On Texas Anti-Abortion Law

Copying today’s article from Chicago Tribune by By ANGIE LEVENTIS LOURGOS:

In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block a Texas law that bans most abortions as early as about six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant.

The law — considered among the most restrictive in the nation — is unconventional in its approach, because it permits any private citizen to sue abortion providers or anyone aiding women in terminating a pregnancy, including someone who provides women rides to an abortion clinic or helps fund the procedure. The measure prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

Abortion rights activists fear the case could set precedence and other states might adopt similar laws, particularly some in the Midwest and southern swathes of the nation. Other state laws that have attempted such restrictive gestational limits on the procedure were previously blocked or struck down by the courts, citing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that established a woman’s right to an abortion.

Here are four things to know about the impact the Supreme Court ruling and the law in Texas might have on Illinois:

  1. Is the right to an abortion threatened in Illinois? No, Illinois has firmly codified abortion rights, with some of the most permissive laws in the nation in terms of abortion access. The Reproductive Health Act, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019, established the “fundamental right” to an abortion here.

“Residents of Illinois can take slight solace in this moment,” said Ameri Klafeta, director of the Women’s and Reproductive Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “We must continue to defend and expand those protections. We recommit ourselves to this effort today as we think of the millions of people across the United States who now are at risk of losing their access to abortion due to the Court’s failure to act.”

Pritzker on Thursday said he was “deeply concerned about the anti-abortion legislation that was passed and signed in Texas and that the Supreme Court has now said they will not hear or overturn.”

He added that he remains “focused on making sure that here in Illinois we are a beacon of hope for women who need reproductive health,” including those traveling here from other states.

  1. What about neighboring states in the Midwest? Opponents of abortion are hopeful that the ruling paves the way for more abortion restrictions in more states. Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, called the Texas law “a completely novel way of enforcing an abortion ban.”

“We encourage the other 49 states to catch up with Texas and continue this historic expansion of human rights,” he said.

While it’s hard to envision Illinois lawmakers enacting a measure like this, “it’s not at all hard to imagine a state like Missouri or Indiana following suit; and I could see other Midwestern states doing so as well,” he said.

  1. Does this mean more women will travel to Illinois for abortion access? Activists from both sides of the abortion debate believe Illinois will see an uptick in travel here for the procedure.

“I think we’re definitely going to be seeing higher abortion rates in Illinois,” Scheidler said. “That trend will continue as other states enact other pro-life measures, whether we’re talking about measures that have already been upheld by the Supreme Court or measures that are completely new like this Texas law.”

Thousands of women already travel to Illinois from other states each year to access abortions. In 2019, roughly 7,500 crossed state lines for the procedure, about 16% of all terminated pregnancies in Illinois that year. The number of out-of-state abortions has increased every year since 2014, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.

While it’s impossible to know the reasons for each individual decision to travel for the procedure, many experts have attributed the overall rise to increasing restrictions in other states.

  1. Can Illinois services and providers handle any potential surge in patients that might come from this law, and others that could follow?

Jennifer Welch, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said her agency and its 17 health centers are already preparing for a possible increase in patients from other states.

“We know that there will be patients from other states,” she said. “Illinois is a haven in the Midwest. We will do everything we can to serve patients who are forced to come here from out of state.”

During the earlier days of the pandemic, she said, more Texas patients traveled to Illinois seeking abortions after their home state temporarily banned most abortions, saying they didn’t qualify as essential surgeries during the COVID-19 outbreak. Welch recalled that one patient traveled more than a thousand miles to terminate a pregnancy at a clinic in west suburban Aurora.

Welch added that this more recent Texas law, the gestational ban, “sets a dangerous precedent and it’s making a path for neighboring states (in the Midwest) to override well-established constitutional rights.”

“I absolutely do expect similar laws across the country,” she said. “I absolutely expect more to come.”

Escorting

I was escorting today after almost a month of not escorting. That’s because we now have to skip two weeks after any out-of-state travel, so I had to skip after Michigan, and then I Lena was visiting. 

Today I was finally back. 

It was quiet first, but then we got three young priests with a large group of school-age kids. I do not think all of them were high-schoolers; some didn’t look older than eleven.

So they line up and pray, and each woman who goes to the clinic and comes back has to march through this corridor of human bodies. One of the priests even got into a verbal fight with one of the escorts. He said that he does not know what a bubble zone is and that we speak to him in an unacceptable tone. 

He didn’t sound like a Christian to me! Cardinal Cupich is a far better person! I don’t know on which assembly line such “priests” are produced!

At some point, a patient came out of the clinic doors and stopped in hesitation. I told her that I could walk her through this line of prayers. She turned to me: but what are those people? What are they trying to achieve?

–They are trying to tell you and others that you are committing a sin..

–Oh, they are! I already have three children, and my husband passed away a year and a half ago; why should I bring one more child into this world? They won’t be around when the baby comes; I would have to do it on my own.

Half-pandemic May

Today, Chicago and the state of Illinois lifted most remaining COVID-19 mitigation-related masking and social distancing requirements and capacity limits. It isn’t quite the end of an era, but it is a step forward.

But when I wrote a decent chunk of this post (on June 7), many of those limits were still in place, and Chicagoland region was caught in an interesting half-way state that had as much to do with people’s attitudes as anything that was formally required.

I’ve been Chicagoland specifically because the United States, for better or for worse, continues to be a patchwork of restrictions, regulations and approaches. For the past 12 months, I’ve been able to sit down in coffee shops in Kenosha (Wisconsin) and Michigan City (Indiana), but not in Chicago and most suburbs. Masking has also varied – as I mentioned before, Kenoshans really didn’t mask much until the fall 2020 surge in cases.

In the past two months, we saw two major developments.

In late April, CDC issued a recommendation stating that people don’t have to wear masks outdoors – though it still recommended that unvaccinated people wear masks in crowded outdoor settings. Then, on May 13, it recommended allowing vaccinated people to go maskless indoors, except in public transit, government buildings, hospitals and some other congregate settings. Illinois and Chicago specifically adjusted their respective regulations accordingly – which meant, in practice, that businesses and public institutions such as libraries could continue requiring everybody to wear masks, if they so chose.

Continue reading “Half-pandemic May”

Chicago’s Austin community and the complexities of COVID-19 vaccine equity

For the most part, Illinois is till currently in Phase 1B of the vaccination program. In order to get inoculated, you have to be 65 or older, or (with a few exceptions) an essential worker, or a teacher, or (in most parts of the state) be an adult with some kind of a long-term health issue. This means that most adults and none of the kids still can’t get it.

For the most part.

In the end of February, the City of Chicago quietly launched the Protect Chicago Plus initiative, where the city is offering vaccinations to everybody age 18 or older who live in certain community areas and set up temporary vaccination sites. The idea is that the majority-black and majority-Hispanic neighborhoods have seen higher-than-average number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, but also have fewer opportunities to get the vaccines. For example, the Lakeview neighborhood up on the North Side has a number of doctors’ offices, clinics and pharmacies. In North Lawndale, you can count those on two hands and still have fingers left over.

The city decided to set eligibility based on community areas, which makes sense. Neighborhoods come and go, their borders shift, and there isn’t always consensus on what they’re called and borders even are, while Chicago community areas have endured, with very few changes, for almost 100 years.

But it does create some interesting wrinkles.

Continue reading “Chicago’s Austin community and the complexities of COVID-19 vaccine equity”

In The News

First of all, I can’t even describe how happy I am with the new child credit included in the COVID relief bill. First time in the US history, it means the guaranteed income. As some of the political commentators say, it feels weird that people pay less attention to that measure than to anything in this bill.

My friends in Finland would not understand why I am so excited about this, because they had child credit forever. But for us – what a difference! Jus$900t think: if this would be on place when I first came to the US, I would have extrs $900 a month! OK, adjusted to inflation it would be more like $600 at that time. But thinking that back then, my monthly net pay was $2,333 and I spent $1000 a month on daycare – can you imagine?! I am so happy for all the parents, and so proud of our country:)

On the same note – finally the vaccinations started to pick up. Although the vaccination efforts are driven by the states, you can see what a difference a leadership on the federal level can make. I am hopeful, like I haven’t been for a long time.

About School Closures and Openings

Last week, Anna sent me a link to one article in the Y TImes, which talked about the schools in Rhode Island: the only Democratic state where schools stayed in-person thought the whole time of the pandemic. 

I wanted to write in-depth about this article, but it is massive, and I feel that I will never have time to write about it in detail. 

I still feel that I should say something about it, especially in connection with the Chicago Public Schools situation, which just got resolved (at least we hope so!) after many weeks of the standoff. 

Here is the link to the article. It re-iterates that every day the child is not in school does some damage and that all efforts should be made to keep the schools open. On the other hand, it does not mean that kids in schools do not pose any risk, and most of the article is dedicated to how the damage can be mitigated. No sugarcoating, very balanced, and very thoughtful analysis. And a must-read for those who what to understand the situation with in-person learning

Maid: A Book Review

This is not the real review, just the short note, since I want to mention this book to my friends who are following what I read.

Another book I finished last week, was Maid by Stephanie Land.You might want to say that “that’s what Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about in “Nickled and Dimed,” except for (as she herself said in the foreword) that’s FOR REAL. Stephanie is not role-playing. it’s not a game, it’s survival.

Working hard is not enough. Working multiple jobs is not enough. Trying your best is not enough

My takeaway from this book is: people who are struggling, need help. They need help from organizations, funds, and people. From individuals. Otherwise, survival mode will stay forever.