News Abortion

Lindsey Graham Admits 20-Week Bans Challenge ‘Roe v. Wade,’ Vote Blocked in Senate

Emily Crockett

During Sen. Graham's ultimately failed attempt to force a vote on a 20-week abortion ban on Tuesday, he made comments indicating he is aware that 20-week bans are a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and therefore a direct threat to legal abortion access in the United States.

During Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) ultimately failed attempt to force a vote on a 20-week abortion ban on Tuesday, he made comments indicating he is aware that 20-week bans are a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and therefore a direct threat to legal abortion access in the United States.

“The theory of the case is not viability, medical viability, [as in] Roe v. Wadeit’s a new theory I think makes eminent sense, that the state has a compelling interest to protect an unborn child at this stage of pregnancy,” Graham said on the Senate floor.

The “new theory” Graham references is the medically discredited notion that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, which is the anti-choice justification for this and other 20-week bans at the state level. “Viability,” on the other hand, is the standard that the Supreme Court has used since the Roe v. Wade decision for when states may restrict access to abortion. Viability is considered to be roughly 24 weeks’ gestational age, but the Court has said that a doctor, not legislators setting a specific cutoff date, must determine whether a fetus is viable. The Court also decided that restrictions on abortion after viability must include exceptions for rape, incest, and the life or health of the pregnant woman—but Graham’s bill, like many anti-choice bills at the state level, fails to include any health exceptions.

“Sen. Graham is entitled to his theories, but the Supreme Court decides what’s constitutional, and his bill is clearly unconstitutional,” Julianna Gonen, director of government relations at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Rewire, noting that courts have consistently struck down 20-week bans as unconstitutional and that the Supreme Court already refused to hear Arizona’s ban after it was struck down.

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Twenty-week bans still appear to be an ongoing attempt by the anti-choice movement to chip away at abortion access and even overturn Roe v. Wade. Some states’ “20-week bans” actually take effect two weeks earlier in pregnancy than others, an indication that “fetal pain” is merely an excuse to limit abortion rights.

“While I cannot speculate on Sen. Graham’s motives, I can say that any law that attempts to ban abortion before 24 weeks of pregnancy is a direct affront to Roe,” Gonen said.

Graham also falsely claimed that the “Partial Birth Abortion Act” of 2003, which he co-sponsored, already applies to abortion after 24 weeks, and that his bill simply “backs it up” to 20 weeks.

“That federal law is not in fact a ban on abortion at 24 weeks,” Gonen said, but rather a ban on one abortion method that is sometimes medically necessary later in pregnancy. “He’s not backing up by four weeks some existing federal cutoff for abortion—there is no such cutoff at this time.”

Graham’s remarks came as he was requesting unanimous consent to bring up for a vote both the 20-week abortion ban and another bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), so that every senator could be “on record” on the issue of abortion from both sides. The WHPA is supported by a wide range of groups, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Council of Jewish Women, Catholics for Choice, and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, and has about 150 co-sponsors in the Senate and House.

But Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), sponsor of the WHPA, halted Graham’s attempt to bring both bills to a floor vote by objecting to the unanimous consent request.

Blumenthal said he thought Graham’s bill was “irresponsible and should not be before the U.S. Senate.” He added that he would nevertheless be happy to cast a vote on it, and on the WHPA—but only after both have gone through the normal committee process. Graham’s action on Tuesday, had it been successful, would have seen the Senate voting on both bills before they had been reviewed and passed out of committee.

Blumenthal said Graham’s bill “would do nothing to help women protect their health,” and that it would not achieve the goal of reducing the number of abortions in the United States, since later abortions only make up about 1.5 percent of all pregnancy terminations.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said Graham’s action was a “spectacle” that was not about a serious debate on the issues, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said Graham was wrong to invoke the horrific crimes of rogue abortion provider Kermit Gosnell because outlawing safe and legal procedures will make more women, not fewer, turn to unsafe providers like Gosnell.

Graham also claimed that he is personally acquainted with twins who were born at 20 weeks’ gestation, but his story is unlikely to be correct. News reports have cited Amillia Taylor, born at 21 weeks and six days’ gestation, to be the youngest premature baby ever to survive, and medical evidence does not align with Graham’s claim.

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise-available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

Culture & Conversation Family

‘Abortion and Parenting Needs Can Coexist’: A Q&A With Parker Dockray

Carole Joffe

"Why should someone have to go to one place for abortion care or funding, and to another place—one that is often anti-abortion—to get diapers and parenting resources? Why can’t they find that support all in one place?"

In May 2015, the longstanding and well-regarded pregnancy support talkline Backline launched a new venture. The Oakland-based organization opened All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center, a Bloomington, Indiana, drop-in center that offers adoption information, abortion referrals, and parenting support. Its mission: to break down silos and show that it is possible to support all options and all families under one roof—even in red-state Indiana, where Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence signed one of the country’s most restrictive anti-abortion laws.

To be sure, All-Options is hardly the first organization to point out the overlap between women terminating pregnancies and those continuing them. For years, the reproductive justice movement has insisted that the defense of abortion must be linked to a larger human rights framework that assures that all women have the right to have children and supportive conditions in which to parent them. More than 20 years ago, Rachel Atkins, then the director of the Vermont Women’s Center, famously described for a New York Times reporter the women in the center’s waiting room: “The country really suffers from thinking that there are two different kinds of women—women who have abortions and women who have babies. They’re the same women at different times.”

While this concept of linking the needs of all pregnant women—not just those seeking an abortion—is not new, there are actually remarkably few agencies that have put this insight into practice. So, more than a year after All-Options’ opening, Rewire checked in with Backline Executive Director Parker Dockray about the All-Options philosophy, the center’s local impact, and what others might consider if they are interested in creating similar programs.

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Rewire: What led you and Shelly Dodson (All-Options’ on-site director and an Indiana native) to create this organization?

PD: In both politics and practice, abortion is so often isolated and separated from other reproductive experiences. It’s incredibly hard to find organizations that provide parenting or pregnancy loss support, for example, and are also comfortable and competent in supporting people around abortion.

On the flip side, many abortion or family planning organizations don’t provide much support for women who want to continue a pregnancy or parents who are struggling to make ends meet. And yet we know that 60 percent of women having an abortion already have at least one child; in our daily lives, these issues are fundamentally connected. So why should someone have to go to one place for abortion care or funding, and to another place—one that is often anti-abortion—to get diapers and parenting resources? Why can’t they find that support all in one place? That’s what All-Options is about.

We see the All-Options model as a game-changer not only for clients, but also for volunteers and community supporters. All-Options allows us to transcend the stale pro-choice/pro-life debate and invites people to be curious and compassionate about how abortion and parenting needs can coexist .… Our hope is that All-Options can be a catalyst for reproductive justice and help to build a movement that truly supports people in all their options and experiences.

Rewire: What has been the experience of your first year of operations?

PD: We’ve been blown away with the response from clients, volunteers, donors, and partner organizations …. In the past year, we’ve seen close to 600 people for 2,400 total visits. Most people initially come to All-Options—and keep coming back—for diapers and other parenting support. But we’ve also provided hundreds of free pregnancy tests, thousands of condoms, and more than $20,000 in abortion funding.

Our Hoosier Abortion Fund is the only community-based, statewide fund in Indiana and the first to join the National Network of Abortion Funds. So far, we’ve been able to support 60 people in accessing abortion care in Indiana or neighboring states by contributing to their medical care or transportation expenses.

Rewire: Explain some more about the centrality of diaper giveaways in your program.

PD: Diaper need is one of the most prevalent yet invisible forms of poverty. Even though we knew that in theory, seeing so many families who are struggling to provide adequate diapers for their children has been heartbreaking. Many people are surprised to learn that federal programs like [the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC] and food stamps can’t be used to pay for diapers. And most places that distribute diapers, including crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), only give out five to ten diapers per week.

All-Options follows the recommendation of the National Diaper Bank Network in giving families a full pack of diapers each week. We’ve given out more than 4,000 packs (150,000 diapers) this year—and we still have 80 families on our waiting list! Trying to address this overwhelming need in a sustainable way is one of our biggest challenges.

Rewire: What kind of reception has All-Options had in the community? Have there been negative encounters with anti-choice groups?

PD: Diapers and abortion funding are the two pillars of our work. But diapers have been a critical entry point for us. We’ve gotten support and donations from local restaurants, elected officials, and sororities at Indiana University. We’ve been covered in the local press. Even the local CPC refers people to us for diapers! So it’s been an important way to build trust and visibility in the community because we are meeting a concrete need for local families.

While All-Options hasn’t necessarily become allies with places that are actively anti-abortion, we do get lots of referrals from places I might describe as “abortion-agnostic”—food banks, domestic violence agencies, or homeless shelters that do not have a position on abortion per se, but they want their clients to get nonjudgmental support for all their options and needs.

As we gain visibility and expand to new places, we know we may see more opposition. A few of our clients have expressed disapproval about our support of abortion, but more often they are surprised and curious. It’s just so unusual to find a place that offers you free diapers, baby clothes, condoms, and abortion referrals.

Rewire: What advice would you give to others who are interested in opening such an “all-options” venture in a conservative state?

PD: We are in a planning process right now to figure out how to best replicate and expand the centers starting in 2017. We know we want to open another center or two (or three), but a big part of our plan will be providing a toolkit and other resources to help people use the all-options approach.

The best advice we have is to start where you are. Who else is already doing this work locally, and how can you work together? If you are an abortion fund or clinic, how can you also support the parenting needs of the women you serve? Is there a diaper bank in your area that you could refer to or partner with? Could you give out new baby packages for people who are continuing a pregnancy or have a WIC eligibility worker on-site once a month? If you are involved with a childbirth or parenting organization, can you build a relationship with your local abortion fund?

How can you make it known that you are a safe space to discuss all options and experiences? How can you and your organization show up in your community for diaper need and abortion coverage and a living wage?

Help people connect the dots. That’s how we start to change the conversation and create support.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to clarify the spelling of Shelly Dodson’s name.

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