RePro Roe-D-O 8Jan2023

January 8, 2023

The reproductive rights movement went 2 for 3 this week with South Carolina and Idaho splitting good/bad decisions and the FDA formalizing expanded access of abortion medication.

In a split screen on Thursday, January 5th, the state Supreme Court of two states (South Carolina & Idaho) had essentially opposite rulings on reproductive rights cases, both citing their respective state constitutions privacy protections (or lack thereof in the case of Idaho).

South Carolina Gets it Right

In a 3-2 decision, the Supreme Court of South Carolina struck down the state’s six-week abortion ban. 

Yikes, six weeks!!  That’s only two more weeks than anyone may even have missed a period and many of us have irregular cycles, so wouldn’t even know that we are pregnant at 6 weeks! 

A Federal Court blocked the South Carolina law shortly after it was signed in February, 2021.  But then a male federal judge allowed it to go into effect a year later in the wake of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade.

Heartbeat Law Abortion bans at 6 weeks leave narrow window for abortion.
SB8 Graphic from WNGB

Then, warrior physicians Katherine Farris and Terry Buffkin, the Greenville Women’s Clinic and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, together challenged the law again which led to the state Supreme Court, which thankfully blocked the ban. 

South Carolina Supreme Court rules to protect reproductive rights.
Photo by Greenville News

They concluded that the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, which restricted abortions after detectable fetal cardiac activity was unconstitutional as it provided “an unreasonable restriction upon a woman’s right to privacy”.

Wait, what?  Deja vu anyone?  Wasn’t it essentially right to privacy protections that were reversed by Dobbs last June by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)?  Thankfully South Carolina has right to privacy verbiage in their state constitution, after a case in 1994.  Phew!

Whatever, we’re not complaining..  In fact, this is great news for South Carolinans and nearby states (we’re lookin’ at you, Georgia), as now abortion is legal again in South Carolina until around 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

But don’t relax that sphincter.. As the aftermath from Thursday’s decision on both sides makes it clear that this ruling likely will not stand either, as the topic of abortion continues to divide both the public as well as lawmakers.  So, don’t be surprised if you see an abortion initiative on an upcoming South Carolina ballot to revisit the issue in the near future. 

Idaho Gets it Wrong

The Idaho Supreme Court upheld multiple state laws prohibiting abortion by deciding, 3-2, that the state constitution does not provide an implicit right to abortion.

Thus, abortions in Idaho remain illegal in most cases except for rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is threatened.

Idaho Supreme Court rules to ban abortion in a blow to reproductive rights.
Idaho Supreme Court

The Idaho court ruled that three restrictive state laws ARE constitutional. These laws are prohibiting abortion at conception and after 6 weeks, as well as a Texas-style vigilante/civil enforcement measure.

They concluded that the state has a “legitimate interest in protecting prenatal fetal life in all stages of development. They added a bit of lip service about “protecting the health and safety of the mother” for good measure.

People in Idaho have to travel far to the nearest abortion clinic now.
Photo by Idaho News 6

Justice Robyn Brody wrote the majority opinion, which was chock full of bullshit about “traditions and history of Idaho”. Apparently because dead people thought that abortion was immoral, now Idahoans can’t move into the 21st century. 

She did say the voters could amend the state constitution or elect new legislators to change the law.

 So, Idahoans can restore their reproductive rights with a ballot initiative or by electing pro-choice legislators. 

Watch this space, as similar cases are pending in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The FDA Expands Access to Abortion Pills

On Tuesday we had some truly good news in this post-Roe hells-cape. The FDA approved a rule change that broadens access to abortion medication to many more pharmacies. This will help people get access to abortion medication, even in red states with restrictive medical abortion laws. 

The Biden administration issued an executive last summer, in the wake of the Dobbs’ decision which overturned Roe v Wade. This order said to alleviage a long-standing requirement that women pick up the abortion medications in person.

Nowadays it’s a lot more common to have an abortion without needing to have surgery. Just two pills, and in most cases it can be done in the privacy of your home.

First, the cervix is dilated and progesterone blocked with mifepristone.

The second drug, misoprostol, is taken 24 to 48 hours later, causes the uterus to contract and expel the tissue.

Now many more retail pharmacies are allowed to dispense the pills, as long as they complete a certification process. 

This will expand access at both brick-and-mortar stores and online pharmacies.  Women can get a prescription via tele-health consultation, and then receive the pills through the mail, where permitted by law.

Mifepristone is now more readily available in FDA rules update which helps the reproductive rights movement.
AP Photo by Jeff Roberson

The Guttmacher Institute is a research group that supports abortion rights. They report that as of 2020, pills rather than surgery are used in most abortions in the United States.

Medication is now used instead of surgery in the majority of US abortions.

FDA-mandated safety requirements remain in effect.  These include certification of the pharmacy and training requirements for prescribers.

They need to ensure that they can provide emergency care in the case of excessive bleeding, a common side effect.  

More than 3.7 million U.S. women have used mifepristone since its approval.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement calling the label update an “important step” forward. They hailed: “Although the FDA’s announcement today will not solve access issues for every person seeking abortion care, it will allow more patients who need mifepristone for medication abortion additional options to secure this vital drug.”

The Fight Continues

So, stay tuned as state battles continue and we chip away at the post-Roe hellscape that is the United States. 

Thankfully we have many warriors fighting the fight, including you! 

Yes, you! Just by reading this post, right now!

You support the reproductive rights movement and show that we will never back down for this fight for abortion access.

Uterus cake to show stance on reproductive rights movement.
Alex LaRosa Bakery, Brooklyn NY

Stay tuned this week as we gear up for Roe v Wade 50th Anniversary on January 22nd!

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