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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: ND Supreme Court upholds block on abortion ban, new data shows sharp rise in maternal deaths, air pollution harms pregnant Latinas, and our weekly state fights roundup.  

NORTH DAKOTA SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS BLOCK ON ABORTION BAN: Yesterday, the North Dakota Supreme Court blocked the state’s trigger abortion ban from taking effect, citing the fundamental right to life-saving abortions. The abortion ban was passed by the state legislature in 2007 and set to become law should the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturn Roe v. Wade, which happened in June of 2022. Planned Parenthood does not operate a health center in North Dakota. 

Red River Women’s Clinic sued in July to prevent the abortion ban from taking effect. The clinic was the only abortion provider in the state before moving its operations to Moorhead, Minnesota last year. The district court issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the ban from taking effect, which the North Dakota Supreme Court upheld in its decision yesterday.

“The court's decision today is an enormous victory for doctors, pregnant people, and all North Dakotans,” said Katie Christensen, North Dakota State Director of External Affairs at Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund. “People need and deserve access to abortion care, and today the court said that remains possible. The decision about whether, when, or how to become a parent is one of the most important life decisions we make. A person should have the right to make decisions about their reproductive health care and future, not politicians.” 

NEW DATA SHOWS SHARP RISE IN MATERNAL DEATHS IN 2021: This week, the CDC released new sobering data on the rising maternal death rate in the United States. 1,205 women died from maternal causes in 2021, a sharp rise from the previous years: 658 in 2018, 754 in 2019, and 861 in 2020. The rate of death for Black women was 2.5 times as high as the rate for white women. For every 100,000 live births, there were 69.9 deaths amongst Black women compared to 26.6 deaths amongst white women. 

Experts point to the impact of COVID-19 on maternal health as one potential cause since pregnant people were at higher risk of COVID-19 and complications associated with it. Critically, the United States has structural problems that have been putting pregnant people at risk. According to March of Dimes, a staggering 6.9 million women have little to no access to maternal health care. These disparities often cut along racial and socioeconomic lines. 

“Those of us who work in the maternity care space have known that this is a problem in our country for quite a long time,” Dr. Elizabeth Langen, a high-risk maternal-fetal medicine physician at the University of Michigan Health Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, told CNN. “As a nation, we also need to accept some responsibility.”

Read more at CNN.

NOT SO FRESH AIR: AIR POLLUTION HARMS PREGNANT LATINAS: A new study this week found that exposure to air pollution and psychological stresses among Hispanic pregnant women with lower incomes can have an outsized impact on fetal growth. Environmental injustice disproportionately affects communities of color, and Latino populations are among the groups most likely to be exposed to smog, lead poisoning, unsafe water, and toxic waste.  

The study, conducted between 2015 and 2021, looked at 628 pregnant Latinas in California and their newborns. It found that higher levels of exposure to particles from burning oil, diesel fuel, or gas at about halfway through pregnancy equated to 0.33 oz lower birth weight. Self-reported psychological stresses, often associated with environmental conditions, also compounded this effect. 

Read more at Axios

STATE FIGHTS ROUND UP: This week, Utah enacted a law that will functionally eliminate abortion access in the state starting May 3. 

Proactive efforts:

  • Abortion rights champions in Nevada announced plans to introduce a constitutional amendment that would enshrine protections for reproductive freedom. If passed during the 2023 and 2025 legislative sessions, the amendment would appear on the 2026 general election ballot for statewide approval. The amendment includes protections for abortion as well as the right to obtain birth control; prenatal, childbirth and postpartum care; vasectomy and tubal ligation; miscarriage management; and infertility care. Legislation to ban certain public and private health insurance providers from discriminating against people based on their gender identity is also moving. 
  • This week, the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act passed the Minnesota Senate Health and Human Services committee. The bill aims to protect the privacy of patients receiving reproductive health care in Minnesota and those coming to Minnesota from out of state, and seeks to mitigate the threat to doctors who provide reproductive health care.
  • California legislators have introduced a bill package to further strengthen reproductive rights. Among other proposals, the package includes legislation to enhance privacy protections for patients who access sensitive health care services, ensure patients with Medi-Cal coverage can access medication abortion, and improve maternal and infant health outcomes by expanding doula care.
  • Colorado’s Safe Access to Protected Health Care package passed through Senate committees yesterday. The measures (SB 188, 189, and 190) include provisions shielding providers of and patients receiving abortion and gender affirming care from harassing interstate lawsuits and other targeted measures; closing gaps in insurance coverage for abortion and sexually transmitted infections, including coverage for travel for abortion; and regulating anti-abortion fake clinics. SB 188 and 190 now head to the full Senate for a vote and SB189 heads to the Appropriations committee. 
  • Legislation to allow pharmacists to prescribe some forms of birth control was introduced in Wisconsin this week. 

Defensive efforts:

  • On Wednesday, Utah Gov. Cox signed HB467 into law. The measure will functionally eliminate access to abortion in the state on May 3, even though abortion is currently legal in Utah up until 18 weeks.
  • Florida’s House Health Care Regulation committee voted to advance a proposed six-week abortion ban this week. In addition to banning abortion before most people know they are pregnant, the bill would increase funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.
  • Several harmful bills were in committee this week in North Dakota, including SB2150, a near-total abortion ban, and HB1254, a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. 
  • The Arkansas Legislature has passed SB307, legislation that creates a “monument to the unborn” on the ground of the state house. It now heads to the governor’s desk. 
  • The Arizona House passed a bill premised on a false and dangerous narrative of fetal personhood by allowing for backdated child support payments to the date of a positive pregnancy test.
  • An amendment to a proposed six-week ban in Nebraska that would modify the bill to become a 12-week ban was introduced this week. Reminder: All abortion bans are extreme, regardless of the gestational age limit, because they take away people’s ability to control their own bodies. 

Anti-LGBTQ attacks continue, with states like Montana, Nebraska, and Tennessee working to legislate transgender and non-binary people out of existence. 

  • This week Arkansas Gov. Huckabee Sanders signed into law SB199, a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. The legislature has also sent a bill prohibiting transgender kids from using the school bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Legislation that would make it a criminal offense for a transgender person to be in a public bathroom at the same as a child has also passed the Senate and was heard in the House Judiciary Committee this week. 
  • A ban on gender-affirming care for minors passed the Georgia House on Thursday. The ban, SB140, first passed the Senate last Monday and was rushed through the House this week, passing that chamber yesterday where it was also stripped of protections from criminal penalties for providers. After the bill was amended, it was immediately sent back to the Senate, which must approve it again before it can go to Gov. Brian Kemp. 
  • This week in Kentucky, House Bill 470, one of the most egregious legislative attacks on gender-affirming care in the country, was replaced by Senate Bill 150, approved and sent to the desk of Gov. Beshear. The anti-trans omnibus bill includes a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, forced outing and “Don’t Say Gay” provisions, and a sex education ban. HB470 passed out of committee and moved to the Senate floor. SB 5, a book ban, also passed out of the House Education Committee this week.
  • This week the Montana Senate Finance and Claims committee passed SB 458, a dangerous bill that seeks to erase the identity of transgender, non-binary, and two spirit Montanans by incorrectly defining sex based on an unscientific and archaic understanding of basic biology. The bill was also heard on the Senate floor this week.
  • Discriminatory legislation to define sex "a person's immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth and evidence of a person's biological sex" passed the Tennessee Senate on Monday.