Melissa Harris-Perry: Hi you all. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. Welcome back to a Monday edition of The Takeaway. With less than two weeks and only one more weekend before Christmas morning, this was simply a busy weekend preparation, planning, and shopping for a lot of folks. Throughout parts of the Midwest and South, the past two days brought sudden and devastating loss. A series of tornadoes killed dozens, left tens of thousands without power, and leveled communities in six states. The most hard-hit was the state of Kentucky. When we're faced with these kinds of losses, we just want to express our gratitude for each of you who's able and willing to spend a bit of time with us on this Monday.
Let's get into our busy agenda for the day. We're actually going to start by going back to the big headline on Friday out of Washington DC. The Supreme Court ruled in the case Whole Woman's Health versus Jackson. The case involved a pre-emptive challenge to the Texas Abortion Law, which went into effect in September. Called the Heartbeat Law, it bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, a period before many people are even aware of being pregnant. The lead plaintiff in the case, Whole Woman's Health, is a privately owned group of health clinics operating in several locations in Texas.
Whole Women's Health offers comprehensive gynecology services, including abortion care. They describe their approach as "Designed to address the shame and stigma attached to abortion." Here's Whole Woman's Health vice president, Andrea Ferrigno.
Andrea Ferrigno: Every woman that comes to our clinic deserve excellent healthcare that is free of judgment. I am so proud to work in an organization that genuinely cares about how women experience healthcare.
Melissa Harris-Perry: On Friday, the Supreme Court issued its ruling which did not adjudicate whether or not the Texas law was constitutional. Instead, the court ruled about who has the right to challenge the law in federal courts. In an eight-to-one decision, the justices decided that abortion providers like Whole Women's Health can continue to challenge the law, but in the meantime the law will remain in effect. On Friday, Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Women's Health, released a statement in response to the ruling. It read in part, "Today marks Day 101 That Whole Woman's Health staff have had to turn away Texans seeking abortion care. With today's Supreme Court decision allowing Senate Bill 8 to remain in effect, the cruelty and heartache that our staff and patients have endured will continue."
We're joined now by Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, an OBGYN and abortion provider in Texas, and a board member with Physicians for Reproductive Health and Texas Equal Access Fund. Dr. Moayedi, thank you for joining us.
Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi: Hello, Melissa. It's such an honor to be back again, but, 104 days into the ban, I wish it was under different circumstances.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Let's start right there. Amy Hagstrom Miller's statement described cruelty and heartache as the experience that her staff and patients were feeling. How would you describe your work since SB8 was instituted this fall?
Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi: I would agree completely with Amy, that what I'm seeing is unnecessary suffering. Really, the Supreme Court's ruling last week does not change the day-to-day reality of the people I serve and care for in Texas. Our communities continue to suffer from this blatant human rights violation while the Supreme Court really refused to exercise its power and duty to ensure life and liberty for us, for the people of Texas.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Say a bit more on that. I can hear the beginnings of how you responded to that court ruling, but what do you see as-- It was reported in so many different ways over the course of the weekend, this sense of, well, it's a victory or it's part victory, part loss. How do you read and experience it?
Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi: It has left us with a lot of questions, of course. We're thankful that at least the provider cases can go forward, but that doesn't change the reality for people today. The court really had a duty to step in and prevent this law from continuing to be enforced and they did not. It still could be months, if not a year, or more, if we continue, depending on this federal path. What I do think this ruling has done for abortion providers in our state is to serve as an internal checkpoint on the course we are going to take. How will we continue to fulfill our duty to care for our communities?
Melissa, since this law was signed in May, many providers, including myself, have been asking, "What if we don't comply or how do we not comply?" I think many folks hoped the Supreme Court would act swiftly to reverse this clearly unconstitutional decision. We took that path. Now that it's clear that this Court is quite literally acting by design, I'm hearing an appetite from providers to return to a strategy of resistance, especially now because we have also last week had a positive state court ruling in our challenge within the state of Texas. I deeply hope you're going to see from us bolder actions in the future.
The real barrier to that bold action is not a lack of will from Texas providers and abortion funds, it's money. Physicians, nurses, and staff, we're all ready to fight, but we need that financial support to fight this unjust law.
Melissa Harris-Perry: As you talk about this bold action and direct action, back in October Dr. Alan Braid wrote in The Washington Post about performing an abortion in direct defiance of the law, and of course writing about it on purpose to indicate his defiance of the law. Are you suggesting that there may be other providers willing to perform abortions in defiance of the law, but in what you understand to be compliant with current constitutional rights?
Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi: Exactly. What happened last week, in addition to the Supreme Court ruling, is that me, along with other plaintiffs, had sued the state. We had sued Texas Right to Life and the architects of the bill, and a state court judge in Texas did find, last week, that several parts of SB8 are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. We do have a positive state court ruling in Travis County currently. For many of us, we see that we are actually able to provide abortion care under that ruling specifically.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I want to talk a little bit more about what happens in a case of dissent here because it does go to how this particular law is written. In fact, Justice Thomas, who was the only dissenter in, I think it's just worth noting, in Whole Woman's Health versus Jackson, it was not a decision that fell along ideological lines per se. It was an eight-to-one decision. The only dissenter was Thomas. In this case, Thomas is saying, "The reality is that there have been more challenges to SB8 than there have been people using that." What we've discussed in the media is like a bounty hunter deputizing the public as a way of enforcing the law.
Based on your understanding, both of what's happened in state court, and based on just the number of lawsuits, do you think that that deputizing the public aspect was overstated? In other words, are you all in less danger than we initially thought, you all being providers, or is it still just a latent danger of that kind of legal action?
Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi: I don't think that that fear was overstated in any way. I honestly think that maybe they never intended to sue and their point was to just get us to stop. We're going to see what happens. Hopefully, if we provide and then see if they are going to violate, judge people's decision as declaratory judgment, and we might have to test the law in different ways.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I just want to go to this for a moment. California has signaled this willingness to be an abortion sanctuary state. Not only in the case of what's happening in the SB8 cases but, perhaps even more critically, in what happens with the Mississippi case, which it does seem has the possibility of actually overturning Roe v. Wade and the fundamental basis of a constitutional right to seek termination. Based on what you know and understand as a provider and the patients that you work with, what difference does it make, and for what kinds of patients to have states like California be sanctuary states?
Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi: For many of the people that I take care of, even getting to a neighboring state like Oklahoma, Louisiana, or New Mexico, is practically impossible. While I applaud states like California for moving to take action to help communities like ours, I'm skeptical about any action that doesn't involve us in the planning. I don't know if the people that I take care of every day, day to day, are going to be able to make it to California. That includes communities of color, that includes undocumented communities, people with disabilities, minors. Those are the people that are going to be most impacted by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and by the continuing enforcement of SB8.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Talk to me a bit about those folks that you serve and what you've been saying to them in recent months. What kind of counsel have you provided for those who have sought abortion services?
Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi: My work since this law has gone into effect has changed dramatically. The abortion care that I provide now is primarily out of state and so the people that I'm seeing are the ones that have been able to make it out. I am seeing people driving from further and further distances, patients telling me that they've lost their jobs because of the amount of days they've had to take off work. Many people that travel to see me or to see us for care really have to bring their whole families as well, because they don't have childcare options. They can't fly their whole family either. We're talking about removing kids from school from several days, so that they can accompany their families too.
There is a ripple effect in our communities from this law. The other side of it is I'm a practicing OBGYN here in Texas as well, and I take care of birthing people. What I have seen also is just this dramatic increase in people with complex medical conditions, people with complex pregnancies that are unable to leave the state for care. We're getting to the point right now where we're going to start seeing the result of this law on the other end. That people are actually, starting this month, are going to start having births that were as a result of denial of abortion from this law.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What will that mean for maternal and infant health outcome do you think?
Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi: I think we are going to see an increase in maternal complications, not just mortality, but also morbidity. I think we will see an increase in neonatal death, and that will simply be a result of pregnancies that we knew were not compatible with life. We're going to see dramatic changes in the birth care community across our state and we already are seeing those changes.
Melissa Harris-Perry: We have very little time left but just so that I can affirm this. You and other providers are in conversation about what you can do next as you wait on these questions about the law, is that right?
Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi: We are, yes.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I so appreciate you taking the time at this very difficult time. Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi is an OBGYN and an abortion provider in Texas. She's also a board member with physicians for reproductive health and Texas equal access fund. Dr. Moayedi, as always, thank you for joining us.
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