Warren Opens Investigation into State-Imposed Abortion Restrictions and Their Impacts on Women’s Access to Health Care
Warren Highlights Horrific Accounts of State Abortion Bans Resulting in Denial of Pregnancy Care, Reproductive Care, and Non-Reproductive Health Care; Seeks Information from Five Leading Health Care Organizations
“There is no doubt that the blame for such tragedies lays squarely at the feet of extremist Republican state legislators who are willing to risk the lives and safety of women in their pursuit of a rightwing, misogynistic, and out-of-touch agenda.”
Washington, D.C. – In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) opened an investigation into how state abortion bans enacted by rightwing legislators have affected women’s access to urgent and critical pregnancy care, reproductive care, and even non-reproductive health care. Senator Warren’s investigation comes on the heels of reports from across the country highlighting shocking stories from women in states that have enacted radical abortion bans and criminalized health care. Senator Warren wrote to five leading organizations representing physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care providers to gather more information: the American Medical Association, Physicians for Reproductive Health, National Nurses United, the American Pharmacists Association, and the American Hospital Association.
“These initial reports are a harbinger of the threats faced by millions of women under state-imposed abortion bans and by their providers who took an oath to ‘do no harm.’ And as more states restrict abortion access, they will only multiply,” wrote Senator Warren.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, rightwing legislatures across the country have enacted highly restrictive abortion bans: at least ten states have banned abortion outright, four states have prohibited abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, three states will outlaw abortion in a matter of weeks, and five states have abortion bans in place that are only temporarily blocked by judges. Despite over 75% of Americans opposing such radical restrictions, virtually none of these bans have exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
In the letters, Senator Warren highlights horrifying accounts from Wisconsin, Texas, Missouri, and Ohio that show how the effects of abortion restrictions have extended far beyond abortion care – women have been unable to receive critical pregnancy care, reproductive care, and even non-reproductive health care:
- In Wisconsin, a woman “bled for more than ten days from an incomplete miscarriage after emergency room staff would not remove the fetal tissue.” Hospital staff feared the consequences of violating state laws “amid a confusing legal landscape” set off by the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
- In Texas, a woman was denied medical care for days after her water broke in the 18th week of her pregnancy, despite vomiting, passing clots of blood and yellow discharge, and exhibiting signs of infection. The chance of survival for her fetus was “as close to zero as you’ll ever get in medicine.” But because there was still a fetal heartbeat and Texas’s abortion ban offers no definition for its “medical emergency” exception, the hospital ethics committee did not approve treatment until her discharge was “foul” and “(e)nough to make her retch.”
- In Missouri, one of the largest hospital systems in St. Louis stopped providing emergency contraception such as Plan B because of ambiguities in the state’s abortion ban, one that has no exceptions for rape or incest. The hospital system was only able to reverse course when the state’s attorney general issued guidance stating that contraception was not covered by the abortion ban.
- In Ohio, a clinic received calls from two women with ectopic pregnancies who said that their doctors would not treat them. Ectopic pregnancies, which occur in one out of every 50 pregnancies, definitionally cannot be carried to term and can quickly become life-threatening emergencies.
- Methotrexate—a drug used by patients suffering from certain cancers and auto-immune diseases—has become less accessible to women because it can be used to induce abortions. Reports indicate that “some doctors have already stopped prescribing methotrexate rather than risk falling afoul of antiabortion laws.” In one instance, a pharmacist in Texas refused to dispense methotrexate to an eight-year-old girl because “(f)emales of possible child bearing potential have to have (a) diagnosis on hard copy with state abortion laws.”
Senator Warren is asking each health care organization to assist in her investigation to better understand the effects of radical abortion bans on health care access, including pregnancy care (such as care for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies), reproductive care (such as emergency contraception and fertility services), and any other form of health care. She is requesting that each organization respond to her questions about the effects of abortion bans on patients and providers, the guidance provided by these organizations about state-imposed abortion bans, and how the federal government can respond to these bans by September 9, 2022.
As access to abortion care and health care is under attack by the extremist Supreme Court and Republican state legislatures, Senator Warren has called on the government to use every tool to expand and protect reproductive care:
- On August 5, 2022, Senator Warren spoke on the floor of the Senate about the need to crack down on the deceptive and misleading practices employed by many crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). Senator Warren also spoke on the need to bring the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act up for a vote. The legislation would direct the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit deceptive or misleading advertising that many CPCs use to dissuade patients from getting the reproductive care they need, including abortion care.
- On August 4, 2022, Senators Warren, Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), outlining concrete actions HHS can take to help meet President Biden’s goal of protecting and expanding access to medication abortion.
- On July 29, 2022, Senators Warren and Hirono led 23 of their colleagues in a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), calling on the VA to take immediate administrative action to offer abortions and all abortion-related services to veterans and eligible dependents.
- On July 21, 2022, Senators Warren and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent letters to Bark Technologies, Gaggle.net, GoGuardian, and Securly Inc., raising concerns that the software these companies use to monitor students’ online activity could be used to criminalize or punish students who are seeking information about abortion services and reproductive health care.
- On July 19, 2022, Senators Warren, Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, introduced the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act, legislation that would protect access to critical reproductive health care services—like birth control, cancer screenings, and more—by providing a consistent and strong source of funding for the Title X Family Planning Program.
- On July 14, 2022, Senators Warren, Cory Booker (D-N.J), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and over a dozen Senate Democrats wrote to President Biden and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging them to immediately declare national and public health emergencies over Americans’ access to reproductive care.
- On July 11, 2022, Senators Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sent letters to Facebook and Instagram, calling on them to address their reported censorship of posts related to abortion services, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
- On July 7, 2022, Senator Warren announced two key data brokers’ commitments to permanently stop selling the location data of people seeking abortion services.
- On June 23, 2022, Senators Warren and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) introduced the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act, legislation that would crack down on false advertising that crisis pregnancy centers employ to dissuade patients from getting the reproductive care they need, including abortion care.
- On June 22, 2022, following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Senators Warren and Smith wrote an op-ed in the New York Times laying out the next steps in the fight to protect the right to an abortion, including calling for the declaration of a public health emergency.
- On June 15, 2022, Senator Warren introduced the Health and Location Data Protection Act, legislation that bans data brokers from selling some of the most sensitive data available about everyday Americans: their health and location data.
- On June 7, 2022, Senators Warren and Murray led 23 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to President Biden urging him to immediately issue an executive order directing the federal government to develop a national plan to defend Americans’ fundamental reproductive rights, including their right to an abortion.
- On May 17, 2022, Senator Warren led thirteen of her Senate colleagues in letters to two data brokers, demanding answers about their collection and sale of the cellphone-based location data of people who visit abortion clinics such as Planned Parenthood.
- On May 10, 2022, Senator Warren delivered a speech on the floor of the United States Senate on the need to protect the constitutional right to an abortion, pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, and fight back against Republican extremism.
- On May 9, 2022, Senator Warren wrote an op-ed in Marie Claire about the need to enshrine the right to an abortion in federal law.
- On May 3, 2022, when the draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked, Senator Warren spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court twice to activists, protestors, and the nation about the need to protect abortion rights.
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