Why abortion rights advocates fear birth control could be next
Reproductive rights leaders pointed to the inflammatory rhetoric in the Texas judge’s opinion to ban mifepristone as evidence that the anti-choice movement has its sights on contraception too.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The fallout from a Texas judge’s decision to ban the FDA-approved abortion pill mifepristone by week’s end unless a federal appeals court overturns the ruling continues to reverberate throughout the country.
Congressional Democrats today are expected to file a document called an amicus brief this morning in support of the Justice Department’s appeal on the basis that the decision endangers women’s health.
Senior executives of more than 400 pharmaceutical and biotech companies and investment firms on Monday issued a letter condemning Matthew Kacsmaryk’s opinion, which they say ignores decades of scientific evidence and legal precedent.
And Democratic Reps. Pat Ryan of New York and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas introduced their bill to protect access to abortion medication nationwide and reaffirm the FDA’s authority in approving medication.
Meanwhile, several abortion rights advocates I spoke to over the weekend expressed concerns that Kacsmaryk’s ruling serves as a precursor to banning birth control next.
Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Supercreator during a press call that the judge used inflammatory and extreme anti-choice rhetoric throughout the opinion, including terms like “unborn human” and claimed that the word “fetus” is unscientific.
These were deliberate decisions, Timmaraju argued, to signal to the anti-abortion movement to keep up their pursuit of so-called personhood laws that are designed to recognize fertilized eggs as persons.
“That is why you’re hearing from reproductive rights [and] health and justice organizations that he’s signaling efforts to go after birth control, [in vitro fertilization] and other procedures that we know these organizations have been after for decades,” she said. “And this is where we can see that rhetoric around quote-unquote ‘personhood’ creeping into the opinion.”
Jenny Ma, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Supercreator that the opinion isn’t what a court order should look like and pointed to Kacsmaryk’s language in several footnotes to demonstrate his partiality:
In footnote one of the opinion, Judge Kacsmaryk announces that it is quote-unquote unscientific to use the term fetus.
Footnote two of the opinion then falsely equates support for abortion rights with eugenics and accuses the Biden administration of promoting eugenics when they identify the harms to families and existing children that flow from a woman being denied abortion care.
And he says that mifepristone is used to quote kill or quote starve a fetus rather than end a pregnancy.
It goes on to further call physicians who provide abortion care abortionists, which is a term used by the anti-abortion movement and not a term used by providers, of course.
He calls patients post-abortive women and again called fetuses of 10 weeks or less unborn children, quote unquote.
Judge Kacsmaryk also issued a ruling last year that Jennifer Dalven, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said openly suggests that states have the power not only to ban abortion but to make illegal birth control — including emergency contraception like the Plan B pill — and any other drug that people may have a political opposition to.
“So this the precedent that is set by this decision and where the other side is trying to go has no it has no bounds,” she said to Supercreator.
The Democratic-controlled House passed the Right to Contraception Act last Congress, which would protect an individual’s right to access and a health care provider’s right to provide contraception and related information. A spokesperson for Rep. Kathy Manning of North Carolina, who sponsored the bill, did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite what’s at stake, abortion rights advocates were unenthusiastic about the idea of the Biden administration ordering the FDA to ignore the judge’s ruling, a possibility that Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed over the weekend. On Monday, Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina made strange bedfellows with the left-leaning lawmakers when she said on CNN that the FDA disregard Kacsmaryk’s decision.
But Dalven said that simply ignoring the ruling won’t answer all the problems that it creates, including the dangerous precedent it sets for the approval process for other drugs.
“The courts need to step up and do their job and reverse this unprecedented decision.”
This explains why, just as Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington told reporters over the weekend, Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the immediate focus is making sure the case is won in court.
The sense of urgency leaders feel is also due to what Alexis McGill Johnson described as a crisis of democracy considering the expulsions of Justin Jones and Justin Pearson in the Tennessee state House last week, inaction on gun violence in the wake of another mass shooting in Kentucky on Monday, and the relentless torrent of anti-LGBTQ legislation targeted at young people.
“This is a fight we cannot and will not back down from.”
And given that the case is expected to ultimately go before the Supreme Court, it’s a fight that may require some serious endurance.
“We stand by FDA’s approval of mifepristone. And we are prepared for a long, legal fight,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “That is our commitment to women out there. That is our commitment to Americans across the country.”
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IN THE KNOW
Another day, another mass shooting in America
Exactly two weeks after three kids and three adults were murdered in a school shooting in Nashville, a 25-year-old gunman killed five coworkers and injured at least nine others at a downtown Louisville, Kentucky bank. The suspect live-streamed the attack before and exchanged fire with the police before officers, who arrived on the scene in three minutes, killed him. The shooter’s motive is still unclear.
Less than two miles away and not too long after police responded to the bank shooting, two people were shot — one fatally — outside a community college. It was unclear what led to the second shooting and the two incidents were unrelated, according to law enforcement officials.
You know the routine by now: Politicians expressed thoughts and prayers while Republicans either said we should wait until we have all the facts before debating solutions to America’s exceptional gun violence crisis and Democrats called for measures like an assault weapons ban, universal criminal background checks and stronger red flag laws.
“A strong majority of Americans want lawmakers to act on commonsense gun safety reforms,” President Biden said in a statement. “Instead, from Florida to North Carolina to the US House of Representatives, we’ve watched Republican officials double down on dangerous bills that make our schools, places of worship, and communities less safe. It’s unconscionable, it’s reckless, and too many Americans are paying with their lives.”
Senate Dems to Justice Roberts: Get your court in order
Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats wrote a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts calling for an investigation into Justice Clarence Thomas after ProPublica published a blockbuster investigation that reveal he failed to disclose expensive travel and gifts from a billionaire Republican donor.
The committee told Roberts that the Thomas revelations weren’t the first time it has written to Roberts about the Supreme Court’s ethical standards and urged him to adopt a Code of Conduct, an action Roberts said in his 2011 year-end report the justices had to reason to take. The letter also announced the Judiciary Committee would hold an upcoming hearing on the need to restore confidence in the Supreme Court’s ethical standards.
“And if the court does not resolve this issue on its own, the committee will consider legislation to resolve it,” the lawmakers wrote. “But you do not need to wait for Congress to act to undertake your own investigation into the reported conduct and to ensure that it cannot happen again.”
Gershkovich is officially designated as a wrongful detainee
The State Department on Monday announced that it designated Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich as a wrongful detainee two weeks after he was arrested in Russia on erroneous charges of espionage.
“Journalism is not a crime,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patelsaid in a statement. “We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth.”
The wrongful detention determination now delegates Gershkovich’s case to Roger Carstens, the government’s chief hostage negotiator, to work with colleagues inside and outside the government to develop a strategy to secure his release. The State Department also called on Russia to release wrongfully detained US citizen Paul Whelan as well.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell issued a rare joint statement last week condemning Gershkovich’s detention and demanding for his release.
“Russia has a long and disturbing history of unjustly detaining US citizens in a judicial system that provides neither transparency nor justice,” the two leaders wrote. “We demand the baseless, fabricated charges against Mr. Gershkovich be dropped and he be immediately released and reiterate our condemnation of the Russian government’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish independent journalists and civil society voices.”
Casey gives Senate Dems another big boost
Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania on Monday announced his reelection campaign, giving Senate Democrats another capable incumbent in a swing state that’s expected to play a role in which party controls the upper chamber and the White House next year. The 62-year-old Scranton native plans to campaign on the Democrats’ legislative record from last Congress that invest in US infrastructure, manufacturing and health care while leaning on his strong ties with worker unions. And don’t be surprised if you see President Biden join him on the campaign trail: Biden is also from Scranton and visited Pennsylvania seven times during his first year in office — more than any other state. Casey was first elected in 2006 and in 2018 was the first Democrat to be elected to a third term in state history.
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EYE ON THE WORLD
US intel leak puts WH and allies on edge
As Ukraine prepares for a counteroffensive against Russia, the White House is racing to minimize the damage from a catastrophic leak of classified documents that first appeared on social apps last month and reveal American national security secrets about the war, spy agencies in the Middle East, and intelligence on China and Africa.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said President Biden was first briefed late last week and remained in contact with national security officials throughout the weekend. The Defense Department has referred the leak to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation but DOJ hasn’t come to any conclusions about the source of it. Kirby told reporters that the US is still unclear if the leak is contained, how many of the documents are authentic or if there are more documents that have yet to be publicly released.
And while the White House declined to comment on if President Biden planned to speak with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine about the leak or if the administration offered any reassurances to Ukrainian officials about the safety of their most sensitive information, Kirby confirmed that US officials have been in touch with relevant allies and partners over the last couple of days at very high levels.
BY THE NUMBERS
The investment Vice President Kamala Harris and Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo on Monday announced for grants to more than 600 Community Development Financial Institutions to improve access to capital and financial services in underserved communities facing the persistent economic effects of the pandemic. The funds can be used to support lending related to small businesses and microenterprises, community facilities, affordable housing, commercial real estate, and intermediary lending to non-profits and CDFIs.
All times Eastern:
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (8:30 a.m.) before departing the White House (9:30 a.m.) to travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland (4:20 p.m.).
Vice President Kamala Harris will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland in her ceremonial office (2:30 p.m.).
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will speak ahead of a panel exploring the role of the arts and culture and interfaith cooperation in combating hate at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (6 p.m.).
The House and Senate are out.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
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