Biden Could Expand Abortion Access, Even Without the Senate


These distribution limitations have no medical benefit. Every major health organization to examine the issue, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, has concluded that the REMS is unnecessary for patient safety. In fact, many riskier drugs, including Viagra—whose fatality rate is six times higher than mifepristone’s—are on the market without any distribution restrictions. Mifepristone is also not subject to any limits on its distribution when it is prescribed to treat Cushing syndrome, even though in those cases it is used chronically, and at higher doses. Furthermore, recent research suggests that medication abortion is safe and effective when prescribed via telemedicine and shipped directly to a woman’s home. This research aligns with common sense, given that the REMS allows women who obtain mifepristone from a clinic to take it at home. Thus, the in-person dispensing requirement does not protect women from any of the drug’s risks; if a woman experiences a complication—rare but certainly possible—it will not occur at the clinic.

Two ongoing lawsuits are challenging the legality of the mifepristone REMS—one related to the pandemic and one attempting to invalidate the REMS whole cloth. In July, the federal district court for Maryland temporarily enjoined the in-person dispensing and signature requirements as unconstitutional during the coronavirus pandemic. But the REMS can be removed much more easily without the courts. The FDA could ask the drug distributor, which sponsored the FDA’s review of the drug, to submit a modification request that would allow the agency to evaluate whether the REMS can be safely released. The sponsor could also submit a request of its own volition to force the FDA to reconsider the REMS. After a scientific review, an objective FDA would almost certainly conclude that the scientific evidence shows that the REMS is unnecessary. A new FDA commissioner, appointed by Biden, could start the process immediately. Though a decision to remove the mifepristone REMS would likely be challenged in the courts, a plaintiff would be hard-pressed to prove that the FDA—a scientific agency—acted improperly by listening to scientists.

The result: a win for reproductive rights that is not dependent on the Supreme Court or Congress. Removing the mifepristone REMS might not expand abortion access everywhere—especially not in the 19 states that have their own limits on the drug’s distribution (or other states that might pass similar statutes). But it would widen access in the remaining 31 states, ensuring, for instance, that medication abortion would be available to women through telemedicine, obviating the need to go to a clinic. Patients would still have to obtain a medication-abortion prescription, but without the REMS, any provider could prescribe it (so long as they follow state abortion laws) and patients could pick it up from their regular pharmacy. The political risks for Biden would be low, given that most Americans support the right to first-trimester abortion and that expanding its accessibility should reduce the need for second-trimester abortions, which are more controversial. This action would also give him an opportunity to reassure the women in his base that he is fighting for their interests, especially in light of the losses many are expecting in the Court with Justice Barrett’s confirmation.

This story is part of the project “The Battle for the Constitution,” in partnership with the National Constitution Center.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.



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Pleasing no one – South Korea’s government is making it easier to get an abortion | Asia




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Protesting outside SA abortion clinics has been outlawed as new laws pass Parliament


Protesting outside South Australian abortion clinics has been outlawed after new laws passed the Upper House in State Parliament late last night.

The bill, which was passed about 10:00pm on Wednesday, makes it an offence to protest within 150 metres of an abortion clinic.

Greens MLC Tammy Franks — who introduced the proposed law in the Legislative Council — said “at long last” the South Australian Parliament had voted to protect patients and workers from “harassment” outside abortion clinics.

“For too long our dedicated health workers and the patients for whom they provide care were subjected to harassment, intimidation, and threats while trying to access or provide abortion services,” she said.

“What a relief it is that today patients and health workers will no longer be subjected to this behaviour, and will be protected by our laws.

“Finally, South Australia has said ‘no more’ to women and workers being made to run a gauntlet of protest and preaching.

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South Australia was the second last Australian state or territory to introduce similar laws, with Western Australia still debating the issue.

The South Australian Abortion Action Coalition has welcomed the change.

“With this bill, no person seeking abortion will be subjected to intimidation and harassment and no abortion care worker will be fearful as they enter and leave their workplace,” spokeswoman Brigid Coomb said.

“Safe access zones are sorely needed at abortion services in this state where protestors regularly attend with the purpose of interfering in a person’s decision making about their own health care.”

The bill was co-sponsored by Labor MP Nat Cook in the Lower House, which passed the bill in September.

The 40 Days For Life protest group has been contacted for comment.



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‘Traumatised’ women in Poland are looking abroad for help after the country’s abortion ruling


Abortion charities are reporting a sharp increase in the number of Polish women turning to them for help after a constitutional court ruling last month to tighten legislation.

For Ciocia Basia (Aunt Basia), a Berlin-based group helping Polish women with abortions in Germany, the ruling worsens a situation already complicated by the pandemic.

“We have had a high increase in callers. Three times as many as before,” Cioca Basia volunteer Ula Bertin told AFP.

The Polish court ruling struck down a provision of the law that had allowed abortions in cases of severe foetal anomalies, triggering a wave of protests.

Even though the verdict is not yet in force, activist groups say Polish doctors are now even more reticent to perform permitted abortions lest they fall on the wrong side of the law.

Ms Bertin said that often women seeking help “were already in the process of arranging an abortion in Poland and now no one wants to do it. So they’re mentally exhausted, traumatised”.

“They’re punished twice because the child they were awaiting has turned out to be sick and may not survive, but they’re being forced to deliver. It’s emotional torture.”

People take part in a protest against the tightening of the abortion law in Wroclaw, south-west Poland, 30 October 2020

PAP

Other organisations are reporting a similar uptick in calls for help, despite the difficulties of foreign travel because of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Abortion Without Borders (AWB), a multinational coalition, said that since the ruling it has helped 40 women travel or arrange to travel abroad for abortion – already more than double its monthly average.

Mara Clarke from AWB said the sudden increase in calls from Polish women was also due to the fact that “protesters were chanting the name of our organisation and phone number” at the mass nationwide demonstrations.

‘Scramble for another solution’

Since launching in December, the network has provided information on how to access pills to hundreds of Poles who then had at-home medical abortions – a grey zone in Poland, neither authorised nor banned by law.

For those requiring a surgical procedure, the coalition offers logistical and financial support so they can abort in Austria, Britain, Germany or the Netherlands.

Kasia Roszak, from the coalition’s Dutch group Abortion Network Amsterdam, said many recent callers had abortions planned at Polish hospitals and “were sort of left on their own”.

Some had got referrals for the procedure but were told that no one would actually undertake it. Others saw their appointments indefinitely postponed.

“So they had to scramble for another solution,” she told AFP.

Even before the court ruling, some who qualified in Poland would contact the group after sensing that doctors were playing for time to avoid the procedure.

“The legal abortion process was already complicated and not very user-friendly,” said Roszak.

Poland has some of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws and the ruling would allow terminations only in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at stake.

A country of 38 million, Poland sees fewer than 2,000 legal abortions every year, according to official statistics. Women’s groups estimate that another 200,000 women abort illegally or abroad.

‘Parallel universe’

When Warsaw resident Hanna was in her early 20s and not ready to start a family, she got an abortion in the Netherlands with help from relatives there.

“I really liked how professional it was. Because I’ve heard from friends about Poland’s abortion underground, and it’s less pleasant,” the 38-year-old mother-of-two told AFP.

“There’s the feeling that you’re doing something illegal, that you have to visit the gynaecologist on the sly at night, and the fear that if something goes wrong there’s nowhere to file a complaint or to get help.”

People demonstrate against restrictions on abortion law by blocking traffic in the centre of Krakow, Poland on 2 November.

People demonstrate against restrictions on abortion law by blocking traffic in the centre of Krakow, Poland on 2 November.

Getty Images

Ms Bertin from Ciocia Basia said Poles will burst into tears after a check-up because they feel they have entered “a parallel universe where the things that for them are taboo… are for us normal, simply normal”.

While Poles are now getting a little help from their friends abroad, the reverse was once true: thousands of Swedes travelled to Poland for abortions in the 1960s when they were banned at home.

Poland had unfettered access to abortion then, as today’s legislation was only adopted in 1993 as part of a church-state compromise after communism.

Swedish Gender Equality Minister Asa Lindhagen said she believes it is time to return the favour and has called for the government “to stand up for Polish women” and offer free, subsidised abortions.

“No woman should have to risk her life undergoing an illegal abortion.”



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Terminal ferocity – Poland’s abortion rules are now among the strictest in any rich country | Europe




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Female SA ministers hit back at Alex Antic over letter opposing their support of abortion law reform


Two senior female Liberal MPs have hit back at a federal colleague who strongly criticised their support for abortion law reform.

South Australian senator Alex Antic wrote to Attorney-General and Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman earlier this week, arguing a bill introduced by Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink earlier this month to remove abortion from the criminal law had “horrified” constituents.

He argued that the “brutal bill” would enable late-term abortions, and that the Liberal Party “which I know” is not “of the radical left”.

But Ms Chapman and Ms Lensink — both moderates — have hit back, accusing the conservative Senator Antic of failing to understand the Liberal Party’s history and assuming he knows what is best for women.

The rebuttal was made in a letter posted to Ms Chapman’s Facebook page on Wednesday evening.

Letter accuses senator of insulting women

The letter invokes Ms Chapman’s 50-year involvement in the Liberal Party and describes Senator Antic as a “junior member” of the federal party.

“You write of ‘the Liberal Party [you] know’ it is unfortunate as a Liberal Party representative that you do not know the party’s history and further that you believe the membership to be comprised solely of views that align with your own,” the letter reads.

“You state that we are not a party of the radical left. Nor are we a party of the extreme right that is beholden to sectional interests.

“In Menzies’ words, we march down the middle of the road.”

The letter accuses Senator Antic of “baselessly attacking Liberal Party women”, and insulting women generally.

“I sincerely hope you would support a sister, daughter or friend then who is faced with one of the most difficult decisions of her life, rather than moralising at her and assuming you, for whatever reason, knows [sic] best.

“It is frankly insulting to women to suggest they would seek a termination [late in the pregnancy] for frivolous reasons … rather than appreciating that the unborn child may have abnormalities that make it incapable of surviving to term or the mother requires chemotherapy to treat cancer.”

The letter concludes by congratulating Mr Antic “on receiving press attention”.

“I concede it must be difficult as the junior member of the federal team. Next time — just for something different — perhaps it can be for something other than baselessly attacking Liberal Party women in the State Parliament.”

Abortion reform bill ‘offends party’s ethos’

In his earlier letter, Senator Antic argues the bill sought to “radically change” South Australia’s abortion laws under the “pretence” of decriminalisation.

“The Liberal Party which I know would reject the bill.

“Ours is the party which stands for the proposition that the interests of all men, women and children must be protected.”



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Polish prime minister urges end to ‘barbarism’ amid abortion protests


Poland’s prime minister has defended a highly controversial court ruling on abortion that has ignited angry protests across the country, calling for an end to “barbarism”.

Poland has seen six consecutive days of demonstrations against the verdict, which would rule out abortions in all cases except rape and when the life of the mother is at risk.

“Acts of aggression, barbarism and vandalism are absolutely unacceptable,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters on Tuesday, warning that any violent protests could lead to an “escalation”.

“Attacks on religious symbols and churches will not be permitted,” he said, after a series of protests in Catholic churches over the ruling.

“Everyone for whom the good of the Republic of Poland is a value should try to calm the situation today,” the prime minister said, adding that mass protests risked a further spike in coronavirus infections.

Poland, a predominantly Catholic country, already had some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and many women travel abroad to terminate their pregnancies.

People protest a recent ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal resulting in a near-total ban of abortions in Warsaw, Poland, on 26 October.

Getty Images

But the constitutional court ruled last Thursday in favour of further restrictions, stating that an existing law allowing the abortion of damaged foetuses was “incompatible” with the constitution.

The verdict is in line with the position of the governing nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, whose MPs had asked the court to rule.

Opponents of the ruling party say it puts women’s lives at risk by forcing them to carry unviable pregnancies but supporters insist it will only stop the abortion of foetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

There are already fewer than 2,000 legal abortions per year in Poland and the vast majority are carried out due to damaged foetuses.

People protest in Warsaw, Poland, on 26 October.

People protest in Warsaw, Poland, on 26 October.

But women’s groups estimate that up to 200,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad.

The ruling cannot be appealed but only comes into force if it is published in the journal of laws.

More protest against the ruling are planned in the coming days.



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Polish protesters disrupt church services over near-total abortion ban



Demonstrators hold a protest against the ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that imposes a near-total ban on abortion, in Krakow, Poland October 25, 2020. Jakub Porzycki/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS

October 26, 2020

By Alicja Ptak and Kuba Stezycki

WARSAW (Reuters) – Thousands of activists disrupted church services across Poland on Sunday, chanting during mass and spraying slogans on walls to protest against a court ruling that amounts to a near-total ban on abortion.

In the first large-scale demonstrations directly targeting churches in the predominately Catholic country, crowds carried posters depicting a crucified pregnant woman and handed out protest cards to priests.

A Constitutional Court decision outlawing abortions due to foetal defects has now triggered four days of demonstrations.

The ruling ended the most common of the few legal grounds left for abortion in Poland and set the country further apart from the European mainstream.

In southern city of Katowice, a 7,000-strong crowd of mostly women gathered in front of the cathedral, chanting “this is war” and “human law, not ecclesiastical law”. State news agency PAP said police used tear gas after officers were attacked.

Three dozen protesters interrupted a mass in the western city of Poznan, chanting “we are sick of this” and holding banners with slogans including “Catholic women also need their right to abortion” in front of the altar.

“Our rage should be directed towards politicians, but also towards senior church figures as they have also added to this women’s hell that the authorities are preparing,” said Mateusz Sulwinski, one of the protest organizers in Poznan.

The leaders of the protests have accused Poland’s conservative ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), of pressing the court to tighten restrictions to appeal to the party’s base and to please the influential Church. The party denies that.

Church leaders have also denied wielding political power.

“The Church does not constitute the law in our homeland and these are not the bishops who decide on the compliance or non-compliance of laws with the Polish Constitution,” Polish archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki said in a statement.

“However, the Church cannot stop defending life, nor can it abandon the proclamation that every human being must be protected from conception until natural death.”

A spokesman for the government could not be reached for comment.

In Krakow, protesters hung black underwear and clothes on lines between trees – a reference to early protests against tightening of abortion restrictions where people wore black to show their support.

In Warsaw protesters sprayed “abortion without borders” on one church, according to state news agency PAP. At another church “you have blood on your hands” was daubed on the wall.

Some people give priests cards with a bolt symbol symbolising their protest instead of the traditional donation during mass.

“I’m here today because it annoys me that in a secular country the church decides for me what rights I have, what I can do and what I’m not allowed to do,” said media worker Julia Miotk, 26, protesting in front of a church in Warsaw.

The protests started on Thursday despite bans on gatherings of more than five people imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Activists said they were planning more protests on Monday afternoon.

(Reporting by Alicja Ptak, Kuba Stezycki, Gosia Wojtunik and Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Heavens)





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Protesters gather after Polish court supports almost total ban on abortion


Protesters gathered across Poland on Thursday after the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion due to fetal defects was unconstitutional, banning the most common of the few legal grounds for ending a pregnancy in the largely Catholic country.

After the ruling goes into effect, abortion will only be permissible in Poland in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s health and life are in danger, which make up only about two per cent of legal terminations conducted in recent years.
 
“[A provision that] legalizes eugenic practices in the field of the right to life of an unborn child and makes the right to life of an unborn child dependent on his or her health … is inconsistent … with the constitution,” said Julia Przylebska, president of the Constitutional Tribunal.
 
Hundreds marched toward the house of governing party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Thursday night after the ruling, some carrying candles and signs that read “torture.” Most wore face masks to comply with coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
 
Police in riot gear had cordoned off the house, and private broadcaster TVN showed police using tear gas as protesters threw stones and tried to push through the police line.
 

Small protests also took place in the cities of Krakow, Lodz and Szczecin.
 
“It’s sick that such controversial things are being decided at a time when the entire society lives in fear [of the pandemic] and is afraid to go into the streets,” said 41-year-old, Marianna Dobkowska.

A ‘devastating sentence’ for women

Conservative values have played a growing role in public life in Poland since the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party came into power five years ago on a promise to defend what it sees as the nation’s traditional, Catholic character.
 
Curbing access to abortion has been a long-standing ambition of the party, but it has stepped back from previous legislative proposals amid widespread public backlash.
 

Police officers in Warsaw are shown after protests broke out on Thursday against a ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that imposes further restrictions on abortions in the country. ( Jedrzej Nowicki/Agencja Gazeta via Reuters)

A group of right-wing lawmakers asked the tribunal in December 2019 to rule on the legality of abortion when there is serious, irreversible damage to the fetus.

“Today Poland is an example for Europe, it’s an example for the world,” said Kaja Godek, a member of the Stop Abortion public initiative.
 
Women’s rights and opposition groups reacted with dismay.
 
“The worst-case scenario that could have come true has come true. It is a devastating sentence that will destroy the lives of many women and many families,” said lawyer Kamila Ferenc, who works with an NGO helping women denied abortion.
 

“It will especially force the poor to give birth to children against their will. Either they have no chance of surviving, or they have no chance of an independent existence, or they will die shortly after giving birth.”
 
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic called it a “sad day for women’s rights.”
 
“Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in Poland amounts to a ban and violates human rights. Today’s ruling of the Constitutional Court means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford and even greater ordeal for all others.”

Protesters gathered across Poland after the Constitutional Tribunal ruled on Thursday that abortion due to fetal defects was unconstitutional. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Critics allege courts are politicized     

Opponents say the Constitutional Tribunal may have acted on the ruling party’s behalf. While the tribunal is nominally independent, most of its judges have been nominated by the Law and Justice party, some to replace candidates picked by the opposition but whose appointment was refused by President Andrzej Duda, a party ally.
 
“To throw in the subject of abortion and produce a ruling by a pseudo-tribunal in the middle of a raging pandemic is more than cynicism. It is political wickedness,” said Donald Tusk, head of the main centre-right group in the European Parliament and a former prime minister of Poland.
 
PiS denies trying to influence the court or taking advantage of the pandemic to push through the changes. Its justice reforms, which included the tribunal, have attracted wide international accusations of undermining democratic norms.
 

Abortion rights activists say access to the procedure was often declined in recent years in Poland, even in cases when it would be legal.
 
Many doctors in Poland, which already had some of the strictest abortion rules in Europe, exercise their legal right to refuse to terminate pregnancies on religious grounds. Some say they are pressured into doing so by their superiors.
 
“We are glad with what the Constitutional Tribunal ruled because one cannot kill a child for being sick,” Maria Kurowska, a lawmaker from the United Poland party, said.

“This is not a fetus, it is a child.”



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Controversial abortion laws divide State Parliament


Contentious legislation to decriminalise abortion which critics say will more easily allow late-term terminations will be introduced to State Parliament this afternoon.

Story Timeline

The reforms, driven by Attorney-General Vickie Chapman, will be introduced as a private members’ bill and will be decided as a conscience vote, rather than on party lines.

Chapman said the proposed laws would remove outdated provisions in the current system.

“The reforms proposed in the Termination of Pregnancy Bill are based on recommendations by the South Australian Law Reform Institute and have been the subject of extensive consultation,” she said.

“Our proposal removes abortion entirely from the criminal law – a move that would bring us in line with all other Australian states and territories.

“This is a based on the understanding that it is a medical procedure which should be treated like any other health issue.”

The changes would also mean a woman seeking a termination before a certain time would no longer need approval from two medical practitioners – just one.

“Under the State Government’s proposed laws, an abortion can be performed by one medical practitioner up to 22 weeks and six days gestation,” Chapman said.

“After that period, a medical practitioner can only perform an abortion if they consult with another practitioner and both are of the view that the procedure is medically appropriate.

“This is consistent with current clinical practice, and in line with recommendations by the Department for Health and Wellbeing.”

But Labor MP Clare Scriven, who is strongly opposed to the legislation, argues it would allow more late-term abortions.

“The current law allows abortion up to 28 weeks for the physical or mental health of the mother, and after that to save the life of the mother,” she told InDaily.

“The Attorney-General (has admitted) that the current laws mean, in practice, abortion on demand up to that six and a half month stage.

“The Attorney used the example of ‘a woman just has to go in and say I’m at risk of mental health’ to obtain an abortion. Clearly the new legislation will also include mental health reasons, so will become abortion on demand up to birth.”

Scriven said late-term abortions had a “significant increase” after similar legislation was introduced in Victoria.

“Babies are considered able to live independently of their mothers at around 23 to 24 weeks gestation. Why shouldn’t those babies be given that opportunity?” she said.

“No woman has been prosecuted for having an abortion in SA in the last 50 years so talking about a need to ‘decriminalise’ just deflects from the key issue – which is that this bill enables abortion to birth.

“Abortion on request to birth is not currently happening, so this bill is clearly a significant change.”

The legislation has deeply divided MPs, who will have the opportunity to ask questions at a briefing tomorrow with a group of medical specialists, including Australian Medical Association state president Dr Chris Moy.

“The AMA is in support of the current bill and has contributed submissions to the development of it,” Moy told InDaily.

“The legislation essentially does only one very important thing – decriminalises abortion for women and doctors, which is an unfair burden and an important women’s health issue.

“These are already very difficult decisions for the women I see, with lasting psychological effects. The last thing they need is for the added burden of criminality.”

Moy said the legislation “essentially aligns with what is already going on”.

“The legislation will not cause more women to choose abortion, and it brings legislation into current practice under the current legislation,” he said.

“There are already professional standards and ethics applied at the moment. Theoretically a woman can (already) have an abortion right up to birth if there’s a risk to life.”

Moy said only one to two per cent of abortions performed now occur after 20 weeks.

“The vast majority of these are because there’s a lethal condition of the foetus which is diagnosed at the 19 or 20 week mark,” he said.

The Bill would also remove a requirement that a person seeking to terminate a pregnancy must have been resident of South Australia for at least two months.

Greens MP Tammy Franks, who supports the legislation, told InDaily this would be important for backpackers and tourists.

“It brings our legislation up to modern medical practice,” she said.

“It cleans up the law so that women and medical professionals are making the decisions about a woman’s healthcare.”

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink, who will introduce the Bill to the Upper House this afternoon, said it was time to modernise the state’s abortion laws.

“In this day and age, it’s completely outdated that abortion is still under criminal law,” she said.

“These days, there is overwhelming public support to decriminalise abortion and it makes sense given women have done nothing wrong.”

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