Shield Laws and Grassroots Providers

Politics Supreme Court

            New Orleans       In the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal under the more recent Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court, the forces for women’s right to choose versus the anti-abortionists are playing out politically and in other ways throughout the country. Politically, it’s a hot button issue that has even red states voting strongly against abortion restrictions in Ohio, Oklahoma, and elsewhere.  Most polls indicate that it’s an albatross hanging around the neck of the Republican Party, and it could hurt them up and down on the ballot.

Despite, or perhaps because of Dobbs, many conservatives and evangelicals trumpeting anti-abortion cause are trying to get back in court to challenge other procedures, including and especially, medical abortions via the popular pills, which most women are using to terminate unwanted pregnancies.  Some red states, with Texas in the lead, have tried to target providers and placed onerous restrictions on abortion even when the mother’s life is at stake. Some blue states, namely Massachusetts, Washington, Colorado, Vermont, New York, and California, have passed telemedicine shield laws to protect providers responding to women across the country, wherever they live, who request their assistance.  With this protection, several efforts have cropped up, some very grassroots, to meet the requests of desperate women, including a substantial number from Texas and other red states.

There’s a lot of squawking by attorneys general in some states complaining about the shield laws and claiming state’s rights, which I find paradoxical.  If Texas or Missouri believe they have a constitutional right under our federalist system to bar women from abortions in their states and advocate that it be national policy, how can they argue that other states don’t have an equal right not only to allow abortions for their own citizens, but to facilitate them elsewhere as equally severing advocates?  No state gets to build a wall around their boundaries, either to block the free movement of people or to interfere with the US mail system.  The issue before the Supreme Court now is whether these prescriptions which have been approved by the FDA for decades are now somehow illegal and should be barred from the mail.  This is wild stuff.  It’s never been easy to be a woman in America, but this is getting absurd.

There are a couple of main groups that have sprung up to respond to the demand.  Aid Access is a big one, along with Massachusetts Abortion Access Project (MAP), and Abuzz.  They charge between $150 and $250, but a huge number of their clients are lower income women who are paying as little as $5 for the medications.  Everyone is walking on eggshells given the polarity on this issue and between states.  Some won’t travel for fear of arrests in some states, or respond where they have family for fear of harassment.  Others have shifted assets or put them in trust in case they are sued.  This is some courageous, grassroots stuff.

What it isn’t is marginal.  All polls indicate the majority of Americans are strongly in favor of the right to choose.  A recent poll even indicates that this has caused many to fear, especially in the wake of the Alabama court’s recent wildness on IVF and other issues, that access even to birth control could be curtailed.  In that poll, 80% of voters said protecting that access was deeply important to them, including 72% of Republicans.

You mess with women, and you’re asking for trouble.  Whose mother, sister, and partners didn’t teach even conservative Republicans that simple life lesson?  They keep at this, and they’re on a political suicide run, but there’s no way to protect them from themselves.