Ohio’s abortion rights amendment qualifies for November ballot

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In November, Ohio voters will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to include a right to reproductive freedom. State officials said on Tuesday that the petition had culled 495,938 valid signatures across 55 counties, surpassing the requisite 413,487 signatures across 44 counties. 

Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights led the initiative. The amendment would guarantee autonomy for reproductive decisions, including contraception and abortion. 

To block the measure, Republican legislators planned a special election for August 8. Their ballot initiative would raise the threshold for constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60%. According to a Suffolk University/USA Today poll, just 26% of voters support this measure.

The Ohio Capital Journal reported that early voting for the August election has exceeded “even the most optimistic expectations.” Within the first seven days, more than 154,000 voters cast their ballots. The League of Women Voters of Ohio said it is “cautiously optimistic” about the early turnout and will encourage voters to weigh in “until the last moment.” 

Abortion is legal in Ohio up to 21 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy. The state’s trigger law went into effect when the Dobbs decision came down last June, but a lower court has blocked the six-week ban since September. 

As many states handed down prohibitive abortion laws, grassroots efforts shot forward to give voters a direct say. There were a record number of abortion ballot measures for a single year in 2022. Voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont codified abortion access in the state constitutions, and voters in Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana struck down anti-abortion measures. 

Measures to protect abortion access will appear on the November 2024 ballot in New York and Maryland. Missouri and South Dakota are circulating petitions to do the same, while Florida, Iowa, Nebraska are trying to advance anti abortion measures. Pennsylvania may have an anti abortion proposal on the ballot in 2023. 

The Feminist Majority Foundation is unwavering in their support of reproductive freedom and is eager to support Ohioans in their fight for abortion protections.   

Biden-Harris administration forgives student debt for 804,000 borrowers

When the Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s $400 billion student debt relief plan, he remained determined. At a June 30 press conference he told reporters, “We need to find a new way.” 

Two weeks later, the Department of Education announced the details: it will cancel $39 billion in Federal student loans. On July 14, they began to notify more than 804,000 borrowers about automatic forgiveness. 

“For far too long, borrowers fell through the cracks of a broken system that failed to keep accurate track of their progress towards forgiveness,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “By fixing past administrative failures, we are ensuring everyone gets the forgiveness they deserve.”

Eligible borrowers use income-driven repayment plans, which set bills based on income and family size. Some bills were as low as $0 per month, but the New York Times reported that “loan servicers often placed struggling borrowers on forbearance — a move that kept their loans in good standing but meant that interest continued accruing, inflating borrowers’ balances.” 

In 2017, the government sued one of its biggest student loan servicers over this tactic. The company stopped servicing federal student loans in 2021. 

The federal government has paused student loan payments since March 2020 for pandemic relief. In October, more than 45 million borrowers will resume payments. They share a debt of $1.6 trillion.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the amount borrowers owe varies widely. While borrowers owe an average of 78% of their initial loan, Black borrowers owe 105%. Four years after graduation, 48% of Black student borrowers and 17% of white student borrowers owe more than their initial amount. Women owe 66% of all student loan debt despite representing 58% of college students. Borrowers who identify as LGBTQ+ owe an average of $6,000 more than those who do not.

The Biden-Harris administration has led a consistent effort to cancel student debt. That included a plan last year to relieve 200,000 borrowers who said their universities defrauded them. In total, the administration has forgiven over $116.6 billion for more than 3.4 million borrowers. 

Though most Iowans support abortion access, legislators pass six-week ban

Last month, the Iowa Supreme Court deadlocked 3-3 on whether the state could reinstate an abortion ban around six weeks. The case centered around a 2018 statute that many people believed had “no chance of taking effect,” Justice Thomas D. Waterman observed. Without Court consensus, abortion remained legal until 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

That changed on July 11, when Iowa became the second state in the country to ban abortion after six weeks. Fourteen others have banned abortion entirely.

“The voices of Iowans and their democratically elected representatives cannot be ignored any longer, and justice for the unborn should not be delayed,” Governor Kim Reynolds commented. Reynolds will likely sign the legislation into law this week. 

However, according to a recent De Moines Register poll, 61% of Iowa voters believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Support is even higher among women, Democrats, Iowans younger than 35, and those who live in cities.   

The state Senate passed the bill late Tuesday evening, split 32-17 along party lines. It exempts instances of rape and incest reported to law enforcement, miscarriage, times when the pregnancy seriously risks the mother’s health, and pregnancies where fetal abnormalities are “incompatible with life.” 

In a press release, Planned Parenthood explained that these are “narrow, unworkable exceptions” that have built-in barriers to care. It also challenged the language Republican lawmakers use in the bill. “The term ‘fetal heartbeat’ is not only factually inaccurate, but purposefully misleading. Medical experts agree that the fetal cardiac activity detectable early in pregnancy is not accurately described as a heartbeat.” 

Planned Parenthood North Central States, the Emma Goldman Clinic, and the ACLU of Iowa are working to challenge the law in court. 

Though Iowa’s abortion laws held steady after the Dobbs decision, the state’s abortion rate declined. There were higher rates of patients leaving, particularly to Minnesota, to get abortions. Planned Parenthood attributed this to the “uncertainty and fear” wrought by rapidly changing abortion laws across the country. 

In June, Planned Parenthood announced that it will close three of its nine Iowa clinics, expanding abortion access at many remaining clinics. Currently, the state has six clinics that offer abortion services: the Emma Goldman Clinic and five Planned Parenthood branches. Two of these branches—in Council Bluffs and Des Moines—were among the three Planned Parenthood will close. The state is also serviced by one telehealth provider called carafem. After a virtual appointment, carafem mails abortion pills that arrive in one to four days.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) could be a key backstop to anti abortion legislation. The amendment would ban gender discrimination and require courts to review it under strict scrutiny, the highest level of judicial review. According to the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School, the ERA would protect “the full range of reproductive healthcare and is more critically needed now than ever before.”

Supreme Court lets businesses discriminate against a protected class for the first time in history

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In 2017, the Supreme Court heard a case about a bakery owner who refused to create a cake for a gay wedding. The Court ruled that the cake represented free expression, so the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) could not force the owner to sell a cake for the couple’s wedding. On June 30, the Court ruled on a similar case. This time, though, no one had even asked the owner for her services. 

Lorie Smith is a graphic designer who wanted to expand her business to include wedding websites. Before adding the service seven years ago, she paused and considered CADA. If a same-sex couple asked her for a website design, she would refuse. Smith believed that her services were a form of expression and did not want CADA to force her to produce messages with which she disagreed. In this case: support for same-sex marriage, which she believes violates God’s will. 

The case was theoretical, predicated entirely on Smith’s establishment of a “credible threat” that she would be sued under CADA if she refused services to same-sex couples. 

No prospective customer has asked Smith to make a website for their same-sex wedding. According to the filing, in 2016 a gay couple said they were planning their wedding and asked Smith for her services. But when a journalist called the number listed on the suit, the immediate response was: What Supreme Court case? The person had never requested Smith’s services. He was already married to his wife and had no idea he’d been listed in the case. 

The Justices split along partisan lines in their 6-3 decision. The majority ruled that the First Amendment prohibits Colorado from “coercing” vendors to express messages with which they disagree. 

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote: “The Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.” 

She explained that public accommodations laws are set to serve and protect the public. The majority’s decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis suggested that some identities are excluded from the general public. 

Sotomayor discussed the broader implications of the case, and the slippery slope of free expression as a reason to discriminate. She offered hypothetical situations with a photography business to illustrate her concerns. Among these were ones that refuse to photograph mixed-race students on picture day because it opposes interracial marriage, refuse to photograph women for corporate headshots because it opposes women in the workplace, or refuse to photograph immigrants’ passport photos because it opposes immigration. 

The decision’s immediate impact is a demarcation of LGBTQ+ people as “second-class,” Sotomayor wrote. “It sends the message that we live in a society with social castes.”

Ultimately, the decision pushed the judicial process deeper into its backslide. “Time and again, businesses and other commercial entities have claimed constitutional rights to discriminate. And time and again, this Court has courageously stood up to those claims—until today,” Sotomayor wrote. “Today, the Court shrinks.”

Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action

AP Photo/Gerry Broome

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against race-conscious admissions programs. In both cases — Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina — college admissions programs considered race as one of many factors in determining an application’s value. The Court ruled that this violated the 14th amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. It also ruled that U.N.C., a public university, violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI bans federally-funded institutions from race discrimination.

The Justices who held the majority opinion argued that the universities’ admissions policies are unconstitutional because they:

  • Aim toward goals that are hard to measure. Because this case centered on race discrimination, it was held to a strict scrutiny standard. To meet this standard, a law must be narrowly tailored and to serve a compelling government interest. The majority wrote that the impact of student diversity is not easily measured and therefore fails the strict scrutiny test. 
  • Use categories that are imprecise. The majority argued race and ethnicity categories are not comprehensive. Some are overbroad (“Asian”), arbitrary or undefined (“Hispanic”), or underinclusive (the lack of a category for Middle Eastern applicants). 
  • Rely on racial stereotypes. The majority said that the admissions process is a zero-sum game. If Black and Hispanic students receive preference for their race, the majority wrote, white and Asian students are by default at a disadvantage.  
  • Do not have an end point. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court wrote: “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.” Today’s majority argued that Grutter, decided 20 years ago, set a deadline on race-conscious admissions policies that Harvard and U.N.C. failed to demonstrate a tangible deadline for theirs. 

In her dissent, Justice Ketanji Brown Jcakson argued that the decision ignores the fact that the U.S. is not a colorblind country. Joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, she wrote, “Deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.”

Justice Sotomayor pointed to consistent precedent for affirmative action and wrote that there is “no basis for overruling” these cases: 

CaseYear and VoteDecision
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke1978, 8-1Racial quota systems violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and institutions of higher education can consider race in their admissions decisions.
Grutter v. Bollinger2003, 5-4Because race is one of many factors used to evaluate an applicant, the Equal Protection Clause does not require law schools to provide a narrowly tailored government interest for race-conscious admissions programs.
Fisher v. University of Texas2012, 7-1The Equal Protection Clause allows undergraduate admissions policies to consider race when they meet strict scrutiny. 
Fisher v. University of Texas2016, 4-3Affirmed the first Fisher decision.

Students for Fair Admissions proposed a new model for admissions, which is expected to decrease Harvard’s Black representation by one third. The Court’s 3-Justice liberal bloc argued that this would undermine efforts to address gaps in learning, a key to equity.

Students from underrepresented, marginalized identities are more likely to attend schools with less qualified teachers, challenging curricula, and extracurricular activities. “Unsurprising that there are achievement gaps along racial lines, even after controlling for income differences,” Justice Sotomayor wrote, underscoring why it is important for admissions policies to consider race.

As Harvard Student and Alumni Organizations explained in their brief: “Talent lives everywhere, but opportunity does not.”

A year after Dobbs, 66,000 people who wanted abortions lived in states that banned them

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In the U.S., one in four women will have an abortion by age 45. Yet one in three live in states that ban or severely restrict access. Last year’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade upended reproductive health care infrastructure. Questions about who can provide care, which states they can provide it in, and who can afford access continue to arise. But the main answer is: far fewer. 

With limited exceptions, abortion is banned completely in 14 states and within the first trimester in three others. In states where abortion is banned, people are traveling hours farther than they would have to get care or are managing their own abortions. In states that protect access, providers have expanded their physical capacity, staff numbers, and telehealth options. In the six months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the U.S. recorded 32,000 fewer abortions compared to average trends. In the meantime, rates of self-managed abortions have surged

For people who are pregnant and happen to qualify for a state’s exception, it can still be difficult to get the care they need. Providers and clinics have moved to protective states, leaving a healthcare desert for women who experience complications and future patients should the restrictions be lifted. Providers who stay are often unable to offer adequate care. This was the case for a woman in Texas who was carrying twins, one of whom would not survive outside the womb. Eventually, a physician told her to go to Colorado because Texas providers could not perform the abortion.

States that today prohibit abortion already had poorer maternal healthcare insurance coverage, access, and outcomes. In 2020, today’s abortion-restriction states had 27% fewer maternal health care providers per 10,000 births compared to their abortion-access counterparts. They also had a 62% higher maternal mortality rate. As providers leave, the Dobbs decision may exacerbate these disparities.

People who live in states with early abortion bans have to decide if they will continue the pregnancy under a much tighter timeline. During Ohio’s six-week ban—which a judge blocked in October—one woman decided to have an abortion the day after she learned she was pregnant. Had she waited a few more days, she would have had to leave Ohio to get an abortion. 

Over 66,000 people who wanted an abortion could not get one in their home state. Of those, 35,000 crossed state lines for the procedure or pills. The other 31,000 people may have traveled, self-managed their abortion, or carried their pregnancy to term. 

Since 2020, the majority of abortions in the U.S. are medication abortions. People can receive abortion pills as soon as a day after ordering online at a U.S. site and within three weeks when ordering from an international site. Between April and December 2022, telehealth abortions increased by 136%. Telehealth abortion is not just an accessible option; for some women, it’s their only abortion option. After Dobbs, the number of women who lived farther than an hour from an abortion clinic doubled. In states that prohibit abortion after six weeks or earlier, the average travel time increased by 4 hours. The cost of travel, child care, and taking time off work can culminate in prohibitive expenses at a time when 49% of abortion patients live below the federal poverty line. 

Grassroots fundraising has become an anchor for abortion access. Yet in Texas, where private citizens can sue people who help patients receive abortions, the legal status of abortion funds is uncertain. Because of this, many groups stopped distributing funds.

The Dobbs decision also shifted political action. In the weeks preceding the 2022 midterm elections, many polls predicted a “red wave.” Instead, Republicans made only conservative gains. Voter registration was at its highest rate for a midterm election since 2000. Nationally, young women were 46% more likely to vote for Democrats, up from 35% in the 2020 presidential election. 

Pennsylvanians flipped a United States Senate seat, giving the state two elected Democrats for the first time since 1947. According to exit polls, abortion was voters’ top issue. Nearly half of Michigan voters said the same. Abortion access won down the ballot. In all six states with abortion ballot initiatives, voters chose to protect access. California, Michigan, and Vermont codified reproductive freedom in their state constitutions. Measures that would have restricted abortion in Kentucky, Kansas, and Montana failed.

On Saturday, the anniversary of the Dobbs decision, the Women’s March led rallies across the country calling for reproductive freedom. Former Vice President Mike Pence encouraged a federal 15-week abortion ban, while President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris advocated for access. “We know this fight will not truly be won until we secure this right for every American,” Harris said at a rally this weekend in North Carolina. “Congress must put back in place what the Supreme Court took away.”

Kansans Kill Restrictive Abortion Initiative

On August 2, Kansas voters whether to amend the state constitution to say it does not include a right to abortion. Nearly 60 percent voted against the measure, affirming that a majority of Kansans support abortion access. 

The measure was part of a primary ballot, which are closed in Kansas. Registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats in Kansas, and primaries are typically not well-attended. The Kansas secretary of state’s office was predicting around 36 percent turnout, but the state ended up having an unprecedented primary turnout of about 50 percent.  According to the New York Times, there were a total of 908,745 votes. This is higher than the primary turnout in 2020, in the midst of a presidential election cycle. It is higher, even, than the 2014 general election turnout

The vote,” according to NPR, “preserves access to abortion in Kansas and serves as a rebuke to the regional trend of states significantly restricting access.” Abortion is currently legal 22 weeks into pregnancy, making Kansas a haven as neighboring states set the most restrictive laws in the country.

The resounding 18-point margin came as a surprise in a state that carried a 15-point margin for Trump in the 2020 election. Rachel Sweet, who led the campaign for the bill’s defeat, said the victory was won through a bipartisan appeal. This was the first of six abortion-related initiatives on the ballot this year. The other states voting on the issue are California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont. 

About $6 million was spent on advertising for each side of the issue. The Roman Catholic Church was responsible for nearly two-thirds of funds supporting the restrictive measure, with one of the largest donations being $2.45 million from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Kansas City, Kansas. Church advocacy is allowed in Kansas for nonpartisan ballot measures. Value Them Both was the largest contributor in favor of the amendment, raising $4.69 million

On the other side of the ledger, Kansans for Constitutional Freedom — where Rachel Sweet is the campaign manager — contributed largely to the huge turnout in a deep-red state. It received many of their donations from groups and individuals who prioritize access to healthcare, raising $6.54 million. Among the largest donors were Sixteen Thirty Fund, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

Governor Laura Kelly won the Democratic primary with 94 percent of the votes and will face Republican challenger Derek Schmidt, the state’s attorney general, in November. In a press release following the Dobbs decision, Schmidt expressed his opposition to abortion access.

Election analysis by The New York Times observed: “The rejection of the amendment has as much to do with lukewarm support in the reddest counties as it does with strong opposition in the bluest ones.” With unexpectedly high voter turnout, Kansans made clear their affirmation of abortion rights. 

Young Voters Are Critical, If They Can Be Convinced to Vote

At post-Roe rallies across the country, speakers voiced concern not just for bodily autonomy but for the systems that control it. Confidence in the U.S. democratic system — and Democrats, in particular — is chipping. “If you care about abortion rights,” said congressional candidate Summer Lee (D-PA), “it’s time you stop saying, ‘Vote blue no matter who.’” 

As rights disappear,the climate crisis implodes, and prices, shootings, and student debt rise, many young people are wondering: Does my vote matter? According to a recent poll, 42 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said no. The data, collected by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, found that 56 percent of respondents feel the political landscape is not able to handle the nation’s challenges.  

In a survey from The New York Times and Siena College, young people represented the largest demographic that said they would not vote for either Biden or Trump in a 2024 rematch. Only one third said they are determined to vote this November.

They may be frustrated with the government, but young Americans are not quite ready to throw the towel in. At 36 percent, the youth turnout in the 2018 midterms was the largest in U.S. history — a 79 percent jump from the preceding 2014 election. Following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe, voting interest among young women rose from 54 to 60 percent compared to the year before. 

“Young people like myself have been propelled into activism and political engagement by a number of issues,” wrote Priya Elngovan. She is the director of research at All In Together, a nonpartisan civic engagement nonprofit. “We’ve been mobilized by the climate crisis, the new labor movement and racial injustice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Since 2020, we’ve protested, organized, donated, voted and put our energy towards the candidates who promised to take action on the issues we care about most.”
Young people want change — they just aren’t convinced that voting is an effective way of going about it. If Democrats want to capitalize on the youth vote, which typically leans left, they need to restore young Americans’ faith in the democratic system. With a recently revived climate and tax deal on the table, Democrats may have a new win for voters to rally behind.

FMF President Ellie Smeal sees reproductive rights, climate change, and gun violence as some of the major voting issues for November. “Young voters were a decisive factor for the Democratic victories in the 2018 midterms, as well as the elections of Barack Obama and then President Biden,” she said. “I’m convinced they will be a decisive factor in the 2022 election.”

Two New Telehealth Services Launch for U.S. Patients Since June

Abortion access is in crisis in nearly every state, regardless of its laws. States with abortion bans are forcing women to travel out-of-state or else carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. States affirming abortion care are absorbing unprecedented numbers of patients. As clinic wait times grow, telehealth medical abortions are an integral pillar of reproductive health care access.

Since June, two new telemed services — Telefem and Abortion Telemedicine — have been introduced for U.S. patients. They join platforms like Abortion on Demand, carafem, Hey Jane, and Choix to facilitate safe, at-home abortions. 

Abortion Telemedicine

Serving 18 states, Abortion Telemedicine provides patients with pills between two to four days after they go on the website. Prescriptions are made up to 13 weeks gestation, three weeks later than most providers’ cut-offs. 

Pregnant people who do not live in Abortion Telemedicine states can pick up their prescription to an out-of-state post office. Both in- and out-of-state deliveries are included in the $145 cost.  

Telefem (Mexico)

As U.S. laws become increasing hostile to abortion access, Mexico’s have become more expansive. They decriminalized the procedure in 2021 and a few providers have begun offering telehealth abortions.  

This week, Telefem began offering its telehealth abortion services to patients outside Mexico. It joins Aid Access as an international telemed abortion provider. Pregnant people can order their pills from home and pick them up from border sites in Mexico. While it is not required, Telefem recommends patients take the first dose of pills in Mexico, in case they are questioned about the prescription as they cross the border. 

The service costs $150 and patients can schedule appointments immediately. The abortion is often complete within a week of the first consultation. Read the Ms. interview with Telefem midwife Paula Rita Rivera here.

Two Abortion Protection Bills Advance to Senate

The House passed legislation to codify abortion access on July 15. The Women’s Health Protection Act prohibits pre-viability and telehealth abortion bans.

Henry Cueller (D-CA) was the only Representative to break party lines in the 219-210 vote. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) abstained. The House and Senate sponsors are Judy Chu (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), respectively. 

The bill was received by the Senate on July 17 but is not expected to pass, after falling two votes short in May.

The House passed the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act on the same day, imposing interstate travel protections. Brain Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and Fred Upton (R-MI) joined the full slate of Democrats in the 223-205 vote. Cheney and Gonzalez again abstained, in addition to Nancy Mace (R-SC). 

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote, “These bills would ensure women’s access to essential health care services, regardless of where they live, and protect the bedrock right to cross state lines for medical care. A majority of Americans across the country support them.”

Only 8 Republicans Vote Yes for Birth Control Protections

On Thursday, the House passed the Right to Contraception Act by a 228-195 margin. It establishes the right to birth control access and drew just 8 Republican votes. 

Liz Cheney (R-WY), Brain Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), John Katko (R-NY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Maria Salazar (R-FL) and Fred Upton (R-MI) represented the 8 yea votes from Republicans. An additional 8 of their colleagues abstained from the vote: Tim Burchett (R-TN), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Michael McCaul (R-TX), David McKinely (R-WV), Carol Miller (R-WV), and Greg Steube (R-FL). 

The United Nations recognizes contraception as a universal human right. The World Health Organization includes the birth control pill, intrauterine devices (IUDs), injectable hormonal contraceptives, barrier methods, and emergency contraception on their Model List of Essential Medicines. 

“We have already seen state governments attempt to restrict contraceptive methods and obstruct people’s private health care choices,” said Representative Kathy Manning (D-NC), who is sponsoring the bill. “Contraception is key to achieving gender equality, improving health outcomes for women and their families, bolstering educational and economic opportunity for all, and ensuring people are in control of their own bodies and futures.” Manning was joined by Nikema Williams (D-GA), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), and Angie Craig (D-MN) in introducing the legislation.

Political analyst Ed Kilgore expects the bill to fail in the Senate.

Record-Breaking Number of Reproductive Health Ballot Initiatives

This November, voters will decide on reproductive access amendments in six states—the highest number ever for abortion-related ballot initiatives. Three restrict access, while the other three are the first proposals supported by pro-choice organizers since 1992. Restrive abortion amendments have been regularly circulated since 1982. Here are the 2022 ballot measures:

Reproductive Healthcare Initiatives Map
Data from Ballotpedia | Map by Sophia Levin

Initiatives on the 2022 Ballot 

Residents can vote to establish a constitutional right to reproductive freedom, including abortion access and contraception decisions. The vote in state legislatures was split across party lines, but it went through with California’s substantial Democratic majority. 

A “yes” vote agrees that Kansas’s constitution does not establish a right to abortion nor require the state government to fund them. It also allows the legislature to pass abortion-related laws. 

Residents had to be registered to vote by July 12 to vote on the initiative. A 2021 poll found that 61 percent of residents agree that “women are in a better position than politicians” to make their abortion decisions, but it did not ask about the proposed amendment.

This measure would establish that there is no constitutional right to an abortion or its public funding. Voters must be registered by Monday, October 17

Michiganders will decide if a right to reproductive freedom should be guaranteed. The constitutional amendment would prohibit abortion bans prior to fetal viability and in cases of maternal mortality risk. The Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative enshrines the ability to make and act on “decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy,” including “contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.”

To get on the ballot, the initiative needed 425,059 signatures—10 percent of the votes cast in the gubernatorial election—which it surpassed by more than 300,000. The petition was submitted on July 11 and is expected to be on ballots this November.

LR-131, dubbed the  “Born-Alive Infant Protection Act,” establishes that all live births produce legal residents that must be given medical attention. Providers that do not treat infants born from induced labor, cesearan section, or attempted abortion would face up to $50,000 in fines and 20 years in prison. 

In Ohio, no abortion procedures performed past 12-weeks gestation—more than 10 weeks before fetal viability—resulted in “failed abortions.” Montana does not publish abortion data. 

Proposal 5 would guarantee a constitutional right to “personal reproductive liberty.” 

Non-2022 Reproductive Healthcare Initiatives map
Data from Ballotpedia | Map by Sophia Levin

Initiatives that Missed the Ballot

As was the case in Michigan, pro-choice activists in Arizona pushed for the Right to Reprdoctive Freedom Initiative to get on ballots this November. The petition amassed only half of the 356,467 signatures needed by July 7. 

A proposal to ban abortions following fetal cardiac activity—around 6-weeks gestation—did not get enough signatures. The petition was approved in 2019. 

An initiative establishing a right to reproductive freedom, similar to those proposed in Michigan and Arizona, was approved by the House in March but did not reach a vote in the Senate.  

Twenty-six days before the May 31 deadline, a separate ballot initiative was circulated to repeal House Bill 937. The legislation expands abortion access by allowing all authorized medical practitioners (like nurse practicioners and physician assistants) to perform the procedure, not just physicians. The veto referendum petition fell short of the 69,135 signatures required. 

The proposal advocated for an amendment saying “nothing in this constitution requires the funding of abortion,” allowing state-sponsored healthcare to opt out of abortion coverage. It began circulating in 2019 but missed the signature deadline that year, ending its path to the 2022 ballot.

The initiative required parents or guardians to be notified at least 48 hours prior to their child’s abortion procedure. The petition missed the initial 2020 deadline, blocking it from inclusion on the 2022 ballot.

A February proposal to grant equal legal rights to “the unborn child” was passed by the Senate but did not reach a vote in the House. 

A separate initiative followed the same course, proposing abortion be recognized as a “destructive act that terminates the life of an unborn human being, [and establishing that] nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to an abortion.” 

Future Proposals

Reproductive rights groups want two proposals on the ballot in 2024. One would allow state funding for abortions and the other would incorporate the Reproductive Health Equity Act into the constitution. The Act strengthens reproductive healthcare access and says fetal life does not qualify for personhood. 

Conservative lawmakers are pushing for an abortion ban to be added as a ballot initiative in the November election. With a Democratic majority in both chambers of the state’s legislature, it is unlikely the initiative will make it to the ballot.

This would establish that the state constitution does not “secure a right to abortion or require [its] public funding.” A poll by the Des Moines Register last year estimated 31 percent of residents oppose the measure, down from 33 percent in 2020. 

If the petition gets the 140,777 signatures needed by November 23, 2022, Nevadans will vote in 2024 on whether or not parental notification is required prior to a minor’s abortion procedure. A separate initiative following the same process would require parental consent for all medical procedures for minors, including abortion.

New York
The New York Equal Protection Act bans discrimination, including based on “pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy.” The bill passed in the state legislature at the beginning of the month and will be on the ballot in 2023.

South Dakota 
A petition proposal approved in June would amend the constitution to legalize abortion without exception until the third trimester, when it would still be allowed if the pregnant person’s health is at risk. It would be on the November 2024 ballot if it meets the 33,921 signature minimum.

Abortion Providers, Patients Testify at House Hearing

The American Medical Association has been trying to give abortion providers medical, moral, and legal direction since Roe v. Wade was overturned. “At this point,” AMA president Jack Resneck told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, “we have more questions than answers.”

Rep. Dianne DeGette (D-CO) chaired the hearing, which heard testimony from three physicians, two abortion advocates, and a law professor.

“Abortion belongs in the hands of people who have them … not in the hands of politicians who had to gerrymander their districts beyond recognition and suppress our votes to remain in power,” Renee Bracey Sherman said. Now the CEO of We Testify, which strengthens abortion storytelling visibility, Bracey Sherman told committee members about the abortion she had at 19. 

Minority witness Christina Francis, CEO-elect of the American Association of Prolife Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said abortions do not qualify as “actual healthcare.” The AMA president disagreed.

“The foundation of the patient-physician relationship relies upon honest, open communication and trust, which is undermined by substituting lawmakers’ views for a physician’s expert medical judgment,” Resneck told the subcommittee. Legislation that bars doctors from providing necessary, he continued, is a breach of the most basic aspects of medicine. 

Two main points were emphasized in Resneck’s testimony. The first was that abortion is a private decision that should be made between a pregnant person and their physician. The second was that abortion bans eliminate safe abortions, not all abortions; barriers to reproductive healthcare will cost lives. 

When asked by Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) how she defines a successful abortion, Francis pointed toward “failed abortions.” She wanted pregnant mothers to know that if they had an abortion “their child [may be] born alive.” The phrase “born alive” is not a medical term; it was introduced by lawmakers seeking to politicize abortion. Less than one percent of abortions are performed after the 23-week viability line, according to the CDC. They do not publish data on abortions resulting in live births, indicating occurrence is statistically insignificant.    

“A successful abortion is when someone is no longer pregnant because they don’t want to be,” Bracey Sherman countered. 
The AMA has been fielding physicians’ questions about the care they are able to provide amidst changing and ambiguous laws. The organization nodded to the Department of Health’s clarification “that EMTALA would preempt conflicting state law and be a defense for criminal prosecutions,” under the direction of Biden’s executive order two weeks ago. Yet Resneck maintained that many uncertainties remain.

Interstate Travel Abortion Protections

Data from Governors’ Newsrooms

Lawmakers in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas are considering legislation to ban residents from seeking or helping to provide out-of-state abortions.

Fourteen governors have preemptively prohibited government agencies and employees from cooperating with other states’ abortion investigation cases. This includes providing time, money, information, or other resources to states banning people from receiving or helping someone get an abortion across state lines. Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) goes the extra mile, requiring the Washington State Patrol to regularly update the governor on investigation requests they receive from other states. The states that have instituted travel protections are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.

Data from Governors’ Newsrooms
Data from Governors’ Newsrooms

President Joe Biden anticipates states will arrest pregnant people attempting to cross state lines to get an abortion. Some clinics operating in states without explicit interstate protections have limited the services available to out-of-state patients. Planned Parenthoods in Montana, for example, will only provide abortion pills for state residents. 

“May a State bar a resident of that State from traveling to another State to obtain an abortion?” Justice Kavanaugh asked in his Dobbs concurrence. “In my view, the answer is no based on the constitutional right to interstate travel.” The majority opinion did not mention anything about interstate travel or provide any baseline provisions for abortion access. 

“Interstate restrictions will also soon be in the offing,” the dissenting Justices—Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer—wrote in their opinion. “Some [states] may criminalize efforts, including the provision of information or funding, to help women gain access to other States’ abortion services.” Beyond the immediate impact of these restrictions on pregnant people, the three Justices are wary of what this means for concurrent rights. “The Constitution protects travel and speech and interstate commerce, so [the Dobbs] ruling will give rise to a host of new constitutional questions.”

Biden Issues Executive Order to Protect Reproductive Healthcare

“The only way to secure a woman’s right to choose is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe as federal law,” a statement from the White House said today.  “Until then, he has committed to doing everything in his power to defend reproductive rights and protect access to safe and legal abortion.” President Biden announced an Executive Order Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services on Friday. Safety and privacy measures for patients, providers, and clinics are at the forefront of the directive. It also emphasizes the provision of accurate healthcare information.

To expand abortion access, the order attempts to make medication abortions “as widely accessible as possible,” but what that means at a state-by-state level remains ambiguous. Immediately following the Dobbs decision, Attorney General Merrick Garland said states cannot justify medication abortion bans by questioning Mifepristone’s “safety and efficacy.” Yet the nine states that have banned abortions are not discriminating by procedure—all abortion methods are off the table, including medical ones. Nineteen states prohibit clinicians from prescribing abortion pills via telehealth, restricting online providers to states that clearly allow access.

Exceptions to new bans often allow abortions when it will save the life of the pregnant person. 

“‘How imminent must death be?’” asked Lisa Harris, a Michigan abortion provider, in an interview with NPR. “‘There are many conditions that people have that when they become pregnant, they’re OK in early pregnancy, but as pregnancy progresses, it puts enormous stress on all of the body’s organ systems.’ … Does the language in these laws allow for abortion early in pregnancy if a life-threatening complication could arise later?”

The executive order tasks the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to tighten descriptions of medical emergencies, providing additional guidance for physician decision-making in concurrence with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).

Though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ensures complete coverage for birth control, House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) launched an informal investigation into reports of pharmaceutical providers violating this standard. Nine companies were sent letters inquiring about their compliance with the ACA in late May. Friday’s executive order said the federal Medicaid agency is approaching “every legally available step to ensure patient access to family planning care and to protect family planning providers.”

Biden’s directive also aims to expand reproductive education—including abortion information—and assemble lawyers willing to work pro bono to represent patients, providers, and clinics facing abortion restrictions and their repercussions. To streamline coordination, the Biden administration introduced an Interagency Task Force that bands HHS with the Attorney General and White House Gender Policy Council. 

The legal landscape of privacy protections for abortion care remains unclear. Biden requested the Federal Trade Commission “consider” fortifying privacy safeguards for people seeking information about pregnancy and other reproductive healthcare options. Adjustments to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) could reaffirm that clinicians are not required—or permitted, in many cases—to provide patient information to law enforcement. HHS will also update its user guide for personal data protection on mobile apps. 

Crisis pregnancy centers, which distribute anti-abortion and faith-based information, can be easily confused with abortion clinics. Yet without certification as legitimate healthcare facilities, they are not held to federal privacy standards. People who come to centers expecting to speak to a physician or receive free resources are often subject to a counseling session. Any information shared may be distributed. 

“Next week, we will again pass the Women’s Health Protection Act: landmark legislation enshrining the protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-NY) said of her Democratic colleagues. “We will also pass legislation addressing the GOP’s disturbing threats to restrict Americans’ freedom to travel — reaffirming the constitutional right to seek care freely and voluntarily throughout the country.”

The Women’s Health Protection Act, sponsored by Representative Judy Chu (D-CA), passed in the House but has yet to gain Senate approval. 

Title IX Celebrates 50 Years of Progress in Gender Equity

Title IX, an appendage of the 1972 Education Amendments, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded educational programs and institutions, has been pivotal for gender equity progress. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) published a report this month detailing the successes and future applications of Title IX. 

Prior to the amendment, women were grossly underrepresented in undergraduate and postsecondary education degrees. In 1971, they represented around 8.6 and 9.2 percent of law and medical school graduates, respectively. The percentages have grown to 52.5 and 55.5, thanks in large part to Title IX initiatives. 

One theme consistent throughout the report was that Title VII—which protects employees from sex-based discrimination—is more regularly enforced than Title IX. In their 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County decision, the Supreme Court ruled that employees must be treated fairly regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. The NCWGE recommends that the scope of this decision expands to all federally funded agencies, especially with attacks against LGBTQI+ students on the rise. “Student plaintiffs,” the report says, “face far more stringent standards under Title IX than employee plaintiffs do under Title VII.”

When Dr. Bernice Sandler was denied a full-time faculty position because she had “come on too strong for a woman” in 1969, she hit back. Under Executive Order 11246—recently amended to include sex as an unjustifiable reason for discrimination—Sandler filed 250 sex discrimination suits against academic institutions. The National Organization for Women filed 100 more. Congress passed Title IX three years later, a law co-authored by Representative Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii) and Senator Birch Bayh (D-Ind.).

Among its many policy recommendations, the NCWGE emphasizes the intersectionality of discrimination. Multiple laws—including Title VI, Title IX, and sections of the ADA—can be applied to maintain inclusivity and equity within educational spaces. 

“Remind all stakeholders that preventing and remedying discrimination is a compelling government interest,” the NCWGE suggested to the Department of Education. “Any exceptions, including religious exemptions, must be narrowly construed so that federal funding is not used to subsidize discrimination, including against LGBTQI+ individuals.”

Supreme Court Erodes Separation of Church and State

At his last game as the Bremerton High assistant football coach, Joseph Kennedy led a prayer at the 50-yard line that had spectators jumping over the fence to join him on the field. This was after the school district told him to stop holding public prayers and right before they fired him. Kennedy sued, arguing that the school district violated his First Amendment rights. In its 6-3 decision on June 27, the U.S.  Supreme Court agreed.

“The core question in Mr. Kennedy’s case, [his lawyers] said, was whether government employees give up their own rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion at the workplace,” the New York Times reported. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor said those employees do—Kennedy chose to work at Bremerton; the student athletes were required to attend. 

If Kennedy wanted to continue to pray after games, the Bremerton School District told him, he was welcome to do so in a private space removed from players and the public. The tradition began in 2008, when Kennedy knelt silently in prayer following games. Students and opposing teams began to join him, and he was leading group prayers up to his termination in 2015. 

In its majority opinion, delivered by Justice Gorsuch, the Court notes that there is no record of students experiencing coercion to participate in Kennedy’s prayer. This justification ignored Court precedent, according to the dissenters. Part of that precedent was decided in Lee v. Weisman, which acknowledged the implicit influence and impact of school messaging for young students. Another was a 2000 decision in which the Court deemed student-led prayer at high school football games unconstitutional.

“Tellingly,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, “none of this Court’s major cases involving school prayer concerned school practices that required students to do any more than listen silently to prayers, and some did not even formally require students to listen.”
The Court’s three-Justice liberal block see the Kennedy v. Bremerton School District ruling as an overextension of individual religious liberty. “Today, the Court once again weakens the backstop. It elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise,” Sotomayor wrote, “over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state.”


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