The State of Abortion Access Two Years After Roe | Crooked Media
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June 23, 2024
What A Day
The State of Abortion Access Two Years After Roe

In This Episode

  • Today marks two years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned Roe vs. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that for decades guaranteed the right to an abortion. Since then, conservative lawmakers in roughly half the states have either banned or significantly restricted access to abortion, while the other half has expanded or protected access. The nexus of the debate over abortion is now our current presidential election, with both the Biden and Trump campaigns centering reproductive rights in very different ways. Alice Miranda Ollstein, health care reporter on Capitol Hill for Politico, explains how the issue is playing out on the campaign trail.
  • And in headlines: More than 1,300 people have died so far during this year’s Hajj in Saudi Arabia, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated claims that the U.S. is withholding military aid amid the war in Gaza, and track star Sha’Carri Richardson is finally getting her shot at the Olympics after winning the 100-meter sprint at the U.S. track trials this weekend.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, June 24th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 

 

Alexis Johnson: And I’m Alexis Johnson and this is What a Day where we’re baffled by Trump’s former White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, who went on Fox News and issued a pretty wild demand to President Biden. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, the Texas Republican congressman says Biden should submit drug tests before and after the debate. To which I say, why not test them both. 

 

Alexis Johnson: Honestly. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: They both could use a B-12 shot or something. [laughter] [music break]

 

Alexis Johnson: On today’s show, more than 1300 people died amid extreme heat during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Plus, some of our favorite athletes are heading to Paris for the Summer Olympics next month. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But first, today marks two years since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade and set us back a few decades. On June 24th, 2022, the court’s conservative majority ruled in Dobbs v Jackson Womens Health Organization that the Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion. In doing so, they gave individual states the responsibility of deciding. As of right now, the health care procedure is banned or restricted in 21 states. Many championed by Republican controlled legislatures. 

 

Alexis Johnson: Right. And we’ve also seen that since the overturning, when abortion has been on the ballot, voters have overwhelmingly protected access. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. So it’s almost like a tale of two countries, the nexus of which is our current presidential election, in which both the Biden and Trump campaigns are centering reproductive rights, but in very different ways. Take, for example, former president and convicted felon Donald Trump, who has been taking credit for the overturning of Roe. Here he is at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference over the weekend, praising the Supreme Court. 

 

[clip of Donald Trump] I want to thank the six Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett for the wisdom and the courage they showed on this long term, very contentious issue. This has been a long time it’s been fought. [applause] Getting it back to the states puts the question where it belongs with the vote of the people, and over time, it will all work out. It’s working out right now. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That, of course, is a very different tone than, say, Vice President Kamala Harris, who sees this as more of a threat to democracy. Here she is on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. 

 

[clip of Vice President Kamala Harris] Every person of whatever gender should understand that if such a fundamental freedom, such as the right to make decisions about your own body can be taken, be aware of what other freedoms may be at stake. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And so, on the anniversary of the Dobbs decision, I spoke with Politico’s health care reporter on Capitol Hill, Alice Miranda Ollstein. I started by asking her where the biggest battles in reproductive rights have happened in the past two years. 

 

Alice Miranda Ollstein: There’s sort of been this narrative that everything has shifted to the state level, and in one sense, that’s true. That’s where we’re seeing the most action. We’re seeing state after state vote to either protect the abortion access they already have, or even expand it or return it. This direct democracy mechanism has allowed people to get around their conservative state legislatures and, you know, in places like Ohio and Kentucky and Kansas. But I think there’s also been some really interesting stuff at the federal level. Obviously, Congress is too gridlocked to really do much of anything. But you’ve had the Biden administration take some executive actions to expand abortion access. And I think one of the biggest pieces there has been loosening restrictions on the abortion pill, which have led to just a real jump in its use, a real expansion of access. People can get it via telemedicine. They can get it at a local pharmacy, which was not possible previously, and they can get it through the mail. So we’re in this really interesting moment where so much has been done at the state and federal level in response to the fall of Roe vs. Wade, that the total number of abortions has actually gone up since the Dobbs decision. That doesn’t mean that anyone who wants an abortion can get one. A lot of people, depending where they live, can’t. But overall, we have seen, you know, through a combination of those abortion pill access methods that I just listed and people traveling across state lines. We have seen a total increase in the number of procedures, which is sort of counterintuitive and not what people expected. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. Moving to the election. Both candidates are campaigning hard on the issue of abortion. Over the weekend, former President Donald Trump appeared at a conference for Christian conservatives, and he both took credit for overturning Roe versus Wade and also kind of maintained his position against a federal abortion ban. How has he been trying to thread that political needle, you know, of appealing to his conservative base while also, you know, acknowledging the electoral realities, right that anti abortion measures aren’t really popular. 

 

Alice Miranda Ollstein: So anti-abortion groups and a lot of religious conservative folks, they disagree with Trump on abortion on a few different fronts. So like you said, they disagree that Trump is out there saying, you know, this is should be fully up to the states. There shouldn’t be a federal ban or like a federal role here. Conservatives disagree. They think that abortion is inherently federal because of the different federal rules and regulations around it. And so they do want to see the federal government’s laws and agency rules used to crack down on abortion, if not ban it entirely. They also disagree with Trump on the issue of exceptions. So Trump has come out for rape and incest exceptions, and a lot of conservatives and anti-abortion groups are opposed to those exceptions. We have not really seen a drop off in support over these disagreements. Obviously, these groups do not want to vote for Joe Biden. And so they are going along with Trump for now. They are out there knocking on doors and, you know, hosting the, him at their conferences despite these uh divisions. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And Trump is famously light on policy specifics, what has he said about his plans for abortion or other related issues like IVF and contraception, should he win a second term? 

 

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Well, we’ve had a funny and familiar sort of pattern play out recently where he keeps saying, you know, I’ll have a policy in two weeks. That’s the it’s sort of almost become a joke in DC like Infrastructure Week um. So, you know, he’s promised a policy on abortion pills. He’s promised a policy on birth control. None of that has been released, and we don’t really expect policy specifics. What’s been interesting is that a group of his very close allies have put together this manifesto for what they want to see, should he be reelected. The Project 2025 document, which I’m sure your listeners have heard some about, and that has a lot of specifics on what they want Trump to do on abortion. The Trump campaign has taken care to distance themself from this group, saying they don’t speak for them, but they are looking at all of the ways the executive branch can limit or completely cut off access to abortion, even without Congress, even without the courts. Um. And so this is using old laws like the Comstock Act and, and using them to argue that all mail delivery of not only abortion pills, but medical equipment that could be used for abortions should be prohibited. You know, they want to roll back a lot of Biden administration things related to the abortion pill and its regulation at the FDA. They also want to roll back the access to abortion at the VA that the Biden administration expanded, a lot of things. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Meanwhile, the Democrats, right, have made reproductive rights one of the pillars of the 2024 election. Talk to us about some of the strategies you’ve seen from the Democrats on this particular issue. 

 

Alice Miranda Ollstein: I think that they are really leaning into abortion rights in a way you you have not seen before, and talking about it in starker terms than you’ve seen in the past. I think Democrats have been emboldened by all of those state level votes over the past couple of years that I mentioned, you know, seeing people turn out for abortion rights in red and purple states in numbers that [laugh] surprised a lot of people. I think that has really shown Democrats that they should not be afraid of this issue, and they should really lean into it. And and that’s what they’re doing. Um. And so you’re seeing Biden’s reelection campaign and a lot of congressional campaigns really trying to lift up the stories of particular people who have been impacted by state level abortion bans. Um. So, you know, for instance, Kate Cox in Texas, the mother who had to travel out of state for an abortion at the risk of her life, you have had other people like her sharing their stories and saying, you know, what happened to me could happen to anyone if Trump is elected and making that case and tying the state abortion ban to the fall of Roe, to Donald Trump appointing the justices who overturned Roe, you know, really drilling that connection for voters. And you’ll hear the same thing from Biden himself. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. My last question for you. This Thursday is the first debate. Abortion is likely to feature heavily during it. What are some of the things you’ll be looking for from both candidates that night? 

 

Alice Miranda Ollstein: I mean, honestly, you’re going to hear both candidates accusing the other of being the extremist on this issue. I think, though, based on the voting results of the last several years, the voting public, including independents, including a lot of Republicans, really believe it is the Republican Party that has gone too far on this issue. So I think elections come down to such a small group of people, and especially on abortion, people’s views are already so firm and hardened that it’s, you know, difficult to sort of imagine who’s able to be persuaded on this particular issue at this particular point. But I’ll be listening for really anything new, anything we haven’t heard before. Because, you know, these debates tend to get into familiar patterns and arguments. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Alice Miranda Ollstein, Politico’s health care reporter on Capitol Hill. We’ll link to her work in our show notes. But that’s the latest for now. We’ll get to some headlines in a moment, but if you like our show, make sure to subscribe and share it with your friends. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]

 

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Alexis Johnson: Now let’s wrap up with some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Alexis Johnson: More than 1300 people have died so far this year during the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, according to Saudi Arabian officials. Temperatures in Mecca during this week hit a high of 125 degrees. Officials are concerned with how increasing temperatures might worsen the casualty rate of the pilgrimage, as climate change continues to exacerbate the heat of the Arabian Desert. The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam which all healthy and financially able Muslims are required to complete once in their lifetimes. The catastrophic heat waves weren’t isolated to the desert. Temperatures broke more than a thousand records across five continents over the past week. Here in the US, flooding devastated parts of the Midwest after consecutive days of rain. During an appearance on ABC news over the weekend, our [?] Bill Nye the Science Guy said this could be the new normal. 

 

[clip of Bill Nye] The latest research is that there’s not a turning point or a tipping point or a knee in the curve. It’s just going to get hotter and hotter and worse and worse and more and more extreme. So this is a taste of the normal of the future unless we humankind get to work and address it. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated claims that the U.S. is withholding military aid amid the war in Gaza, signaling rising tensions between the two countries. Netanyahu reportedly told his cabinet on Sunday that there’s been a, quote, “dramatic drop in arms shipments from the U.S. in recent months.” But he didn’t give any details on what American munitions were missing or how much. Netanyahu first accused the White House of withholding aid last week, an accusation that the Biden administration denied. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week that the U.S. has continued to arm Israel since October 7th. Only one bomb shipment has been paused since then, according to officials. 

 

Alexis Johnson: On Friday, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that prohibits people with domestic violence restraining orders from obtaining guns. The decision was eight to one, with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting. Surprise, surprise. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hm. 

 

Alexis Johnson: Surprise surprise. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in the decision, saying, quote, “since the founding, the nation’s firearm laws have included regulations to stop individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms.” The High Court’s decision overturned the fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that stated that the Second Amendment does protect domestic violence offenders rights to firearms. It’s a welcome win for gun activists. After the court struck down a ban on bump stocks earlier this month. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And lastly, Sha’Carri Richardson is finally getting her shot at the Olympics. The runner won the 100 meter sprint at the U.S. track trials on Saturday, finishing with a time of 10.71 seconds, all while her shoe was untied. Okay. Her win guarantees her a spot on team USA at the Paris Games next month, and it also makes her the fastest woman in the world this year. This is a huge comeback for Richardson, who came close to the Olympic stage three years ago when she won this same race. But she was disqualified when she tested positive for marijuana, a substance banned by the world Anti-Doping agency. She told the Associated Press, quote, “I feel honored. I feel every chapter I’ve been through in my life prepared me for this moment.” And in other Olympic news, swimmers Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel won big at the swimming trials, securing their spots on team USA. Ledecky won her fourth event when she finished first in the women’s 800 freestyle, and Dressel, who took home five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics, he won the men’s 100 meter butterfly and the 50 freestyle. Alexis, I have to ask, are you a fan of the Olympics? What are your go to events? 

 

Alexis Johnson: Tre’vell, I sure am. You know, every four years the Olympics come around and I am sat, okay. And I would say for my favorite event, it’s probably a tie between track and field and gymnastics. You know, we love gymnastics. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Black people love them some gymnastics. It’s the track and field okay. [laughing]

 

Alexis Johnson: We all know a cousin that flips real good and they–

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Literally. 

 

Alexis Johnson: They could have made it to the Olympics if they put they mind to it. [laughing] And those are the headlines. 

 

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Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Make sure your shoes are laced up in case you have to sprint. Okay, and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Alexis Johnson: And if you’re into reading and not just about upcoming SCOTUS cases and stressing like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Alexis Johnson. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Andersen. 

 

[spoken together] And congratulations Sha’Carri Richardson. 

 

Alexis Johnson: Woop woop.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I love this for her. Okay.

 

Alexis Johnson: No seriously, she said [?] come back, I’m better. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: [?]. Okay. [laughing] [music break] What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison, and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. 

 

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