It’s a lot to track. Here’s the abortion news you might have scrolled past this week:
Abortion — and confusion — on the ballot in Kansas
Abortion has officially made its way from the Supreme Court docket to the ballot box: Kansas on Tuesday became the first state to have a direct vote on abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The vote underscores multiple features of the abortion fight post-Roe, from mobilization to mass confusion.
The state is generally conservative, but it can’t pass a total ban on abortion after the state supreme court ruled in 2019 that the procedure is protected by language in the state’s constitution. The amendment Kansans are voting on Tuesday would allow the state legislature to enact further restrictions.
The August election date threatens to dampen turnout, especially for Democrats, who have fewer competitive primaries on the ballot drawing their voters to the polls.
“The deck was stacked against us on purpose by the legislature,” said Emily Wales, the president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which covers Kansas. “But it backfired somewhat, because here we are weeks after the Roe decision and people have never been more engaged.”
Additional uncertainty hangs over the vote, as the text of the bill and messaging around it have caused confusion among voters. Anti-abortion advocates, for example, have run ads that said the amendment would end late term abortion, but third-trimester abortions are already banned in the state.
Alito airs aggravations with foreign leaders
In recent weeks, foreign leaders have spoken out against the Supreme Court’s decision to rollback abortion rights. Predictably, the author of that earth-shaking majority opinion took issue with these criticisms.
On Thursday, a video of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mocking the critics surfaced. In a surprise keynote speech at a religious freedom conference in Rome the week prior, Alito made light of the international condescension levied against his conservative bloc.
“I had the honor this term of writing, I think, the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders, who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” Alito said in a video posted by the University of Notre Dame, which sponsored the event.
Poking fun at the recent resignation of former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Alito joked that the British leader “paid the price” for speaking out against the decision. The justice, an appointee of President George W. Bush, also took aim at President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who Alito jokingly notes “are still in office” despite their criticism of the U.S. high court.
Clerics’ lawsuits: Florida abortion restrictions violate religious freedom
Florida clergy members representing a range of faiths filed lawsuits this week against Florida’s new abortion law, arguing it violates their freedom to practice their faith.
“The lawsuits are at the vanguard of a novel legal strategy arguing that new post-Roe abortion restrictions violate Americans’ religious freedom, including that of clerics who advise pregnant people,” The Washington Post reported.
One of the clerics, Rev. Laurie Hafner, told the Post the religious right doesn’t “represent the Christian faith.” She’s one of two Christian clergy members who filed lawsuits against the state, along with three Jews, one Buddhist and one Unitarian Universalist.
Florida’s abortion law, which went into effect July 1, bans abortions after 15 weeks without exceptions for rape or incest.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed the bill in a church, the Post noted.
Data brokers defy Dems
Datasets on millions of expecting parents have been sold for decades, from trimester statuses to preferred birth methods. As abortion becomes increasingly political with the overturning of Roe, however, Democrats have doubled down on efforts to deter data brokers from the lucrative practice — with little success.
Abortion rights groups are voicing concerns that, as states enact restrictive abortion laws, politicians and governments will weaponize the personal data. Since POLITICO published a leaked draft of the high court’s decision three months ago, Democratic leaders have sent letters to data brokers urging them to halt the practice, vowing to interrogate companies about the obtained datasets and introducing legislation to prevent the sale of such reproductive health data.
Without federal policy preventing the practice, many brokers aren’t adhering to the requests and do not appear likely to absent legislative action, the chances for which appear slim. Underscoring this point, more than 30 listings from brokers — offering information on pregnant parents or selling access to that group — were found by POLITICO, and the majority of them have been updated since the court’s decision in late June.
Judicial drama persists in states
There’s no end in sight to judicial drama in states — the abortion battleground since the high court’s decision to leave reproductive rights to state governments — as local leaders continue to disagree with courts on the medical procedure’s future.
In Michigan, a judge blocked the enforcement of an abortion ban that’s nine decades old on Monday. The decision amounted to legislative whiplash after the state’s appeals court determined that county prosecutors could continue to enforce the prohibition hours earlier. For months, abortion rights advocates in the state have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures to put an abortion rights amendment on the ballot in November while the Republican-led legislature pushes for restrictions.
On the other side, a Kentucky appeals court on Monday reinstated a near-total ban on abortion statewide. The ruling temporarily reversed a lower court’s order to allow the procedure. For the time being, abortion in the state is illegal — including in cases of rape or incest — except when a parent’s health is in danger. Health care workers in the state who aid in abortion procedures can face up to five years in prison.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Trump-endorsed Republican running for governor in November, lauded the court’s decision.
“I appreciate the court’s decision to allow Kentucky’s pro-life laws to take effect while we continue to vigorously defend the constitutionality of these important protections for women and unborn children,” Cameron said in a tweet.