War on Women Report: Indiana AG Goes After Dr. Caitlin Bernard, ‘Paints Providers With Violent Lies’; Pro-Abortion House Democrats Arrested

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U.S. patriarchal authoritarianism is on the rise, and democracy is on the decline. But day after day, we stay vigilant in our goals to dismantle patriarchy at every turn. The fight is far from over. We are watching, and we refuse to go back. This is the War on Women Report.


Wednesday, July 13

+ Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) announced he’s investigating Dr. Caitlin Bernard who treated a 10-year-old rape victim after being denied care in Ohio—thanks to the state’s six-week ban that includes no exception for rape. In an interview with Fox News, Rokita falsely accused Bernard of being an “abortion activist acting as a doctor” with a “history of failing to report.” The attorney general said he’s gathering “evidence,” including looking at her license. 

“This girl was politicized, politicized for the gain of killing more babies, all right? That was the goal,” Rokita said. “And this abortion activist is out there front and center.”

Abortion providers are no stranger to violence, misinformation and scapegoating. On July 15, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH) Dr. Jamila Perritt issued a statement in response to the vicious attack on Bernard, a fellow with PRH:

“Dr. Caitlin Bernard did her job. Dr. Caitlin Bernard showed up for a patient who needed the healthcare she expertly provides when no one else could or would. She did what every abortion provider has done: hold space with and care for a young person as they navigate an unexpected experience in their life, something they never wished or wanted for themselves. To watch anti-abortion extremists paint providers with violent lies makes it abundantly clear that a driving reason for abortion restrictions are to use threats, intimidation and surveillance [which] make the healthcare abortion providers offer impossible to obtain. They’re attacking her for truly caring for a young person. An attack against Dr. Bernard is an attack against us all.”

Thursday, July 14

+ Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) sued the Biden administration over guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that requires abortions be provided in medical emergencies to save the mother’s life—even in states with near-total bans. This means the nation’s doctors are protected by federal law.

“The Biden administration seeks to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic,” said Paxton. “I will ensure that President Biden will be forced to comply with the Supreme Court’s important decision concerning abortion and I will not allow him to undermine and distort existing laws to fit his administration’s unlawful agenda.” 

Texas is one of several states with abortion bans already in effect and will soon ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization. Paxton’s lawsuit advises that the HHS guidance will “coerce healthcare providers to supply abortions outside the allowable scope under the Hyde Amendment”—which prevents federal spending to covering an abortion except in cases of rape or incest, and applies to anyone insured by the federal government including people on Medicare/Medicaid and most Native Americans

HHS secretary Xavier Becerra defined the organization’s position clearly:

“Under the law, no matter where you live, women have the right to emergency care—including abortion care. … We are reinforcing that we expect providers to continue offering these services and that federal law preempts state abortion bans when needed for emergency care. Protecting both patients and providers is a top priority, particularly in this moment. Healthcare must be between a patient and their doctor, not a politician.”

Abortion rights activists react after the announcement to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

Friday, July 15

+ The Biden administration must halt its enforcement of federal guidance seeking to protect transgender students and workers in 20 states—thanks to a Tennessee federal judge who temporarily blocked the Education Department’s Title IX guidance. 

Judge Charles Atchley, a Trump appointee, said the agency’s guidance “directly interferes with and threatens Plaintiff States’ ability to continue enforcing their state laws”—controversial laws that restrict trans youth from playing on sports teams and using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Scenes outside the Supreme Court as three cases involving LGBTQ employment rights were argued at the Court in October 2019. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

Currently, a coalition of 20 Republican attorney generals—led by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery—are arguing that their states face a “credible threat” of losing federal funding and that forcing schools to use transgender students’ pronouns is illegal under the First Amendment.

Interim president Joni Madison of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) responded to the ruling:

“We are disappointed and outraged by this ruling from the Eastern District of Tennessee where, in yet another example of far-right judges legislating from the bench, the court blocked guidance affirming what the Supreme Court decided in Bostock v. Clayton County: that LGBTQ+ Americans are protected under existing civil rights law. Nothing in this decision can stop schools from treating students consistent with their gender identity. And nothing in this decision eliminates schools’ obligations under Title IX or students’ or parents’ abilities to bring lawsuits in federal court. HRC will continue to fight these anti-transgender rulings with every tool in our toolbox.”

Tuesday, July 19

The final tally on the Respect for Marriage Act. (Screenshot from C-SPAN)

+ The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would grant federal recognition of both same-sex and interracial marriages, less than a month after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said the bench should reconsider the landmark case protecting same-sex relationships and same-sex marriages.

The legislation, the Respect for Marriage Act, passed in a 267 to 157 vote—with 47 Republicans in support. In addition to protecting marriage equality at the federal level, the measure—sponsored by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine)—would also repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that allows states to not recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state. Due to the 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, DOMA is technically unenforceable—but that ruling is clearly not safe.

The legislation’s path in the Senate is unclear since the support of 10 Republicans is needed to pass it.

+ Over 30 demonstrators, including more than a dozen House Democrats, were arrested at an abortion rights rally outside the Supreme Court. Among the lawmakers arrested were members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who led the protest.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney (center left) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (far left) are arrested by Capitol police. (Courtesy of Rep. Maloney’s office)

U.S. Capitol Police said that it started arresting demonstrators after they continued blocking a street in Washington, D.C., near the Court. Many women wore specially made green bandanas with “Won’t Back Down” and marched from the Capitol to the Court. 

“There is no democracy if women do not have control over their own bodies and decisions about their own health, including reproductive care,” Maloney said upon arrest. “The least I can do is put my body on the line for the 33 million women at risk of losing their rights. The Republican Party and the right-wing extremists behind this decision are not pro-life, but pro-controlling the bodies of women, girls and any person who can become pregnant. Their ultimate goal is to institute a national ban on abortion. We will not let them win. We will be back.”

+ After his interview with the Jan. 6 Committee, Garrett Ziegler, a former Trump White House aide, accused the committee of being “anti-white” and referred to female colleagues Cassidy Hutchinson and Alyssa Farrah Griffin, who testified about Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, as “total hoes and thots.”

This sexism followed Ziegler’s previous statement, “I have no bigotry. I just try to see the world for where it is.”

Wednesday, July 20

+ A federal appeals court ruled that Georgia’s 2019 abortion law can take effect—immediately lifting a block imposed by a lower court. Georgia’s law—banning abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape or incest if a police report is filed—has been held in court for more than three years. 

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) cheered the court’s decision:

“We are overjoyed that the court has paved the way for the implementation of Georgia’s LIFE Act,” Kemp said. “And as mothers navigate pregnancy, birth, parenthood or alternative options to parenthood—like adoption—Georgia’s public, private and nonprofit sectors stand ready to provide the resources they need to be safe, healthy and informed.”

Georgia’s 2019 law, H.B. 481, includes controversial “fetal personhood” language such as redefining a “natural person” to mean “any human being including an unborn child.” The law also defines “unborn child” as a “member of the species of Homo sapiens at any stage of development who is carried in the womb”—a change that will have devastating impacts in different areas of the state.

“Across the state, providers are now being forced to turn away patients who thought they would be able to access abortion, immediately changing the course of their lives and futures. This is horrific,” said the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Southeast and Planned Parenthood Federation of America in a joint statement.

This ruling sets up a new battle between state and local officials who said they will not enforce the law. Several district attorneys in liberal-leaning areas have pledged not to use their resources to criminalize women seeking abortions and safe abortion providers.

Thursday July 21

+ The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would safeguard access to contraceptives, less than a month after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said the bench should reconsider the landmark case protecting forms of birth control.

The final ‘nay’ vote on the the Right to Contraception Act was 195; C-SPAN cut away before the end of the vote.

The bill, the Right to Contraception Act, passed in a 228 to 195 vote. Eight Republicans— Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), John Katko (N.Y.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Nancy Mace (S.C.), Maria Salazar (Fla.) and Fred Upton (Mich.)—joined every Democrat in voting in favor. All 195 “no” votes came from Republicans.

“It’s 2022. How are they opposed to access to birth control?” said President Biden.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), seeks to codify access to contraceptives on the federal level, allowing individuals to obtain and use birth control and safeguarding a healthcare provider’s ability to supply such products.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is unlikely to attract the support of 10 Republicans needed to pass it.

Ms. is keeping track of the changing landscape of abortion care and will continue to update this piece as state policies continue to morph and change.

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About

Michelle Moulton is an editorial intern with Ms. and a rising senior at Smith College. She is double majoring in the study of women & gender and sociology. Her beats include reproductive justice, domestic worker history, domestic violence and police abolition.