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Welcome to “The Quickie” — Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s daily tipsheet on the top health care & reproductive rights stories of the day. You can read “The Quickie'' online here.

In today’s Quickie: PP provider Dr. McNicholas criticizes disingenuous House anti-abortion bills in new op-ed, MT holds hearing on Medicaid-reimbursed abortion regulations, AL AG says people could be prosecuted for taking abortion pill, and PP volunteer highlights the work of clinic escorts.

NEW OP-ED: “CONGRESS WANTS TO LABEL ABORTION SUPPORTERS ‘VIOLENT.’ THAT WON’T STOP PROVIDERS LIKE ME.”Today, Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an OB-GYN and chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri (PPSLRSWMO), penned an op-ed in USA Today, condemning anti-abortion politicians in Congress for passing two dangerous and disingenuous anti-abortion bills yesterday. Dr. McNicholas specifically criticized the House’s resolution that disingenuously condemns violence at anti-abortion facilities while ignoring mounting violence and threats against people who get abortions and abortion providers. She writes: 

“Let’s be clear: We reject anyone who uses violence and harassment as a means to an end. Unfortunately, when it comes to violence, most abortion care providers are trained to expect this as part of our everyday jobs. To suggest that those who commit violence of any kind speak for our supporters, patients and communities is not based in reality but rather a means to further intimidate and peddle a dystopian political agenda.”

Read the full op-ed at USA Today. Read Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s release on the House’s anti-abortion bills here

HAPPENING TODAY: MONTANA PUBLIC RULE HEARING ON MEDICAID-REIMBURSED ABORTION REGULATIONS: Today, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will hold a virtual public hearing on the proposed rule amendment that would add additional requirements for patients seeking abortion coverage under Medicaid. In an interview with the AP about the proposed change, Planned Parenthood of Montana CEO Martha Fuller said: 

“This will really inappropriately limit the provision of abortion care to physicians[...] The reality is advanced practice clinicians ... are totally fully capable of providing abortion care and determining medical necessity.”

The public hearing will be held today at 1 p.m. GMT and the department will accept additional public comment through January 20.  

Read the full AP article and more about the proposal here

ALABAMA AG SAYS PEOPLE COULD BE PROSECUTED FOR TAKING ABORTION PILLS: This week, Alabama’s Attorney General Steve Marshall said that pregnant people could be prosecuted for taking abortion pills – despite exclusions in the state’s total abortion ban that immunize patients from criminal charges. Instead, Marshall would use a 2006 law that has been used to criminalize  pregnant people for drug exposure during pregnancy. Most anti-abortion politicians have refrained from saying pregnant people should be criminally prosecuted for seeking abortions, but the writing has always been on the wall. It’s clearer than ever that opponents of reproductive freedom are comfortable using the threat of criminal charges to control pregnant people’s bodies. 

“To be clear, Alabama state law prohibits providing abortion, including medication abortion, without any exceptions,” Stephen Stetson, Alabama Campaigns Director at Planned Parenthood Southeast, said. “However, Alabama’s abortion ban, like other abortion bans currently in effect, exempts patients from criminal charges. It is racist and dangerous to criminalize pregnant people. However, AG Marshall has proposed misusing the state’s chemical endangerment act to do just that.  AG Marshall’s directive would disproportionately criminalize Black and Latino Alabamians and Alabamians with low incomes, just as selective and discriminatory enforcement of the chemical endangerment act has for decades. This action has no basis in public health or safety — rather, it is an effort to further stigmatize abortion and instill fear among Alabamians. It is about controlling Alabamans’ bodies and lives, even if doing so causes irrevocable harm.” 

Read more at Washington Post, CBS, and VICE

PP VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHTS THE WORK OF CLINIC ESCORTS: Planned Parenthood Northern New England (PPNNE) volunteer Marian Starkey spoke to CNN to provide insight into her work as a clinic escort in Maine. Marian explained that the primary focus of the role is to help patients safely enter clinics while limiting interactions with anti-abortion protestors. She shared that though Roe was overturned in June, these protestors continue to harass patients in states where abortion is legal. 

“The morning of the decision, a man came by and just screamed in the faces of the protesters: ‘You finally got what you wanted, now you can get out of here.’ And they just kind of calmly explained to him, ‘Well, no, because abortion is still legal in Maine, so we still have work to do, and we’ll be out here regardless.’”

She also emphasized the intense emotional toll that this can take on patients, which clinic escorts aim to mitigate.

“People are in all sorts of different mental states when they arrive. A lot of times just the presence of the protesters will make them cry. They have to walk down almost an entire block to get from the corner where the parking garage is to the front door of the clinic. And so I’m sure that can feel like an eternity for patients when they’re already upset.

We’re just trying to keep things as calm as possible, and not engaging with [the protestors] tends to be the best way to do that.”

Read more of the interview here.