News Abortion

Fetal Anomalies and Medication Abortion Next Targets of Indiana’s Anti-Choice Legislature

Robin Marty

In Indiana, abortion restrictions are coming by the dozen.

Indiana Right to Life has jumped into the 2013 legislative session with both feet, proposing a dozen new abortion and birth control restrictions for the state. Despite their senate loss and the near defeat of Mike Pence’s gubernatorial run, the GOP has decided to take its veto-proof majority in the legislature and use it to create as many new roadblocks to women’s health as it can.

Some of the bills are mostly nuisance, such as the bills in the House and Senate requiring so-called “informed consent” materials be handed out in pamphlet form rather than be available over the internet. Others, such as SB 489, would change the law from voluntary viewing of ultrasound into a forced viewing, and would also force women to sign a certified document if she wishes to opt out of listening to the heartbeat.

Then there are the bills that were expected but still a disappointment, such as the bill to require the sole Planned Parenthood clinic that offers medication abortions but not surgical abortions to redefine itself as a surgical center, with all of the licensing and upgrades required to meet those provisions, or the bill that will force medication abortions to be done via the outdated FDA protocol, and only by physicians with hospital admitting privileges.

Still, the state has managed a few surprises. A new proposed “conscience” bill would, like the one in Kansas, ensure that “a health care professional may not be required to dispense a drug or medical device if the health care professional believes the drug or medical device would be used to: (1) cause an abortion; (2) destroy an unborn child.” The “believes” language could open up denial of emergency contraception and every day hormonal birth control as well for the number of far right providers convinced that mini-abortions are being caused by the use of the pill.

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In fact, a quick look at an Indiana Right to Life “call to action” supports the assumption that they aren’t just coming for RU-486 when they talk about conscience protections.

Statehouse Alert.

An important bill has been introduced in the Indiana House that will protect Indiana health care professionals from being forced to dispense drugs that will be used to

kill unborn children or facilitate euthanasia or assisted suicide.  The bill is authored by Rep. Steve Davisson.

Health care professionals urgently need this protection as chemical abortions continue to rise in Indiana and as pressure will rise to support euthanasia and assisted suicide under expected Obamacare health rationing.

Currently there is no hearing scheduled for House Bill 1461.

Call your state representative today at: (800) 382-9842 and ask him or her to press immediately for a hearing on House Bill 1461. Stress that health professionals need this protection in Indiana NOW.

Most surprising, however, is a ban on “special circumstances” abortions, where one legislator has taken a previously unheard of step to ban abortions not just in alleged cases of gender or race,  but in case of fetal anomaly.

Yes, it will now be illegal to terminate a pregnancy in the case of a genetic issue or other health problem with the fetus.

Chapter 3. Sex-Selective and Genetic Abnormality Abortion Ban
    Sec. 1. As used in this chapter, “Down syndrome” means a chromosomal disorder associated with an extra chromosome 21 or an effective trisomy for chromosome 21.
    Sec. 2. As used in this chapter, “genetic abnormality” means any disease, defect, or disorder that is genetically inherited. The term includes the following:
        (1) A physical disability.
        (2) A mental disability or retardation.
        (3) A physical disfigurement.
        (4) Scoliosis.
        (5) Dwarfism.
        (6) Down syndrome.
        (7) Albinism.
        (8) Amelia.
        (9) A physical or mental abnormality or disease.
     Sec. 3. As used in this chapter, “sex-selective abortion” means an abortion that is performed solely because of the gender of the fetus.
     Sec. 4. (a) A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion before the earlier of viability of the fetus or twenty (20) weeks of postfertilization age if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking a sex-selective abortion.
     (b) A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion after viability or twenty (20) weeks of postfertilization if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking a sex-selective abortion.
    (c) This section is severable as specified in IC 1-1-1-8.
     Sec. 5. (a) A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion before the earlier of viability of the fetus or twenty (20) weeks of postfertilization age if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential for Down syndrome.

Unlike Virginia, which tried to ban Medicaid payments for abortions of women who terminated due to severe fetal defects, assuming that the lack of funds for an expensive later abortion would force her into giving birth, Indiana will try to cut off the decision from families all together. It’s a tactic that North Dakota introduced a few weeks earlier, and will likely continue to pop up across the country.

In the face of this onslaught of restrictions on a woman’s right to an abortion (or birth control, or general decisions about personal family medical needs), you would think that Betty Cockrum, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, would be despondent about the start of the session, but she’s not at all. “We have a dozen. Two years ago we had seventeen of them,” she joked. “I’m actually feeling very encouraged by this.”

Cockrum knew heading into the 2013 session that trying to pass legislation that would affect the Lafayette clinic, the sole Planned Parenthood to offer medication but not surgical abortions, would be foremost on the agenda. The proposed two tier approach—both via requiring licensing for the clinic and the move to demand an adherence to FDA protocol versus medical best practices—confirms that suspicion.

The “conscience” bill also remains a cause for worry because of it’s highly interpretable, open language, which could be used to justify refusal in so many reproductive care situations. “It’s pretty overreaching,” agreed Cockrum, referring to the “believes may cause abortion” language. “We are doing a lot of outreach with legislative leadership about these issues at this juncture and have reason to believe that there will be some public discussion of abortion-related legislation this session. It remains to be seen if this bill will be one. I think the focus is on further regulation of medication abortion.”

“We think that medication abortion is the priority this year,” continued Cockrum. “The concern then going all of the way until midnight April 29th is will it get loaded with language from other bills.”

With a full dozen bills to choose from, parceling snippets of one bill into another could potentially make for one massive “superbill,” and that would be a major concern for those who are fighting for reproductive rights. As last year’s HB 1210 shows, a lot of restrictions can get packed into just one new law. But Cockrum has a surprisingly optimistic view that legislators are willing to be open to discussion about real impact of abortion bans and political interference in the medical process.

“Last year the Right to Life Women testified that we need to use FDA protocols and that it is all in the interest of patient safety. We had testimony from from a couple of doctors who said ‘We just want to make sure that everyone understands that it is triple the dosage.’ It was an embarrassing moment for them. We are trying to make sure that Senator  [Travis Holdman, bill sponsor] understands that this will happen again, and he is paying attention to our arguments. That doesn’t mean we will prevail. But it’s certainly encouraging to know he wants to know why we have these concerns and that this is not a political or ideological argument.”

For Cockrum, the battle to keep abortion and birth control accessible will be the same as it is each year — remind politicians that they shouldn’t play doctor. “It’s just not good public policy for legislators to intrude into doctor patient relationships, or to tell medical practitioners how to do their jobs.”

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.


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