Will Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk Outlaw Medication Abortion Tomorrow? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It's bad, y'all. It's really, really bad.
As soon as tomorrow, the commonly used abortifacient drug mifepristone might be banned nationwide, forcing women to resort to less effective, more painful misoprostol or even surgery to access the care they need. This is what happens when you elect a lunatic gameshow host and let him pack the judiciary with 40-something wingnut activists, and we're all going to be dealing with the fallout for decades.
There is perhaps no more dangerous winger jurist in America than Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas. Kacsmaryk, who has called homosexuality "disordered" and transgender identity a "delusion," is parked in a single-judge division in Amarillo, making the outpost a destination for conservatives shopping for someone to roll back a generation's worth of gains for women, minorities, and anyone else despised by the followers of Capitalist White Jesus. Judge Kacsmaryk has already issued nationwide injunctions blocking protections for transgender workers and forcing the Biden administration to reinstate Trump's vile "Remain in Mexico" policy. So naturally anti-choice loons looking to make abortion as unsafe and inaccessible as possible made a beeline for his courtroom.
In fact, "beeline" rather understates it. To be accurate, a coalition of longtime anti-abortion groups such as the Catholic Medical Association and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists formed a coalition called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine just three months after the Supreme Court gutted abortion rights in Dobbs. They incorporated in Amarillo so as to be sure to get on Judge Kacsmaryk's docket in preparation to launch themselves into the warm embrace of the Fifth Circuit. These goons are not subtle. Nor was their complaint, which alleged that "the FDA failed America’s women and girls when it chose politics over science and approved chemical abortion drugs for use in the United States," saying the FDA had wrongfully approved mifepristone because "pregnancy is not an illness, nor do chemical abortion drugs provide a therapeutic benefit over surgical abortion."
Yes, that is really their argument. These filthy ghouls are literally saying that there's no therapeutic benefit for women to taking a safe and effective pill in the privacy of their own homes over surgery in a clinic.
And speaking of unsubtle, Judge Kacsmaryk's efforts to hide the rancid salami here have been utterly shameless. This weekend the Washington Post reported that he held a Friday status conference with the parties at which he announced an in-person hearing for Wednesday morning to argue the nationwide injunction the plaintiffs are demanding. But he deliberately didn't docket the hearing to avoid "a barrage of death threats and protesters and the rest." He promised to put notice of the hearing on the public docket after close of business Tuesday, thereby ensuring that virtually no protestors or media would be able to get to Amarillo, which is a four-hour drive from any other major metro area, in time for the 9 a.m. hearing.
Forgive the use of sophisticated lawtalk, but the technical term for this is "hinky as shit." There is a strong presumption in favor of public access to judicial process, as Judge Kacsmaryk himself acknowledges on his own page on the Northern District of Texas's website. As legal columnist Chris Geidner notes, Kacsmaryk warns parties appearing before him that, if they want to file a document under seal, they will have to "(1) move for leave to do so; (2) brief the legal authorities indicating the risks of disclosure outweigh the public’s right to know; and (3) explain that no other viable alternative to sealing exists.”
Naturally, the same people who have spent decades insisting on the First Amendment right of anti-choice lunatics to stand just inches away hurling invective at women seeking healthcare demand to be shielded from protestors who might point out the cruelty of their plans. And while no courthouse wants to get death threats, protesting and media access are core First Amendment activity. FFS, we managed to try the Boston Bomber on the public docket, and no court would approve sealing a hearing to avoid "an unnecessary circus-like atmosphere." Which is why Kacsmaryk didn't come out and actually do it — he just kept it off the docket in an attempt to accomplish the same end by fiat.
But he got caught, since the Post figured it out almost immediately and all hell broke loose, with the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press along with the Post and several local media outlets filing an objection citing multiple Fifth Circuit cases which reinforce the media's right of access to court proceedings. So yesterday Judge Kacsmaryk begrudgingly relented and docketed an order acknowledging both the Friday status conference and the Wednesday hearing. He did not acknowledge the Streisand Effect, although perhaps he will tomorrow when the courtroom is full of reporters from every major news outlet in America.
TPM got its hands on a transcript of the hearing, and it is predictably horrible, even aside from the whole Screw the First Amendment thing. Among the issues to be briefed are a Supreme Court case holding that there is no private right to challenge FDA enforcement actions (good!) and the Comstock Act which bans the mailing of indecent materials (JFC!).
Hang on to your uterus, girls. This is going to be a bumpy ride.
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South Carolina So 'Pro-Life' It's Gonna Murderize Everyone Who So Much As Thinks About Having An Abortion
This was always where they were going.
South Carolina — the first state to formally declare, "Screw you, we're keeping our slaves!" — continues its distinguished civil rights history with new legislation that would sentence anyone who receives an abortion with the death penalty, which is fatal.
Republican state Rep. Rob Harris authored the bill, the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023, which would amend the state's laws and redefine "person" to include a fertilized egg at the point of conception. Republicans recoil at considering trans women women but are fully on board with redefining "person" to include a clump of non-sentient cells that live inside another person's body. Twenty-one other ghouls have co-sponsored this abomination.
The proposed law would grant zygotes "equal protection under the homicide laws of the state," at least until they mature into a Black person who interacts with the police or an antsy white guy with a gun. Methods of execution in the state include lethal injection, and since 2021, electrocution, and firing squad upon request. That's truly barbaric, but you kick it up a notch when the state executes people because of what they do to their own bodies.
PREVIOUSLY: Anti-Choice Texans Want To Murder To Death Any Woman Who Commits Abortion
Conservative pundit Amanda Carpenter commented on South Carolina's proposed law, "You have to call this something different than pro-life. What?"
However, this is somewhat disingenuous. South Carolina's law is the logical extension of the anti-abortion argument. Is the fetus legally a person or not? If not, then the state has no business interfering in a citizen's personal health decisions. If so, there are laws against killing people, unless you're a cop and everyone knows you have a really tough job.
Last year on "The View," during a discussion about Texas's six-week abortion ban, she said, "Listen, I'm pro-life. I believe that when you look at an ultrasound and you see a heartbeat, that is a life." No, those are "amplified electrical impulses" not a fully developed heart. It's only the simulacrum of life. She should understand the difference from having worked on Ted Cruz's presidential campaign.
You might ask, "But Alex Murdaugh is from South Carolina and was only sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife and the child who fully functioned outside of her body." That's true, but the prosecutors chose not to pursue the death penalty. That sort of inconsistency is one of many reasons death penalty opponents think capital punishment is unjust. There's also the troubling reality that it's probably easier for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone had an abortion.
Dr. Mia Brett has argued that post-Dobbs, a person arrested for having an abortion should be able to claim self-defense. It's a compelling point, especially considering that gun-happy South Carolina's "stand your ground" laws have expanded Castle Doctrine and removed any "duty to retreat." The duty to carry a pregnancy to term, with no small health risk, is certainly more burdensome than simply walking away from a fight.
The proposed bill does not include a rape or incest exception ... nor should it, because the zygote did not choose how it was conceived. (So that would contradict any basis for a personhood law.) These exceptions have always revealed the anti-abortionist's hand — this is about punishing women for sex, not about protecting human life. The exceptions were also intended to keep suburban white women voting for anti-abortion Republican candidates. It's arguably how Republicans were able to successfully purge most pro-choice members from their party.
Republican House Rep. Nancy Mace from South Carolina expressed her alarm last week: “To see this debate go to the dark places, the dark edges, where it has gone on both sides of the aisle, has been deeply disturbing to me as a woman, as a female legislator, as a mom, and as a victim of rape."
“I was raped as a teenager at the age of 16," she said. "This debate ought to be a bipartisan debate where we balance the rights of women and we balance the right to life. But we aren’t having that conversation here in DC. We aren’t having that conversation at home. We aren’t having that conversation with fellow state lawmakers.”
Lady, this is your Supreme Court and radical rightwing government. You bought this, and those fuckers broke it. They are pushing this into the "dark places, the dark edges." Bottom line: Forcing anyone to continue a pregnancy against their will under any circumstance is monstrous.
In the section of Mace's website perversely labeled "women's rights," she's claimed that "the radical view of abortions for any reason up until birth is barbaric and not supported by the vast majority of Americans. Some say, that doesn’t ever happen. But the fact is, up to 10,000 late term abortions happen every year." These abortions are not performed for the EVILUZ but because of serious, often heart-breaking complications. Once again, Mace spreads easily debunked misinformation to promote a self-serving "both sides" narrative.
The best way to protect the victims of rape from this obscene state overreach is to keep abortion legal, as it existed for almost 50 years under Roe v. Wade. Smiling fake moderates like Mace knew what would happen when their buddies up and down the ticket got elected. They can't play ignorant now.
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Florida To Make Rape Victims Show 'Proof' Before They Can Get An Abortion
Only 20 percent of survivors report their rape to the police.
Florida is about to pass a bill making abortions illegal after six weeks. As the average menstrual cycle is about four weeks long (though a "normal" menstrual cycle can be as long as five weeks) and pregnancy tests are not really accurate until a week after one's missed period, this means that many people will have not much more than a week after finding out they are pregnant to decide whether or not they want an abortion, make an appointment with a doctor to have an abortion and have the abortion. This will be extra difficult if that one Texas judge ends up making medication abortions illegal and surgical abortions are the only option.
But they're not entirely cold-hearted there in the Florida legislature. They're even carving out an exception to allow rape victims to have abortions up to fifteen weeks into their pregnancy. How gracious of them! How thoughtful! Except for the fact that they are also requiring those rape victims to offer proof that they were raped in order to be granted the exception.
While they are not requiring that victims bring in a bloody white sheet, in order to get the exception they will have to provide a "restraining order, police report, medical record or other court order or documentation providing evidence that she is obtaining the termination of pregnancy because she is a victim of rape or incest."
This legislation was clearly not written by anyone who has ever tried to obtain a restraining order for any reason. I know at least two women who have been victims of stalking who tried to get a restraining order against their stalkers and were told by the judge that "the poor guy" just has a crush on them. It's also unlikely it was written by anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault.
Only about 20 percent of rape victims even report to the police. One would have to imagine that this number is even lower for victims of incest, given that their assailant is also likely to be the person providing them with food and shelter.
80 percent of rape victims know their attacker, and for college students that goes up to 85-90 percent. This can make reporting these assaults complicated for victims. Not to mention the fact that many victims just straight up do not want to deal with police, who frequently treat victims like they are the ones who committed a crime (particularly since the vast, vast majority of reported rapes are ever actually prosecuted).
The Orlando Sentinel asked several experts on sexual violence what they thought of this rule. Not surprisingly, they did not think it was great.
The paperwork requirement would further distress rape victims, who often don’t file reports with law enforcement and the authorities, said Kim S. Ménard, a Penn State Altoona criminal justice professor who studies sexual violence.
“It is appalling,” she said. “It sets up incredible barriers. Most of the time victims don’t have the strength, given the stigma society puts on them, to come forward, period — to come forward for the most basic help.”
Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, said lawmakers didn’t consult with her group representing 29 rape crisis centers across the state when crafting the bill’s language.
“It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding that most victims of sexual assault don’t report,” she said. “This exception is meaningless, and it is harmful.”
There's another issue here as well that is, unfortunately, worth considering. People who are pregnant and do not want to be are in a desperate situation. While false reports of rape are rare, it's not entirely out of bounds to assume that someone might be so desperate to have an abortion that they file a false police report in order to get one. And Florida does not exactly have the greatest track record in the world when it comes to wrongful convictions.
This exception is not about protecting victims. It has nothing to do with protecting victims. It is about protecting legislators. Legislators who know that the public, including the vast majority of Republican voters, generally does not enjoy the idea of forcing rape and incest victims to have their assailant's children and want to be able to cover their asses when it is time for reelection campaigns. That's all this is. They want to ease the minds of people who will not think too deeply about these matters (also the vast majority of Republican voters).
While the legislature (and the Governor) is extreme on this issue, Floridians are not. A poll last year found that 67 percent of Florida voters want abortion to be legal in all or most circumstances, which actually makes them more supportive of abortion rights than Americans as a whole. Only 61 percent of us believe abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances. Another poll found that only 9 percent of Floridians believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.
Whether this will affect the next election, given Florida's gerrymandering situation, is still anyone's guess.
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Repro Rights Roundup: Things At Least Going Well In California, Michigan, And France!
Texas still being terrible.
This week's abortion news is somewhat less terrible than usual.
Texas Is Getting Sued Because Its Bad Law Endangered These Women's Lives
Five women and two doctors of unknown-to-us gender filed a lawsuit in Texas on Monday alleging that the state's ban on abortion put their lives in danger by forcing their doctors to wait until they were at death's door to give them medical care — or forcing them to go to other states to get that medical care regardless. They allege that the law creates confusion and makes doctors less willing to give pregnant patients the care they need for fear of reprisal.
According to the Texas suit brought by the five women and two doctors, one woman, Amanda Zurawski, was forced to wait until she developed blood poisoning before being provided an abortion. The four others had to travel out of state to receive medical care for pregnancy-related complications after doctors recommended an abortion because of the deteriorating condition of the woman, the baby or a twin — care that could not be legally provided in Texas.
“My doctor could not intervene as long as her heart was beating or until I was sick enough for the ethics board of the hospital to consider my life at risk and permit the standard health care I needed at that point,” Zurawski said Tuesday at a news conference, recalling her pregnancy after 18 months of fertility treatment with a baby she named Willow.
The women are asking that the law at least be clarified so that doctors can give patients proper medical care without having to worry about losing their license or being sent to prison.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office reaffirmed his dedication to the state's terrible law, telling the Associated Press he is “committed to doing everything in his power to protect mothers, families, and unborn children, and he will continue to defend and enforce the laws duly enacted by the Texas Legislature.”
To be clear, he is not protecting mothers or families and is, in fact, doing the exact opposite of that. Forcing people to have children against their will is not protecting them. Forcing families that cannot afford another child to have one anyway is not protecting them. Barring a woman from aborting one twin to save the life of the other, as was the case for one of the plaintiffs, is also not protecting "unborn children."
California Cancels $54 Million Contract With Walgreens Over Abortion Nonsense
This week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would no longer be doing business with Walgreens after the company promised 21 state attorneys general that they would not sell Mifepristone in their states or mail Mifepristone to their states — including in several states where abortion remains legal. On Wednesday, Newsom made clear what that meant: California will not be renewing its $54 million contract with the company to provide certain pharmaceutical drugs to California prisons.
“Ironically, we’re the size of 21 states’ populations combined,” Newsom told Politico. “And likely, when the dust settles, we’ll be the fourth largest economy in the world. So, we have, we believe, moral authority, but we also have formal authority and will exercise it in partnership with the Legislature, and in the absence of that, through executive action.”
A spokesperson for Walgreens told the New York Times that they were "disappointed" in California's decision “not to renew our longstanding contract due to false and misleading information," adding “Walgreens is facing the same circumstances as all retail pharmacies, and no other retail pharmacies have said that they would approach this situation differently, so it’s unclear where this contract would now be moved."
Yeah, except other pharmacies did not send out letters to these states promising to respect laws that either do not currently exist or are currently in violation of federal law.
First of all, abortion is not (yet) entirely illegal in several of the states in which Walgreens said it would not sell Mifepristone — and in the case of, for instance, Kansas, the people just overwhelmingly reaffirmed protection for abortion via referendum. Second, as of right now, Mifepristone is not technically illegal anywhere. Last year, the Justice Department determined that states would not be allowed to ban the drug and earlier this year determined that the pills can legally be sent in the mail via the US Postal Service regardless of state bans. This is the law right now, meaning that Walgreens would be going above and beyond what they are required to do by law to appease these creeps.
Mifepristone is also used for miscarriage care, Cushing's syndrome, uterine fibroids and endometriosis. It is not the business of the pharmacist to know why someone is taking a particular drug, only if it is going to interact poorly with other drugs they are taking.
PREVIOUSLY: Guess We're Not Shopping At Walgreens Anymore
Gavin Newsom Dumping Walgreens And Any Other Cowards That Cave To Anti-Abortion Fascists
Michigan Won't Be Partying Like It's 1931
The Michigan state Senate voted mostly along party lines on Wednesday (two Republicans in the Detroit suburbs joined the Democrats) to repeal the state's 1931 ban on abortion, which is now being sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office for her signature. The ban never went back into effect after Roe was overturned, thanks to Whitmer's efforts to get a state court to declare it unconstitutional as well as a statewide vote in November in favor of enshrining abortion rights into the state constitution, but getting rid of the 1931 ban entirely has been a major priority for Whitmer and state Democrats.
"These fundamental decisions are so personal — no government should be telling us what to do," Democratic state Senator Rosemary Bayer said on Twitter. "My abortion was necessary to save my life. I'm glad I'm here today because of that, and to be able to vote on this bill and ensure this life-saving healthcare is protected and kept safe and legal here in Michigan."
All abortions are, for the record, life-saving procedures.
Republican Senator Joe Bellino, who will never himself be pregnant, whined in a statement that overturning the bill would eliminate what he considers "commonsense protections for women."
“When people voted on Proposal 3 last year, they were told that it wouldn’t affect commonsense protections for women – but these measures would do exactly that,” said Bellino, R-Monroe. “While Senate Republicans have introduced legislation to strengthen safeguards for women, Senate Democrats are rushing dangerous bills to repeal long-standing protections for women and the unborn.”
Senate Bills 37, 39 and 93 and House Bills 4006 and 4032 would remove guardrails to protect the health and safety of women and the unborn, such as laws regarding the selling of drugs to cause an abortion. SB 2 would repeal a section of law referencing the use of indecent or obscene language in publishing information on contraceptives and abortion-related drugs.
It is unclear how anyone's health would be endangered by someone saying "Fuck Joe Bellino, use birth control or have an abortion if you want" or taking safe, FDA-approved medication for its intended purpose as prescribed by a doctor with far more medical expertise than Republican state Senator Joe Bellino, whose background includes being employed by Bellino’s Quality Beverage and Joe Lake Tire and Auto. Should we be thirsty or in particular need of a new set of hubcaps, however, we will be sure to check in with him.
Droit à L'avortement, S'il Vous Plaît
French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday, that the nation would be moving towards enshrining abortion as a constitutional right and that a bill will be sent to Parliament in the coming months.
Abortion rights are not under attack in France the way they are in the United States, though legislators were spooked enough by what happened in our country to want to ensure it never happens in their own. Abortions are also currently free and covered entirely by the national insurance. (The French government pays for 70 percent of all medical care, plus 100 percent for expensive care, long-term care or for low-income patients. Supplemental insurance can be purchased for additional coverage, though most private insurers are non-profit, mutual insurance companies. Their "wait times" are, on average, shorter than ours and yes, they spend far less of their GDP on healthcare than we do.)
It is only fair to note, however, that France only permits abortions up until 14 weeks, which is not good and means women frequently have to travel to the Netherlands or other less restrictive countries.
Although pleased with this development, some feminists are concerned that Macron is just putting this out there at this particular moment to distract from the fact that the government is currently moving to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 — a move they say will hurt women in particular.
The retirement age in the US is 65 for Medicare and 67 for all Social Security benefits. Maybe we should all just move to France?
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