Roundup: Older Children Abandoned Under Law for Babies

Brady Swenson

In Nebraska older children abandoned under law for babies; Palin and Biden agree on gay rights at debate; McCain administration would be a setback for women; Bush puts popular California family planning program at risk; Complaints filed against Bloomberg for pregnancy bias; EU to offer 18 weeks of maternity leave; and more.

Older Children Abandoned Under Law for Babies

The New York Times reports that Omaha, Nebraska has had 15 older children dropped off at ‘safe-haven’ locations in the city during the past month. In July, Nebraska became the last state to enact a so-called safe-haven

Such laws permit mothers to leave an infant at a facility with no
fear of prosecution. Nationwide, more than 2,000 babies have been
turned over since Texas enacted the first such law in 1999, according
to the National Safe Haven Alliance in Virginia.

But the version of the law passed in Nebraska “was far broader than all others, protecting not just infants but also children up to age 19.”  While one case, that of a 34-year-old widower father of ten who left nine of his ten children at a safe-haven in Omaha last month, was a legitimate case of economic distress endangering the lives of the children, concern has arisen that the law is being misused:

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“The law in my opinion is being abused now,” said Mr. Stuthman, who
said he would push for a revision. “There are family services out
there, but some people may lack the resources to take advantage of
them, and we’ve got to take a hard look at what more we can provide.”

Some, however, appreciate the broad scope of the new law and argue that increased funding for social services and efforts to educate the public on underused existing services is needed to make the law more effective:

“In Nebraska, as in a lot of states, we don’t have sufficient funding
to provide a really strong mental health system for kids,” said Judy
Kay, chief operating officer for the Child Saving Institute in Omaha,
which helps families in crisis. “But we do have resources that many
parents are not aware of or are not using,” including psychiatric
counseling with fees tied to family income.


Palin and Biden Agree on Gay Rights at Debate

Two politicians from either end of the American political spectrum agreeing on a global stage that gay couples deserve equal civil rights was nothing short of wonderful to witness.  While both politicians opposed marriage, we all know that social progress is measured in steps and last night America took a big one as a conservative vice-presidential candidate moved to the center leaving her far-right supporters behind:

“No one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to
do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts
being signed,” said Palin, referring to John McCain, her running mate in the November 4 election.

“In an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no
distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint
between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple,” said Biden, referring to
his Democratic partner, Barack Obama.


McCain Administration Would Be Setback for Women’s Equality

Cristobal Joshua Alex has a post up at HuffingtonPost.com that takes a brief look at the presidential candidates’ stances on issues important to many women including reproductive freedom, women’s health and equal pay.  Alex also considers the candidates’ choice for running mate in
his attempt to determine if women’s interests would be advanced in
either administration.  Alex determines that an Obama administration
would place more value on these issues and is concerned that a McCain
administration would continue to be a setback to progress toward true
equality between the genders.


California’s Parental Consent Measure Might be Bullet-Proof in the Courts

In August of 1997 the California Supreme Court struck down a parental consent for abortion law.  Since then the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld two parental consent laws that are similar to the one that will appear on California’s ballot on November 4 meaning that “if opponents of parental consent laws want to win, it appears likely they will have to win at the ballot box, not in the courts.”

Now, however, the court’s
[1997] ruling would be negated by Proposition 4, which would amend the
California constitution. The Supreme Court decision rested on the state
Constitution’s strong privacy rights, so if Prop 4 passes, the only
option for opponents of the law would be the federal courts. And that’s
where legal experts overwhelmingly agree Proposition 4 may be

Polling is indicating that California’s Proposition 4 is winning support among the electorate just one month ahead of the election:

[According to the] Public Policy Institute of California, Prop 4 is actually winning 47%-44%
despite the defeat of two similar “parental notification” ballot
measures in the last four years. Even more alarming, a SurveyUSA poll
released just yesterday shows Prop 4 winning 52%-36%.

One group, called the Courage Campaign, will be campainging against the ballot measure when Sarah Palin visits Los Angeles tomorrow.  They plan to fly an airplane over Palin’s rally towing a banner that reads “Sarah Palin, Thanks but no thanks: No on Prop 4!”


Dispute with Bush Administration Imperils Popular Family Planning Program for the Poor in California

The Los Angeles Times reports that a dispute over the immigrant status of people seeking services through California’s Family Planning, Access Care and Treatment Program could result in a loss of federal funding for the program that serves “nearly 1.7 million low-income Californians each year, including
prenatal services, annual exams and education about sexually
transmitted diseases, but does not provide abortion counseling.”

The program saves federal and state taxpayers more than $1.4 billion
annually, the officials say, by helping low-income women avoid unwanted
pregnancies. The Bush administration wants the state to change the way
it counts the illegal immigrants who use the service.

Since it began receiving Medicaid money in 1998, the state has used a
statistical method to estimate the number of illegal immigrants in the
Family PACT program, currently calculated at 14%. But the Bush
administration, which has been objecting to this method since 2004,
last month told California it had 30 days to begin vetting every
participant to determine if each is in the country legally, or lose all
federal funding.

It is not clear why the ultimatum was issued now, just months before President Bush leaves office.


Why Won’t Democrats Talk About Abortion Rights?

Elizabeth Schulte asks why Democrats and liberals in general are reluctant to speak out, unprompted, on behalf of a woman’s right to choose. Schulte argues that the successful defense of the right to choose will require the same kind of agressive messaging that the far right has used for so long in their effort to get rid of the right to choose:

THE TRUTH is that the conservatives have won ground in this debate over
the years, with a well-organized and uncompromising campaign to vilify
abortions, the doctors who perform them, and the women who have them.

Despite the avalanche of anti-choice propaganda, a majority of people still support Roe v. Wade. A 2007 Harris poll showed support for Roe at 56 percent, up 7 percent from the year before.

That’s because the lies about abortion fly in the face of the actual
experience of much of the population–of living, breathing women who
actually have abortions, and have had them in some form, from the
beginning of time.

The Democratic candidates would prefer not to say anything about
abortion–and let the pro-choice forces loyally support them while they
leave the door open for anti-choice forces to support them, too. In
other words, the right for a woman to make a life-transforming decision
about obtaining an abortion is, for the leaders of the Democratic
Party, nothing more than a political bargaining chip.

Obviously, the Democrats aren’t interested in really standing up for
abortion rights. The only way to turn the tide of public sentiment on
abortion is to make the argument for a woman’s right to choose, no
matter what the politicians are saying.


Complaints Filed Against Bloomberg for Alleged Pregnancy Bias

ABC News reports that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg will have to answer to a relatively large group of current and former female employees who claim they were discriminated against for being pregnant while working for Bloomberg’s financial company:

72 current and former female employees who became pregnant while
working at Bloomberg LP, the financial news service, claim the company
discriminated against them by decreasing their pay, demoting them, and
excluding them from other employment opportunities after they became

One complaint alleges that a Bloomberg senior executive, upon learning
that two of his female executives had become pregnant, remarked “I’m
not having any pregnant b-tches working for me” and instructed another
executive to terminate them.


Another complaint alleges that female employees at Bloomberg LP were
subjected “to stereotypes regarding female caregivers” through comments
such as “You are not committed” and “You do not want to be here” when
they returned from maternity leave.


EU to Offer 18 Weeks Fully Paid Maternity Leave

In contrast to the news about pregnant women alleging discrimination against Michael Bloomberg’s financial company the EU’s social affairs commissioner will propose a new maternity leave program that “will impose six weeks of compulsory leave for new mothers after the
birth, with the remaining 12 weeks to be split either before or after
the child is born.”  The proposal would guarantee a generous maternity leave program throughout the EU but the article notes that several very generous maternity leave programs already exist in Europe:

Brussels sets the minimum length of maternity leave and pay, but
member states may offer more generous provisions beyond this level.

leave periods range from 14 weeks in Germany and 16 weeks in France,
the Netherlands and Spain, to 45 weeks in Bulgaria.

Sweden is particularly generous, offering a year of parental leave at full pay, which can be transferred to the father.

UK also offers 52 weeks of maternity leave, 39 of which are paid, but
at a rate of 90 per cent of their average pay for six weeks and a fixed
sum of £117.18 a week for the other 33 weeks.


Commentary Politics

On Immigration, Major Political Parties Can’t Seem to Agree on What’s ‘Un-American’

Tina Vasquez

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Immigration has been one of the country’s most contentious political topics and, not surprisingly, is now a primary focus of this election. But no matter how you feel about the subject, this is a nation of immigrants in search of “el sueño Americano,” as Karla Ortiz reminded us on the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Ortiz, the 11-year-old daughter of two undocumented parents, appeared in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad earlier this year expressing fear that her parents would be deported. Standing next to her mother on the DNC stage, the young girl told the crowd that she is an American who wants to become a lawyer to help families like hers.

It was a powerful way to kick-start the week, suggesting to viewers Democrats were taking a radically different approach to immigration than the Republican National Convention (RNC). While the RNC made undocumented immigrants the scapegoats for a variety of social ills, from U.S. unemployment to terrorism, the DNC chose to highlight the contributions of immigrants: the U.S. citizen daughter of undocumented parents, the undocumented college graduate, the children of immigrants who went into politics. Yet, even the stories shared at the DNC were too tidy and palatable, focusing on “acceptable” immigrant narratives. There were no mixed-status families discussing their deported parents, for example.

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other. By the end of two weeks, viewers may not have known whether to blame immigrants for taking their jobs or to befriend their hardworking immigrant neighbors. For the undocumented immigrants watching the conventions, the message, however, was clear: Both parties have a lot of work to do when it comes to humanizing their communities.  

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“No Business Being in This Country”

For context, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence are the decidedly anti-immigrant ticket. From the beginning, Trump’s campaign has been overrun by anti-immigrant rhetoric, from calling Mexicans “rapists” and “killers” to calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. And as of July 24, Trump’s proposed ban now includes people from countries “compromised by terrorism” who will not be allowed to enter the United States, including anyone from France.

So, it should come as no surprise that the first night of the RNC, which had the theme of “Make America Safe Again,” preyed on American fears of the “other.” In this case: undocumented immigrants who, as Julianne Hing wrote for the Nation, “aren’t just drug dealers and rapists anymorenow they’re murderers, too.”

Night one of the RNC featured not one but three speakers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. “They’re just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so gravely,” Trump said at the convention. “Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close I have to tell you, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it.”

Billed as “immigration reform advocates,” grieving parents like Mary Ann Mendoza called her son’s killer, who had resided in the United States for 20 years before the drunk driving accident that ended her police officer son’s life, an “illegal immigrant” who “had no business being in this country.”

It seemed exploitative and felt all too common. Drunk driving deaths are tragically common and have nothing to do with immigration, but it is easier to demonize undocumented immigrants than it is to address the nation’s broken immigration system and the conditions that are separating people from their countries of originconditions to which the United States has contributed. Trump has spent months intentionally and disingenuously pushing narratives that undocumented immigrants are hurting and exploiting the United States, rather than attempting to get to the root of these issues. This was hammered home by Mendoza, who finished her speech saying that we have a system that cares more about “illegals” than Americans, and that a vote for Hillary “puts all of our children’s lives at risk.”

There was also Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious racist whose department made a practice of racially profiling Latinos and was recently found to be in civil contempt of court for “repeatedly and knowingly” disobeying orders to cease policing tactics against Latinos, NPR reported.

Like Mendoza, Arpaio told the RNC crowd that the immigration system “puts the needs of other nations ahead of ours” and that “we are more concerned with the rights of ‘illegal aliens’ and criminals than we are with protecting our own country.” The sheriff asserted that he was at the RNC because he was distinctly qualified to discuss the “dangers of illegal immigration,” as someone who has lived on both sides of the border.

“We have terrorists coming in over our border, infiltrating our communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” Arpaio said. “We have criminals penetrating our weak border security systems and committing serious crimes.”

Broadly, the takeaway from the RNC and the GOP nominee himself is that undocumented immigrants are terrorists who are taking American jobs and lives. “Trump leaned on a tragic story of a young woman’s murder to prop up a generalized depiction of immigrants as menacing, homicidal animals ‘roaming freely to threaten peaceful citizens,’” Hing wrote for the Nation.

When accepting the nomination, Trump highlighted the story of Sarah Root of Nebraska, a 21-year-old who was killed in a drunk-driving accident by a 19-year-old undocumented immigrant.

“To this administration, [the Root family’s] amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting,” Trump said. “One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

It should be noted that the information related to immigration that Trump provided in his RNC speech, which included the assertion that the federal government enables crime by not deporting more undocumented immigrants (despite deporting more undocumented immigrants than ever before in recent years), came from groups founded by John Tanton, a well-known nativist whom the Southern Poverty Law center referred to as “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

“The Border Crossed Us”

From the get-go, it seemed the DNC set out to counter the dangerous, anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed at the RNC. Over and over again, Democrats like Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) hit back hard against Trump, citing him by name and quoting him directly.

“Donald Trump believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists. But what about my parents, Donald?” Sánchez asked the crowd, standing next to her sister, Rep. Loretta Sánchez (D-CA). “They are the only parents in our nation’s 265-year history to send not one but two daughters to the United States Congress!”

Each speech from a Latino touched on immigration, glossing over the fact that immigration is not just a Latino issue. While the sentiments were positiveillustrating a community that is thriving, and providing a much-needed break from the RNC’s anti-immigrant rhetoricat the core of every speech were messages of assimilation and respectability politics.

Even in gutsier speeches from people like actress Eva Longoria, there was the need to assert that her family is American and that her father is a veteran. The actress said, “My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us.”

Whether intentional or not, the DNC divided immigrants into those who are acceptable, respectable, and worthy of citizenship, and those—invisible at the convention—who are not. “Border crossers” who do not identify as American, who do not learn English, who do not aspire to go to college or become an entrepreneur because basic survival is overwhelming enough, what about them? Do they deserve to be in detention? Do their families deserve to be ripped apart by deportation?

At the convention, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a champion of immigration reform, said something seemingly innocuous that snapped into focus the problem with the Democrats’ immigration narrative.

“In her heart, Hillary Clinton’s dream for America is one where immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, pay their taxes, and not feel fear that their families are going to be ripped apart,” Gutiérrez said.

The Democratic Party is participating in an all-too-convenient erasure of the progress undocumented people have made through sheer force of will. Immigration has become a leading topic not because there are more people crossing the border (there aren’t) or because nativist Donald Trump decided to run for president, but because a segment of the population has been denied basic rights and has been fighting tooth and nail to save themselves, their families, and their communities.

Immigrants have been coming out of the shadows and as a result, are largely responsible for the few forms of relief undocumented communities now have, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who meet specific qualifications to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. And “getting right with the law” is a joke at this point. The problem isn’t that immigrants are failing to adhere to immigration laws; the problem is immigration laws that are notoriously complicated and convoluted, and the system, which is so backlogged with cases that a judge sometimes has just seven minutes to determine an immigrant’s fate.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is also really expensive. There is a cap on how many people can immigrate from any given country in a year, and as Janell Ross explained at the Washington Post:

There are some countries, including Mexico, from where a worker with no special skills or a relative in the United States can apply and wait 23 years, according to the U.S. government’s own data. That’s right: There are people receiving visas right now in Mexico to immigrate to the United States who applied in 1993.

But getting back to Gutierrez’s quote: Undocumented immigrants do pay taxes, though their ability to contribute to our economy should not be the one point on which Democrats hang their hats in order to attract voters. And actually, undocumented people pay a lot of taxes—some $11.6 billion in state and local taxes last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy—while rarely benefiting from a majority of federal assistance programs since the administration of President Bill Clinton ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996.

If Democrats were being honest at their convention, we would have heard about their failure to end family detention, and they would have addressed that they too have a history of criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, enacted under former President Clinton, have had the combined effect of dramatically increasing the number of immigrants in detention and expanding mandatory or indefinite detention of noncitizens ordered to be removed to countries that will not accept them, as the American Civil Liberties Union notes on its site. Clinton also passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which economically devastated Mexican farmers, leading to their mass migration to the United States in search of work.

In 1990, then-Sen. Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994 and specifically excluded undocumented women for the first 19 of the law’s 22 years, and even now is only helpful if the victim of intimate partner abuse is a child, parent, or current/former spouse of a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

In addition, President Obama is called by immigrant rights advocates “deporter in chief,” having put into place a “deportation machine” that has sent more than two million migrants back to their country of origin, more than any president in history. New arrivals to the United States, such as the Central American asylum seekers coming to our border escaping gender-based violence, are treated with the same level of prioritization for removal as threats to our national security. The country’s approach to this humanitarian crisis has been raiding homes in the middle of the night and placing migrants in detention centers, which despite being rife with allegations of human rights abuses, are making private prison corporations millions in revenue.

How Are We Defining “Un-American”?

When writing about the Democratic Party, community organizer Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Green Party vice president candidate, said that she is afraid of Trump, “but not enough to be distracted from what we must do, which is to break the two-party system for good.”

This is an election like we’ve never seen before, and it would be disingenuous to imply that the party advocating for the demise of the undocumented population is on equal footing with the party advocating for the rights of certain immigrants whose narratives it finds acceptable. But this is a country where Republicans loudly—and with no consequence—espouse racist, xenophobic, and nativist beliefs while Democrats publicly voice support of migrants while quietly standing by policies that criminalize undocumented communities and lead to record numbers of deportations.

During two weeks of conventions, both sides declared theirs was the party that encapsulated what America was supposed to be, adhering to morals and values handed down from our forefathers. But ours is a country comprised of stolen land and built by slave labor where today, undocumented immigrants, the population most affected by unjust immigration laws and violent anti-immigrant rhetoric, don’t have the right to vote. It is becoming increasingly hard to tell if that is indeed “un-American” or deeply American.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open the Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

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Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.