Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Via Washington Post (7/29/07)
With the active encouragement of the Bush administration, U.S. scientists in the past year have developed several methods for creating embryonic stem cells without having to destroy human embryos.
But some who now wish to test their alternatively derived cells have found themselves stymied by an unexpected barrier: President Bush's stem cell policy.
The 2001 policy says that federal funds may not be used to study embryonic stem cells created after Aug. 9 of that year. It is based on the assumption that the only way to make the cells is by destroying human embryos -- a truism in 2001 but not any longer.
As a result, the National Institutes of Health recently refused to consider a grant application for what would have been the first federal study to compare several of the new, less politically contentious stem cell lines.
Upcoming changes in the NIH's stem cell funding rules may eventually help resolve that problem. But agency officials and others say the policy tangle is more complicated than that. Although Lanza's technique and other new approaches do not destroy embryos, they may run afoul of a long-standing congressional ban on studies that "harm" human embryos.
At the center of the debate is a new technique, pioneered by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), that obtains stem cells from human embryos while leaving the embryos functionally intact. A single cell, called a blastomere, is removed from an eight-cell human embryo, then coaxed to multiply into a colony of stem cells in a dish.
You can read the full story at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/28/AR2007072800993.html?sub=new
Robin Toner reports in the July 30, 2007 New York Times:
After 30 years of political organizing within the Republican Party, the anti-abortion movement has won a series of victories in legislatures and courts and stands tantalizingly close to winning even more. But these are anxious days for the movement.
Six months before the Iowa caucuses, abortion opponents are trying to adjust to a strikingly different political landscape. For the first time in a generation, they face in Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, a front-runner for the Republican nomination who supports abortion rights.
You can read the full analysis at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/us/politics/30abortion.html?_r=1&oref=slogin, suggesting that moderate voices may be posing challenges to the party's staunch anti-abortion base. JG
Monday, July 30, 2007
Sunday, July 29th's New York Times magazine section features an article by Eyal Press on "Family Leave Values." The article describes an emerging trend in which courts are recognizing that employers' failure to accommodate workers' family caregiving responsibilities may constitute impermissible discrimination. You can read the article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/magazine/29discrimination-t.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1185818520-aNExZoyGP8mRPpRTe6QgkQ&pagewanted=all
Reuters reports about this development on Friday, July 27, 2007:
Texas man pleaded guilty on Friday to attempting to bomb an Austin women's clinic where abortions are performed, U.S. officials said. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Paul Evans, 27, faces up to 40 years in federal prison for the April 25 crime in which he placed a bomb in front of the clinic, but it did not explode. No motive for the attempted bombing was disclosed.
That was the first bombing attempt this year at an abortion clinic, according to the National Abortion Federation, which tracks violence against abortion providers. Four incidents of attempted bombing or arson were reported in 2006, the NAF said. More than 40 abortion clinic bombings have occurred since 1977, with the last reported in 2001.
You can read the full story at: http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2731045520070727?sp=true.
The Guttmacher Institute has released a comprehensive mid-year review of state legislation concerning reproductive rights. So far this year over 1,000 measures relating to reproductive health have been introduced into various state legislatures. The review focuses primarily on emergency contraception sales, sex education, and partial-birth abortion. The second quarter has just ended, and all but nine state legislatures have adjourned for the year. More detailed information can be found by viewing Guttmacher's monthly updates on individual issues, including emergency contraception, sex and STD education, abortion bans, and partial-birth abortion bans.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Margaret F. Brinig, a family law professor at Notre Dame Law School, has posted "The One-Size Fits All Family" on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Family policy and the law based on it assume universals. That is, if marriage improves the welfare of the majority of couples and their children, it is worth pushing as a policy initiative. Further, laws will be written (or kept on the
books) that privilege marriage over other family forms. Similarly, research that tells us that divorce harms children except following the relatively small number of highly conflicted marriages, spawns efforts to preserve troubled marriages or even to roll back liberal or relatively inexpensive divorce laws. With yet another example, since adopted children mostly do better than children left either in foster homes or in informal substitute caregiving situations, policymakers react by enacting legislation like the Adoption and Safe Families Act and streamlining (within constitutional limits) the procedures for terminating parental rights.
One reaction to this phenomenon is to enact default rules that cover the majority of cases, hoping that people who want to do something else will contract their way around the rules. First, policy makers need to choose the right default rules (and arguably do not do so). Still, perhaps this approach is a saner one than the chaos of tailoring family law to fit all our sizes and shapes. But the three examples in the preceding paragraph (marriage, divorce, and child welfare policy) all point to instances that are not good candidates for contracting.
The current inquiry reexamines some of what we might call universalist assumptions, concluding that despite good intentions and concern for equal rights, even these big and important policies do not always work the same way for all groups, at least
in terms of their effects on children. As long as the laws' effects are not pernicious - that is, they do not adversely affect groups of children in their wake, perhaps there is nothing
wrong with promoting these policies. But when they make things better for some children and worse for others, we do think someone should take another look. Sometimes the situation calls for exceptions to statutes, or sometimes further careful empirical studies. We offer evidence to suggest that similar circumstances involving adults' legal relationships have very different consequences for children of different races and genders. We have also shown that foster care (and 'kinship care') have different implications depending on children's race. In these and other situations, social science suggests that law applied equally will have different consequences.
NBC10.com reports that:
Drug companies are telling colleges the discounts are done.
For years, college students have been able to buy birth control very inexpensively. The drug companies offered the deeply discounted contraceptives to college health services. Colleges and universities tended to tack on a few bucks and sell them to students. But now, due to federal cutbacks, cheap birth control is a thing of the past. The drug makers have stopped the discounts as a result of the Deficit Reduction Act signed by the president.
To continue getting birth control, students must either claim the medication on their parents' insurance or be willing to pay a lot more money. Many college health centers offer cheaper generic brands. Some students and university officials fear a rise in unwanted pregnancies could be the result.
For more information, you can read the full article at http://www.nbc10.com/health/13763244/detail.html.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
In response to the recent controversy over films such as Knocked Up and Waitress, which appear to avoid discussing abortion, here is a list of five movies that do provide a serious commentary on abortion rights.
1. The Cider House Rules (1999)
Adapted from John Irving's novel of the same name, The Cider House Rules tells the story of Homer (Tobey McGuire), an orphan who receives medical training from an abortionist doctor. Homer, who is at first solidly pro-life, is thrown into circumstances that force him to reconsider this stance.
2. If These Walls Could Talk (1996)
Originally made for TV and broadcast on HBO, If These Walls Could Talk follows the stories of three women in different time periods, each deciding whether or not to have an abortion. The segments are set in 1952, 1974, and 1996, and each focus on the social attitudes toward abortion dominant at the time.
3. Vera Drake (2004)
Vera Drake tells the story of a British woman in the 1950's (Imedla Staunton) who is a devoted wife and mother, works as a house cleaner, and secretly performs back-room abortions. The film focuses on issues related to social class, because at the time, although abortion was illegal, upper-class women could obtain abortions if they obtained costly psychiatrists' opinions that they were unfit for pregnancy.
4. Citizen Ruth (1996)
Citizen Ruth is a satirical movie about an irresponsible pregnant woman (Laura Dern) who becomes the center of a political debate about the legality of abortion. Both pro-choice and pro-life lobbyists attempt to convince her to side with them by offering progressively larger and larger sums of money.
5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007)
Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2007 Cannes Film festival, Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is the story of two roommates trying to arrange an illegal abortion during the communist regime of the late 1980s. The film is based on a true story that had haunted the director.
From Seattle, on July 26, 2007, the AP reports that pharmacists have sued the state over a new Plan B rule. Here's an excerpt from the article, which is available at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/325351_planb27.html:
Pharmacists have sued the state over a new regulation that requires the sale of emergency contraception, also known as the "morning-after pill."
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Seattle, a pharmacy owner and two pharmacists say the rule, which that took effect Thursday, violates their civil rights by forcing them into "choosing between their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs."
The state ruled earlier this year that druggists who believe emergency contraceptives are tantamount to abortion can't stand in the way of a patient's right to the drugs.
The state's Roman Catholic bishops and other opponents predicted a court challenge after the rule was adopted, saying the state was wrongly forcing pharmacists to administer medical treatments they consider immoral.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, who brokered a compromise on the contraceptive rule and pressured the state Board of Pharmacy to adopt it, said she stands behind the regulation.
The July 27, 2007 New York Times reports that:
The French government has withdrawn its opposition to school screenings of the Romanian film about back-street abortions that won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Agence France-Presse reported. Three weeks ago the government advised against plans to show the film, Cristian Mungiu’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” featuring Laura Vasiliu, left, saying it was too “hard” for youngsters, but it reversed course after the national film classification board declared “4 Months” suitable for all ages. It follows the ordeal of two university students as one tries to help the other obtain an illegal abortion.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Reva Siegel: "Sex Equality Arguments for Reproductive Rights: Their Critical Basis and Evolving Constitutional Expression"
Reva Siegel (Yale Law School) has posted Sex Equality Arguments for Reproductive Rights: Their Critical Basis and Evolving Constitutional Expression on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
What is at stake in a sex equality approach to reproductive rights? At first glance, equality arguments would seem to entail a shift in constitutional authority for reproductive rights - for example, from the Due Process to Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment - but as the articles of this Symposium richly illustrate, equality arguments for reproductive rights need not take this legal form. In introducing this Symposium, I identify a sex equality standpoint on reproductive rights that can be, and is, expressed in a variety of constitutional and regulatory frameworks.
The Essay identifies some of the critical understandings and normative commitments that characterize the sex equality approach to reproductive rights. It then ties this cluster of critical understandings and normative commitments to particular advocates and authorities in the reproductive rights debate in the last several decades: it shows how the sex equality claim for reproductive rights was asserted in different doctrinal forms in the early 1970s, was then muted by Roe, the ERA debates and the early sex discrimination cases, and then found increasing recognition in Casey and the law review literature of the 1980s and 1990s. Recently, the dissenting justices in the Carhart case have asserted that the abortion right protects a woman's autonomy to determine her life's course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.
The introduction and essays of this Symposium demonstrate that the equality argument can be vindicated in many different doctrinal frameworks: under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, Privileges or Immunities Clause, or Equal Protection Clause, by cases decided under the Eighth Amendment, the Ninth Amendment, the Thirteenth Amendment, or the Nineteenth Amendment, through a federal or state statute, through human rights law, or by a synthesis of these forms of law.
A representative from Planned Parenthood got to ask one of the 39 questions posed to democratic candidates in Monday's CNN/Youtube debate. The question, "Have you talked to your children about sex?" was responded to only by Edwards and Obama.
Rather surprisingly, no questions were raised in about abortion in the debate. The New York Times has published a full transcript, accessible to Times Select members.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Democrats Shift Approach on Abortion: Language and policy goals on the issue have a ring of conservatism
Stephanie Simon reports in the LA Times on July 26:
Sensing an opportunity to impress religious voters — and tip elections — Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail have begun to adopt some of the language and policy goals of the antiabortion movement.
For years, the liberal response to abortion has been to promote more accessible and affordable birth control as well as detailed sex education in public schools.
That's still the foundation of Democratic policies. But in a striking shift, Democrats in the House last week promoted a grab bag of programs designed not only to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but also to encourage women who do conceive to carry to term.
For more details on the proposals, you can read the article at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-abortion26jul26,0,3594480.story?coll=la-home-center.
This Thursday, July 26, between 3 and 6 PM, Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI (99.5 FM) will offer a 5-CD set of recordings from The SisterSong Conference: "Let's Talk About Sex!"--as part of WBAI's Summer Fundraiser. The program will be hosted by Maretta Short and Fran Luck.
In June, the largest gathering ever of Women of Color coming together to organize around sexuality and reproductive issues took place in Chicago-the SisterSong Conference: "Let's Talk About Sex". According to
Loretta Ross, National Coordinator for SisterSong "This was the largest women of color gathering in reproductive justice history--women of color and our allies came to this conference to formulate a plan for a
pro-sex, pro-choice, pro-family reproductive justice movement that is organized by women of color and based on our needs."
Joy of Resistance was able to locate a complete set of recordings of this historic conference--the next best thing to having been there -- and for a $100 pledge of support for the station, listeners will receive a gift of this 5-CD package.
From the Columbus, Ohio AP:
Ohio's domestic violence laws do not conflict with the state's ban on gay marriage, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today.
In a 6-1 decision, justices rejected the argument that the domestic violence law is unenforceable in cases involving unmarried couples because it refers to them as living together "as a spouse."
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said in the opinion that lawmakers included many groups under the domestic violence law, not just unwed couples, and that describing people's living arrangements isn't the same as creating a law approximating marriage. The ban prohibited the government from creating any such approximation.
"The state does not create cohabitation; rather it is a person's determination to share some of life's responsibilities with another that creates cohabitation," Moyer wrote. "The state does not have a role in creating cohabitation, but it does have a role in creating a marriage."
The case was being closely watched around the country for the precedent it could set affecting a dozen similarly worded bans. It is among the first before a state Supreme Court to interpret any of the constitutional gay-marriage bans passed after Massachusetts allowed same-sex marriages.
You can read the full opinion at : http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/rod/newpdf/0/2007/2007-Ohio-3723.pdf.
Although this decision should curtail efforts in other states by domestic violence offenders to invoke gay marraige in order to escape accountability, the case offers a cautionary tale about the potential unintended consequences of gay marriage bans.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The Marie Stopes International Conference on Global Safe Abortion, in association with Ipas and Abortion Rights (UK), will be held on October 23rd and 24th this year at the QEII Conference Centre in London. The conference coincides with the 40th anniversary of the UK 1967 Abortion Act. The theme for the conference is "Whose Right? Whose Choice? Who Cares?," and the intent is to "build consensus and momentum around international efforts to reduce the unacceptable toll on women’s health and lives caused by unsafe abortion, through increasing access to safe services, recognising women’s right to self determination and encouraging legal reform."
More information can be found at the Marie Stopes International website.
Mike Dorning reported in Sunday's Chicago Tribune:
In sometimes subtle ways, Democratic Party leaders and political professionals are grappling with how to address abortion, an internal debate that turns on questions of emphasis, political positioning and how far to go in accepting as a public-policy goal the view that abortion is a moral tragedy to be avoided.
While there is no serious discussion of moving away from the party's long-standing support of abortion rights, some moderates have pressed the party to more aggressively press a message that Democrats would work to reduce the number of abortions. But the party's pro-abortion-rights constituency is wary of too strong an identification of abortion as a social ill, fearing that would provide political momentum for legal restrictions.
I will be away for a few weeks. My colleague, Julie Goldscheid, has generously agreed to edit the blog in my absence. Professor Goldscheid is an associate professor at CUNY Law School. Before becoming a law professor, she was General Counsel at Safe Horizon, an organization that provides support, prevents violence, and promotes justice for victims of crime and abuse, and before that she served as the Acting Legal Director of the NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund/Legal Momentum. Professor Goldscheid coordinated and co-authored the amicus brief of organizations representing teen victims of abuse in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, decided by the Supreme Court in 2006.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
In an Interview with Inter Press Service, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Patricia Pérez worried that scientific research has not yet focused on the specific effects of HIV on women. Pérez stated:
The health policies don't have a gender perspective. There are no specific studies of how the virus and the treatments affect our bodies in particular. We have hormonal differences, differences in the reproductive system, a greater predisposition for certain types of cancer, and all of this is just barely beginning to come to light because of pressure from us.
Until recently, they demanded that we didn't have more children. If you became pregnant you were a criminal. These problems have to do with a cultural question that AIDS brings into sharp focus. In Latin America, we women are always a step farther behind, and AIDS demonstrates that disparity in a cruel way.
Pérez was diagnosed with HIV two decades ago, when she was 24, and was told she had only two years to live. She later founded the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW). Pérez has been called on by Kofi Annan to monitor the progress of the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS and was nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize by the First Lady of Honduras.