Monday, April 7, 2014
The Huffington Post: The Return Of The Back-Alley Abortion, by Laura Bassett:
. . . The proliferation of well-trained, regulated, legal abortion doctors in the last 40 years has led to "dramatic decreases in pregnancy-related injury and death," according to the National Abortion Federation.
Now, however, Texas and other states are reversing course. State lawmakers enacted more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they had in the previous decade, a trend that appears likely to continue in 2014. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that nearly 300 anti-abortion bills are currently pending in state legislatures.
The new restrictions have had a significant impact on women's access to abortion. . . .
. . . The poorest area of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley near the Mexican border, has no remaining abortion clinics. Women who live there have to drive roughly 240 miles to San Antonio for the nearest clinic, but many of them are Mexican immigrants with restrictions on their work visas that prevent them from traveling that far.
In addition, the state has slashed funding for family planning, forcing 76 clinics that offer birth control and other reproductive health services but do not perform abortions to shut down.
"It's a horrible natural experiment that is taking place in Texas, where we are going to see what happens in 2014 when U.S. women don't have access to legal, safe abortion," said Dan Grossman, vice president of research for Ibis Reproductive Health, an international nonprofit. . . .
Sunday, April 6, 2014
ThinkProgress: A 10-Year-Old Rape Victim Who’s Pregnant With Twins Is Being Denied An Abortion In Senegal, by Tara Culp-Ressler:
A 10-year old Senegalese girl who became pregnant with twins after being raped by a neighbor is being forced to continue with her pregnancy, thanks to her country’s stringent restrictions on abortion. Human rights advocates have been trying to pressure the government to allow the girl to seek abortion care, but they’ve been unsuccessful so far. . . .
Fatou Kiné Camara, the president of the Senegalese women lawyers’ association, . . . explained that under Senegal’s current abortion law, which is one of the harshest among African nations, requires three doctors to certify that a woman will die immediately unless she ends her pregnancy. But poor women in the country are hardly ever able to visit a doctor, let alone three in quick succession. . . .
Th Guardian: Senegalese law bans raped 10-year-old from aborting twins, by Alex Duval Smith:
. . . "Senegal's abortion law is one of the harshest and deadliest in Africa. A doctor or pharmacist found guilty of having a role in a termination faces being struck off. A woman found guilty of abortion can be jailed for up to 10 years."
Forty women were held in custody in Senegal on charges linked to the crimes of abortion or infanticide in the first six months of last year, official figures show. According to estimates, hundreds of women die every year from botched illegal terminations. . . .
"We had a previous case of a raped nine-year-old who had to go through with her pregnancy. We paid for her caesarean but she died a few months after the baby was born, presumably because the physical trauma of childbirth was too great." . . .
Friday, April 4, 2014
ProPublica: Judge Throws Out Murder Charge in Mississippi Fetal Harm Case, by Nina Martin:
The ruling means that the woman whose drug use had her facing a possible life term can at most be charged with manslaughter in the death of her stillborn daughter.
A Mississippi judge has thrown out murder charges against a young woman in the 2006 death of her stillborn child, a significant setback for prosecutors in a controversial case that has been closely followed both by women's rights groups and those interested in establishing rights for the unborn.
Rennie Gibbs, who was 16 when she gave birth to her stillborn daughter Samiya, had been indicted for "depraved heart murder" after traces of a cocaine byproduct were found in the baby's blood. The charge — defined under Mississippi law as an act "eminently dangerous to others...regardless of human life" — carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. . . .
A federal judge is set to hear arguments in a legal challenge to a North Dakota law that bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected — as early as six weeks into pregnancy. . . .
Mother Jones: It's Not Just Hobby Lobby: These 71 Companies Don't Want to Cover Your Birth Control Either, by Jaeah Lee:
Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Inc., the closely watched case in which the Oklahoma-based craft store chain has challenged the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate, requiring insurance policies to cover birth control without a copay. Hobby Lobby's high-profile case may have nabbed most of the headlines so far, but it's far from the only company that's taking on the Obama administration over the mandate.
Since February 2012, 71 other for-profit companies have challenged the ACA's contraceptive mandate in court, according to the National Women's Law Center (NWLC). The majority of these for-profit cases (46 in addition to Hobby Lobby's) are still pending. Jump to the full list of cases by clicking here. . . .
Thursday, April 3, 2014
The Washington Post: Antiabortion company Hobby Lobby reportedly invests retirement funds in abortion drugs, by Gail Sullivan:
“Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions … something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one,” Hobby Lobby founder David Green wrote in an article for USA Today.
Hobby Lobby is so committed to those principles that it’s gone to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge a provision in the Affordable Care Act that it says requires it to provide access to insurance covering birth control for its employees, some forms of which it equates with abortion.
No wonder then, the glee emanating from some quarters Tuesday when Molly Redden of Mother Jones reported that the company’s retirement plan holds $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that make abortion drugs. . . .
Health Clinics Challenge New Restrictive Regulations in Texas That Could Shut Down Yet More Abortion Providers
The New York Times: Abortion Providers in Texas Sue Over a Restrictive Rule That Could Close Clinics, by Erik Eckholm:
Health clinics offering abortions in Texas filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday to block a new state rule that could shut down more than half of the state’s remaining providers this fall, forcing women seeking an abortion in southern and western Texas to drive several hundred miles each way or go out of state.
The rule, part of a sweeping anti-abortion law passed last year, requires that all clinics providing abortions at any stage of pregnancy, including nonsurgical drug-induced abortions, meet the costly building standards of ambulatory surgery centers. . . . .
The new suit comes less than a week after a federal appeals court refused to overturn another provision of the 2013 law that has already forced several clinics to close, leaving the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas without abortion services. . . .
“The greater the evidence that this rule will cause more clinics to close, and leave large areas of the state without abortion providers, the greater their chance of success,” said Caitlin E. Borgmann, an expert on reproductive law at the CUNY School of Law. . . .
Monday, March 31, 2014
Reuters: Legal challenge to Alabama abortion law will go to trial, judge rules, by Verna Gates:
A federal judge on Monday ordered a trial to determine whether a new Alabama law requiring doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital admitting privileges poses a significant impediment for women seeking an abortion.
Since abortion clinics typically use traveling physicians, the law could cause the closure of three of Alabama's five facilities, a potential constitutional violation, abortion supporters have argued in court.
In an 86-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson cited the possibility of an "undue burden." . . .
Sunday, March 30, 2014
The National Law Journal: A Condom Conundrum: Can Los Angeles demand that porn actors wear them?, by Amanda Bronstad:
At first blush, a case now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit appears downright raunchy, brought by a Los Angeles studio whose films have titles like "Bedside Brat," and "Sex in Dangerous Places."
But the appeal, by Vivid Entertainment LLC, raises an intriguing constitutional issue: How far does the First Amendment go in protecting the free-speech rights of actors who have sex with each other in movies? . . .
Friday, March 28, 2014
Balkinization: Religious Accommodations Cost More than Money, by Kara Loewentheil:
ACLU press release: Governor Tomblin Vetoes West Virginia Abortion Ban:
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a bill today that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks. This bill, similar to one a federal appeals court struck down in Arizona last year, would have denied women basic health care.
“The governor rightly saw this bill as a blatantly unconstitutional restriction on women’s health,” said Sara Bird, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia. “Every pregnancy is different, and we can’t know all of the circumstances a woman is facing. A woman who is planning for a child but develops complications doesn’t need politicians interfering with her decision, nor does any other woman.”
Earlier this year, thousands of West Virginians took action by sending letters, making phone calls, and signing petitions to let their legislators know they want politicians to stay out of women’s health care.
“This law would have taken away a woman’s ability to make a deeply personal and private decision for herself and her family,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Politicians have no place in matters that are best left to a woman, her family and her doctor.”
Thursday, March 27, 2014
CNN: Appeals court upholds challenged parts of Texas abortion law, by Greg Botelho:
A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld parts of a Texas abortion law pertaining to hospital privileges for physicians who perform abortions and protocols for abortion-inducing drugs, a decision that drew starkly contrasting reactions on both sides of the debate.
A U.S. district court previously struck down those provisions in the Texas law, which were challenged in court by lawyers for Planned Parenthood. But the 5th Circuit Appeals Court later issued a stay of that decision "pending appeal," meaning it would not go into effect.
The U.S. Supreme Court also weighed in, with a majority refusing to stop the law's implementation. . . .
Bloomberg: Texas Abortion Doctor Restriction Upheld by Appeals Court, by Margaret Cronin Fisk & Laurel Brubaker Calkins:
Texas can require abortion doctors to affiliate with local hospitals, although it can’t enforce the ban while doctors apply for those rights, an appeals court said, overturning a federal judge’s finding that the measure places an unconstitutional burden on women seeking to end pregnancies. . . .
“It is not the courts’ duty to second guess legislative fact-finding, ‘improve’ on, or ‘cleanse’ the legislative process by allowing relitigation of the facts that led to the passage of a law,” U.S. Circuit Judge Edith H. Jones wrote in a 34-page opinion stating the lower-court judge used the wrong legal standard in evaluating the restrictions. “Courts must presume that the law in question is valid” as long as it serves a “legitimate” state goal. . . .
The opinion is available here. I recently wrote a short piece for the Harvard Law Review Forum discussing recent litigation on admitting privileges laws, including the Fifth Circuit case, and its significance in fleshing out the meaning of the undue burden standard. It is available here.
Planned Parenthood: Women Voters' Reaction to Religious Exemptions, by Hart Research Associates:
Overview of Key Findings:
Our new national survey of 1,004 women voters between the ages of 18 and 55 shows that a large majority strongly object to the religious exemptions for corporations that are being sought in the Hobby Lobby case.
- Women voters consistently and overwhelmingly disagree with the idea that corporations should be able to exempt themselves from observing laws because those laws violate their religious beliefs.
- Women age 55 and younger specifically reject corporations’ claims that they should be exempted from covering prescription birth control in their health plans because of religious objections to contraception.
- Democrats and independents reject these claims overwhelmingly, while Republicans are divided evenly.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
SCOTUSblog: Birth Control, Business, and Religious Beliefs: In Plain English, by Amy Howe:
Almost two years ago to the day, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which requires virtually everyone in the United States to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. This morning, it heard a new and different challenge arising out of the Affordable Care Act: can a business be required to provide its female employees with health insurance that includes access to free birth control, even if doing so would violate the strong religious beliefs of the family that owns the business? After the oral argument today, it looked like the Court’s answer may well be no, although the decision may not prove as sweeping as some of the challengers might prefer. And as is so often the case, it looks like Justice Anthony Kennedy may hold the key vote in the case. Let’s talk about the proceedings at the Court today in Plain English. . . .
Balkinization: Today's Oral Arguments in Hobby Lobby, by Nelson Tebbe:
The oral argument in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, which I attended today, provided some slight cause for optimism for those of us who have been arguing that accommodating the companies would raise serious concerns because it would mean shifting the cost of that accommodation onto third parties (the affected women employees). Not only did Solicitor General Verrilli open and close with the argument, but Justice Kennedy arguably displayed some sympathy for the point. First, Justice Kennedy asked Paul Clement (who was arguing for the companies) whether there are rules of statutory construction that should guide the Court in this case, such as the canon of constitutional avoidance. Later, Justice Kennedy asked directly what should happen when granting an accommodation for the companies would shift costs onto employees. Justice Kennedy asked whether the employer's interests should simply trump in such situations. . . .
NPR: Justices Divide By Gender In Hobby Lobby Contraception Case, by Nina Totenberg:
There was a clear difference of opinion between male and female justices at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The issue was whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to include contraception coverage in the basic health plan now mandated under the Affordable Care Act.
The female justices were clearly supportive of the contraception mandate, while a majority of the male justices were more skeptical. . . .
Monday, March 24, 2014
The Wall Street Journal - Law Blog: In Contraceptives Case, Court May Run Into Plan B, by Joe Palazzolo:
As the Supreme Court weighs whether for-profit companies have the religious right to refuse to provide contraceptives, it may also run into another question: Whether the Plan B drug is a contraceptive or a form of abortion. . . .
When the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug known as Plan B One-Step in 1999, it wasn’t entirely clear how the drug worked. So the agency required that the label mention the possibility that the drug affected implantation. . . .
Abortion-rights advocates and medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, say heaps of research since the late 1990s has produced no scientific evidence showing that Plan B inhibits implantation. There are fewer studies on ella, because it is a newer drug, but they have reached the same conclusion, they say.
“FDA labeling has not caught up with the recent research,” said Caitlin E. Borgmann a law professor at City University of New York Law School and former lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. . . .
See also Caroline Corbin's article on this issue.
The Washington Post - op-ed: Contraception as a test of equality, by Walter Dellinger:
Walter Dellinger is an attorney in Washington. He co-authored, with Dawn Johnsen of the Indiana Maurer School of Law, a brief for the Guttmacher Institute and professor Sara Rosenbaum of George Washington University supporting contraception coverage.
Forty-nine years ago this week , the nine men on the Supreme Court heard arguments that would profoundly affect women’s access to birth control. By 21st-century standards, the oral arguments in the 1965 case Griswold v. Connecticut suggest that most of the justices were either uninformed about contraceptive methods or uncomfortable discussing them. When the court returns to the subject of birth control this week, it is critical that the justices understand the complexity of contraception and its role in women’s lives. . . .
The New York Times editorial: Crying Wolf on Religious Liberty:
This week, the owners of two secular, for-profit corporations will ask the Supreme Court to take a radical turn and allow them to impose their religious views on their employees — by refusing to permit them contraceptive coverage as required under the Affordable Care Act.
The Supreme Court has consistently resisted claims for religious exemptions from laws that are neutral and apply broadly when the exemptions would significantly harm other people, as this one would. To approve it would flout the First Amendment, which forbids government from favoring one religion over another — or over nonbelievers. . . .
Balkinization: Whose Faith Does RFRA Protect? Everyone's, No One's, or Not Mine?, by Priscilla Smith:
One outcome of tomorrow's Hobby Lobby case that this reproductive rights supporter might be able to get behind involves granting the Hobby Lobby Executives an accommodation from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirements under an expansive view of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). I’ve written about this possibility in a forthcoming article here. Under this view, it is the RFRA claimant, not the court, who decides if something is a “substantial burden” on “religious exercise” under RFRA. Counsel for the University of Notre Dame promoted this view of RFRA in a recent Seventh Circuit oral argument in a related case, stating “[i]t is up to the believer to draw the line.” As Marty Lederman's excellent posts here revealing the lack of burden on Hobby Lobby Executives religious exercise should establish, in order to find for Hobby Lobby the Court needs to adopt this broad view of RFRA's protections. . . .
Feministing: No Reproductive Justice for Pregnant Indigenous Women in Mexico, by Juliana:
In October of last year, Irma Lopez Aurelio arrived at a state health clinic in Oaxaca, Mexico, in labor with her third child. The doctors at the clinic told her to come back, that her labor was not advanced enough and no doctor was available to help her. Irma, who is Indigenous, spoke little Spanish and was unable to communicate how advanced her labor was to the monolingual doctors. After hours of waiting, Irma gave birth on the lawn outside of the clinic.
In the past nine months, seven Indigenous women in Mexico have been documented having their babies in the yard, waiting rooms, or front steps of state clinics. . . .
SCOTUSblog: Argument Preview: Religion, Rights, and the Workplace, by Lyle Denniston:
At 10 a.m. next Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hold ninety minutes of oral argument on the government’s authority to require private businesses to provide birth control and other pregnancy-related services to their employees under the Affordable Care Act. Arguing for the challengers to the so-called “contraceptive mandate” will be Paul D. Clement, of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Bancroft PLLC. Defending the mandate will be U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. Each will have forty-five minutes of time, under an order issued Thursday expanding the time beyond the normal amount. The consolidated cases are Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. . . .
Newsweek: It's About Birth Control, Stupid, by Pema Levy:
For two years, Republicans have rallied against the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) provision that health insurance plans cover the full range of contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, charging that the rule is an assault on religious liberty.
Next week, when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in two legal challenges to the contraception requirement, the issue of religious freedom will be front and center. . . .
But for political activists on both sides -- and perhaps for the justices themselves -- it all comes down to the decades-old left-right battle over birth control. . . .
ThinkProgress: If Hobby Lobby Wins, It Will Be Even Worse For Birth Control Access Than You Think, by Tara Culp-Ressler:
Next week, the Supreme Court will take up the issue of contraceptive coverage, hearing arguments in a closely-watched lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. Two for-profit companies — the craft chain Hobby Lobby and the furniture-making company Conestoga Wood Specialties — are fighting for their right to withhold insurance coverage for certain types of contraceptive methods based on their religious beliefs. But there’s actually much more at stake than prescription drug coverage.
The two plaintiffs in these cases object not just to covering specific types of birth control, but also to providing counseling about that birth control. In Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit, for instance, the company states that it does not want to follow the Obamacare provision that forces employers to “provide health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and devices, as well as related education and counseling.” . . .
The New York Times: Ruling Could Have Reach Beyond Issue Of Insurance, by Adam Liptak:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a case that pits religious liberty against women’s rights.
That issue is momentous enough. But it only begins to touch on the potential consequences of the court’s ruling in the case, notably for laws banning discrimination against gay men and lesbians. . . .
Friday, March 21, 2014
New technology would enable women who carry harmful mutations in their mitochondria to have a child without those harmful mutations. Despite concerns, that's a good thing.
Since January, a new California law allows for a child to have more than two legal parents. But children are still limited to two genetic parents. That could change soon, if the Food and Drug Administration approves human clinical trials for a technique known as mitochondrial replacement, which would enable a child to inherit DNA from three parents.
News of the pending application has caused a kind of panic not seen since Dolly the sheep was cloned, raising the possibility of a single genetic parent. But far from being the end of the human race as we know it, the technique might be a way to prevent hundreds of mitochondrial-linked diseases, which affect about one in 5,000 people. . . .
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Jezebel: New Birthing/Abortion Clinic in New York Could Change Everything, by Hillary Crosley:
Last month, the first ever birthing center that also houses an abortion clinic opened in Buffalo, New York and it’s called Buffalo WomenServices. The space is one of the first where both the pro-choice and birthing communities coexist beneath the same roof, explicitly. Mind Blown. . . .