USA – Madame Restell, and the history of abortion in America +++ The dark money fight against abortion access +++ Threats against abortion rights activists +++ How to get abortion pills in every US state

Madame Restell, and the history of abortion in America

“Last year, as we watched the US Supreme Court destroy reproductive freedom for women, more attention was paid to the outcome of the case than the Court’s reasoning and justification. Justice Samuel Alito, Dobbs author, relied heavily on history in supporting his opinion. What happened in earlier American history is contested terrain. I would submit that Justice Alito got his history very wrong. He argued that abortion was not deeply rooted in US history and traditions. Alito wrote, ‘…an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.’”

“Contrary to Alito’s assertion, in early American history, the common law did not criminalize abortion in all stages of pregnancy. As a medical procedure, abortion was widespread in colonial and 18th-century America. Abortion before “quickening” was legal and was widely accepted in practice. Quickening was the moment when women could first feel a fetus kick, typically between the fourth and sixth months of pregnancy. Back then, the common law didn’t legally acknowledge a fetus as existing separately from a pregnant woman, until quickening.

“While the Court in Dobbs ignored it, the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians jointly filed an amicus brief that exposed how much history Alito got wrong. The historians pointed out that the decision in Roe v Wade accurately captured the historical landscape of abortion. Except for mentioning two early male legal authorities, Alito only began his discussion with the 1860s and 1870s when some states started to restrict abortion rights. In their amicus, the historians show that the effort to restrict abortion rights only had partial success and never convinced the public.

“The early anti-abortion movement was spearheaded by a small group of self-interested white male physicians. Doctors then were not held in the same high esteem they are today. The doctors opposed financial competitors like midwives and healers who were “irregular” practitioners. The doctors did, however, allow until much later, an exception safeguarding the right to perform abortions for medical reasons. Alito conveniently skips over this.

“The doctors’ movement to restrict abortion was both racist and sexist. They touted the theory that white, native-born people would become out-populated by immigrants, “aliens,” Chinese and Catholics. A leader of the movement, Dr Horatio Storer, and the early American Medical Association vigorously opposed the entry of women into the medical profession. In their amicus brief, the historians wrote that the early physicians expressed “disapproval of women shirking their maternal duties for which they were “physiologically constituted” and “destined by nature”.

“The story of 19th-century abortion history is beautifully told in Jennifer Wright’s book “Madame Restell.” Probably the most famous abortionist in America during her time, Madame Restell had an enormous practice in New York City assisting women with reproductive issues. She became a very wealthy woman, offering a choice of available remedies besides having an operation. There was no shortage of controversy in her life but her popularity was unsurpassed. Women of all social classes flocked to her. Always notorious, Restell did face several criminal prosecutions along the way. Most notably and later in her life, she was pursued by an intolerable prudish busybody named Anthony Comstock.

“Comstock wanted to purify the world of all sinful temptations. He was freaked out by sex and sexually explicit literature. He ran an organization, the New York State Society for the Suppression of Vice. Disgusted by pornography, he went after those he considered purveyors. He was an early-day book banner and was instrumental in passing the Comstock Act in 1873. That law made it illegal to use mail to send anything “obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile” and any device or medication meant for contraception. It also banned sending through the mail every article designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion.

“Posing as a friend of a woman needing help, Comstock showed up at Madame Restell’s doorstep. He then turned their meeting into an opportunity for criminal prosecution based on her willingness to help [women]. Comstock had obtained a position as a US postal special agent. Restell’s years of running ads in newspapers suggesting family limitation were over. On the eve of trial, afraid of going to prison, Madame Restell died by suicide. During his career, Comstock drove fifteen people to death by suicide. He was not at all bothered by Restell’s death; he considered it a victory. He believed his desire to control women protected the traditional family….” (continues)

SOURCE: Concord Monitor, by Jonathan P Baird, 10 July 2023 ; PHOTO: Madame Restell, the Abortionist of Fifth Avenue, in article by Karen Abbott, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 November 2012.


The dark money fight against abortion access: a year in review

Abortion rights activists protest as guests arrive for the

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America’s annual gala,

September 13, 2022, Washington, D.C.

PHOTO: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In the year since the Supreme Court reversed half a century of legal precedent, dark money anti-abortion groups have not abated their assault on reproductive rights. Only 15 states have protected abortion access and anti-abortion groups are spending heavily to dismantle access state-by-state along with federally approved abortion drugs.

Behind this attack on our rights is a web of groups funded by ultra-rich donors and coordinated by far-right lawyer and longtime Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo.

Following the 2016 election, Donald Trump brought in Leo to “advise” him on potential Supreme Court nominees, leading to the placement of three controversial, far-right judges on the Court, installed with the help of Leo’s dark money court capture operation: Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrrett.

From 2014-2020, Leo’s network raised nearly $600 million to pack the courts and change the law, True North Research has detailed.

In 2020, Leo received the largest known political advocacy donation in history when right-wing billionaire Barre Seid transferred $1.6 billion to the “Marble Freedom Trust”. The latest Marble tax return filing revealed that Leo funnelled at least $411 million to right-wing groups from 2020 to 2022.

Leo-tied anti-abortion groups, Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America and Concerned Women for America, also helped pressurise politicians to confirm Trump’s judicial nominees….

Concerned Women for America… co-hosted an event in Washington DC in support of Kavanaugh’s confirmation with Independent Women’s Voice, a registered charity that claims not to take a position on abortion, while supporting anti-abortion politicians and Supreme Court candidates hostile to reproductive rights. Independent Women’s Voice and charity Independent Women’s Forum have received more than $6.5 million from Leo’s network in recent years and helped get those responsible for overturning Roe confirmed to the Court.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBTQ hate group, also played a pivotal role in overturning Roe. In 2018, at the Evangelicals for Life Conference, ADF senior counsel Denise Burke declared the organization had a “strategic plan … to challenge Roe. We’re basically baiting [the pro-choice movement], ‘Come on, fight us on turf that we have already set up and established.’ …We have carefully targeted states based on where we think the courts are the best.” That same year, ADF drafted the Mississippi abortion ban that was challenged in the Roe case.

Erin Hawley, ADF’s senior counsel, who was also paid by IWF’s legal arm, helped coordinate Dobbs amicus briefs. Several of Hawley’s anti-abortion talking points were parroted by Supreme Court justices in their opinions. Hawley is married to Senator Josh Hawley, who helped foment the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

ADF’s tax returns revealed an annual revenue of $104.5 million. Much of ADF’s revenue has come from donor-advised funds (DAFs), which shield the true source of funds. Leo’s network has increasingly relied on DAFs to pass money between groups in his network.

Notably, Leo’s Marble Freedom Trust gave Schwab Charitable Fund, which has given millions to ADF, almost $150 million in 2021, although there is no direct proof those funds or significant funds were directed by Leo to ADF because the donor-advised funds help obscure who the true original donors are. That is, Leo may or may not be funding ADF, which is certainly advancing a common legal agenda against abortion and more. (continues….)

SOURCE: Ms Magazine, by Ansev Demirhan, Caitlin Mahoney, 23 June 2023


Abortion rights activists are targets of violent, gendered threats after overturn of Roe

The threats almost always come from men.

If your job necessitated that you cope with constant death threats against you and your three-year-old, would you do it? What if you weren’t getting paid? Cathy (not her name) is an abortion rights activist whose answer is a resounding, yes. But Cathy wasn’t always an activist. Four years ago, she was a pregnant woman living in Ohio and thought she was having a miscarriage. “I went to the emergency room because I was having a lot of fluid leaking. And when you’re pregnant, that’s obviously a cause for concern, and I was having horrible pain, and I thought, Oh, my God! I’m miscarrying.”

She came into the ER sobbing, and the staff immediately took her into a small room without her partner. “What did you do to cause this miscarriage?” they asked. “I’m sobbing, and leaking, and I’m like, ‘Nothing, nothing! Can you help me? I think I’m losing my pregnancy,’” Cathy recalled saying.

Over and over, they asked, “What did you do to cause this miscarriage?” She said she didn’t even understand the question because she was so terrified she was losing her baby.

“Finally, I came around and I said, ‘I had a cup of coffee today and I know you’re not supposed to have [a lot of] coffee when you’re pregnant.’” That apparently satisfied them and they took her back to a patient room where her partner was allowed to rejoin her. There, they told her: “We can’t do anything, whether you’re having a miscarriage or not. We can’t do anything anyway.”

“This experience shook me to my core,” Cathy recalled. “I’m terrified … I’m having a pregnancy that’s having complications. I feel like I’m … potentially being criminalized for my pregnancy.”…

“Cathy attended her first abortion rights protest visibly pregnant with her now three-year-old son. But afterward, “the photos and videos and everything from that protest went viral. I was immediately hit with an onslaught. … Death threats, sexual assault threats to myself being pregnant. I remember the most violent was, ‘I’m going to cut your baby out of your stomach and then rape you.’”….

“And she’s not alone. These kinds of threats are a tactic to keep women from participating in the public sphere and political life….”

Social media sites were where our interviewees said they encountered the most threatening messages…. (continues in great detail)

SOURCE: Teen Vogue, by Zelly Martin, Dr Martin Riedl, Edith Hollander, Dr Inga Trauthig, 10 July 2023


Abortion advocacy group Plan C informs how to get abortion pills in every US state

Plan C has been a resource for those seeking abortion medication information online since before Roe v. Wade was overturned. Since its founding in 2014, the Plan C network has been determined to make sure that the comprehensive information on its website continues to help those seeking abortion medication — particularly in states where abortion care has been restricted or banned. Plan C offers current and updated information about how to access at-home abortion medication. They list all of the options available, depending on each state’s telehealth services, local community support networks offering free or generic pills, and a list of websites that sell the pills. Their website additionally lists the costs and the number of days it takes for at-home delivery of pills.

Contact Plan C:

SOURCE: American Independent, by Rebekah Sager, 11 July 2023