News Abortion

Bryant Signs Medication Abortion Restriction, ‘Personhood’ Petition Sees Pushback

Robin Marty

Mississippi politicians aren't sitting still while they wait for the state's only abortion clinic to close. Instead, they're preemptively restricting abortion and even birth control access.

Obtaining a medication abortion, as opposed to a surgical procedure, may become more complicated in Mississippi, a state that has just one abortion clinic. Last week Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed legislation requiring that individuals who get a medication abortion follow up with the same doctor two weeks later. Meanwhile, voters in the state are pushing back against a proposed “personhood” amendment in the state.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization remains the sole abortion provider in Mississippi, and a new ruling from a federal judge means that the clinic will continue to operate, at least in the short term, despite its inability to conform with a new targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law requiring that doctors have admitting privileges to a local hospital in the area. The legal challenges will continue, no doubt, and anti-choice politicians in the state will continue to look for ways to revoke the clinic’s license or otherwise shut off the only place where residents can access safe, legal abortions in Mississippi. But in the meantime, anti-choice activists’ number one goal continues to be restricting abortion access in ways besides shuttering the clinic.

The medication abortion bill is a watered down version of the original, which would have shortened the window of opportunity to have a medication abortion to just seven weeks’ gestation, compared to the current nine weeks, and would have required even more trips to the doctor for face-to-face meetings. Anti-choice activist and former medical board candidate Terri Herring called the final version of the bill “useless” and withdrew her support.

Still, the passage and signing of the bill shows that on the one hand, individuals who oppose reproductive rights in Mississippi are still eagerly seeking out any avenue possible to restrict those rights, while that on the other hand, medical professionals and women’s health advocates are being more active about involving themselves in the legislative process. It also shows that politicians are listening.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

It is in this environment that the state’s latest “personhood” amendment is being introduced. Initiative Measure No. 41 is a second foray into the “legal rights for fertilized eggs” debate, and is nearly identical to the failed Amendment 26 of 2011.  This year the amendment is much more straightforward; it says that a person exists the moment sperm and egg successfully meet. “The right to life begins at conception. All human beings at every stage of development are unique, created in the image of God, and shall enjoy the inalienable right to life as persons under law,” the measure reads.

The wording, God and all, was proposed back on March 5, but has only now been accepted by the state attorney general, which means that the petitioners can now begin to collect signatures. Personhood USA spokesperson Jennifer Mason told the Clarion Ledger that the 2011 initiative was too confusing for many people to understand, especially once complications like banning birth control, prohibiting in vitro fertilization, and other inevitable byproducts of “personhood” were introduced.

Voters are already less than enthused. A group called Mississippi Against Personhood had begun its own signature collection online. “We, the vast majority of the voters of Mississippi who resoundingly voted no on Initiative 26 (the so called Personhood Initiative) in Nov. 2011 demand an end to any renewed Personhood push. The nearly 60% of Mississippians who voted no on this misguided and dangerous proposal were not confused or mislead. We voted no with robust, precise, and accurate knowledge of what our vote meant. Do not waste our state’s time, energy, and already limited resources with another foolhardy Personhood proposal,” reads the petition. “Mississippians already said no to Personhood and we meant it.”

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.