After multiple shootings across the country in the past week, including a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people, a Missouri state lawmaker decided to take a provocative approach toward gun control. State Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat, prefiled a bill this week for the next legislative session that, if passed, would subject potential gun buyers to the same rigmarole of restrictions—a 72-hour waiting period, an explanatory video, a doctor meeting, a facility tour, reviews of photographs, and more—that are already imposed on or have been proposed for Missouri women seeking abortions.
Prior to any firearm purchase in this state, a prospective firearm purchaser shall, at least seventy-two hours prior to the initial request to purchase a firearm from a licensed firearm dealer located at least one hundred twenty miles from such purchaser’s legal residence, confer and discuss with a licensed physician the indicators and contraindicators and risk factors, including any physical, psychological, or situational factors, that may arise with the proposed firearm purchase. Such physician shall then evaluate the prospective firearm purchaser for such indicators and contraindicators and risk factors and determine if such firearm purchase would increase such purchaser’s risk of experiencing an adverse physical, emotional, or other health reaction.
The bill also requires gun purchasers to watch a 30-minute video about firearm injuries, to tour an emergency trauma center at an urban hospital on a weekend night, when rates of gun-shot victims are high, and to meet with two families who have experienced gun violence and two local faith leaders who have officiated a funeral recently for a child killed by gun violence.
This symbolic bill is reminiscent of the trend that cropped up several years ago, when legislators across the country filed tongue-in-cheek measures proposing restrictions on vasectomies corresponding to state abortion restrictions. None of those measures passed, and Newman's bill is also virtually guaranteed to fail in Missouri's Republican-controlled legislature. Newman's intent is to highlight the high hurdles to getting an abortion in Missouri relative to the lack of accountability required for buying a gun.
"If we truly insist that Missouri cares about 'all life', then we must take immediate steps to address our major cities rising rates of gun violence,'" Newman told St. Louis magazine. "Popular proposals among voters, including universal background checks and restricting weapons from abuser and convicted felons, are consistently ignored each session. Since restrictive policies regarding a constitutionally protected medical procedure are the GOP’s legislative priority each year, it makes sense that their same restrictions apply to those who may commit gun violence."
Attendees at a University of Colorado vigil for those killed in Friday's shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic
Last Friday, three people were killed and at least nine were injured when Robert Lewis Dear allegedly shot them at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility. This assault was the latest in a recent surge of violence against women's health clinics following the release of doctored videos this summer by anti-abortion activists who claim the videos show Planned Parenthood staffers selling fetal tissue.
But even before this summer, US abortion providers have weathered a long and deadly string of violent attacks. On Sunday, Michelle Kinsey Bruns, a feminist organizer and the woman behind Twitter account @ClinicEscort, tweeted a roundup of 100 attacks on women's health providers, beginning with the 1976 arson attempt at an abortion clinic in Eugene, Oregon, and ending with the response from some anti-abortion activists to Friday's shooting in Colorado.
An officer stands guard near a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. A gunman opened fire Friday at the clinic, killing three and wounding nine others.
Update, 11/28/15, 11:22 a.m.: In a statement released Saturday morning, President Barack Obama condemned Friday's violence and called for stricter gun control measures, while praising local law enforcement for their work. "This is not normal," he said. "We can’t let it become normal. If we truly care about this—if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience—then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough."
Colorado Springs Police have confirmed that the suspect in custody for Friday's shooting is Robert Lewis Dear. The 57-year-old suspect is being held at the El Paso county jail without bond and will appear in court on November 30. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told the Denver Post on Saturday morning that the identities of the two civilians who were killed would likely be released later Saturday or Sunday.
Update, 11/27/15, 6:05 p.m.: A Colorado Springs police officer confirmed that two civilians and one police officer were killed during the shooting on Friday. The officer was employed by the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Nine others were injured during the shooting.
Update, 11/27/15, 5:05 p.m.: Police arrested the alleged gunman Friday afternoon after an hours-long standoff with law enforcement. Eleven people were taken to the hospital with injuries, including five police officers.
An investigation is underway and authorities say the gunman left behind items, according to the Colorado Independent.
The Colorado Springs police department is reporting that three officers and an as-yet-undetermined number of other people were shot earlier today outside a Planned Parenthood clinic. The department says the shooter is contained to a specific area but has not yet been apprehended. The department warned residents and reporters to stay away from the area of the shooting. Police have closed Centennial Boulevard in both directions and ordered nearby stores and restaurants to keep customers inside.
According to the New York Times, a local TV affiliate reported earlier today that the gunman was shooting at passing cars from the Planned Parenthood parking lot. Colorado Springs was recently the scene of a mass shooting on October 31, when three people were killed by a gunman before he died after a shootout with police.
This is a breaking story. Come back here for updates as news develops.
Rep. Senfronia Thompson (second from left) and other Texas representatives hold coat hangers while discussing HB2, an anti-abortion bill.
Ever since Texas passed HB2 in 2013, the omnibus abortion law at the heart of a pivotal case the Supreme Court will review early next year, more than half of the state's 41 abortion clinics have been forced to close. As these closures have mounted, advocates in the state have worried that the decline in abortion access could lead to a rise in the number of women trying to terminate pregnancies by themselves.
A new studyquantifies some of those fears: At least 100,000 Texas women—and as many as 240,000—between the ages of 18 and 49 have attempted to self-induce abortions, according to a report released today by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP). The study also found that it is possible that the rate of women attempting to self-induce abortions is rising in Texas as a result of the state's additional restrictions on abortion care. The report points to previous studies that have explored the correlation between a rise in abortion restrictions and the prevalence of self-induced abortions. A 2008 national study found that about 2 percent of women reported that they tried to terminate pregnancies on their own. In 2012, a year after Texas passed several new abortion restrictions, a study of Texas women seeking care at an abortion clinic found that about 7 percent reported attempting to end their pregnancies without medical assistance before seeking clinic care.
"This is the latest body of evidence demonstrating the negative implications of laws like HB2 that pretend to protect women but in reality place them, and particularly women of color and economically disadvantaged women, at significant risk," said Dr. Daniel Grossman, one of the study's co-authors and a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California-San Francisco, in a press call Tuesday morning.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, an independent abortion provider in Texas and the lead plaintiff in the HB2 case currently before the Supreme Court, reiterated that Texas has seen a rise in self-induced abortions since abortion restrictions like HB2, and that terminating a pregnancy with DIY methods is not healthy for women. "Nobody should be denied safe and compassionate care based on her zip code," said Hagstrom Miller. "But that's exactly what's been happening.
These findings come from a survey of nearly 800 women, ages 18 to 49, conducted by TxPEP over two months in 2014 and 2015. The women were asked if they knew or suspected that their best friend had ever self-induced an abortion, and if they'd ever done so themselves. Overall, 1.7 percent of respondents said they had tried to self-induce an abortion, while 4.1 percent of women said they knew or suspected their best friend had done so. Applying these proportions to the nearly 6 million women of reproductive age in Texas, the researchers concluded that an estimated 100,000 to 240,000 Texas women ages 18-49 have attempted to end a pregnancy alone.
The study identifies two populations where histories of self-induced abortion were most prevalent: Latina women living in a county that borders Mexico—a more rural area of the state that has seen several clinic closures—and women who reported difficulty gaining access to reproductive health care in the past.
The study also determined that the two broad categories of methods used by women to end their pregnancies were home remedies such as herbs, teas, vitamins, or medications—primarily misoprostol—obtained in Mexico without a prescription by women traveling there.
Typically, a medication abortion in the United States requires that two drugs—misoprostol and mifepristone—be taken about 24 hours apart. But most doctors say misoprostol alone can be an effective way to induce an abortion if the combined regimen is not available. Most of the women who reported obtaining misoprostol had a complete abortion after using the drug, but used different doses and methods of administration. Many reported intense symptoms throughout the abortion—intense cramping and bleeding, for instance—and some talked about being unsure whether these symptoms were normal or healthy.
Most women cited one or more of four reasons for choosing to self-induce: They lacked the money to travel and/or pay for the procedure; their local clinic had closed; a close friend or family member had recommended self-induction; or the women feared the stigma associated with going to an abortion clinic.
But Grossman pointed out that among these specific reasons, "a common layer was that poverty layered on one or more of these obstacles led women to self-induce."
The justices declined to hear a case about disclosures of confidential Planned Parenthood filings.
Hannah LevintovaNov. 16, 2015 2:35 PM
Anti-abortion activists rally on the steps of the Texas capitol in July 2015.
Since this summer's release of doctored sting videos targeting Planned Parenthood, Congress has been embroiled in a fiery debate over funding for the women's health care provider. On Monday, the Supreme Court made clear that it wants nothing to do with this fight. The court declined to hear a case involving federal funds for Planned Parenthood and the organization's privacy in the face of continued probes by anti-abortion activists.
The case, New Hampshire Right to Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, centered on a 2011 public records request filed by New Hampshire Right to Life, an anti-abortion group,with the US Department of Health and Human Services, asking for documents filed by Planned Parenthood when applying for federal funding. The women's health provider had historically received federal funds for family planning services through New Hampshire's state government. But in 2011, the state administration decided to stop accepting and distributing this federal money, concerned that it was being used to "subsidize abortions."
To fill the gap in Planned Parenthood's funding, HHS decided to provide funds to the group directly for 16 months. It required the group to file documentation about its internal policies—including its medical standards manual and its fee schedule—in order to receive the funds, which Planned Parenthood did.
New Hampshire Right to Life filed its request to HHS under the Freedom of Information Act, asking for access to these Planned Parenthood filings and to internal HHS memos tied to the department's decision to provide the reproductive health provider with a federal grant. When HHS refused, New Hampshire Right to Life sued the agency for the documents. HHS ultimately turned over about 2,500 pages of internal agency records. But it withheld most of the Planned Parenthood filings and some internal documents, primarily citing FOIA's Exemption 4, a portion of the law that exempts certain types of commercial information filed by private groups from disclosure.
A federal district court and circuit court both upheld HHS' refusal. Now that the Supreme Court has refused to wade into the disclosure debate, it's cemented that refusal as final.
Attorneys for New Hampshire Right to Life painted the court's decision not to hear the case as another example of government favoritism in the ongoing battle over public funds for Planned Parenthood. "We had hoped the US Supreme Court would consider this case," said attorney Michael Tierney in a statement, "which would have addressed whether the government can continue to veil its support for Planned Parenthood."