Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

Editor: Caitlin E. Borgmann
CUNY School of Law

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Maya Manian on Criminal Prosecutions of Pregnant Women

HealthLawProf Blog: Guest Blogger Professor Maya Manian: The Criminalization of Pregnant Women:

In a recent New York Times editorial, Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin bring to light the chilling reality of the criminalization of pregnant women in the United States. Stories of prosecutions of pregnant women in other countries, such as El Salvador, have received significant attention. Yet, similar stories within our own borders remain under the radar even while we constantly debate the issue of abortion.

As Paltrow and Flavin point out, the push to restrict women’s access to abortion and expand rights for fetuses impacts more than just those women specifically seeking abortion care. Anti-abortion measures threaten the rights of all pregnant women, even those who want to be pregnant. As Paltrow and Flavin’s peer-reviewed study on criminal prosecutions of pregnant women demonstrates, prosecutors and judges have relied on anti-abortion reasoning to arrest, detain, and force medical treatment on pregnant women who suffered from miscarriages, depression, or simply wanted to make their own medical decisions about how to proceed with childbirth.

Although many of the women in the cases described by Paltrow and Flavin were not seeking abortion care, the criminalization of pregnant women who seek to self-abort appears to be an increasing threat.  . . .

November 23, 2014 in Abortion, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fifth Circuit Denies En Banc Review of Decision Blocking Mississippi's Admitting Privileges Law

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger: 5th Circuit refuses to reconsider Mississippi's abortion law, by Jimmie E. Gates:

The full 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has refused to reconsider a ruling blocking Mississippi from enforcing a law requiring doctors who perform abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

In late July, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the law is unconstitutional because it would close Mississippi's only abortion clinic. . . .

___________________________________________________

The panel decision was notable for ruling that a state may not rely on the availability of abortion in neighboring states in arguing that its own restrictions do not impose an undue burden.  In this case, the admitting privileges law threatened to shut down Mississippi's last remaining abortion clinic. Professor Jonathan Will and I exchanged views on the panel decision in August.

-CEB

November 20, 2014 in In the Courts, State and Local News, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Shoddy "Factfinding" on Abortion Is Pervasive in State Legislatures, and Often Finds Its Way to the Courts

RH Reality Check: How Shoddy Evidence Finds Its Way From State Legislatures to the U.S. Supreme Court, by Sharona Coutts & Sofia Resnick:

If you were a South Dakota legislator looking for expert evidence on how abortion affects women, the obvious choice would be an electrical engineer based in Illinois.

Right?

It may sound absurd, but that is precisely who lawmakers cited in 2005, when they gathered testimony for a report by the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion. . . .

It’s a pattern that is all too familiar in state legislators around the United States, said Caitlin Borgmann, a law professor at the City University of New York who is an expert in the role of courts and legislatures in protecting constitutional rights. . . .

Check out RH Reality Check's False Witnesses Gallery:

Each member of the False Witnesses gallery has pushed false information designed to mislead the public, lawmakers, and the courts about abortion. RH Reality Check analyzed scores of public records, contracts, public statements, and research articles, and identified their key falsehoods in order to set the record straight. . . .

November 20, 2014 in Abortion, In the Courts, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Katha Pollitt Debunks Abortion Myths

TIME: 6 Myths About Abortion, by Katha Pollitt:

1. The Bible forbids abortion.

It shouldn’t matter what the Bible says about abortion. The United States is not a theocracy. Still, given the certitude of abortion opponents that abortion violates God’s Word, it might come as a surprise that neither the Old Testament nor the New mentions abortion—not one word. . . .

November 13, 2014 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Surgeon Is Arrested in Deaths of a Dozen Women in India Who Underwent Sterilization Operations

The New York Times: Post-Mortems of Victims Point to Tainted Medication in India Sterilization Deaths, by Suhasini Raj & Ellen Barry: 

Post-mortem examinations of several women who died after surgery at a government sterilization camp last weekend in central Indiasuggest that tainted medications might be to blame, rather than the unsanitary conditions or the assembly-line haste of the operations, a district medical officer said Thursday.

Initially, health officials suspected that 12 women succumbed to septic shock from infections contracted during their tubal ligation operations on Saturday, in the state of Chhattisgarh. The surgeon who operated on most of them, Dr. R. K. Gupta, was arrested on Wednesday on charges of culpable homicide. . . .

CNN: Surgeon tied to India sterilization deaths arrested, by Paul Armstrong, Sania Farooqui & Greg Botelho: 

A surgeon has been arrested on charges of negligence and attempted culpable homicide in the deaths of a dozen women who had undergone sterilization operations at a mobile clinic in one of India's poorest states. . . .

See also: The Washington Post: Deaths shine light on ‘horrible’ conditions in India’s mass sterilization camps, by Annie Gowan

November 13, 2014 in International, Sterilization | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Assessing the Impact of the November Elections on Reproductive Rights

NPR: Two Of Three States Reject Ballot Measures Restricting Abortion, by Jennifer Ludden:

Amid all the shakeout from this week's midterm elections, many are trying to assess the impact on abortion.

Two abortion-related ballot measures were soundly defeated. A third passed easily. And those favoring restrictions on abortion will have a much bigger voice in the new Congress. . . .

The Los Angeles Times: On abortion, election delivered mixed messages, by Maria La Ganga:

The 2014 midterm election was a mixed bag for abortion rights supporters: Two out of three state ballot measures that would have regulated the procedure went down to defeat, but control of the U.S. Senate swung to the Republican Party, with its antiabortion candidates claiming victory.

"It is a happy day for us, a great day for pro-lifers," said Marilyn Musgrave, vice president for government affairs with the Susan B. Anthony List, which advocates for female antiabortion candidates. "The life issue won." . . .

Mother Jones: The Fight for Abortion Rights Just Got a Whole Lot Harder, by Molly Redden:

Activists thought they had a chance to expand reproductive rights. The Red Wave put an end to that

The GOP wave didn't just crash into the US Senate. It flooded state legislatures, as well. By Wednesday evening, Republicans were in control of 67 of the nation's 99 state legislative chambers—up from 57 before the election. It's still unclear which party will control two other chambers.

Already, anti-abortion advocates are calling it a big win. Hundreds of the country'smost extreme anti-abortion bills pop up in these statehouses every year, and Tuesday's results won't do anything to put a stop to that. But reproductive rights advocates also suffered big setbacks Tuesday in places where they had actually been playing offense. Now, Democratic losses in states like Colorado, Nevada, New York, and Washington could torpedo their efforts to expand reproductive rights. . . . 

November 9, 2014 in Abortion, Fetal Rights, Politics, State and Local News, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Anti-Abortion Laws Pose Risks to All Pregnant Women

The New York Times op-ed: Pregnant, and No Civil Rights, by Lynn Paltrow & Jeanne Flavin:

WITH the success of Republicans in the midterm elections and the passage of Tennessee’s anti-abortion amendment, we can expect ongoing efforts to ban abortion and advance the “personhood” rights of fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses.

But it is not just those who support abortion rights who have reason to worry. Anti-abortion measures pose a risk to all pregnant women, including those who want to be pregnant. . . .

November 9, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Embryonic Personhood Ballot Measures Rejected in Colorado and North Dakota

The Huffington Post: Colorado And North Dakota Voters Reject Fetal Personhood Measures, by Laura Bassett:

Voters in Colorado rejected an anti-abortion ballot measure on Tuesday that would have granted personhood rights to developing fetuses from the moment of fertilization.

The ballot measure, known as Amendment 67, would have amended the state's criminal code to include fetuses in the category of "human" and "child." Supporters of the measure said it would have more harshly prosecuted someone who caused a pregnant woman to lose her baby in a situation like a drunk driving accident.

Opponents warned that it also would have criminalized women who have abortions, without exception for rape or incest.

Colorado voters rejected the amendment by a vote of 63 percent to 37 percent -- the third time they have voted down a personhood measure in the past few years. . . .

Colorado voters on Tuesday did, however, elect to the Senate Republican Cory Gardner, who co-sponsored fetal personhood legislation in the House of Representatives.

North Dakota voters on Tuesday also rejected a personhood ballot measure by a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent. The measure would have amended the state constitution to say, "The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.'" . . .

November 4, 2014 in Abortion Bans, Fetal Rights, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tennessee Voters Approve State Constitutional Amendment to Allow More Abortion Restrictions

The Tennessean: Tennessee Amendment 1 abortion measure passes, by Anita Wadhwani:

Already lawmaker vows to back abortion regulations when legislature reconvenes

Tennessee voters by a solid margin backed Amendment 1, a measure that gives state lawmakers more power to restrict and regulate abortions.

The measure was perhaps the most closely watched and most contentious Election Day vote in Tennessee's midterm elections, which had few contested high-profile candidate races this year. It also was one of the most expensive ballot measures in Tennessee history. . . .

November 4, 2014 in Abortion, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oklahoma Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Admitting Privileges Law and Medication Abortion Restrictions

The New York Times: Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks 2 Abortion Laws, by Timothy Williams:

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked two new laws that critics say may have made it difficult for women to obtain abortions in the state.

The measures, approved by the State Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, took effect Nov. 1.

But in a unanimous decision released Tuesday, the State Supreme Court voted to prevent enforcement of the rules until lawsuits challenging their constitutionality are settled by a lower court. . . .

November 4, 2014 in In the Courts, State and Local News, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 24, 2014

State Judge Allows Oklahoma's Admitting Privileges Law to Take Effect

RH Reality Check: Oklahoma Court Refuses to Block Admitting Privileges Requirement, by Jessica Mason Pieklo:

Oklahoma can enforce its new anti-abortion admitting privileges requirement beginning November 1, a state district court judge ruled Friday.

SB 1848 mandates all reproductive health care clinics have a physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital on-site when abortion procedures are performed. . . .

October 24, 2014 in In the Courts, State and Local News, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Elle Publishes "Real Stories from Real Women" About Their Abortions

Elle: Ending the Silence That Fuels Abortion Stigma, by Cecile Richards:

It’s hard to imagine a medical procedure in this country that carries the stigma and judgment that abortion does. Women’s experiences are often seen through the lens of cultural and political battles. If a woman says that she’s relieved after having an abortion, she may be judged for being heartless or unfeeling. If she says that she feels regret, anti-abortion activists use this to push for laws that restrict access to abortion or laws that assume women are incapable of making their own decisions without the interference of others.

So instead, we just don’t talk about it. That’s how abortion came to be discussed as an “issue” instead of an experience. . . .

Elle:  "I HAD AN ABORTION": Real stories from real women:

In ELLE's November issue, features director Laurie Abraham wrote a trenchant, honest essay about her abortions. Here, we share stories from other women who had abortions, to show that different women have different reasons for having an abortion, and that the procedure inspires all sorts of feelings—all of them, valid.

October 24, 2014 in Abortion, Culture, In the Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

California's Expansion of Abortion Provider Pool Helps Reduce Stigma Around Abortion

The Los Angeles Times: New class of abortion providers helps expand access in California, by Lee Romney:

Ever since the Planned Parenthood health center here opened, the six cushioned recliners in the recovery room had been in steady demand every Friday.

That's when a physician would rotate through to perform abortions for four hours. When everyone in the crowded waiting room knew why the woman next to her was there, when they all had to walk past a cluster of antiabortion protesters.

But a state law that went into effect in January has authorized nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to perform a method of first-trimester abortion known as vacuum aspiration. Previously, only doctors were allowed to do so.

With the expanded pool of providers, this Marin County clinic can now carry out the procedure as routinely as breast exams and birth control consultations, stripping away the taint of "abortion day." . . .

October 24, 2014 in Abortion, Culture, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Embryonic Personhood Movement Hasn't Gone Away

ThinkProgress: North Dakota Is Quietly Preparing To Enact The Most Radical Abortion Measure In The Country, by Tara Culp-Ressler:

EmbryosIn less than two weeks, North Dakota voters will head to the polls and cast their ballots on a radical effort to overhaul the state’s constitutionand redefine legal personhood in a way that includes fertilized eggs. The latest polling indicates that Amendment 1 may have enough support to pass, making North Dakota the first state in the country to enact a radical “personhood” measure — something that abortion opponents have been attempting to do for four decades. But hardly anyone is talking about it. . . .

MSNBC:  This conservative cause is the GOP’s worst nightmare, by Irin Carmon:

There is one word that has defined the Colorado Senate race and it’s a word that Republican Rep. Cory Gardner and other GOP candidates across the country are tired of hearing. The word is “Personhood.”

For months, local reporters have been asking Gardner, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, to explain his contradictory and opaque positions on a Colorado Personhood measure Gardner once supported and a federal bill he still does. Such measures would extend legal protection to fertilized eggs and are intended to ban all abortion as well as common in-vitro fertilization processes and some forms of birth control, including the IUD and emergency contraception. . . .

It was quiet that afternoon on the Personhood terrace, when Keith Mason openly admitted he doesn’t expect Amendment 67 to pass. Then he nodded towards Planned Parenthood and grinned: “We just cost them $4 million.”  . . .

October 23, 2014 in Abortion Bans, Congress, Fetal Rights, Politics, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oklahoma Judge Allows Restriction on Medication Abortions to Take Effect

Reuters: Oklahoma judge allows law on abortion pills to take effect, by Heide Brandes:

An Oklahoma judge said on Wednesday he will allow a law governing the use of an abortion-inducing drug to take effect as planned on Nov. 1, over the objections of abortion rights advocates who said the measure is poor public health policy that could put women at risk. . . .

__________________________________

In case anyone is having a sense of deja vu in reading this story:  a similar Oklahoma law made it up to the U.S. Supreme Court, briefly, before the Court changed its mind and decided not to hear the case. The Oklahoma Supreme Court had invalidated the law, and the state sought U.S. Supreme Court review.  After granting cert, the U.S. Supreme Court certified two questions to the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking clarification about the scope of the statute.  After the Oklahoma court answered these questions and interpreted the statute broadly, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the writ as improvidently granted. 

-CEB

October 23, 2014 in State and Local News, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Comments on ACA Contraception Accommodation Submitted by Public Rights/Private Conscience Project on Behalf of Legal Scholars

Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (Columbia Law School): PRPCP Leads 60+ Law Professors In Submitting Comments On ACA Contraception Accommodation, by Kara Loewentheil:

Back in August the Obama Administration responded to the Supreme Court’s opinion inHobby Lobby and its order in Wheaton College by issuing two new sets of regulations to govern the accommodation process for employers with religious objections to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement. One was an interim final regulation, promulgated by the Department of Labor, that responded to the Wheaton College order by allowing objecting non-profit organizations that believed notifying their insurance company or third-party administrator (TPA) of their objection was also a violation of their RFRA rights to simply notify the government directly, after which DOL and HHS would work together to notify the insurance company or TPA. (I’ve written elsewhere about why this is, not to put too fine a point on it, a somewhat pointless exercise). The other was a proposed regulation that would define what kinds of for-profit entities could seek an accommodation under RFRA based on the Hobby Lobby ruling.

These regulations were open for public comments, and PRPCP drafted comments on both rules that were signed by more than  60 prominent legal academics. . . .

_________________________________________

Here are the comments signed by corporate scholars.  And here are the comments signed by scholars of law and religion.

October 23, 2014 in President/Executive Branch, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 17, 2014

TRAP Laws Impose Costs, Even When Clinics Stay Open

RH Reality Check: The Hidden Costs of Abortion Restrictions, by Carole Joffe (Univ. of Calif.):

“You walk into our surgery center and it’s so cold and scary. There’s no art. The lights are bright, the recovery rooms smell like bleach. All the staff are wearing gowns and head and foot covers and the patients have to wear the same thing … and there’s nothing comforting about it. The warmth is gone.”

As recent events in Texas have made clear, when it comes to abortion care, the worst outcome of the current onslaught of state-imposed targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP laws) is the forced closing of clinics. But even clinics in affected states that manage to stay open suffer costs. . . .

October 17, 2014 in Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Reviews of Katha Pollitt's "Pro," And Interviews with Pollitt

The New York Times: Take Back the Right: Katha Pollitt's 'Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights', by Clara Jeffery:

“I never had an abortion, but my mother did. She didn’t tell me about it, but from what I pieced together after her death from a line in her F.B.I. file, which my father, the old radical, had requested along with his own, it was in 1960, so like almost all abortions back then, it was illegal.”

Thus begins “Pro,” the abortion rights manifesto by the Nation columnist, poet and red diaper baby Katha Pollitt. While parents with F.B.I. files may be exotic, her departure point is that abortion was and is not. . . .

The Chicago Tribune: Review: 'Pro' by Katha Pollitt, by Martha Bayne:

. . . Over the book's 200-odd pages, Pollitt — longtime columnist for The Nation and all-around feminist public thinker — charts with passion and intellectual rigor just how much the lives of American women have changed since 1960, and how very much they haven't. . . .

Here's an interview with Pollitt:

Democracy Now: Abortion as a Social Good: Author Katha Pollitt Pens New Vision for Pro-Choice Movement

And a roundtable on Minnesota Public Radio among Pollitt, Sarah Stoesz, President of the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, and Teresa Collett, Professor of Law at the University of St Thomas:

MPR News: The politics and policy of abortion

October 17, 2014 in Abortion, Books, Culture, Pro-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Excerpt from Katha Pollitt's New Book, "Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights"

The Huffington Post -- The Blog: The Abortion Conversation We Need To Have, by Katha Pollitt:

Abortion. We need to talk about it. I know, sometimes it seems as if we talk of little else, so perhaps I should say we need to talk about it differently. Not as something we all agree is a bad thing about which we shake our heads sadly and then debate its precise degree of badness, preening ourselves on our judiciousness and moral seriousness as we argue about this or that restriction on this or that kind of woman.

We need to talk about ending a pregnancy as a common, even normal, event in the reproductive lives of women -- and not just modern American women either, but women throughout history and all over the world, from ancient Egypt to medieval Catholic Europe, from today's sprawling cities to rural villages barely touched by modern ideas about women's roles and rights. . . .

October 17, 2014 in Books, Pro-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Texas Abortion Clinics Can Reopen for Now, But Future Is Uncertain

The New York Times: Texas Abortion Clinics to Reopen Despite a Future in Legal Limbo, by Erik Eckholm:

A day after the Supreme Court blocked a Texas law that had forced abortion clinics to close, some of the shuttered facilities prepared to reopen, pleased at the reprieve but mindful that the legal fight was far from over.

Tuesday’s order increased the chances, legal experts said, of a major face-off in the Supreme Court over a crucial question: What restrictions add up to an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abortion? . . .

While the order did not necessarily reveal how or whether the Supreme Court might ultimately rule, it did indicate that the justices “saw the potentially irrevocable damage if the clinics were forced to close,” said Caitlin E. Borgmann, a professor at the CUNY School of Law in New York.

 . . . The basic issue, Ms. Borgmann said, is how much a state may restrict abortion without banning it altogether.

“How much travel is too much? How much do costs matter? These are questions the Supreme Court has never answered,” Ms. Borgmann said, adding that appeals of the Texas law could give the court an opportunity to clarify the issue. . . .

October 15, 2014 in Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)