Jane’s Waiting on SCOTUS

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was argued in front of the Supreme Court on March 2, 2016. Given the gravity of the case, most anticipate that a decision will be one of the last announced this term.

Wendy Davis filibustered HB2, but it became law anyway. The Center for Reproductive Rights lays out what’s at stake:

The Supreme Court has made it clear that women have a constitutional right to abortion and that states cannot pass laws that create an undue burden for women exercising that right. The Supreme Court’s 1992 decision inPlanned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, explained:

These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the 14th Amendment.

In an attempt to sneak around the Constitution and four decades of Supreme Court precedent, anti-choice politicians in Texas passed a law known as HB2 in 2013. Under the pretext of protecting women’s health and safety, HB2 buries clinics under medically unnecessary regulations so burdensome as to make it vastly more difficult, if not impossible, to obtain safe and legal abortion care.

Should politicians in Texas succeed in their underhanded efforts, HB2 would leave at most 10 providers in all of Texas—the second-most populous state in the nation—forcing women to travel hundreds of miles or turn to drastic or illegal options.

Lyle Denniston, of the phenomenal SCOTUSblog, provides a good summary of the argument and what to expect in a decision. Reviewing the day, he shared:

Going into Wednesday’s argument, it was already clear that the Justices disagreed deeply about the enforcement of the Texas law.  The Court split five to four in last June in limiting enforcement of the law, and the line-up then was quickly evident by comments and questions from the bench by all of the Justices (except Justice Clarence Thomas, who did not say anything).

With Justice Scalia’s death, Justice Kennedy’s swing vote could mean either a 5-3 decision (if he were to side with the more liberal justices) or a 4-4 deadlock, which would mean the law would stand as decided by the Fifth Circuit but would not set a precedent except at the circuit court level (i.e. would not be a Supreme Court-level precedent that would apply to the entire country).

Jane will be watching, waiting for SCOTUS, as the final few court decisions are announced this June. Already, Janes around Texas are finding it far more difficult to obtain abortion care in a timely or affordable fashion.

The New York Times, after Hellerstedt was argued, looked at Google searches as a proxy for whether more women—in Texas and around the country—are looking for information on how to perform an abortion at home, by themselves or with help:

The state with the highest rate of Google searches for self-induced abortions is Mississippi, which now has one abortion clinic. Eight of the 10 states with the highest search rates for self-induced abortions are considered by the Guttmacher Institute to be hostile or very hostile to abortion. None of the 10 states with the lowest search rates for self-induced abortion are in either category.

Search rates for self-induced abortion were fairly steady from 2004 through 2007. They began to rise in late 2008, coinciding with the financial crisis and the recession that followed. They took a big leap in 2011, jumping 40 percent. The Guttmacher Institute singles out 2011 as the beginning of the country’s recent crackdown on abortion; 92 provisions that restrict access to abortion were enacted. There was not a comparable increase in searches for self-induced abortions in Canada, which has not cracked down.

In Texas, searches on terms related to DIY-abortion happen at more than 10% of the average frequency of searches.

If you have come to this page because you are a teen in Texas and need help understand the laws and procedure in Texas, contact Jane’s Due Process.

If you are a person over the age of 18 in Texas and need guidance, contact one of the abortion funds in Texas, which are listed on the TAKE ACTION page of this blog.

We’re all here with you, and for you. Right now, it’s all up to the Supreme Court.

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ID Requirement Removed?

This screen shot shows the changes made to HB 3994 which, in theory remove the requirement that a person obtaining an abortion must show ID:

no id provision

The new language says that if a person cannot secure ID, even after the doctor has provided information on how to obtain one, “and the physician chooses to perform the abortion,” all that has to happen next is that the physician must document that fact. The number of abortions performed without proof of identity will be reported annually to the legislature.

Note that there is no stipulation that this information would be presented in such a way as to protect the identity of doctors or clinics. It is not unreasonable to be concerned that reports would be used as yet another tool for harassing providers.

Abortion regulations generally, and this bill specifically, are full of reporting requirements, shalls, and musts. The innocuous phrase “and the physician chooses to perform the abortion,” in the context of excessive and restrictive regulations designed to catch providers out of compliance, sounds more like a trap than an option.

While one could argue that theoretically, this change removes the ID requirement, from a practical perspective, we believe it would have the same effect:

  • From a risk management and compliance perspective, many clinics and doctors might have to conclude that the best way to interpret this wording is that while the physician can choose, the physician won’t ever choose, and will simply require ID.
  • From a time and practice management perspective—especially in the face of increased patient loads as onerous regulations force most clinics to close—asking doctors to take time to counsel clients on how to obtain documentation is simply not practical.
  • Asking doctors to be the arbiters of whether an ID from the list in the Texas Family Code §2.005(b) is valid or not is unreasonable as well, from both a time and a risk management perspective.
  • Janes without ID who could, in theory, apply for ID, likely do not have the time or money to do so in advance of an abortion. Unless they live in one of the small number of communities with a local abortion clinic, they have generally spent all of the money they could get just getting there and paying for the procedure. Even if they live nearby, they might not be able to get additional time off work or away from school to go to the appropriate government office. They cannot afford the time to apply and wait for the ID, and they cannot afford for the pregnancy to continue and the procedure, therefore, to become more expensive.
  • Janes who cannot apply for ID, upon learning there is a requirement that that fact they don’t have one will be reported to the government, would more than likely not return for the procedure, unable to trust that their confidentiality would be respected. HIPPA should require confidentiality, but when one’s life and livelihood are at stake, is the vague promise of administrative protection any comfort?

The structure and intent of this bill remain clear, with this change or without it. Rich people of means will be able to get abortions. Vulnerable people living on the margins and young people without a family safety net will face an even higher barrier to safe, legal, compassionate care.

This section of HB 3994 is yet another reason we oppose the legislation, and a fundamental reason we are #HereForJaneTX.

 

HB 3994 in the Senate on Monday, May 25th

A disappointing, but not surprising, conclusion to debate in the Texas Senate today: HB 3994 passed on its second reading. It has a few more steps to take before it goes to the governor, but it will most likely get there, and if so, be signed into law.

Let us pull back for a moment and remember the reason the judicial bypass exists. It exists as a manner by which people can exercise a constitutional right. In other words, it is designed to help people who want an abortion to get an abortion.

Judicial bypass processes were not created as opportunities for lawyers and legislators to show off all of the fancy ways they can frustrate a person’s ability to exercise the right to an abortion.

Certainly, listening to today’s debate, you would be forgiven for thinking they were.

In fact, judicial bypass processes were necessarily because of attempts to restrict access to abortion very much like the ones proposed in this law.

Bypasses procedures, per the Supreme Court, are supposed to be expeditious. They are supposed to create opportunities for the exercise of a constitutional right, not needlessly burden them.

We spend a great deal of time in Texas advocating against bills, like HB 3994, which restrict access for all but those wealthy enough to go anywhere they need to go for any length of time and spend whatever it takes to obtain an abortion.

All of this time advocating on the margins, opposing arbitrary rules on which IDs are valid, pointing out the substantial difference in a 5-day requirement over a 2-day requirement for a ruling when time is of the essence … all of this time could be used so much more productively if we could agree that the law of the land allows people to terminate pregnancies and stop trying to contradict and legislate away that fact.

Thank you for showing up, time and again, to bear witness to the grave injustice being done when the legislature throws up one roadblock after another. We’ll need you again, maybe even later today, but certainly in the weeks, months, and years ahead as we cope with the ramifications of these dangerous, discriminatory laws.

Sunday, May 24th Action

The Janes will meet outside the doors to the Senate chamber on the 2nd floor at 6 pm tonight, as the Senate gavels into session. Then, the Janes will lead the #HereForJaneTX processsion upstairs and into to the gallery. Janes and supporters can go upstairs via the stairs or elevator.

Please bring signs showing you are #HereForJaneTX, but be aware that the Sergeant at Arms and DPS may not allow signs into the gallery.

I Support JaneAs usual, when coming to the Texas Capitol, leave time to pass through security. Bring your phone charger, and perhaps an extension cord, as there is no way to predict what time HB 3994 will be heard.

Remember Becky

Becky Bell. That’s her real name, and this is her real story:

“We were so dumb,“ said Karen Bell, 46. “We thought she had a flu and was being a baby. And here she was dying.“

On Sept. 16, 1988, Becky Bell died of what the Marion County coroner ruled was infection following an abortion and of pneumonia.

The Bells blame her death on Indiana`s law requiring girls under 18 to get a parent`s consent before getting an abortion.

They believe that, unwilling to confess to them that she was pregnant, she learned of someone willing to perform the abortion illegally at about 18 weeks` gestation.

In the aftermath of her death, the Bells have embarked on a nationwide crusade against laws requiring minors to get parental consent for an abortion. They have testified before state legislators in Indiana, Michigan, New York, Kansas and Wisconsin. In January, William Bell, 47, regional sales manager for a marketer of office equipment, addressed an abortion rights rally in Washington.

When Indiana legislators voted recently on whether to impose additional restrictions on an abortion bill, abortion rights supporters in the gallery wore buttons reading, “Remember Becky.“ The measure failed to pass.

“My daughter is not going to die for no reason,“ Bell said. “There`s going to be good coming out of it somehow.“

Read the full story in Abortion Law Blamed In Death, by Barbara Brotman, published in the Chicago Tribune on April 8, 1990, and retrieved at this link on May 22, 2015.

These stories, these teens, are the reason we must have a reasonable judicial bypass procedure in place until such a time as minors can access a full range of healthcare without input from courts, and with the input of their parents only if the minors themselves want it. Almost all of the time, they do. The danger comes when they don’t, but must get it, or need it, but can’t get it.

Not Jane

We are using Jane today in this action because Texas courts currently call minors undergoing the judicial bypass process Jane Doe. The plaintiff in the court case which established the right to abortion in this country was referred to as Jane Roe.

It is crucial to remember that ciswomen are not the only people who need access to safe, legal abortion care. And it is incumbent upon all of us to be sure people of all genders, as well as people of all orientations, feel comfortable and welcome to seek help, support, and guidance from committed activists and caregivers in safe spaces.

Here are two articles to help if you don’t quite understand. You can find many other resources across the internet. In the meantime, our collective remains committed to the notion that people of all genders and all orientations deserve and should expect access to the full range of care they need, and for that care to be provided in a respectful, competent, and professional manner.

Cisgender Women Aren’t The Only People Who Seek Abortions, And Activists’ Language Should Reflect That

Not Everyone Who Has An Abortion Is A Woman – How To Frame The Abortion Rights Issue

 

Jane #8

Stories from Janes who have called the hotline in Texas. Names and identifying details have been changed.

A very mature 17 year-old college student called in to the hotline. She was in a committed relationship and had just found out she was pregnant.

She was estranged from both parents, who were angry with her for going away to college.

“Will I be able to get on the IUD after I have an abortion?,” the caller asked.

“I promise you I am trying to be responsible, but every time I ask my doctor she tells me I have to have parental consent to get on birth control.”

 

Delylah

Stories from Janes who have called the hotline in Texas. Names and identifying details have been changed.

Delylah, 17 years-old, called in to the hotline when she was just a few weeks pregnant.

She lived in a small, rural town with a tight-knit community. Her parents were both well-liked in the community, but behind closed doors they were angry and controlling.

When Delylah found out that the closest abortion clinic was two hours away, she started crying. And then she found out that she would have to go to court—on a week day, during business hours.

“How am I supposed to do that?,” she asked. “I have school. I can’t just leave. They’ll call my parents. One time I skipped school and my mother hit me with a frying pan.”

Jane #7

Stories from Janes who have called the hotline in Texas. Names and identifying details have been changed.

“I can’t ask my mom for help,” the caller said.

“She is bipolar and hasn’t gotten out of bed in weeks. My dad tries, he works three jobs to make sure me and my sisters are OK. He’s sick though, too. He just had a heart attack.”

“I can’t tell him this…I think it will kill him.”