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Rapid Changes in Abortion Care Across the Country

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Whew! The political landscape of abortion care and reproductive rights has been a whirlwind this past month. The attacks on our reproductive freedom seem to be never-ending, but thanks to advocates on the ground and the fortitude of abortion funds nationwide, we still have small wins to celebrate. Read through the list of political updates and changes that you may have missed!

Illinois has achieved an amazing victory in solidifying equal access to abortion care for the youth population. On October 28th, legislators approved to repeal the Parental Notification of Abortion Act!  This is especially important for advancing and protecting access to abortion care for the youth in Illinois and throughout the Midwest. Forcing young patients to disclose their decision has proven to place pregnant minors in harm’s way. This will go into effect in June 2022, and it marks the first ever fully repealed parental notification law! Great work everyone!

Meanwhile in Oklahoma, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked three anti-abortion laws that were set to go into place on November 1st. One is requiring that abortion providers must be board-certified OB/GYNs, which becomes an issue for highly-trained, board-certified family physicians that will be arbitrarily disqualified(1).

The other two bans are intended to place unreasonable and unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortions. A new requirement on admitting privileges, combined with an “ultrasound requirement more restrictive than an ultrasound law already struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court”, would “require patients to make two separate trips to a healthcare provider at least 72-hours apart” as well as other delays in their abortion care(2). If these restrictions were allowed to take effect, over half of Oklahoma’s abortion providers would be forced to stop providing abortions. Although this ruling means blocking these abortion bans while the case continues, Oklahoma has issued a trigger ban, which prohibits abortion almost entirely if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned. Read more from the Center of Reproductive Rights.

Monday, November 1, the Supreme Court heard arguments on two cases challenging SB 8 in Texas: Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas, a case from abortion providers, and United States v. Texas, a challenge from the Department of Justice. In the meantime, SB 8 has continued to deny Texans their constitutional right to abortion care for over 60 days, harming not only Texans, but also those seeking abortion care in surrounding states, where abortion clinics are flooded with patients from Texas. We were disappointed to hear that during the oral arguments, the lawyers and justices only briefly touched on the devastating consequences of SB 8 on the ground. The ripple effect of SB 8 cannot be stressed enough. Now we await a decision on these cases from SCOTUS.

Once again, we cannot rely on the courts to protect abortion access. Congress must step in and pass federal legislation such as the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), EACH Act, and HEAL Act to protect access to critical health care for everyone.

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