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In the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal abortion law, things are more than a little confusing.
As lower courts grapple with rapidly changing state laws, patients wonder day in and day out if abortion is still legal, and even if it is legal, if it’s still available in their state. . Health professionals in abortion-banning states fear prosecution by state authorities for performing abortions or by federal authorities for not performing them in life- or health-threatening situations .
Even employers are caught between conflicting state and federal rules about what can, can’t, and should be covered by insurance.
But amidst all the confusion, there are some things that just aren’t true. Here are three myths circulating about the abortion debate:
MYTH 1: Only people seeking abortions are affected by the Supreme Court action.
The enormous changes and uncertainties wrought by the Supreme Court’s erasure of 49 years of broadly established federal policy most directly affect pregnant women. But they are far from the only people whose medical care is disrupted.
As abortion providers pack their bags and leave states with bans, they can take with them expertise in handling high-risk pregnancies as well as routine deliveries, especially in less populated areas, as well as access to long-acting birth control and cancer screening and treatment. and sexually transmitted diseases.
Likewise, medical students and medical residents may not want to train in states where they cannot learn abortion techniques, which are often the same as miscarriage care. This could lead to a shortage of people trained to help patients give birth safely, just as more and more people are forced to carry pregnancies to term.
Birth control is also affected, at this point as much by accident as by design. In Missouri, a hospital system temporarily stopped dispensing the “morning after” birth control pill, which is a contraceptive that does not induce abortion, before reversing its decision.
This is its own sub-myth – that the Plan B morning after pill is the same as mifepristone, an abortion pill. Plan B is a high dose of regular birth control that prevents ovulation but does not terminate an ongoing pregnancy. Mifepristone terminates a pregnancy if used within the first 10 weeks or so.
And it’s not just pregnant women who are affected by the uncertainty. People with severe psoriasis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases are already reporting difficulty getting methotrexate, a first-line drug for these conditions that can also be used as an abortifacient.
MYTH 2: The Democratic Congress could have codified abortion protections long before now, but chose not to.
On July 15, the House passed — for the second time by this Congress — a bill that would effectively codify the federal abortion protections from the 1973 Supreme Court ruling. Roe vs. Wade. Since the court overturned that decision last month, Democrats on social media and elsewhere have complained that it was a bill that Congress should have passed years ago, when the Democrats had firmer control of the House, Senate and White House.
But even though Democrats had larger majorities in Congress under Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, large numbers of anti-abortion Democrats in both chambers effectively meant there was no majority for such legislation. , let alone the 60-vote supermajority that would have been mandatory in the Senate.
It is not, contrary to what certain revisionist historians think, for lack of having tried. In 1992, Democratic leaders promised to introduce the “Freedom of Choice” Act, a bill that would have enshrined the right to abortion in federal law, if only to embarrass the president of the US. era, George HW Bush, just before the GOP convention. (Here’s a really old clip of me explaining the situation on C-SPAN.) In the end, the bill didn’t make it to the floor of the House or Senate because Democratic leaders couldn’t gather the votes.
In fact, since the roe deer decision, the House was more anti-abortion than the Senate, in part because so many southern district Democrats and/or conservatives opposed abortion (most have now been replaced by Republicans), and because that the Senate has long had at least a handful of Republicans who support abortion rights. Today, this is limited to the Senses. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The House only won its first majority for abortion rights in 2019, when Donald Trump was president.
MYTH 3: Congress could simply eliminate statutory restrictions on abortion now.
With Democrats in charge of both Congress and the White House, they can simply change existing laws restricting abortion, advocates argue. Indeed, President Joe Biden’s 2021 and 2022 budgets proposed to eliminate the so-called Hyde Amendment, named after its sponsor, anti-abortion crusader Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), which banned most federal funding for abortion since the late 1970s. But while the House voted in 2021 to fund the Department of Health and Human Services funding bill without the abortion rider for the first times for decades, Senate Republicans have pushed back on restrictions in the final measure. The same is expected later this year. Democrats hold just 50 Senate seats and need at least 10 Republicans for any bill that is threatened with filibuster.
The Hyde Amendment could also prevent the federal government from allowing abortion clinics to operate on federal land, as many progressives have demanded. But other more complex issues between federal states would more likely doom this scenario.
To complicate matters further, the Hyde language in the HHS spending bill is far from the only abortion restriction embedded in federal law. While abortion-rights proponents have successfully pushed back against most efforts to make these restrictions permanent, various other spending bills annually include limits on abortions in the military, federal prisons, and federal prisons. , by the Indian Health Service and as an insurance benefit for federal workers. Congress also limited the District of Columbia’s ability to spend local tax money on abortion.
It is possible that the inversion of roe deer could lead to the cancellation of some of these restrictions. But with the very slim majority of Democrats in the Senate, that’s not likely, at least not in 2022.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. It is an editorially independent operating program of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation).