combination of a buried impact crater and a volcanic vent. (They also said it looks like a bear, but it has no ears, so…it’s a smiley.)

Bears have ears. I don’t make the rules. (via Giphy)

Bears have ears. I don’t make the rules.
(via Giphy)


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