Commentary

Disturbing but unsurprising: Women in anti-choice states increasingly looking to DIY abortions

There was a terrifically disturbing but completely unsurprising story in the New York Times over the weekend about the apparent rise of self-induced abortions in states that have moved to restrict reproductive freedom in recent years. This is from Tara Culp-Ressler’s summary  at Think Progress:

The demand for information about how to self-induce an abortion “has risen to a disturbing level,” according to a New York Times analysis that examined more than 700,000 Google searches across the country in 2015.

New York Times contributor Seth Stephens-Davidowitz crunched the numbers and found a correlation between online searches related to illegal pregnancy terminations — including search terms like “home abortion methods,” “buy abortion pills online,” “free abortion pills,” and “how to do a coat hanger abortion” — and states with harsh abortion restrictions.

When tracking these abortion-related search terms between 2005 and 2015, Stephens-Davidowitz noticed a significant increase in search traffic in 2011 — the same year that marked a sharp uptick in anti-abortion legislation on the state level. And in the swaths of the South and the Midwest where reproductive health clinics are closing at a rapid pace, Stephens-Davidowitz observed a higher rate of interest in self-induced abortion.

The findings may offer a window into the desperate measures that some women consider when legal abortion options are out of reach to them.

Stephens-Davidowitz writes that, although his data is preliminary, these Google searches “show a hidden demand for self-induced abortion reminiscent of the era before Roe v. Wade.”

It’s difficult to obtain accurate information about self-induced abortion in the United States, though some researchers have recently tried to start tracking it in states that are particularly hostile to reproductive health. One study examining Texas, where a stringent law that’s forced dozens of clinics to close is currently before the Supreme Court, estimated that at least 100,000 women there have attempted to induce their own abortion.

On an anecdotal level, several reporters have documented an increasing number of Texas women who are crossing the border to obtain abortion-inducing drugs in Mexico.

Reproductive rights proponents point to this emerging evidence to argue that laws like Texas’ are actively harming women’s health — which directly contradicts the stated purpose of the policy, whose supporters say is necessary to safeguard patients.

“Many women now face insurmountable barriers to access basic health care, like waiting weeks for an abortion, having to drive hundreds of miles to access care, and sometimes resorting to inducing their own abortion without medical supervision,” Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement in response to Stephens-Davidowitz’s findings. “The evidence is loud and clear: these restrictions hurt women.”

Click here to see the maps. In North Carolina, where state leaders have been moving to restrict abortion access, searches for “self-induced abortions” are more than 10% above the national average.

Commentary, News

This week’s Top 5 on N.C. Policy Watch

Abortion TRAP1. U.S. Supreme Court steps into the abortion TRAP

For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court steps back into the battle over abortion rights today, hearing argument in a Texas case that threatens the core principles underlying a woman’s right to choose as first set down in Roe v. Wade.
The question for the justices in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is just how far a state can go in regulating abortion before it unduly burdens a woman’s constitutionally protected rights.

More than 80 groups of scholars, advocates, physicians and others sharply divided on the issue have filed friend-of-the court briefs with the court, and many will likely also be gathered outside the court this morning as well in protest — testaments to the interest in the outcome.
Here’s a look at what’s at stake.  [Continue Reading…]

Great Tax Shift2. New sales taxes highlight NC’s “worst of all worlds” fiscal policy

Here’s one thing you can say for the conservative elected leaders running North Carolina state government these days: they don’t lack for audacity. Whereas some politicians might hesitate or display at least a small measure of hesitancy or sheepishness about implementing tax changes that dramatically shift the responsibility for funding our public structures and services away from the rich and onto the backs of the poor and middle class, North Carolina’s leaders are in “full steam ahead” mode.

In an era in which the one-percenters are already rapidly leaving the rest of society further and further in their rear view mirrors, Governor McCrory and the leaders of the General Assembly have enacted policies to, in effect, turbocharge their Ferraris, Mercedes and Teslas. [Continue Reading…]

School dropouts3. Limited resources, poverty, academic problems drive NC’s higher dropout rate

For the better part of a decade, North Carolina’s dropout rate has been on the decline. But this week, in the midst of ongoing bickering between public education activists and budget leaders in the N.C. General Assembly over shortfalls in state funding in recent years, state school officials will present data that marks North Carolina’s first increase in the dropout rate in eight years.

The report, bundled along with a massive presentation that includes suspension and other disciplinary data for the N.C. State Board of Education, marks a nearly 8 percent increase in the state’s dropout count, totaling 11,190 dropouts, in the 2014-2015 academic year. And the state’s dropout rate, which factors in enrollment growth in school systems, was up almost 5 percent during the year. [Continue Reading…]

Bonds-ConnectNC4. Connecting bonds and jobs in North Carolina

The folks running the Connect NC bond campaign have to be getting a little nervous these days, now less than two weeks away from voters deciding if the state should borrow $2 billion for much-needed higher education and infrastructure projects.

There haven’t been a lot of polls released publicly about the bond. One done by the conservative Civitas Institute a few weeks ago found that a significant majority of Democrats supported the bond and a plurality of Republicans said they were for it, though by a relatively close margin with a high percentage of GOP voters undecided.

The Tea Party wing of the Republican world is mounting a spirited campaign against borrowing the money and in this bizarre and unpredictable Donald Trump election year, anything is possible given the high turnout expected March 15th in the Republican presidential primary. [Continue Reading…]

Sexual violence5. The truth about sexual violence and the new Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance

As a long-time advocate for victims of sexual violence, I am always grateful for an opportunity to talk about how we, as a society, can prevent this kind of horrific and criminal behavior. That said, I am also frequently angered and frustrated by many of the conversations that do take place. A classic example is the current debate in North Carolina surrounding Charlotte’s new non-discrimination ordinance.

This ordinance, which provides new protections from discrimination for the LGBTQ community, is long overdue. In 2016 America, we cannot pay mere lip service to our belief in equality and fairness for all.

Sadly, the main sticking point in the debate over this new law is the same contentious provision that sank a similar proposal when it was introduced last March, and one that has been used whenever opponents of gender equality feel threatened — the use and safety of public restrooms. [Continue Reading…]

Commentary

Pro-choice advocates heading to D.C. next week — spaces available

From the good folks at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina:

NARAL PRO-CHOICE NC IS HEADING TO THE SUPREME COURT!

Join NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina as we travel to the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., for the Rally to Protect Abortion Access on March 2nd! March 2nd marks the beginning of the oral arguments for the most important abortion access case in the past 25 years, Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, which will determine whether abortion providers can stay open across Texas and possibly across the entire United States. This will be a historic and exciting day, and we’d love to have you join us!

The rally at the Supreme Court starts at 8 AM, so we’re leaving bright and early from the Triangle at 3 AM on March 2nd. The rally goes until 12 PM, and we will return in the late afternoon/early evening. Location details will be provided once you RSVP.

Space on our bus is EXTREMELY limited, so reserve your seat NOW by filling out this form! By reserving your seat, you’ll get a free ride to experience this historic event, a free NARAL t-shirt, AND great company. What more could you ask for? We can’t wait to see you on March 2nd!

RESERVE YOUR SEAT ON THE BUS TODAY!

News

What Scalia’s death means for the current SCOTUS term (updated)

IMG_0182These things became abundantly clear within hours of the death of U.S. Supreme Justice Antonin Scalia.

President Obama intends to meet his constitutional obligation of filling the vacancy on the court as soon as possible, by naming his choice and sending that candidate to the U.S. Senate for approval.

Republicans in the Senate intend to do everything in their power to block any such appointment, arguing that that should be the prerogative of the next president.

And in the midst of what’s already shaping up to be an historic general election cycle, Americans are about to get a lesson on the critical importance of the presidential judicial appointments power and the impact the Senate’s obstruction of that power has had in recent years.

The President theoretically can make a recess appointment to the high court (former Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., got his start on the court that way), but as Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog notes, the Court last term restricted that recess appointment power to the point where the Senate controls what constitutes a “recess.”

And given the already-announced recalcitrance by the leaders of that body to an Obama Supreme Court nominee — especially now — the qualifying recess is unlikely to happen.

In the short term then, what does an eight-justice court mean for cases before the nation’s highest court?

The justices will continue with the term, deciding cases already argued, hearing those set for argument and reviewing new requests for review (likely for argument next term), along with requests for emergency relief — including North Carolina’s pending petition for a stay of last week’s federal order requiring a redrawing of the congressional voting map by Feb. 19.

In cases in which Scalia has already voted but an opinion has not yet been announced, his vote is void and the decision then turns on how the other justices have voted. 

Where there’s a 4-4 split, the justices could let the decision of the lower court from which the appeal arose stand, as Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog notes here, “affirmed by an equally divided Court.” Such a decision has no precedential effect, though.

Or they could schedule the case for reargument in the term that begins next October with the hope that a full court could decide the issue at hand.

Plenty of controversial cases remain pending at the high court for decision this term — some already argued — in which a 4-4 split decision is possible. They include abortion rights in Whole Womens Health v. Ellerstedt, affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas, redistricting one person one vote in Evenwel v. Abbott, union fees in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Associationdeferred action for immigrant parents (DAPA) in United States v. Texas, and religious exemptions to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate in Zubik v. Burwell.

(For the specific impact predicted in these and other cases, see the New York Times graphic here.)

North Carolina has its own share of controversial cases that will work their way to the Supreme Court — most notably the redistricting cases pending in state and federal court and the voting rights cases before Judge Thomas Schroeder — but none of those are on the high court’s docket for decision this term.

The biggest impact the Scalia vacancy will have on those cases will be on emergency applications for relief from court orders — as in the current federal congressional district case, and possibly in the federal legislative district case, should a similar map-redrafting order — as well as in the voting law case, should Schroeder or the Fourth Circuit on appeal require changes.

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(Note: This post has been updated to add as an option for the court this term the rescheduling of split decision cases for reargument next term in the hope that a full court can rule determinatively — as opposed to letting the decision of the court below stand.)

Commentary

Today’s Altered State must read: “Open season on individual rights”

altered-state-bannerIf you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out today’s installment of  Altered State: How 5 years of conservative rule have redefined North Carolina

Today’s story by reporter Sharon McCloskey is entitled “Open season on individual rights: Conservatives seek voting restrictions, keep fighting on old social issues.”

Here’s the introduction:

“The party of less government rolled into Raleigh after the 2010 elections champing at the bit, eager to fulfill an agenda long delayed.

‘Regulations kill jobs’ became the rallying cry, but as it turned out, that cry only went so far. When it came to voting booths, bedrooms, doctor’s offices and execution chambers, the self-styled opponents of intrusive government injected themselves in ways not seen before in state government.

Voting rights landed first in their crosshairs.

‘We’ve lost every gain we’d made,’ Bob Phillips of Common Cause North Carolina said. ‘We’ve lost just about all the pro-voting, pro-democracy laws that we had pushed.’

But voters weren’t alone. Women, gay North Carolinians, death row inmates — all were fair game as conservative lawmakers pursued their causes with a vengeance.

‘There’s a real harsh, mean spirit inside the Legislative Building, more so than I’ve ever seen,’ Phillips added.”

Click here to read the entire story.