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Pro-choice activists propose ideas from...

Pro-choice activists propose ideas from “floating abortion clinic” to use of federal lands

By: Sarah Ulmer - July 11, 2022

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Morgan K. Nall/Released)

From the usage of federal lands, to a “floating abortion clinic” in the Gulf, abortion supporters are seeking loopholes on new abortion laws.

Since the ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that effectively overturned Roe v. Wade and turned the legality of abortion back over to individual states, activists and doctors in support of abortion have proposed options to assist residents of state’s who will see bans to obtain abortions.

RELATED: Mississippi Wins. Roe No More: U.S. Supreme Court sides with state’s pro-life argument.

After the U.S. Supreme Court decision, trigger laws took effect in 16 states and three more states are expected to join that group within the next 30 days. Judges in Utah, Louisiana and Kentucky’s laws were temporarily blocked by a judge and will be considered before the end of July.

The trigger laws vary. Some state’s ban abortion with allowances at 6 weeks, or when a heartbeat can be detected, others are similar to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order with the goal of safeguarding access to reproductive healthcare services (including abortions and contraception), protecting privacy of patients, promoting safety for patients and providers and implementing federal efforts to protect reproductive rights and access. He tasked U.S. Health and Human Services with implementing many of these provisions as they see fit including advisory committees and new rules to address HIPAA violation.

The order also authorized paid sick leave for federal workers which can be taken to cover absences for travel in order to obtain an abortion or other reproductive healthcare. The Department of Defense also issued a memo to civilians and military families ensuring access to women’s healthcare services.

Politicians and pro-choice advocates have proposed other options for the Biden administration to consider that could access loopholes around state laws. The most recent include a floating abortion clinic or using federal land for clinics and providers to offer abortions.

Floating Abortion Clinic?

According to the Associated Press, a California doctor has proposed the President authorize a “floating abortion clinic” to be placed in the Gulf of Mexico, since many of the trigger law bans will take place in southern states.

If the ship were to be located in the Gulf, in federal waters, it would be out of reach of state laws. Dr. Meg Autry, an OBGYN and professor at the University of California San Francisco proposed the floating clinic suggesting that it allow for first trimester surgical abortions, access to contraception and other related care.

“There’s been an assault on reproductive rights in our country and I’m a lifelong advocate for reproductive health and choice. We have to create options and be thoughtful and creative to help people in restrictive states get the health care they deserve,” she told The Associated Press.

The idea is currently still in the fundraising stage through PRROWESS, Protecting Reproductive Rights of Women Endangered by State Statutes.

Use of Federal Land:

Congresswoman Elizabeth Warren as well as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have both urged President Biden to consider utilizing federal property to open abortion clinics, particularly in states with bans.

This loophole could fall under Enclave Clause, which is a constitutional protection clause in which the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over federal land.

However, there could be complications for healthcare providers who perform these abortions on federal land and then cross back over into state territory. It is unclear if they would be protected from state civil or criminal laws after performing the procedure.

In 2000, the Federal government took their position regarding medical abortions and approved a two-dose drug protocol to perform an abortion before 10 weeks’ gestation. Within the enclave laws is a federal law, the Assimilative Crimes Act, which could provide that these medical abortions continue even in states with stricter bans if done on federal land.

In June, Vice President Kamala Harris dismissed any notion that the administration was considering using federal land to open abortion clinics. The White House Press Secretary echoed the same sentiment days later. The Presidents Executive Order did not address this proposal either.

Mississippi’s last abortion clinic shut its doors on July 7, after the state’s trigger law went into effect. After doing so, they filed an appeal in conjunction with the Mississippi Center for Justice after a decision made earlier that week denied its case challenging the Mississippi trigger law.

RELATED: Abortion clinic, Attorney General argue their case at hearing on Mississippi’s trigger law

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: