By Elisha Brown
Thirteen states now ban abortion after a judge temporarily blocked a Wyoming abortion ban this week. While the ruling represents a minor victory for reproductive rights advocates in the state, Wyoming has a lone abortion clinic in Jackson that only provides medication abortions, and terminating most pregnancies using pills will be illegal in July when a law prohibiting the two-drug regimen goes into effect, according to our partners at WyoFile.
In the lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the blocked ban, an OB-GYN said she had to cancel the appointments of six patients seeking abortions after the ban went into effect, and her office had to turn away another pregnant person who sought to terminate their pregnancy.
The tension in these recent anti-abortion proposals lies within the vague language of the bills. Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, even declined to sign the full abortion ban into law, questioning its legality. In her ruling, Ninth District Judge Melissa Owens cited a 2012 constitutional amendment, originally intended as a jab to the Affordable Care Act, that states Wyoming citizens have a right to their own personal health care decisions.
Also in Wyoming: A 22-year-old woman was charged with arson Wednesday and accused of setting fire to a Cheyenne health care clinic last year, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. Lorna Green is accused of vandalizing Wellspring Health Access Clinic in May 2022, which was scheduled to open in June. The clinic would have offered reproductive health care, gender-affirming health care and abortions, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Wyoming.
In the states, Democratic governors where abortion is broadly accessible doubled down this week: Hawaii protected out-of-state patients and providers and the Massachusetts governor praised the state pharmacy board’s guidelines to ensure the availability of family planning medications.
Indiana lawmakers skeptical of birth control bill
An Indiana bill that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control faced criticism in the state Senate, Indiana Capital Chronicle reported Thursday. Republicans on the Senate health committee questioned why pharmacists should have that power and if it would affect the state’s high maternal mortality rate. But Republican state Sen. Jean Leising said the bill would widen contraception access in rural areas, adding that only three of the seven counties she represents have hospitals with OB-GYN services.
“I think it’s sometimes hard for everybody – even in this committee – to understand that there are serious access issues. That’s just for having the babies, much less for the contraception,” Leising said during the hearing. Pharmacists and doctors supported the bill, saying similar legislation in other states led to lower costs and less unintended pregnancies. The Indiana Catholic Conference opposed the proposal: “Hormonal contraceptives, despite widespread use, still pose significant health risks for women… we should more carefully consider the complicated multitude of risk factors associated with these drugs,” said Alexander Mingus, the organization’s associate director. The committee will consider amendments and vote next week.
Hawaii, leader in abortion access, expands protections
Democratic Gov. Josh Green signed a bill into law this week that widened protections for abortion providers and patients, according to Honolulu Civil Beat, a States Newsroom partner. The law allows abortions to be performed outside of licensed hospitals, shields out-of-state abortion patients and physicians from prosecution and defines surgical abortions as “medical care and services.” The latter tenet allows minors to receive abortion care without parental consent.
Hawaii legalized abortion in 1970, positioning the state as a pioneer in abortion rights before the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision three years later. Hawaii Republicans said the new law was unnecessary. But Democratic Rep. Della Au Bellati disagreed. “Access to reproductive health care and reproductive health care itself is under attack by politicians who should not – should not – be interfering in the private health care decisions of patients and their health care providers,” she said.
Massachusetts governor to pharmacies: keep abortion medication
While the nation awaits a ruling from a Texas federal judge that could direct the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to revoke approval of a key abortion pill or further restrict medication abortion, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy issued guidance Wednesday directing pharmacies in the state to continue supplying all family planning medications, our partner newsroom CommonWealth reported. The advisory stated pharmacies must dispense the medications or face state investigation.
“At a time when states are rushing to ban medication abortion and some pharmacies are irresponsibly restricting access to it, we are reminding Massachusetts pharmacies that they have an obligation to provide critical reproductive health medications, including Mifepristone. It’s safe, effective, and legal,” Democratic Gov. Maura Healey said in a statement. Abortion is legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy in Massachusetts, where 78% of people polled support broad abortion access, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll.
“Restrictions on health care are not only bad for medicine, but are pushing strong doctors-in-training away from our state. In fact, medical trainees are already starting to look at other states for residency instead of North Carolina. Our country is already facing a physician shortage, the last thing we need is to push doctors away to other states.” – Dr. Avanthi Jayaweera, family medicine resident and American Medical Student Association board member, NC Policy Watch
- A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Ohio plan to reintroduce a doula Medicaid reimbursement proposal. (Ohio Capital Journal.)
- Arkansas representatives introduced two anti-abortion related bills this week: one could broaden the definition of medical emergencies, while the other could ban medication abortions. (Arkansas Advocate.)
- University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill held a panel on faith and abortion featuring varying Judeo-Christian perspectives. (NC Policy Watch.)
- A Minnesota reproductive justice nonprofit has trained about 500 abortion doulas since 2012. (Sahan Journal.)
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