In the News, December 2021

Written by Stacie Murphy, Director of Congressional Relations | Published: December 13, 2021

Update: Texas Abortion “Bounty” Law

The fight over Senate Bill 8, Texas’s notorious abortion “bounty” law, continues to make its way through the judicial system. The law, which bans abortion after about six weeks into pregnancy, allows anyone from any state who believes the law has been violated to file a civil suit against anyone who “facilitated” the abortion—this includes clinic workers, those who help the patient pay for the abortion, or even the taxi driver who brings them to their appointment. If the claimant wins the suit, they will receive a monetary award of at least $10,000.

Two separate lawsuits—one from Texas abortion providers and one from the U.S. Department of Justice—are seeking to have the law put on hold while the legal battles play out. A U.S. District Court judge issued an injunction preventing enforcement of the law in mid-October, but that ruling was quickly overturned by the conservative 5th Circuit Court.

On November 1, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in both cases. Rulings were pending at the time of our print deadline, and the Texas law remained in effect.

New Study Says Young People Will Experience More Climate Disasters

A new study published in the journal Science says that people born in 2020 will experience between two and seven times more climate-related disasters—especially heatwaves—in their lifetimes than people born in 1960. The study, which used a cohort approach to quantify relative lifetime exposure to climate-related events, is an attempt to highlight the intergenerational inequity at the heart of the current failure to grapple with the effects of climate change.

Climate Crisis Is a Violation of Children’s Human Rights

A new report from UNICEF calls the climate crisis “the defining human and child’s rights challenge of this generation” and says that it “is already having a devastating impact on the well-being of children globally.”

The report’s authors estimate that 2.2 billion children are currently exposed to at least two overlapping environmental “hazards, shocks and stresses” such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves. The report notes that children are more physically and psychologically vulnerable to such events than adults and that they are also more likely to die of diseases exacerbated by climate change.

WHO and UNFPA Launch Joint Initiative to End Preventable Maternal Deaths

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have partnered to launch new targets called the Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM) initiative. The initiative’s goal is to get the world back on track to meet Sustainable Development Goal 3, Target 1 (to reduce the ratio of maternal deaths to less than 70 per 100,000 live births, down from 211 today).

EPMM has issued five targets that should be met by 2025 if SDG 3.1 is to remain achievable:

  1. 90 percent pregnant women to attend four or more antenatal care visits (towards increasing to eight visits by 2030);
  2. 90 percent births to be attended by skilled health personnel;
  3. 80 percent women who have just given birth to access postnatal care within two days of delivery;
  4. 60 percent of the population to have access to emergency obstetric care within two hours of travel time;
  5. 65 percent of women to be able to make informed and empowered decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use, and their reproductive health.

The EPMM initiative created these targets after two rounds of consultations over several months, using inputs from 40 countries. It outlines specific goals for individual countries, concentrating on those where rates of maternal mortality are highest.

Illinois Lawmakers Pass Measure to End State’s Parental Notification of Abortion Law

The Illinois state legislature has passed a law repealing the requirement that a parent be notified at least 48 hours before a minor undergoes an abortion in the state. The parental notification requirement had been on the books since 1995, though minors did have the right to request the notification be waived if they expressed concerns about their safety.

Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) has expressed support for the repeal and is expected to sign the bill into law, although because it did not pass with a three-fifths majority, it cannot take effect until June 1, 2022.

Mexico’s Supreme Court Decriminalizes Abortion

In early September, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued a historic ruling: Having an abortion is not a crime. This ruling is a dramatic shift for the majority-Catholic country.

While abortion through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy was already legal and widely available in Mexico City, as well as in the states of Hidalgo, Veracruz, and Oaxaca, it remains severely restricted in most of the rest of the country.

It will take time for the ruling’s effects to translate into greater abortion access across the country. There are laws on the books in many Mexican states that will have to be changed or challenged, and the Court didn’t set a gestational limit on abortion access, so it’s likely that there will be further argument about the breadth of the decision, but it’s a sweeping victory for abortion rights advocates in that country.

Analysis: 26 States Will Ban Abortion if Roe Falls

A new analysis from the Guttmacher Institute suggests that 26 U.S. states are either “certain or likely” to ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturns or severely limits the scope of Roe v. Wade.

Twenty-one states (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) already have laws on the books or constitutional amendments that would enable them to quickly ban abortion in the absence of Roe. Five others (Florida, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming) are considered likely to follow suit, based on their recent actions and current political composition.

On December 1, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that could overturn Roe and give these states the opening they have been waiting for.

Protests in Poland After Pregnant Woman Dies of Septic Shock 

Protests and silent vigils have broken out across Poland after a 30-year-old woman died of septic shock in her 22nd week of pregnancy. According to activists, the woman, identified in the media only as Izabela, is the first person to die as a result of Poland’s recently tightened abortion laws.

Poland had previously allowed abortion only in cases of rape, life endangerment, and severe fetal abnormalities. Poland’s conservative constitutional tribunal ruled last year that abortions were no longer permitted in cases of fetal defects. Opponents charge that health care providers now routinely wait for a fetus to die naturally before inducing an abortion, even in cases where allowing the pregnancy to continue raises the risk to the pregnant person.

A spokesman for the conservative ruling party said that there are no plans to make changes to abortion laws in response to this case.