Is there a ‘safe haven’ for women seeking legal abortions?

By Laura Haight
DWGC, President

Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, N. Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah.

What do all these states have in common? 

The attorneys general of these 19 states have all signed onto a letter demanding that they have the right to the medical records of their residents who may travel to other states for the purposes of getting an abortion or other reproductive care prohibited in their home states. 

When I first heard this just last week, I was shocked. What about HIPAA??  For God’s sake, my husband can’t talk to my podiatrist without a signed consent form. In this case, HIPAA collides with technology, creating a serious gap in pro-choice states trying to create “safe havens” for women who need abortion care. Some states have attempted to pass laws to prohibit medical providers from being subpoenaed for records by out of state law enforcement. But they didn’t account for  the electronic medical records act of 2017 that mandates digital records AND requires that those records be accessible across different technology platforms and easy to share across state lines.

According to the Yale Law Journal, “patient records are now widely shared across state lines in the ordinary course of business—and nothing will protect those records from use by antiabortion actors once they are in the hands of out-of-state providers. The result is a loophole that risks swallowing the protection that these new state laws attempt to offer.”

To stitch up this loophole, the Department of Health and Human Services, under the  Biden administration, is preparing a new rule that would expand the protections of HIPAA to shield those who seek, obtain, or provide abortions from red-state probes. Health care providers and insurers would be barred from turning over information to out-of-state state officials for the purposes of investigating or prosecuting someone who seeks or provides a legal abortion. It would provide more protections both for those who cross state lines and those who qualify for an exception to abortion bans in their home state, such as in cases of rape, incest or a life-threatening condition.

A great friend of mine and the best editor I ever worked with used to say that if both sides think you are favoring the other side, you’re doing a great job.

So this rule must be great. The 19 Republican state AGs are going ballistic about the interference with “states’ rights” while Democrats in Congress think it doesn’t go far enough and that it should be applied across the board regardless of the individual’s medical condition.

But what bothers me is the vitriol, the downright hatred of women that spurs these 19 states to want to track women down in other parts of the country so they can punish them. 

Clearly, Republican AGs are teeing this up so they can lob it over to the Supreme Court to further cement their view that states rights trump human rights. And most especially women’s rights. 

This War on Women has been evident for several years in South Carolina. 

  • Pay inequality, 60 years after JFK signed the Equal Pay Act, burdens all women but is more pronounced for women of color; 
  • Women make up 52 percent of our population but have 22 percent of the wealth, according to WREN. 
  • SC has the lowest minimum wage in the country which disproportionately affects women, particularly women of color; 
  • Healthcare is not accessible for low-income, working people, again mostly women; 
  • We live in a child care desert, again forcing women to stay home or preventing them from pursuing educational and professional opportunities. 
  • And of course, reproductive rights – now with the spectre of expanding their newfound success and eyeing changes to contraceptive rights or accessibility. 

This is the landscape as we approach the 103rd anniversary of passage of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote. Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26, although the League of Women Voters now calls it Women’s Inequality Day.

Behind many of South Carolina’s poor rankings and out-of-wack statistics is two decades of poor governance. So far as I can tell, there are two reasons for that: Not enough Democrats and definitely not enough Women

This year, we kickoff probably the most consequential two-year election cycle of our lifetimes. 

Thank God, we have two incredible candidates in Dorothy Dowe and Michelle Shain. But even the best candidates can’t go it alone. Women were not solidly with Hillary Clinton in 2016 – and we see the consequences of THAT.

During the fateful 2016 campaign, I worked hard for Hillary from the primary through election day. I phone banked for her in other states and canvassed in North Carolina. I told my husband, Steve, that I was making the world safe for democracy. I was kidding then! But I’m not now.

In the city of Greenville, we don’t feel like our freedoms are at stake in this election. But Michele and Dorothy’s election is more significant than just two more years of a Democratic City Council or a new mayor in town. (Although those are extremely important of course). 

They are the vanguard of Democratic success. It is these two women who will lift us up and carry us into 2024, knowing that we can – when we work together, when we put all our resources to it – defeat a Republican. On November 7, we will have proved the concept. 

But only if we bring it – bring the A game, bring the hard work, bring the resources (human and financial) – and leave nothing – absolutely nothing – on the field.

Get involved with the Dowe and Shain campaigns. Check them out on the GCDP’s candidate page. Sign up for Dorothy phone banking or canvassing shifts; and/or Michelle phone banking or canvassing shifts. We need you all out there.

Be the change you want to see: Help the party with a much-needed donation or volunteer to help!