Supreme Court changes fuel moves to protect abortion access

A vast swath of West Texas has been without an abortion clinic for more than six years. Planned Parenthood plans to change that with a health center it opened recently in Lubbock.

It’s a vivid example of how abortion-rights groups are striving to preserve nationwide access to the procedure even as a reconfigured Supreme Court — with the addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett — may be open to new restrictions.

Planned Parenthood has made recent moves to serve more women in Missouri and Kentucky, and other groups are preparing to help women in other Republican-controlled states access abortion if bans are imposed.

“Abortion access in these states now faces its gravest ever threat,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s president. She said the new health center in Lubbock “is an example of our commitment to our patients to meet them where they are.”

The clinic opened on Oct. 23 in a one-story building that had been a medical office and was renovated after Planned Parenthood purchased it. To avoid protests and boycotts that have beset some previous expansion efforts, Planned Parenthood kept details, including the clinic’s location, secret until the opening was announced.

Planned Parenthood says the health center will start providing abortions — via surgery and medication — sometime next year. Meanwhile, it is offering other services, including cancer screenings, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Planned Parenthood closed its previous clinic in Lubbock, a city of 255,000 people, in 2013 after the Texas Legislature slashed funding for family planning services and imposed tough restrictions on abortion clinics.

That law led to the closure of more than half the state’s 41 abortion clinics before the Supreme Court struck down key provisions in 2016. There were no clinics left providing abortion in a region of more than 1 million people stretching from Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle south to Lubbock and the oil patch cities of Odessa and Midland.

Women in Lubbock faced a 310-mile (500-kilometer) drive to the nearest abortion clinic in Fort Worth.

Anti-abortion activists have been mobilizing to prevent the return of abortion services to Lubbock — and are not giving up even with the new clinic’s opening.

“Lubbock must not surrender to the abortion industry,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a West Texas native who attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock and is now communications director for Texas Right to Life.

Her organization has backed a petition drive trying to persuade the City Council to pass an ordinance declaring Lubbock a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Abortion opponents hope that designation would lead to either enforcement efforts or lawsuits seeking to block abortion services.

Thus far, the City Council has declined to adopt the ordinance, but activists say they have enough signatures to place it on the ballot in a local referendum.

Texas is one of several red states where Planned Parenthood has sought to expand abortion access. Earlier this year, its health center in Louisville, Kentucky, began providing abortions after obtaining

Read more

Polish Pro-choice Campaigner Helps Women Bypass Abortion Law

Seven years ago, Natalia Broniarczyk had an abortion despite stringent Polish legislation against it.

Now, she is helping other women do the same and taking part in mass protests against a further tightening of an already highly restrictive law.

“I’m angry,” the 36-year-old campaigner told AFP as she prepared for the latest demonstration in Warsaw.

Protests have been raging nationwide since a ruling from the Constitutional Court on October 22 that would allow abortions only in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at risk.

Until then, terminations had also been allowed in case of severe foetal anomalies but the court ruled that was “incompatible” with the constitution.

“The verdict made me feel like my country was spitting in my face. I broke down in tears, powerless,” Broniarczyk said.

Natalia Broniarczyk had an abortion seven years ago Natalia Broniarczyk had an abortion seven years ago Photo: AFP / Wojtek RADWANSKI

The campaigner adds she was surprised by the timing of the verdict, as well as by the government’s warnings to stop people taking to the streets in protest.

“We expected a more restrictive law, but we did not expect it to happen right in the middle of a pandemic.

“Or that they would treat us and our lives and problems like objects. That they would ask us to stay home, to make decisions for us without us,” she said.

Broniarczyk had her abortion seven years ago because she was not ready to start a family.

“I didn’t feel financially secure and didn’t think it was the right time,” she said.

Warsaw's streets flooded with pro-choice demonstrators Warsaw’s streets flooded with pro-choice demonstrators Photo: AFPTV / Jaap ARRIENS

She did not qualify for a surgical abortion under the law and could not afford to go abroad for the procedure.

She tried to order abortion pills abroad but Polish customs blocked her order from going through.

Medical abortion is in a grey zone in Poland, neither authorised nor banned by law.

In the end, a Polish organisation helped her obtain the pills required.

“The woman I talked to had also had a medical abortion and told me how it had gone for her. She helped me prepare for it,” Broniarczyk said.

Today she is giving back by providing support to other women as a member of the organisation “Abortion Dream Team” — whose number is one of the ones being displayed prominently by protesters at demonstrations.

In the case of women seeking medical abortions, Broniarczyk provides them with the information required to obtain pills.

She also helps women who decide to terminate their pregnancies abroad, in countries such as Britain, Germany and the Netherlands.

Poland sees fewer than 2,000 legal abortions every year. Women’s groups estimate that an additional 200,000 women abort either illegally or abroad.

It took Broniarczyk a few years to be able to discuss the abortion.

But she does not regret it, saying that over time she has come to see it as a “liberating experience”.

“I understood that I could decide for myself about my life, even while living

Read more

Poland’s Constitutional Court Has Effectively Banned Abortion, But We Will Not Stop Fighting For Our Fundamental Rights

Polish Abortion Protests Continue - Day Seven
Polish Abortion Protests Continue – Day Seven

A Pro-Choice activist holds a smoke flare during a protest in Krakow’s Market Square. Women’s rights activists and their supporters staged their seventh day of protests in Krakow and all over Poland, opposing pandemic restraint, to express their anger at the ruling of Polish Supreme Court, which tightened the already strict abortion laws. Credit – Artur Widak—NurPhoto via Getty Images

Poland’s anti-abortion laws have always been among the most restrictive in Europe. Until this week the procedure was only permitted when the pregnancy posed a threat to the woman’s life; if there was a fatal fetal abnormality or in cases rape or incest.

However on Oct. 22 the country’s constitutional court ruled that a fatal fetal abnormality was not justification for terminating a pregnancy and violates the constitution. For the over 10 million women of reproductive age in Poland, this ruling effectively puts in place a complete ban on abortion.

According to official data, just over 1,100 legal abortions are performed annually in Poland–98% of which are in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities. The procedure prevented further pain and suffering for both the woman and the fetus.

While the court’s ruling has not yet come into force, many Polish hospitals have already stopped carrying out terminations. Women with scheduled procedures are having their appointments canceled. Women with a diagnosis of fatal fetal abnormality are not being provided with information and don’t know where to find help, left alone with their tragic news. At the Federation for Women and Family Planning we are getting calls from men asking for help for their wives or partners. The women are often so devastated they are unable to speak.

We try to support them as much as possible and there are some doctors who support them too. After our campaigning some hospitals have again begun to perform abortions but it is only a drop in the ocean of what is needed.

The ruling is an outrageous violation of women’s human rights. Women are being treated like living incubators. We do not have any rights, not even the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Polish Constitution: the right to health, the right to private life, the right to equal treatment.

Not one word was said in defense of women during the debate. The fetus, called the “conceived child,” has the rights of an already existing life. During the Tribunal’s debate the most cruel statement was that we cannot “kill a conceived child” just because its birth would “reduce the comfort of a woman’s life.”

Forcing a woman to give birth to a child with severe, irreversible conditions is cruelty. Whether or not to keep the pregnancy should be the decision of the woman, or the woman and her partner. They will be the only ones to bear the traumatic consequences of this decision.

The politicians of the ruling party in Poland allowed the politicized Tribunal to issue what is a cruel and shameful decision. They hoped that the

Read more

Coloradans are voting on an abortion ban: What to know about Proposition 115

As Coloradans vote this fall, they’re deciding on more than just the president and other elected officials — they’re also being asked to vote on a ballot measure, Proposition 115, which seeks to ban abortion in the state after 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Colorado is one of seven states without a gestational limit on abortion, with or without exceptions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

If Prop 115 is approved and enacted, a person who performs an abortion after that point is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and subject to a fine ($500 to $5,000), according to the measure’s language. A licensed practitioner would lose their license for at least three years. The patient would not be charged with a crime.

The ballot measure includes only one exception: if “an abortion is immediately required to save the life of a pregnant woman,” including physical disorders, illnesses and injuries. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

Proponents of the proposal say it is to prevent the abortions of potentially viable fetuses. Opponents say it puts pregnant people’s lives and wellness at risk, while there are also concerns about the disproportionate impact a ban could have on already marginalized communities.

Singular exception frightens some doctors

Dr. Rebecca Cohen, an OB-GYN in the Denver area, pointed to the language in the ballot measure requiring a pregnant person’s life be at “immediate” risk.

“As a practicing physician, it’s unethical for me to allow a medical situation to progress to the point that someone’s life is immediately in danger,” she told ABC News.

PHOTO: An anti-abortion rights protester prays while holding a rosary while demonstrating outside of the Colorado Springs Westside Health Center, Feb. 11, 2017, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

An anti-abortion rights protester prays while holding a rosary while demonstrating outside of the Colorado Springs Westside Health Center, Feb. 11, 2017, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Dr. James Monaco, a Colorado cardiologist who has cared for patients in high-risk pregnancies due to cardiac issues, wrote in an opinion piece for The Colorado Sun that if passed, the proposition “will result in unnecessary maternal deaths.”

He expanded in a piece for the Colorado Times Recorder that if a pregnant person with severe heart disease has a 50% chance of death, doctors would have to question, “Is a 50% chance of death ‘immediate?'”

The exception also does not mention the health of the fetus. That means if a pregnant person gets a diagnosis that the fetus will likely either be stillborn or only live a few hours or days, that person then potentially has to carry the fetus to term and go through labor — which includes an emotional and financial toll on top of the physical risks of labor and pregnancy.

The Coalition for Women and Children, also known as the DueDateTooLate campaign, which supports the proposition, says that in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities, pregnant people would turn to “perinatal hospice.”

“Perinatal hospice involves a multidisciplinary team” to “accompany the family through the pregnancy and

Read more

Appeals court upholds Kentucky abortion law requiring clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a Kentucky law that requires abortion clinics to have written agreements with a hospital and ambulance service in case of medical emergencies.

The 2-1 ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a 2018 district court ruling that found the law, first passed in 1998, violated constitutionally protected due process rights.

EMW Women’s Surgical Center first challenged the law in 2017 after a licensing fight with then-Gov. Matt Bevin (R). EMW was the only clinic that provided abortions at the time, and Bevin claimed that it lacked proper transfer agreements and took steps to shut it down.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky joined the suit later on, claiming that Bevin had used these transfer agreements to block its request for a license to provide abortions. After Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear took office in 2019, the two clinics were allowed to provide abortions.

The court wrote that the “district court erred in concluding that Kentucky would be left without an abortion facility,” according to The Associated Press, and dismissed the clinics’ argument that they were at risk of closing. It further said that the law allows clinics to apply for a 90-day waiver if they are denied a licensing agreement, which they could theoretically reapply for and continue to operate.

“(We) must presume that the Inspector General will consider waiver applications in good faith and will not act ‘simply to make it more difficult for (women) to obtain an abortion,’” the ruling read.

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Eric Clay wrote that it “condones the evisceration of the constitutional right to abortion access in Kentucky.”

“At the end of the day, no matter what standard this Court is bound to apply, the majority’s decision today is terribly and tragically wrong,” he wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which represented the clinics, said in a statement that Kentucky’s law means abortion providers have to navigate “needless red tape every 90 days” and warned that the state could be the first without any abortion providers if the governor refuses to grant the waiver.

“This is what it looks like when politicians chip away at protections under Roe — pushing medically unnecessary laws that jeopardize abortion access without ever overturning Roe,” Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in a statement.

“It must be stated that we are in a dangerous moment for abortion rights and what this moment calls for is leadership to put all people before politics and do what’s necessary to ensure every person has access to the care they need and deserve,” Charbonneau added.

Abortion rights have become a hot-button issue this election, as Democrats worry that the impending Senate confirmation of Judge Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettRepublicans increasingly seek distance from Trump Overnight Health Care: Pfizer could apply for vaccine authorization by late November | State health officials say they need .4B for vaccination effort | CDC: Blacks, Hispanics dying of COVID-19

Read more