Thursday, January 29, 2015
The Washington Post (The Fix blog): States that are more opposed to abortion rights have fewer abortions — but not fewer unintended pregnancies, by Aaron Blake:
Abortion in America is an extremely divisive issue, splitting Republicans and Democrats with often very strong feelings.
It also divides the states. In 2010, according to a new study from the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights group, an estimated 11 percent of all unintended pregnancies in South Dakota were aborted. In New York, it was 54 percent.
In general, Guttmacher's numbers show that states with more people who oppose abortion rights tend to have lower abortion rates. But views on abortion tend to have much less impact on something else related to all this: unintended pregnancies. . . .
The piece includes charts and interactive maps.
The New York Times (Taking Note blog): Tim Ryan’s Switch on Abortion Rights, by Dorothy Samuels:
Representative Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat who previously opposed abortion rights, has officially changed sides. He’s very welcome in the pro-choice camp. With reproductive freedom under attack in the Republican-led Congress and in G.O.P.-controlled state legislatures around the country, the embattled cause needs all the new supporters it can get. . . .
Thursday, January 22, 2015
NPR: 30-Year Sentence Lifted For Woman In El Salvador Abortion Case, by Jason Beaubien:
Seven years ago, Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez Aldana went to jail in El Salvador. She was initially charged with abortion but prosecutors elevated the charge to aggravated homicide, arguing that the fetus was viable. Vasquez always contended that she did not have an abortion but had lost her unborn son due to medical complications late in the pregnancy.
On Wednesday, El Salvador's Legislative Assembly approved a recommendation by the country's high court that Vasquez be exonerated. That's a remarkable turn of events in a country with one of the strongest anti-abortion laws in the world. Even when the health of the mother is at risk, abortion is illegal. . . .
JURIST (commentary): Fourth and Fifth Circuits Confront Abortion Exceptionalism, by Caitlin Borgmann:
Federal Courts of Appeals have recently addressed two important abortion cases, either of which could end up before US Supreme Court. Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heardoral arguments on the merits of a Texas law that requires abortion facilities to meet hospital-like building and construction standards. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a decision[PDF] in late December striking down a North Carolina pre-abortion ultrasound law that requires abortion providers to perform a sonogram before an abortion and to display and describe it to the woman. Each case is important for abortion rights in different ways, but a common theme the cases raise is the question of abortion exceptionalism: whether courts should treat abortion as an exceptional case when states purport to regulate it for health and safety reasons (in the Texas case) or when state restrictions encroach on the right against compelled speech (in the North Carolina case) . . . .
Vox: 6 very basic facts about abortion in America, by Sarah Kliff:
Forty-two years ago today, the Supreme Court issued its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized a woman's right to abortion. Ever since, America has debated and grappled with how to regulate a woman's right to choose. These graphs and charts help provide some context of how abortion access has changed in the United States since Roe, and how America's position on the issue has evolved over four decades. . . .
The Wall Street Journal: House Passes Bill Prohibiting Federal Funds Being Used for Abortions, by Kristina Peterson & Louise Radnofsky:
Some female Republican and centrist lawmakers helped scuttle a vote on a controversial measure to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, prompting the House on Thursday to pass a separate, largely symbolic bill that would further restrict federal funding to pay for abortions. . . .
The bill approved Thursday, which would ban the use of federal funds to pay for abortions or health-insurance plans that cover abortion, passed 242-179. There are already bans in place on using most federal funds for abortion. One Republican, Rep. Richard Hanna of New York, voted against the bill.
The White House said President Barack Obama would likely veto it. . . .
The Washington Post - The Fix (blog): How Republicans won by losing on an abortion vote, by Chris Cillizza:
For the last several years, congressional Republicans have pursued what can be described as a short-term gain, long-term pain strategy. That is, the GOP-led House has championed, passed or, just as often, not passed legislation that pleases its base and the group of three dozen or so of its members who stake out the furthest territory on the right of ideological spectrum. That's been a fine thing for those members, most of whom sit in districts in which the only threat of losing comes in a primary, but it has been far more problematic for the overall brand of the party as it tries to recapture the White House in 2016. Think immigration reform.
On Wednesday, House Republicans -- whether purposely or by accident -- reversed that strategy, choosing some short-term pain in exchange for at least the possibility of long-term gain. . . .
The Washington Post: Abortion bill dropped amid concerns of female GOP lawmakers, by Ed O'Keefe:
House Republican leaders abruptly dropped plans late Wednesday to vote on an anti-abortion bill amid a revolt by female GOP lawmakers concerned that the legislation's restrictive language would once again spoil the party's chances of broadening its appeal to women and younger voters.
In recent days, as many as two dozen Republicans had raised concerns with the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" that would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy. Sponsors said that exceptions would be allowed for a woman who is raped, but she could only get the abortion after reporting the rape to law enforcement.
A vote had been scheduled for Thursday to coincide with the annual March for Life, a gathering that brings hundreds of thousands of anti-abortion activists to Washington to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. . . .
CNN: House GOP leaders cave on abortion bill, by Deirdre Walsh:
Mark it down as a rare win for House GOP moderates. After scrambling into the evening on Wednesday, House Republican leaders decided to scrap a vote on a controversial anti-abortion measure scheduled to coincide with an annual gathering of anti-abortion advocates on Thursday because they couldn't round up enough support. . . .
The "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," is a bill banning so called "late-term abortions" -- those involving procedures for women who are beyond 20 weeks into their pregnancy. Several House GOP women protested language in the bill that requires those women who seek an exception to the ban because they were raped have to back up their claim with a police report. A similar measure has passed the House in 2013, but this time some female members -- including some who voted for it last time -- are pushing for that requirement to be stripped out. . . .
This is what happens when opponents of abortion stray from a simplistic but consistent position that all abortion is murder. They wade into a messy quagmire of exceptions -- which women "deserve" to have an abortion? -- a discussion that only serves to highlight that they do not, in fact, hold a consistent position that an embryo or fetus is a person. (The discredited claim that a fetus can perceive pain at 20 weeks indeed was supposed to cement the fetus's status as a person and justify the ban in question.) I've written more about this in the following articles: The Meaning of 'Life': Belief and Reason in the Abortion Debate and Roe v. Wade's 40th Anniversary: A Moment of Truth for the Anti-Abortion-Rights Movement?
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
NPR: Pope Francis Says Catholics Don't Need To Breed 'Like Rabbits', by Jasmine Garsd:
On his return trip from Asia, Pope Francis made strong statements supporting the church's ban on artificial means of birth control. He also said Catholics should practice "responsible parenthood" and don't have to breed "like rabbits." . . .
Reuters: Pope says birth control ban doesn't mean breed 'like rabbits', by Philip Pullella:
Catholics should not feel they have to breed "like rabbits" because of the Church's ban on contraception, Pope Francis said on Monday, suggesting approved natural family planning methods. . . .
The leader of the 1.2-billion-strong Roman Catholic Church restated its ban on artificial birth control, adding there were "many ways that are allowed" to practise natural family planning. . . .
The Hill: Obama threatens to veto abortion bill, by Sarah Ferris:
The Obama administration on Tuesday threatened to veto the GOP-backed bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, calling it a “direct challenge” to a court-protected right for women.
The House is planning to vote on the bill Thursday, the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court abortion case, Roe v. Wade, and the same day that thousands of anti-abortion advocates will participate in the March for Life. . . .
The New York Times editorial: A Perilous Year for Abortion Rights:
The start of 2015 finds no letup in the attacks on a woman’s constitutionally protected right to make her own childbearing decisions. Republican lawmakers and organizations devoted to dismantling reproductive freedom have succeeded in shrinking the already inadequate number of abortion providers, making it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for women — especially young and poor women — to obtain safe and legal abortion services in large swaths Texas and other parts of the country. . . .
Thursday, January 8, 2015
MSNBC: The GOP wants to take the abortion wars national again, by Irin Carmon:
The new Congress had barely blinked awake when Republicans got back to their usual business – an abortion ban.
The Hill reports that on Monday, the first day of the new session, Rep. Trent Franks and Rep. Marsha Blackburn reintroduced the tendentiously named “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” It bans abortion after 20 weeks on the medically-disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain at that point. . . .
JURIST: Federal judge enters final ruling on Indiana abortion clinic law, by Steven Wildberger:
Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana[official website] entered a permanent injunction Wednesday barring Indiana law IC 16-18-2 [text], which would redefine what qualifies as an abortion clinic and shut down Planned Parenthood's Lafayette facility. The law was barred for imposing rules on facilities that provided only medical abortions that would not have been imposed on physicians' offices providing the same service, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [text]. . . .
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
The New York Times: Texas Abortion Clinic Rules Tested in Appeals Court, by Erik Eckholm:
Lawyers for abortion clinics squared off with Texas state attorneys in a federal appeals court here on Wednesday, arguing over the constitutionality of stringent abortion clinic rules that would force more than half the remaining abortion providers in Texas to close.
But more is at stake than whether large portions of South and West Texas will be left with no abortion clinics, forcing some women to drive hundreds of miles for an abortion, for safety reasons that doctors and clinic owners call a pretense.
The case argued here — along with others arising from the hundreds ofabortion restrictions adopted by more than half of the states in recent years — poses issues that are likely to end up before the Supreme Court in the next year or two, many legal experts say . . . .
Al Jazeera America: Texas abortion clinics: How far is too far to drive?, by Michael Keller & Marisa Taylor:
Is 150 miles too far to drive in order to get an abortion? In some parts of Texas, that distance could get a lot longer, and it’s up to a federal appeals court to decide whether that places too much of a burden on women seeking to end their pregnancies. . . .
“It’s always been a little bit unclear exactly what constitutes an ‘undue burden,’” said Caitlin Borgmann, a professor at CUNY School of Law with expertise on reproductive rights law. . . .
“If women can’t access abortions, then the right is meaningless,” Borgmann said. “This very much goes to the core of what it means to be a constitutional right to abortion.”
The Al Jazeera America story includes interactive maps that show what parts of Texas would be left without any available abortion clinics if the ambulatory surgical center requirement is upheld.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
4th Circuit Panel Unanimously Rules NC Pre-Abortion Ultrasound Law Unconstitutional; State Vows to Seek Supreme Court Review
Slate: North Carolina’s Outrageous Abortion Requirement Is Struck Down, by Dahlia Lithwick:
A conservative judge sticks up for medical ethics and the First Amendment.
A panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals voted today to strike down a highly controversial North Carolina law requiring doctors and ultrasound technicians to perform an ultrasound, display the image of the sonogram, and specifically describe the fetus to any pregnant woman seeking an abortion, even if the woman actively “averts her eyes” and “refuses to hear.” The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and others challenged the law, which was enjoined last year by a lower federal court.
Today, in a unanimous decision authored by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a three-judge panel affirmed a lower court’s determination that the law is a compelled speech provision that violates the First Amendment rights of providers. . . .
The Washington Post: N.C. abortion restriction violates free speech, judges rule, by Sandhya Somashekhar:
. . . Several other states, including Virginia, have ultrasound requirements, with some requiring women to undergo internal “transvaginal” ultrasounds before obtaining an abortion. Only a handful, however, have gone so far as North Carolina, and courts have had mixed opinions about such laws,upholding them in Texas and striking them down in Oklahoma.
On Monday, the North Carolina attorney general’s office said they would ask the Supreme Court to take up the matter to resolve the conflicting opinions in Texas and Richmond. . . .
The opinion is available here.
Monday, December 15, 2014
The New York Times: Justices Let Abortion Decision Stand, by Adam Liptak:
The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a decision temporarily blocking an Arizona law that limits the availability of medicinal, nonsurgical abortions. As is its custom when it denies review, the court gave no reasons for its action.
The law, enacted in 2012, requires abortion providers to comply with a 2000 protocol from the Food and Drug Administration for mifepristone, anabortion-inducing drug that is sometimes called RU-486. . . .
The 2000 protocol calls for the drug to be given in higher doses than is customary today, and only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. . . .
This denial is interesting in part because the Supreme Court had previously agreed to review a similar law from Oklahoma, which had been struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court had then certified questions to the Oklahoma Supreme Court regarding the law's interpretation. The Oklahoma Supreme Court read the law broadly, in a way that would have prohibited all medication abortions, including to treat ectopic pregnancies. After receiving the Oklahoma Supreme Court's interpretation, the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2013 dismissed the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. It seemed possible that the U.S. Supreme Court would still be interested in reviewing a medication abortion restriction that was interpreted more narrowly as requiring adherence to the FDA-approved protocol. The Ninth Circuit decision on the preliminary injunction assumed for purposes of the opinion that the Arizona law only reached this far, but still found it to constitute an undue burden.
Monday, December 8, 2014
The Salt Lake Tribune/AP: Religious nonprofits challenge birth-control coverage in health law. by Kristen Wyatt:
Faith-based nonprofit organizations that object to covering birth control in their employee health plans are in federal court Monday to challenge a birth-control compromise they say still compels them to violate their religious beliefs.
The plaintiffs include a group of Colorado nuns and four Christian colleges in Oklahoma. They are already exempt from covering contraceptives under the federal health care law.
But they say the exemption doesn’t go far enough because they must sign away the coverage to another party, making them feel complicit in providing the contraceptives. . . .
BBC: South Korea: Contraception poster prompts outcry:
South Korea's government is under fire for a poster promoting contraception use which has been criticised by both men and women, it's reported.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare poster was meant to encourage women to "take responsibility" for using birth control in order to prevent abortions, the Korea Times website reports. It shows a young couple, after what appears to be a successful shopping trip, with the man carrying his partner's pink handbag and clutching several bags. The poster reads: "Although you leave everything to men, don't leave the responsibility for contraception to them."
There was a swift backlash from social media users . . . .
Medscape: Nearly Half of Abortion Care Providers Fear Sting Operations, by Caroline Helwick:
Concerns about encountering "fake" patients and being threatened by "sting" operations are pervasive among abortion providers and their clinic staff, somewhat out of proportion to their actual risks, according to research conducted at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Lead author Emily J. Youatt, MPH, a doctoral candidate at the university, said this fear "introduces a new stress to an already burdened workforce" and can "negatively influence the patient–provider relationship."
At the American Public Health Association (APHA) 142nd Annual Meeting here, Youatt presented the results of a survey that explored stigma and fears among abortion care providers. . . .