USA – Multiple Reports

North Carolina: Federal judge limits damage from restrictive bill

Abortion providers had requested a blanket order halting all the 1 July restrictions in a bill they will soon challenge in court. Judge Catherine Eagles, who was nominated by former President Obama, said it would be overly broad to block enforcement of the entire new law. But she did block the order that doctors must document the existence of a pregnancy within the uterus before conducting a medical abortion. Revisions of the bill by the state legislature, including maintaining a 20-week limit for abortions on grounds of rape and incest, and through 24 weeks for “life-limiting” fetal anomalies. A medical emergency exception also remains in place. With these compromises, the abortion providers accepted the revised bill and so did the Democratic governor. Rare these days, such compromises.

SOURCE: PBS, by Gary D Robinson, 1 July 2023 + PHOTO by Jonathan Drake/REUTERS: Raleigh, North Carolina, 13 May 2023.


Ohio abortion rights ballot measure receives nearly double the needed signatures

Groups hoping to enshrine abortion rights in Ohio’s constitution delivered nearly double the number of signatures needed to place an amendment on the autumn statewide ballot, aiming to signal sweeping widespread support for an issue that still faces the threat of needing a significantly increased victory margin.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights said they dropped off more than 700,000 petition signatures to Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office in downtown Columbus. LaRose now will work with local election boards to determine that at least 413,446 are valid, which would get the proposal onto the 7 November ballot.

SOURCE: PBS, 5 July 2023


The secret history of the abortion pill developed in the US — found in a Massachusetts archive

“It’s a tale suited for a heist film: A pregnant punk from the Bay Area and an activist board a plane from London to New York, carrying abortion pills that at the time were banned in the U.S. They were stopped at customs, and officials thought they had confiscated all their pills – but they did not.

“Lawrence Lader, pictured above, was a prominent abortion rights activist who helped pave the way for medical abortion in the US. He is the subject of a new podcast called “Cover Up: The Pill Plot” by host and reporter T J Raphael, who worked on Radio WNYC’s nationally syndicated daily news programme. She found this story in Lader’s archives at Smith College.

“What she found was the story of Leona Benton, a 29-year-old self-described anarchist and West Coast punk from the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1992 she was pregnant, and with abortion rights activist Lawrence Lader, flew from San Francisco to New York, then to London, to obtain mifepristone. Mifepristone had been available in Europe since 1988, but it was illegal in the US because of a ban put into place by President George HW Bush.

“Lader’s idea was to find a pregnant woman, get her a prescription for the medication, fly to London, bring the pills back to New York, and then intentionally be stopped by US Customs and have the pills confiscated at JFK Airport,” Raphael said. “Benton’s case went all the way to the Supreme Court. I don’t think a lot of people realise that an abortion pill case has already gone before the Supreme Court, it was just back in 1992.”

Benton eventually lost her Supreme Court case, and had a surgical abortion instead. But unbeknownst to the federal authorities, Lader had managed to sneak a second dose of mifepristone into the country, and he secretly built a lab in Westchester County, New York state, to replicate the abortion pill and make a proven American copy. The location of this lab was in the archives at Smith College.”

The FDA eventually approved mifepristone for abortions in 2000.

SOURCE: WGBH Public Radio Boston, by Jeremy Siegel, Gal Tziperman Lotan, 5 July 2023


Man gets life sentence for rape of child who travelled for abortion

Gerson Fuentes agreed to a plea deal after he was charged with raping a 9-year-old Ohio girl who later travelled to Indiana for an abortion.

Last year, the story of a 10-year-old girl in Ohio who had travelled to Indiana for an abortion became a flashpoint in the nationwide abortion debate. On Wednesday, the Ohio man who had been charged with raping the girl pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The man, age 28, appeared in a county court in Columbus, Ohio, where he entered the plea agreement to two counts of rape, which gives him the possibility of parole after 25 years, according to livestream broadcasts from local media inside the courtroom.

The abortion for this young girl was carried out by Dr Caitlin Bernard, who was censured by the anti-abortion movement for providing an abortion across a state line.

SOURCE: New York Times, by Christine Hauser, 5 July 2023 (Unlocked by a subscriber) ; Yahoo!, by Robin Abcarian, 4 June 2023 + National Public Radio, by Sarah McCammon, 3 June 2023


Mother and daughter and a man prosecuted for daughter’s late abortion

A Nebraska woman pleaded guilty on 24 May to burning and concealing a fetus after she took medication to end her pregnancy, while prosecutors move forward with a criminal case accusing her mother of illegally helping with the abortion.

Prosecutors said Celeste Burgess gave birth to the stillborn fetus about 29 weeks and five days into her pregnancy. She was 17 at the time, but prosecutors charged her as an adult. Burgess, now 18, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of concealing or abandoning a dead body and prosecutors dropped two misdemeanour charges. The fetus was found buried in a field north of Norfolk in northeast Nebraska.

Her mother, Jessica Burgess, 42, is accused of illegally helping with the abortion last spring. The prosecutor involved has said he had never before charged anyone with violating Nebraska’s 20-week abortion limit, which was passed in 2010. Soon after, Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen signed a 12-week abortion ban into law, which took effect immediately.

The case against the mother and daughter is based partly on Facebook messages the two women exchanged about their plan to obtain the medication to induce an abortion and then to burn the fetus.

Facebook were required by law to turn over the chats to Nebraska police after they were served with a warrant, as part of the investigation into the abortion, court documents show. The investigation, which was launched in April before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, is one of the few known instances of Facebook’s turning over information to help law enforcement officials pursue an abortion case — but it is also an example of a scenario that abortion rights experts have warned will be more common as all abortions become illegal in many states.

Jessica Burgess pleaded not guilty and is due back in court on 7 July for a pretrial hearing. Celeste Burgess is scheduled to be sentenced on 20 July. She faces up to two years in prison. Prosecutors agreed not to make a sentencing recommendation.

According to court documents, the daughter talked in the messages she exchanged with her mom “about how she can’t wait to get the ‘thing’ out of her body.” She also said “I will finally be able to wear jeans” in one of the messages investigators obtained with a search warrant.

In one message, Jessica Burgess told her daughter she had obtained the pills and gave her instructions on how to end her pregnancy.

Last summer, a man pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour for helping the women bury the fetus.

SOURCE: NBC News, by Associated Press, 24 May 2023