How Much 'Handmaid's Tale' Sh*t Are Red States Doing To Ban Abortion In The Time Of Coronavirus?

Republicans can just never resist an opportunity to try to control women's bodies, so governors in five states have already used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to try to close their state's abortion clinics.

Last week, governors in Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Ohio issued similar executive orders suspending all "nonessential medical procedures," including abortions. Even ignoring the fact that every abortion is essential to a woman seeking to get it, whether for medical or other reasons, this is complete and utter bullshit. All of these states also have laws on the books limiting when in their pregnancies women can get abortions, so really this is just another attempt at forcing women to give birth against their will

Thankfully, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the ACLU exist and have sued these fuckers for violating Roe v. Wade and that pesky little thing called the US Constitution.

Federal judges in Texas, Ohio, and Alabama blocked the states' bald-faced attempts to force women to carry pregnancies to term no matter what. However, on Tuesday, the anti-woman extremists on the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit jumped in and issued a stay of the district court's order, allowing the abortion ban to remain in effect. So that's cute.

Similar suits have been filed by Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers in Oklahoma and Alabama, which have also tried to exploit the COVID-19 outbreak and use it to attack women's bodily autonomy.

These states also have restrictions on how late into a pregnancy a woman can have an abortion, so if they can force women to wait just a little bit longer to receive their healthcare, they will be prohibited entirely from ending their pregnancies. Because women aren't really people, only fetuses are! And after they're born, the state shouldn't do things like make sure they have food or access to medical care.

"Pro-life" is a misnomer -- these assholes are pro-forced birth.

What the fuck is wrong with people?

Republicans just really have a need to control women, so why not use a global pandemic to enforce forced birth policies?

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning "non-essential" medical procedures. State Attorney General Ken Paxton elaborated on Abbott's order, threatening jail time and criminal fines to any healthcare workers providing abortion care. He also declared that clinics must stop giving abortion medication to patients, even though it can be done via telemedicine. Because THAT makes sense.

In Ohio, after Governor Mike DeWine ordered a halt to nonessential medical procedures, Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson sent threatening letters to the state's abortion clinics, accusing them of violating the executive order. After the clinics responded that they were in compliance with the order, the Ohio Department of Health jumped in to say that DeWine's executive order meant abortion clinics had to close.

And in Alabama, the state public health officer issued an order prohibiting all non-essential surgical and medical procedures until further notice. And Alabama AG Steve Marshall jumped in to specifically say abortion clinics are not exempt from that order, saying "it is remarkable that one class of providers demands to be treated differently than all others." I guess no one told him that Alabama also has a law banning abortions after 20 weeks and the longer a woman remains pregnant, the more complicated and invasive the procedure gets.

Texas, Ohio, and Alabama are not the only states trying to use COVID-19 to fuck over women. Oklahoma and Iowa also announced similar policies last week — and on Monday were sued by abortion providers in their states.

But while shitty people in red states are treating pregnant women like baby incubators rather than actual, human people, there are, luckily, people in other states looking out for women and pregnant people.

On Monday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 21 other state attorneys general sent a letter to the US Department of Health, asking the Trump administration to increase access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion care, during the pandemic. Specifically, the AGs asked the FDA to allow doctors to prescribe Mifepristone — a safe and FDA-approved abortion medication — using telemedicine and allow it to be picked up at a pharmacy, like a normal medication, rather than forcing women to go in to abortion clinics.

So at least there's that?

This is some Handmaid's Tale shit

The results of these ridiculous abortion bans have already been heartbreaking. According to the lawsuits, hundreds of patients have already been affected by these orders. Abortion providers have reported their patients being deeply upset when they had to cancel appointments, with many pregnant people sobbing upon learning they would be forced to continue their pregnancies against their will.

As noted by the abortion provider plaintiffs and their lawyers, abortion is essential healthcare. Stopping someone from having an abortion does nothing to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. And clinics have already taken additional precautions to keep their patients safe. Planned Parenthood, for example, is spacing out patients, limiting the number of people in the office at one time, encouraging patients to use telemedicine and have medical abortions outside of the office when possible, and giving its workers PPE.

These lawsuits were absolutely necessary to ensure women and pregnant people can receive the healthcare they need. So far, they have received mixed success.

In Texas, Judge Lee Yeakel, a George W. Bush appointee, issued a temporary restraining order halting the state's abortion prohibition. The judge even got a little cheeky with AG Ken Paxton, writing:

Regarding a woman's right to a pre-fetal-viability abortion, the Supreme Court has spoken clearly. There can be no outright ban on such a procedure. This court will not speculate on whether the Supreme Court included a silent "except-in-a-national-emergency clause" in its previous writings on the issue.

Nicely said, Judge Yeakel.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday the notoriously shitty Fifth Circuit issued a temporary stay of Judge Yeakel's order, allowing the Texas abortion ban to continue until the court can fully consider the case. It ordered the abortion providers to respond by Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. and the state to respond by Wednesday at 8:00 p.m.

Judges Duncan, Elrod, and Dennis dissented.

In Ohio, Judge Michael Barrett, another George W. Bush appointee, determined the state's abortion ban likely places an undue burden on a woman's right to choose. He ordered "healthcare providers are to determine if a surgical abortion procedure can be safely postponed during the pre-viability stage to maximize healthcare resources to combat the COVID-19 pandemic," but further ruled that

If a healthcare provider determines, on a case-by-case basis, that the surgical procedure is medically indicated and cannot be delayed, based on the timing of pre-viability or other medical conditions, said procedure is deemed legally essential to preserve a woman's right to constitutionally protected access to abortions.

And in Alabama, Judge Myron Thompson, a Carter appointee, ordered a suspension of the abortion ban until oral arguments that will be held via video conference on April 6, saying, "The State's interest in immediate enforcement of the March 27 order — a broad mandate aimed primarily at preventing large social gatherings — against abortion providers does not, based on the current record, outweigh plaintiffs' concerns."

All of this is bullshit

These power grabs by states are exactly what they look like: politicians trying to control what women and pregnant people do with their bodies. It's always been about control and not "life," no matter what these sexist authoritarians say. If it were about "life," Republicans wouldn't be on TV every day saying in so many words that elderly and disabled people should just die of COVID-19 in order to save Trump's chances at re-election. They would be fighting for universal healthcare and looking at ways to combat the US's horrific maternal mortality rate.

Women are people, not baby incubators.

This will probably end up in front of the Supreme Court before all is said and done. And I don't trust the Roberts Court to do anything other than stay lower court decisions blocking the abortion bans and allow the bans to continue until after all of these poor women have been forced to give birth against their will.

handmaids tale elizabeth moss GIFGiphy

[ Texas Order / Ohio Order / Fifth Circuit / AG Letter]

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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.

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