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USMisinformation around abortion bills causing confusion and fear for patients

18:25  22 may  2019
18:25  22 may  2019 Source:   abcnews.go.com

Alabama Lawmakers Vote to Effectively Ban Abortion in the State

Alabama Lawmakers Vote to Effectively Ban Abortion in the State The Alabama Senate approved a measure on Tuesday that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state, setting up a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the case that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. 

A string of abortion legislation in Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia is causing patients confusion and panic over if the procedure is still legal. Every time Alabama lawmakers or courts move on a bill that chisels away at abortion rights, patients call in with questions for the Alabama Women's Center, one

(MORE: Misinformation around abortion bills causing confusion and fear for patients ). To get an abortion in Missouri as of May 2018, patients must hear state-directed counseling in-person and then wait 72 hours to get the procedure, per the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research

Misinformation around abortion bills causing confusion and fear for patients© Michael Spooneybarger/Reuters People walk to the Alabama State Capitol during the March for Reproductive Freedom against the state's new abortion law, the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, in Montgomery, Alabama, May 19, 2019.

Dalton Johnson knew that his phone would be ringing off the hook.

Every time Alabama lawmakers or courts move on a bill that chisels away at abortion rights, patients call in with questions for the Alabama Women's Center, one of the three clinics that provide abortions in the state, which is owned by Johnson.

States passing abortion bans have among the lowest rates of women in power

States passing abortion bans have among the lowest rates of women in power When the Alabama State Senate passed their controversial bill which would ban most abortions, not one of the four female state senators voted for it. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); The fact that there are only four female state senators in the Heart of Dixie comes as little surprise to political observers, as the state ranks among the lowest in terms of female representation in state legislatures.

(MORE: Misinformation around abortion bills causing confusion and fear for patients ). Additionally, the bill includes a "trigger" function, meaning if Roe v. Wade -- the landmark 1973 case that codified abortion as a protected right nationally -- gets overturned, abortion will become illegal in

(MORE: Misinformation around abortion bills causing confusion and fear for patients ). Gary Herbert signed a bill banning abortions after 18 weeks and then a second bill that banned the procedure in cases where the reason for the procedure was a Down syndrome diagnoses.

That happened in 2013, when lawmakers required that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals, and again in 2016 when they banned a second trimester method known as dilation and evacuation, and barred abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of public elementary and middle schools. All of those laws -- which are known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws -- were later blocked in court.

"It happens every time one of these TRAP laws happens," Johnson told ABC News. "There's always a flood of calls: 'Are you guys still open?' 'Can I get my procedure done?'"

(MORE: Alabama governor signs controversial abortion ban into law but will likely face legal challenges)

Since the state Senate passed a bill last week that would criminalize providing abortions, without exceptions for cases of rape or incest, the "phone's been ringing nonstop," Johnson said, especially since Gov. Kay Ivey went on to sign it.

Abortion rights: Why it's hard to gauge Americans' support

Abortion rights: Why it's hard to gauge Americans' support Republican-run state governments are clearly aiming for a Supreme Court showdown over Roe v. Wade. Georgia recently passed a law banning most abortions after six weeks, and Alabama just passed a near-total abortion ban. Both efforts are part of more than a dozen such successful and unsuccessful attempts this year. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); Not surprisingly, the blowback has been stiff from abortion rights groups and politicians. Some have even called for a boycott of Georgia.

(MORE: Misinformation around abortion bills causing confusion and fear for patients ). Nearly a quarter of all abortions were medication abortions done at or before eight weeks' gestation in 2015, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Misinformation has been spreading for years on tech platforms, thriving within what researchers call “small world” networks—clusters of people who are highly interconnected and tend to reinforce each other’s views. Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube had done little to limit the spread of propaganda

The signing of that Alabama bill came a week after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a so-called "heartbeat" ban. This week, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he'd sign a "heartbeat" ban in Louisiana should it pass the state legislature.

None of these bills have gone into effect, and the Georgia and Alabama bills are both facing legal challenges. Abortion remains legal in all 50 states, and no state has a functioning six-week abortion ban.

The sometimes convoluted procedures for how laws are approved and then challenged in court, coupled with the charged language used by politicians and advocates on both sides of the issue, has at times left patients misinformed.

(MORE: Abortion advocates react to Alabama ban, increasingly hostile atmosphere)

Employees at abortion clinics in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana told ABC News they are receiving non-stop calls from patients, mostly with the same concerns: has abortion been outlawed, has the clinic closed its doors, should appointments made for the future be pushed sooner? One Alabama clinic got a call from someone asking “will they get locked up, will they be charged of a crime" if they got an abortion.

Abortion bills push women's reproductive rights into political spotlight

Abortion bills push women's reproductive rights into political spotlight Eight months after the contentious hearings over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, progressives fear that the most dire warnings of abortion rights groups are now coming to fruition. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); This week, Alabama passed the country's most restrictive abortion ban, soon followed by Missouri passing its own strict anti-abortion legislation.

House Bill 481, which proposes making abortion illegal after around six weeks, is adding to a national debate around "fetal heartbeat" bills . But at a women's health center in Atlanta, it's already stirring very real worry and confusion for patients .

A series of new abortion laws in a growing number of states have left Americans confused about where the law stands and how abortion access has changed, if at all. (MORE: Misinformation around abortion bills causing confusion and fear for patients ).

Amanda Kifferly, vice president for abortion access at The Women's Centers, told ABC News she's concerned about how these laws are potentially raising the stigma around abortion, and making patients feel like "it's actually a criminal experience."

(MORE: Abortion advocates react to Alabama ban, increasingly hostile atmosphere)
A big thing we encounter is just misinformation and stigma keeps (patients) from going to their appointments.

"We don't want people to feel like they have to break a law in order to get safe care," she said.

Staci Fox, president of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said that after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a so-called "heartbeat" ban, "there was a lot of media headlines speculating about the impact of the bill and speculating about criminalization of women, and what we started hearing was a lot of fear."

It got to the point where Planned Parenthood Southeast set up an automated message on their call line just to say abortion is still legal and their doors are open.

"We want to make sure everyone in this country knows what's going on," said Fox. "But at the same time, I don't want a single person to be feeling scared and alone and abandoned, and thinking about doing something, when they can come in and get something safe and legal."

Hundreds protest Alabama's abortion ban at state capitol

Hundreds protest Alabama's abortion ban at state capitol Hundreds of demonstrators marched to the Alabama Capitol on Sunday to protest the state's newly approved abortion ban, chanting "my body, my choice!" and "vote them out!"The demonstration came days after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the most stringent abortion law in the nation— making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases unless necessary for the mother's health. The law provides no exception for rape and incest. "Banning abortion does not stop abortion. It stops safe abortion," said Staci Fox, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Southeast, addressing the cheering crowd outside the Alabama Capitol.

(MORE: While some states are restricting abortion, others move to bolster access)Misinformation around abortion bills causing confusion and fear for patients© Lucas Jackson/Reuters, FILE A sign is pictured at the entrance to a Planned Parenthood building in New York, Aug. 31, 2015.

Some health care providers are putting information on their websites and on social media, and they're also relying on advocacy groups and funds, like the Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama and the Southeast division of Access Reproductive Care (ARC), to help educate the public with accurate information.

While employees at clinics and other health care providers say they are happy to answer questions, they worry about the patients who are not calling. Providers worry about what patients will do to attempt to self-manage if they think they can't come in for an abortion, which is a safe medical procedure with a very low rate of complications when performed under proper conditions.

(MORE: Abortion bans like Alabama's pose another hurdle to lower-income Americans)

"I'm not sure what we can do beyond educate when we have them on the phone," said Kathaleen Pittman, who runs the independent clinic Hope Medical Group for Women in Louisiana.

Advocates also worry that the bad press generated by the restrictive laws could impact recruitment of qualified doctors to states like Georgia and Alabama, which have among the highest rates of maternal mortality in the country. Dr. Lisa Haddad, who is affiliated with the Emory University School of Medicine in Georgia, told ABC News she knows of one doctor who held off on making a decision to take a position in the state because of restrictive laws.

White Women Are Helping States Pass Abortion Restrictions

White Women Are Helping States Pass Abortion Restrictions Their support for Republican officials has been key to the GOP’s strength in the South.

(MORE: Georgia becomes latest state to sign so-called 'heartbeat' abortion ban)

"We know that it's going to influence attracting individuals from coming to the state -- a state that has huge gaps in maternal care," Haddad said. For her part, Haddad has noticed she's been "more self-aware" recently, especially since anti-abortion protesters at George's capital were carrying guns.

Johnson, in Alabama, said the bill there is "just one more thing to discourage physicians coming to the state, especially physicians in women's health," on top of an overall health care system that is generally lacking. Alabama is ranked 46th out of the 50 states in health care, according to U.S. News.

We are still open, we are still providing safe and secure terminations, and that's most important.

Add to that, Johnson said, "When you're [discussing] placing jail time on physicians making health care decisions that are best for their patients, that's scary."

(MORE: Missouri poised to become latest state with restrictive abortion ban)

Chad Jackson of the West Alabama Women's Center told ABC News that he sometimes wonders if he will still have a job in six month. But he said he is even more concerned about "what the women will do once the doors close," should the Alabama ban actually go into effect.

Still, Jackson said the clinic has no plans to close.

"We are still open, we are still providing safe and secure terminations," Jackson said.

Read More

Judge considering Missouri abortion clinic license case.
A judge is deciding whether to ensure Missouri's only abortion clinic can keep its license past Friday, the latest development in a decades-long push by abortion opponents to get states to enact strict rules on the procedure.Like many states, Missouri over the years enacted a series of regulations, ranging from waiting periods before women can receive abortions to rules on the width of clinic doors. Abortion-rights supporters say the rules are arbitrary and are intended to shutter abortion clinics, while abortion opponents say they're aimed at protecting women and ensuring proper patient care. It's not a "pro-life issue at all," Missouri Republican Gov.

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