Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Criminalizing Pregnancy: Policing Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs in the United States

Amnesty International (May 23, 2107): Criminalizing Pregnancy: Policing Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs in the United States:

Amnesty International has issued a new report that looks at the impact of pregnancy criminalization laws in the U.S. with a focus on laws that are used to arrest and prosecute women based on the belief that they are harming their fetus.  The report focuses on two states Alabama and Tennessee.  Alabama is the state with the greatest number of prosecutions of pregnant women.  Between 2014 and 2016, Tennessee made it a crime to give birth to child that showed signs of exposure to drugs.  Amnesty asserts that these laws are counter-productive because fear of prosecution deters pregnant women from seeking health care and drug treatment.

“Across the USA, the heavy-handed policing of pregnant women’s behavior is shattering patient trust in health services with devastating consequences. These laws put pregnant women in a double bind, forcing them to choose between risking their health and risking punishment,” said Carrie Eisert, Policy Adviser at Amnesty International, who authored the report.


May 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trump expansion of abortion 'gag rule' will restrict $8.8 billion in U.S. aid

Washington Post (May 15, 2017): Trump expansion of abortion 'gag rule' will restrict $8.8 billion in U.S. aid, by Ariana Eunjung Cha and Carol Morello:

On Monday, President Trump's executive order blocking U.S. aid to groups that counsel or provide referrals for abortion went into effect.  Known as the "Global Gag Rule" because the order cuts funding to health organizations for merely discussing abortion with patients, the order's restrictions are tied to $8.8 billion in foreign health assistance.  Trump's order massively expands previous versions of the Global Gag Rule.  Republican presidents only applied the Global Gag Rule to about $600 million in family planning funding. Trump's Global Gag Rule will apply to other health programs including AIDS, malaria and child health funding.  The George W. Bush administration specifically excluded funding for the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) in recognition that tying the Global Gag Rule to PEPFAR funding would undermine the program's effectiveness. 

In the past studies have shown that the Global Gag Rule actually has increased abortion rates because of closure of health care centers and lack of contraceptive access. Although the Trump Administration has stressed that it is not cutting funding dollars, many established health care organizations may reject the funding based on ethical concerns.

May 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Black Lives Matter is Bailing Out Women for Mothers's Day

Mother Jones (May 12, 2017): Black Lives Matter is Bailing Out Women for Mother's Day, by Brandon E. Patterson:

Organized around Mother's Day, National Black Mamas Bail Out Day raised nearly $500,000 to bail out over 50 women around the country. Organizers in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, Oakland and 13 other cities used relationships with criminal justice organizations to identify women to bail out of jail. 

The number of women behind bars in the United States has increased 700 percent since 1980, according to the Sentencing Project. More than 100,000 women are currently in jail. Many have not been convicted of anything but are unable to make bail, and a disproportionate number of them are black. Eighty percent of incarcerated women are mothers, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.

Nationally, the median bail set for a felony charge is $10,000, almost a year's income for the average person unable to meet bail, according to the Sentencing Policy Initiative. Nearly 90 percent of inmates awaiting trial can't afford bail; The average bail amount in felony cases has nearly tripled since 1990.

Organizers in some cities held welcome events for newly freed women and their families. The groups are also raising money for a similar bail out effort in honor of Father's day on June 18. 


May 16, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Focus on Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms in Danger

NPR (May 12, 2017): Focus on Infants During Childbirth Leaves Moms in Danger, by Nina Martin & Renee Montagne:

NPR and ProPublica profile Lauren Bloomstien, a 33 neonatal nurse who died in childbirth. Every year in the U.S., 700-900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth related causes.  The U.S. maternal mortality rate is three times that of Canada and six times that of Scandinavia.  In recent years, Great Britain has seen a dramatic decline in maternal mortality, but maternal deaths in the U.S. increased from 2000 to 2014, and according the CDC Foundation, almost 60% of those deaths are preventable. 

Maternal mortality rates are significantly higher among African-Americans, low-income women and women who live in rural areas, but according to NPR and ProPublica, maternal mortality affects women of all races, ethnicities and income levels.

[T]he worsening U.S. maternal mortality numbers contrast sharply with the impressive progress in saving babies' lives. Infant mortality has fallen to its lowest point in history, the CDC reports, reflecting 50 years of efforts by the public health community to prevent birth defects, reduce preterm birth, and improve outcomes for very premature infants. The number of babies who die annually in the U.S. — about 23,000 in 2014 — still greatly exceeds the number of expectant and new mothers who die, but the ratio is narrowing.

The divergent trends for mothers and babies highlight a theme that has emerged repeatedly in ProPublica's and NPR's reporting. In recent decades, under the assumption that it had conquered maternal mortality, the American medical system has focused more on fetal and infant safety and survival than on the mother's health and wellbeing.

In the U.K. maternal deaths are treated as system failures, and a committee of experts investigates every death from pregnancy or childbirth complications. In the U.S. maternal mortality reviews are left to the states. Thirty-one states have maternal mortality review process.  A federal bill Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2017 would authorize federal funding for states to establish or improve review processes. 


May 15, 2017 in Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Abortion and the Economy: Which Side Are You On?

by Richard Storrow

Two op-eds appearing in the New York Times recently addressed the intersection of abortion and economics.  Both develop their arguments around Bernie Sanders's recent appearances with abortion rights supporter Jon Ossof, Democratic candidate for Congress in Georgia, and abortion rights foe Heath Mello, a pro-life Democatic candidate for Omaha mayor.  The seemingly contradictory optics these appearances create are concerning for progressives who fear that the Democratic Party, in trying to woo voters, may move reproductive rights to the back burner.  They appear to be right. Democratic Party National Committee chair Thomas Perez has made clear that the party's focus must now be on economics instead of "social issues" like reproductive rights and abortion.

In Why Abortion Is an Economic IssueBryce Covert speaks out against the efforts of the Democratic Party to revive itself by divorcing issues of reproductive rights from issues of economics.  "To pretend that these issues are different and that one can be abandoned for the other," he writes, "is disproved in countless women's lives."  In The Problem with Linking Abortion and EconomicsLori Szala takes aim at the "enormous baggage" freighting the old saw that "women on the margins need abortion so that they can scramble up the economic ladder without children holding them back."  The argument justifies eliminating beings "who impede our economic progress," and urges that abortion is a simple solution to deep, systemic inequalities.  

Continue reading

May 10, 2017 in Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Abortion Foes Find a Friend in Donald Trump. But for How Long?

New York Times (May 6, 2017): Opponents of Abortion Warily Measure Progress, by Jeremy W. Peters:

President Trump has proven himself to be a friend of abortion opponents.  Left unclear, though, is whether he has any influence in the battle over the roughly $500 million Planned Parenthood receives each year.  Moderate Republicans are not lining up to end support of Planned Parenthood.  Even the bill passed in the House of Representatives last Thursday only reduces funding for Planned Parenthood for one year and leaves the organization eligible for money to support family planning.  The Senate will prove more of a hurdle in any attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.

Conservative Republican attempts to revive interest in completely defunding Planned Parenthood have now taken the form of vilifying the organization for focusing more on defeating Republicans than on supporting women.  The position is hopelessly out of step with American opinion.  The majority of Americans believe the group should receive public funding for its work.   

Christian conservatives, whom President Trump hopes to reward for supporting him in 2016, are becoming wary of his attempts to prove that he is a friend of their causes.  He has, for example, refused to end workplace protections for LGBTQ employees put in place by President Obama in 2014, although last March he did make the protections harder to enforce.  Christian conservatives are upset that the lives of those forced by Obama's executed order not the discriminate against LGBTQ employees are being "destroyed by the demands of the sexual identity activist class . . . ."  Trump may not be up to the task of coming to the aid of groups who hold such extreme and unyielding perspectives.    

May 9, 2017 in Abortion, Politics, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Has Self-Induced Abortion Become Plan C?

New York Times (April, 27, 2017): Spreading Plan C to End Pregnancy, by Patrick Adams:

As access to clinical abortion becomes more restricted in the U.S., there are growing discussion about the legality and safety of self-induced abortions. And evidence suggests that more women may be considering self-induction as an option for dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.  Since 2011, researchers have documented a significant increase in google searches for self-induced abortion.

For many, non-clinical abortions raise concerns about safety.  Unsafe, illegal abortions have led to high maternal mortality rates in countries where abortion is illegal and highly restricted. However, not all methods of self-inducing an abortion are inherently unsafe.

The reality, however, is that increasingly, self-induced abortion in the United States means using pills procured through the mail, much as it is in many other countries. Women on Web, a Netherlands-based nonprofit collective that pioneered the practice of putting the pills directly into women’s hands, has provided abortion medications to more than 50,000 women in 130 countries.

Women on Web and Safe2Chooae, another organization that provides abortion pills do not mail pills in the U.S. because of concerns about legal restrictions.  Ironically, this has meant that U.S. women who are unable or unwilling to see a licensed abortion provider must resort to unregulated sites found on the internet.  This poses the risk that pills may be counterfeit.  And women who choose to self-induce also face legal risks.

 “We’ve discovered 40 different kinds of laws that are potentially implicated when someone ends their own pregnancy,” said Jill E. Adams, chief strategist of the Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team, a nonprofit consortium formed in 2015 to support advocates who legally share information on self-induced abortion and to halt its criminalization. So far, she said, the S.I.A. team has identified 18 arrests related to self-induced abortion around the country, “but I’m afraid that’s just what made the news. I suspect the true number is significantly higher.”


April 27, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Some States Are Making it Easier to Get Birth Control

FiveThirtyEight (April 24, 2017): Some States Are Making it Easier to Get Birth Control, by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux:

As we wait to see whether the Trump Administration will get rid of the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), some states are taking steps to protect contraceptive access.  

Unlike other controversial parts of the ACA, [the contraceptive mandate] is controlled by the Department of Health and Human Services, which could unilaterally drop birth control from Obamacare’s list of fully covered preventive services, allowing insurers to charge co-pays for contraception again. If the mandate were revoked or weakened, insurers could return to the pre-Obamacare status quo, where women shouldered more out-of-pocket expenses for contraception.

Perhaps motivated by federal threats to birth control several states have passed or introduced laws that could maintain or expand women's access to contraceptives.  Some states have passed laws that would reinforce or expand the contraceptive mandate. Others have passed laws requiring that insurers provide a 12 month supply of birth control.  These laws are intended to make it easier for women to obtain contraceptives by decreasing trips to the pharmacy. Finally, states have passed laws allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control. 

While it is good to see that state innovation in expanding access to birth control, advocates are worried about the growing disparities between states.  An OB-GYN from Washington cautioned:

It’s great that big states like New York are making this a priority, because they can affect a lot of women,” she said. “But the more politicized the issue of women’s health becomes, the more women’s birth control access really will depend on where they happen to live.”


April 26, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Irish Citizens Assembly Votes to Amend Constitutional Provision Prohibiting Abortion

Irish Times (April 22, 2017): Irish Citizens Assembly votes to amend abortion laws, by Niamh McIntyre: 

Currently Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, only legally permitting abortions in cases where the pregnancy presents a real and substantial risk to a woman's life.  This has been interpreted to include instances where the pregnancy is the result of a rape.  Ireland has been criticized by human rights bodies because it has been difficult for women to actually obtain abortions under the circumstances it is legal and because the law does not allow women to have an abortion in cases of several fetal anomalies.  Ireland came under international scrutiny a few years ago when a hospital failed to perform an abortion on a woman who was severely hemorrhaging following a miscarriage who died because of lack of treatment.

The government's ability to amend its laws is constrained by the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution which recognizes “the right to life of the unborn . . . with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.”

The Irish government convened a Citizens Assembly to determine whether to change the 8th Amendment.  The Assembly was composed of 99 members of the public that has met regularly since last October.  

Eighty-seven percent of the Citizens Assembly voted against retaining the 8th Amendment in its current form.  However, the Assembly voted in favor of replacement or amendment of the 8th Amendment rather than simply deleting the 8th Amendment without replacement.  The Assembly will now move onto a third vote considering when abortion should be permitted. The Assembly also recommended that there be a national referendum on Irish abortion laws.

April 25, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

State ASC and Hospital Admitting Privilege Requirements Fall After Whole Woman's Health

The Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health is having a impact on state targeted regulations against abortion providers.  In Whole Woman's Health, the Supreme Court struck down two parts of a Texas law that required that facilities providing abortions meet the same requirements as ambulatory surgical centers (ASC) and that physicians providing abortions have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. 

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Missouri granted a preliminary injunction against state ASC and admitting privileges requirements. Missouri currently only has one abortion provider.  Following the judge's decision, Planned Parenthood announced plans to restore abortion services at four additional other locations in the state. 

Last week, the Tennessee Attorney General announced that the state will cease enforcing admitting privilege and ASC requirements.  The statement was issued in response to a lawsuit brought by three Tennessee clinics in 2015.  A federal court stayed proceedings in the case to await the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health.  However, the state will continue to defend a third provision passed by the Tennessee legislature which requires women to wait 48 hours after obtaining counseling before obtaining an abortion.  The state legislature is currently considering two new anti-choice bills despite the fact that the Attorney General has issued an opinion finding the bills "suspect" and "constitutionally infirm."


April 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Book by Linda Fentiman Explores How Mothers Became Legal Targets

Professor Linda C. Fentiman has just published a new book, Blaming Mothers: American Law and the Risks to Children's Health.  According to the publisher:

In Blaming Mothers, Professor Fentiman explores how mothers became legal targets. She explains the psychological processes we use to confront tragic events and the unconscious race, class, and gender biases that affect our perceptions and influence the decisions of prosecutors, judges, and jurors. Fentiman examines legal actions taken against pregnant women in the name of “fetal protection” including court ordered C-sections and maintaining brain-dead pregnant women on life support to gestate a fetus, as well as charges brought against mothers who fail to protect their children from an abusive male partner. She considers the claims of physicians and policymakers that refusing to breastfeed is risky to children’s health. And she explores the legal treatment of lead-poisoned children, in which landlords and lead paint manufacturers are not held responsible for exposing children to high levels of lead, while mothers are blamed for their children’s injuries. 

An excerpt from the book is available on Broadly.

April 18, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 17, 2017

GRR!: Grandmas Fighting for Reproductive Rights

Business Insider (April 12, 2017): Grandma activists fight for the reproductive rights of young women, by Caroline Praderio:

Four years ago, Grandmas for Reproductive Rights or GRR! was founded by a group of women in Maine to protect access to reproductive health services. GRR! adds an important perspective to their work:

most members recall a time when abortions were illegal — sometimes deadly — and contraception was difficult to access. Before 1972, for example, it was illegal for unmarried American women to possess birth control.

"I think that age has something to do with the impact that we have," [said Judy Kahrl]. "Because we've lived through it — we've seen what happened in the past."

Since 2013, the grandmas have met with legislators, testified at legislative hearings, marched in protests, and one member ended up running for office.   Jay McCreight, an original member of GRR!, is now serving her second term in the Maine House of Representatives and successfully introduced a bill giving low income Maine citizens access to free reproductive health care.

The grandmas are inspiring others.  Following a post on the Facebook group Pantsuits Nation, the group has received 16,000 likes and multiple requests to join the group. Now GRR! has become a 501(c)(4) organization and is looking to expand in other states.

April 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Attack on Federal Funding for Planned Parenthood

New York Times (Apr. 14, 2017): Voiding Obama Rule, Trump Signs Law Taking Aim at Planned Parenthood, by Julie Hirschfeld Davis:

At the end of his term, President Obama, responding to a spate of red state initiatives to defund Planned Parenthood, promulgated a regulation banning states from withholding federal funding for family planning only if the provider is unable to provide family planning services.  The mere fact that a family planning provider performed abortions was not reason enough for withholding funds.  A new law, the tiebreaker vote on which was cast by Vice-President Mike Pence, guts this late-term regulation.  Under the law, states may cut the federal funding of groups that perform abortions.  The law takes a step further the already existing ban on using  federal government money for abortion except in cases of where a woman's life is at stake or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

President Trump, who signed the law yesterday, is an opponent of abortion.  Early in his term he reinstated a regulation blocking federal funding for any nongovernmental organizations worldwide that provide abortion counseling.    

Anti-abortion conservatives have been cheered by Trump's actions and foresee further legislative activity that will withdraw public support of family planning that includes abortion. 

April 14, 2017 in Abortion, Congress | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The New Supreme Court

by Richard Storrow

In the wake of the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, two experts have weighed in on the future of the United States Supreme Court.  Both Adam Liptak and Lisa Marshall Manheim agree that we will see little difference in the work of the Supreme Court in the short term.  After all, Gorsuch is a "one-for-one" "close match" for Justice Antonin Scalia.   

Both Liptak and Manheim do predict notable changes in the long term, however.  Manheim believes the "realignment of checks and balances" that accompanied Gorsuch's confirmation has strengthened the executive branch's power to appoint.  With filibusters and the need for approval by sixty senators out of the way, presidents may feel emboldened to nominate ideologues that appeal to their political supporters.  Such nominations, if successful, could polarize the court and upend the "ideological balance" that currently prevails.  Yes, perhaps.  But Manheim admits that this scenario may depend on whether the president's party has control of the Senate. 

Liptak's contribution, noting that party affiliation has become a strong predictor of voting trends for the members of the Supreme Court, speculates on what would have happened had Judge Merrick Garland joined the supreme bench.  Chief Justice Roberts would have been ideologically sidelined and Citizens United would have been scheduled for the chopping block.  Oh, what might have been.  Reminding us that the Court's liberal wing is aging, Liptak believes the arrival of Gorsuch portends a reinvigoration of the projects of the Roberts court: deregulation of campaign finance, rollbacks of voting rights, roll forwards of gun rights and an insistence on race blindness in everything from education to housing.     

Neither author mentions that Gorsuch's claimed originalism remains inadequately categorized.  As David Dorsen notes in The Washington Post, as a lower court judge, Gorsuch was constrained by Supreme Court precedent, and his writings on euthanasia are not those of an originalist but of a moral philosopher.  Only in a 2016 law review article does Gorsuch embrace a vigorous originalism.  But the article is the transcript of a speech, which, delivered in the wake of Justice Scalia's death, became mired in encomium.  Given the context, the originalism it describes is a caricature without nuance.  It fails to grapple with the practicalities or the wider ramifications of being a judge who adheres to a particular brand of originalism.  It tells us little about what Gorsuch believes originalism is or how it should be used to address the issues of our day.    

Contrary to Dorsen, I would submit that we probably do gain good insight into Gorsuch's brand of originalism from his concurrences and dissents while serving on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  It is a narrow originalism capturing Gorsuch's disdain for the administrative state.  It focuses squarely on ideas about the separation of powers and how those lines have become blurred with the mushrooming of the fourth branch.  But it is not an originalism that seeks to aggrandize power in the elected branches, as was Scalia's.  Instead, Gorsuch views the separation of powers as essential to due process and equal protection.  See, e.g., Gutierrez-Brizela v. Lynch (10th Cir. 2016).  This could be good news for those who worry about what position he will take on questions of affirmative action, immigration and abortion, subjects about which he has not yet said enough.

April 12, 2017 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Does Birth Control Cause Depression?

New York Times (Apr. 4, 2017): Does Birth Control Cause Depression? by Aaron E. Carroll: 

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry suggests that hormonal contraceptive use may trigger depression.  The study examined all women and adolescent females in Denmark from 2000 through 2014.  It found that those who used hormonal contraceptives "had significantly higher risks of also taking an antidepressant."  The risks were higher in adolescents than in women and decreased as the subjects aged.  

Placed in the context of other studies that have examined hormonal contraceptive use, the study comes up short.  It's not a controlled trial and does not even remotely establish causation.  It is also easy to criticize it on the basis that "anti-depressant use isn't the best measure of new-onset depression."

Data from other studies appear to contradict the JAMA study: "the data that do exist show that most women don't show any effect from hormonal birth control, or actually had their mood improve.   Moreover, "women who have underlying mood disorders were more predisposed to have mood-related side effects."  The JAMA introduces intriguing and "newsy" findings into the mix, but is by no means the last word on the subject.  The topic of hormonal birth control and mood is best explored in the context of the patient-physician relationship.  When viewed up against the fact that birth control is "[o]ne of the biggest American victories of the last decade," the fact that it may contribute to depression may be a risk worth taking.

April 6, 2017 in Contraception, Medical News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Arkansas "Sex Selective Abortion Ban" Requires Doctors to Investigate Women's Medical History

New York Times (March 30, 2017): Arkansas Bans 'Sex-Selection Abortion, by Christine Hauser:

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a law banning sex-selective abortion this week.  The law goes further than prior laws because it requires that doctors investigate women's pregnancy history and ask the woman questions to ensure that the woman is not ending the pregnancy in order to gender select.  The law, which is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, requires doctors to ask a woman if she knows the gender of the fetus she is carrying and if she does, the doctor must tell her it is illegal to chose an abortion based on gender.  It is a misdemeanor for doctors to fail to comply with a fine up to $2,500 and civil penalties. Doctors also risk revocation or suspension of their medical license.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, Arkansas is the 8th state to ban sex-selective abortions.  The other states are Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota.

March 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Where do right wingers get all those anti-choice laws? There is literally a book

Salon (March 26, 2017): Where do right wingers get all those anti-choice laws? There is literally a book, by Amanda Marcotte:

Each year, Americans United for Life (AUL), incorporated in 1971 to fight the movement to legalize abortion, publishes an annual handbook entitled "Defending Life."  The handbook  provides model legislation for state lawmakers eager to introduce anti-choice bills.  This year, AUL faced a new challenge in figuring out how to respond to the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. The Texas law that the Court struck down in Whole Woman's Health originated in AUL's handbook and was part of AUL's strategy of promoting anti-choice legislation in the guise of protecting women's health.   

In its 2017 handbook, AUL appears to be focusing on laws that promote  "fetal life interest" or "fetal dignity interest." These initiatives include:

bills requiring women who have abortions or miscarriages to pay for funeral services for the fetus or embryo, bills banning abortion in the case of fetal defects and bills that would make it legal for a woman to sue an abortion doctor for “wrongful death” if she decides, after the fact, that she regrets getting an abortion.

According to Marcotte:

 The authors of the 2017 edition of “Defending Life” try to strike a confident tone, but it’s clear from the model legislation itself that anti-choice activists don’t really know what to do in the aftermath of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Reading the handbook, one gets the sense that if anti-choice activists can’t stop women from getting abortions, they will just try to make the experience as punishing as possible, with waiting periods, fetus funerals and lots of scary, false information.

March 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 24, 2017

If you care about the future of abortion rights, now is a good time to worry

Business Insider (March 21, 2017): If you care about the future of abortion rights, now is a good time to worry, by Jessie B. Hill:

Although there is no immediate threat to Roe v. Wade, Professor Jessie Hill discusses why supporters of abortion rights should be worried.  She writes:

But the real danger may be not so much that things will radically change – it’s that they’ll remain the same. From my vantage point as a constitutional law professor who also litigates reproductive rights cases, the landscape looks about as treacherous as it ever has.

Despite the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt last term finding two provisions of a Texas statute unconstitutional, states continue to adopt new restrictions on abortion.  In 2016, 18 states adopted 50 new pieces of anti-abortion legislation.  While the balancing test applied in Whole Woman's Health the Court allowed the court to take into account that there was no evidence to support the state's claim that it enacted the provisions to protect women's health in determining the benefits and burdens of the law, the test still gives judges a lot of discretion.  Prof. Hill warns that "A legal test that requires balancing benefits and burdens leaves a lot of room for a judge to place a thumb on the scale."  Also of concern is the deference that Trump's Supreme Court nominee Judge Gorsuch shows to religious rights claims as we increasingly see expansion of these claims to undermine laws that protect women and LGBTI individuals from discrimination.

Finally, Professor Hill notes that while the five judges majority in Whole Woman's Health remains on the Court, "the real turning point will likely come if and when Trump gets to make second nomination the Supreme Court."

March 24, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mississippi Drops Defense of Admitting Privilege Requirement; Litigation on OB/GYN Requirement Continues

Rewire (March 21, 2017): Mississippi Finally Stops Defending Clinic Shutdown Law, by Jessica Mason Pieklo:

Eight months after the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, Mississippi dropped its defense of an admitting privilege requirement that would have required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.  The provision would have forced the only abortion clinic in Mississippi to close.  Following the state's concession that it could not "identify any meaningful distinction" between the law struck down in Whole Woman's Health and the Mississippi admitting privilege requirement, the district court permanently enjoined the law.

However, litigation continues over another Mississippi law that requires that all doctors performing abortions be OB-GYNs.  Mississippi is the only state with such a requirement.

March 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Women Wore 'Handmaid's Tale' Robes to the Texas Senate

Huffington Post (March 20, 2017): Women Wore 'Handmaid's Tale' Robes to the Texas Senate, by Catherine Pearson:

On Monday, a group of women arrived at the Texas Senate Chambers wearing red robes and white bonnets as a nod to characters in Margaret Atwood's book the Handmaiden's Tale.  The science fiction novel describes a society where women are forced to serve as "breeders" with no rights.  The activists sought to draw attention to a series of anti-abortion measures that are currently being considered by the Texas legislature.  The proposed legislation includes a bill that would ban a procedure commonly used for second trimester abortions and a bill that would immunize doctors from liability if they lie to patients about detected fetal abnormalities.

March 21, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)