This week, as Donald Trump prepared to order airstrikes on Syria, he cut all U.S. funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), funding that was providing half the budget for the only maternity ward in a massive Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, where UNFPA has delivered more than 7,000 babies of Syrian women without a single maternal death.
So, that’s what’s happening in the rest of the world. What about here in the States? Iowa is one step closer to banning, in defiance of the Constitution, all abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The state’s House of Representatives gave the final thumbs up to the bill, which would also make women get an ultrasound and wait three days between her initial appointment and actually terminating her pregnancy, this week. The Senate already passed the bill, but will have to okay some new amendments before it goes to the desk of the governor, who, the Hill reports, will likely “sign the final measure as one of his last acts before he leaves to become President Trump’s ambassador to China.”
The Texas state legislature tried to do a little financial finagling involving both Mother Earth and human pregnant women. Lawmakers voted to take $20 million from the state environmental agency and give it to an “Alternative to Abortion” program that tries to shame low-income pregnant women into not seeking abortion care. The move must be approved by the Senate in budget negotiations before it’s final.
In Virginia, Ed Gillespie, the leading GOP candidate for governor, said in a debate last weekend that in the country he envisions, abortion is “banned.” Further west, two Missouri state senators had a charming exchange about abortion this week, in which they suggested women who needed abortions should go to the St. Louis Zoo instead of a doctor’s office.* They reasoned that, since zookeepers must wait five days before euthanizing an animal, and women in Missouri must wait 24 hours between a doctor’s appointment and going through with an abortion procedure, the zoo is a safer place to get medical treatment. One then drafted a joke (?) amendment that would rename the zoo, which resides in the same city as the state’s only remaining abortion provider, “Midwest Abortion Sanctuary City Zoological Park,” a very relevant name for a zoo.
Elsewhere in Missouri, this blog’s problem state of the week, hospitals are being forced to decide whether to keep their state funding or continue providing abortions for women in some of the most difficult, urgent health situations. To try to get around a federal law that requires states to let patients on Medicaid and other public health plans choose their own qualified providers, the Missouri state legislature passed a law earlier this year that refuses $8.3 million in federal funding for women’s health services. This way, legislators hope, the state can legally refuse Medicaid patients the right to get care at any health provider that performs abortions. More than 300 health-care providers have signed forms confirming that they don’t or will no longer provide abortions, thus keeping themselves eligible for state funding. But for hospitals, who perform most abortions when the pregnant woman’s health is at risk or in cases of critical fetal abnormalities, the decision is putting poor women’s lives on the line. Thankfully, an adult has intervened: A federal judge announced this week that he will block state abortion restrictions that require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges and retrofit their clinics to the specifications of surgical centers.
Another federal judge arrived to save Indiana from itself last Friday, ruling that the state’s law forcing women to show up at least 18 hours before their abortions for an ultrasound is “likely unconstitutional.” Before the law was enacted, women still had to get pre-abortion ultrasounds, but they could take place right before their procedures. U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt decided that the law placed undue burdens, financial and otherwise, on women seeking medical care, including the women cited by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood in the suit. These women were allegedly denied abortion care because they couldn’t afford the time off work, child care, and transportation required to make two separate trips to abortion clinics. On the same day, another judge stopped Kentucky’s anti-abortion governor, Matt Bevin, and his colleagues from shutting down the state’s last abortion provider on the grounds that its connections to a nearby hospital and ambulance weren’t strong enough. The judge granted the clinic a two-week restraining order to protect its patients’ rights from being “immediately and irreparably harmed.” Hug a judge, with his or her written consent, this weekend!
*Correction, April 18, 2017: This post originally misstated the directional relationship between Virginia and Missouri.