Friday, November 30, 2007
An anti-abortion organization from Illinois is proposing a ballot measure in Missouri that would greatly increase the steps doctors would have to take before performing abortions and subject them to lawsuits from women who regret having the procedure.
The measure is proposed by the Elliot Institute, a Springfield, Ill.-based group that believes abortion causes long-term physical, psychological and emotional problems.
Supporters would have to gather about 90,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot in November 2008.
Abortion-rights supporters say the measure would essentially ban all abortions unless a woman's life is in danger. It makes no provisions for rape or incest victims.
Among other things, the "Prevention of Coerced and Unsafe Abortion Act" would require doctors to certify that a woman would die or suffer irreversible disability if she did not have an abortion. Otherwise, the doctor would have to document that carrying the fetus to term would be more dangerous than a combination of nearly every conceivable risk associated with abortion.
Via the Associated Press:
APPLETON, Wis. (AP) -- Darshana Patel told authorities she was suspicious as she watched her boyfriend stir a smoothie at an ice cream store. When he offered it to her, she noticed powder on the cup's rim, and the pregnant woman feigned illness and didn't drink it.
According to a criminal complaint, the woman says she sent the powder to a laboratory and it turned out to be mifepristone, the abortion pill also known as RU-486.
The test results came too late: She had already suffered two miscarriages in less than a year.
On Thursday, Manishkumar M. Patel, 34, of Appleton, was accused of slipping the drug to the woman without her knowledge. He was charged with seven felonies and two misdemeanors, including attempted first-degree intentional homicide of an unborn child, stalking, burglary and two counts of violating a restraining order. The nine charges carry a maximum penalty of 99 1/2 years in prison and a $92,000 fine.
Carrie Rickey writes, for the Philadelphia Inquirer:
In America, about one in five pregnancies end in abortion, according to the latest figures from the Guttmacher Institute. In recent American movies, however, every unplanned pregnancy is carried to term.
From "Knocked Up" to "Waitress" to "Juno," opening Dec. 14, abortion is The Great Unmentionable, euphemized as "shmashmortion" ("Knocked Up"), "we don't perform, uh, -" ("Waitress"), and "nipped it in the bud" ("Juno"), comedies in which pregnancy is the situation. Abortion is likewise obliquely referenced, if actually considered, in the drama "Bella," now in theaters.
"It's as if there's an `every conception deserves delivery' policy being observed," says Virginia Rutter, senior scholar at the Council on Contemporary Families, a Chicago-based organization of academics and public health professionals.
To the extent that mainstream movies are a barometer of public opinion, the evidence of America's continued ambivalence about abortion can be found at the multiplex.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
David Cohen writes for the Feminist Law Professors blog:
Henry Hyde died today. The AP story says nothing about the millions of women he harmed since 1976 with the Hyde Amendment. Unfortunate for poor women throughout the country, the Hyde Amendment won’t die with him.
The New York Times reports:
Former Rep. Henry Hyde, the Illinois Republican who steered the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton and was a hero of the anti-abortion movement, died Thursday. He was 83....
Hyde retired from Congress at the end of the last session. Earlier this month, President Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom....
He made a name for himself in 1976, just two years after his first election from the district that includes O'Hare Airport, by attaching an amendment to a spending bill banning the use of federal funds to carry out abortions.
What came to be known as the ''Hyde Amendment'' has since become a fixture in the annual debate over federal spending, and has served as an important marker for abortion foes seeking to discourage women from terminating pregnancies.
Hyde was also a leader in passing the ban on so-called partial birth abortions, the first federal restriction on a specific abortion procedure. ''The people we pretend to defend, the powerless, those who cannot escape, who cannot rise up in the streets, these are the ones that ought to be protected by the law,'' he said during the 2003 debate. ''The law exists to protect the weak from the strong.''
Two unfortunate candidates were forced to respond in last night debate to a viewer's question asking whether women should be punished for illegal abortions. Both Ron Paul and Fred Thompson appeared much like the terrified Sir Robin in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who said of the viscious rabbit guarding the cave of Caerbannog: "Would it help confuse it if we run away more?"
The candidates squirmed as they suggested the issue was, of course, one for the states, and that it was not the President's job to tell states what to do. Mysteriously, the audience enthusiastically applauded this response. In eschewing a role for the federal government in punishing abortion, the candidates (and their audience) seemed to forget that Congress recently enacted, and President Bush eagerly signed, the first-ever federal criminal ban on abortion procedures. Both candidates expressed discomfort with the idea of punishing women for obtaining illegal abortions (although Dr. Paul appeared ready to sacrifice his colleagues in the medical profession), once again undermining the often-heard assertion that abortion is murder.
For more on Republicans' evasions on whether to punish the woman for what they claim is murder, see Assignment for Robert Novak.
Fred Thompson aired the first negative television ad in the 2008 Republican presidential campaign race, using the CNN/YouTube debate Wednesday to deliver a double broadside against Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.
With five weeks remaining before the Iowa caucuses, Thompson's video took aim at Romney for changing his position on abortion rights and Huckabee for his past statements on taxes.
Each of the eight GOP candidates was allowed to air a 30-second, YouTube-style campaign commercial during the two-hour debate....
Thompson's video showed Romney talking about his support for Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, during his failed 1994 Senate bid....
"What were some saying during the Republican Revolution" flashed on the screen as viewers watched a clip of Romney saying: "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain and support it."
Here's Romney's response to the ad:
Romney: I'm not sure who that young guy was at the beginning of that film, but I can tell you this, which is, I don't know how many times I can tell it. I was wrong. All right. I was effectively pro- choice when I ran for office.
If people in this country are looking for someone who's never made a mistake on a policy issue and is not willing to admit they're ever wrong, why then they're going to have to find somebody else, because on abortion I was wrong.
And I changed my mind as the governor. This didn't just happen the last couple of weeks or the last year. This happened when I was governor the first time a bill came to my desk that related to life. I could not sign a bill that would take away human life. I came down on the side of life every single instance as governor of Massachusetts. I was awarded by the Massachusetts Citizens for Life with their leadership award for my record.
I'm proud to be pro-life, and I'm not going to be apologizing for people for becoming pro-life.
Read the full transcript of the CNN-YouTube debate.
Randall Chase reports for the Associated Press:
DOVER -- While a bill allowing certified professional midwives more freedom to practice their trade remains stalled in the Legislature, state health officials are proposing regulatory changes that would give midwives more career options.
Changes to be discussed Tuesday at a hearing in Dover would allow freestanding birth centers in Delaware to hire certified professional midwives. Currently, clinical staffing for birth centers is restricted to physicians and certified nurse midwives.
Certified professional midwives have completed education and training in midwifery but are not licensed nurses.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Via BBC News:
Police in Spain have arrested four people suspected of carrying out illegal abortions in Barcelona. The arrests followed raids on several clinics as part of an investigation following a complaint from a pro-choice group called e-Cristians, police said.
Spanish media reported that up to four clinics were searched, including one suspected of performing abortions on women more than 32 weeks pregnant.
The upper limit for abortions in Spain is 22 weeks.
Spain allows abortions to avoid serious risk to the physical or mental health of the woman, and in cases of rape or foetal deformation.
Joanna Erdman (University of Toronto Law School) has posted In the Back Alleys of Health Care: Abortion, Equality and Community in Canada on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The decriminalization of abortion in Canada ensured neither its availability nor accessibility as an integrated and publicly funded health service. While Canadian women are increasingly referred to or seek abortion services from single-purpose clinics, their exclusion from public health insurance often render these services inaccessible. This article considers denied funding for clinic abortion services from the perspective of the Canadian constitutional guarantee of sex equality. The article focuses on the 2004 Court of Queen's Bench's judgment in Jane Doe I v. Manitoba, which framed denied public funding for clinic abortion services as a violation of women's equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Access to abortion services historically has been protected in Canadian law as a security of the person or liberty interest. This judgment is thus a significant development in the jurisprudence. Nevertheless, the Court's equality analysis remains tethered to liberty-based values of autonomy, freedom, and self-determination. Part I of the article evaluates this liberty-based approach and considers why it may be especially ill-suited to the abortion funding context. In an effort to offer an alternative, Part II develops a model of equality analysis emphasizing values of self-respect and self-worth attained through relationships with others and by the recognition of others. This model of equality, premised on the social dignity of equal community membership, is developed with reference to the work of U.S. constitutional scholar Kenneth Karst and his principle of equal citizenship. Part III returns to the equality analysis in Jane Doe I to evaluate denied funding for clinic services according to the proposed community-membership model of equality. The exclusion of clinic abortion services, and by extension the women who require them, from a fundamental institution of community membership - a universally accessible and comprehensive health system - is demonstrated to perpetuate and promote the view that women are less worthy of concern, respect, and consideration as members of Canadian society.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Alison Bowen reports for WeNews:
The U.S. has spent about $1 billion on abstinence-only education in the last decade and the White House seeks $28 million more. Here's how presidential candidates line up on the issue.
(WOMENSENEWS)--An end to abstinence-only sex education was at the top of the list when 600 self-described feminists met in New York recently to rally their ranks and craft a platform for U.S. presidential lobbying.
Abstinence-only--for which President Bush proposes a 2008 budget of $204 million--has avid supporters and wary detractors, who want to find a more comprehensive way to present sex education.
In March, three members of Congress introduced a bill to authorize federal funds for states' comprehensive sex education that offers menu of options from abstinence to contraception and abortion. The Responsible Education About Life Act--or the REAL Act as the bill is known--was sponsored by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; and Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.
On CNN, "Medicine and Morality":
Should doctors refuse treatment if it conflicts with their religious beliefs? CNN's Randi Kaye takes a look.
Watch the video, which addresses doctors' refusal to prescribe contraception to patients (including sexual assault survivors) based on the provider's own religious or moral objections.
Via Feministing. Read more about this issue in the ACLU's report, Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights. See also the ACLU's Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights: Accessing Birth Control at the Pharmacy.
Via the Washington Post:
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration pledged yesterday to triple the number of free condoms being distributed by the D.C. government within a year and to work with city hospitals to increase HIV testing in emergency rooms.
The plans were announced as the administration released a report that called HIV-AIDS a "modern epidemic" in the District and showed that the condition, once considered a gay disease, has spread to the general population.
Of the 3,269 HIV cases identified between 2001 and 2006, 37 percent were spread through heterosexual sex, compared with 25 percent attributable to men having sex with men. The study also showed the stark impact on the African American community, where more than 80 percent of the new cases were identified.
Chris Guthrie (Vanderbilt University Law School) has posted Carhart, Constitutional Rights, and the Psychology of Regret on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. In so doing, the Court used the prospect of regret to justify limiting choice. Relying on empirical evidence documenting the four ways in which regret actually operates, this Essay critiques the Court's analysis on the ground that it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the psychology of regret. By exposing the Court's misunderstanding of this emotion, this Essay seeks to minimize the most significant risk created by the Carhart decision: that states will use the prospect of regret to justify additional constraints on the abortion right as well as other rights protected by the Constitution.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Via the Associated Press:
AUSTIN, Tex. (AP) — Texas laws allow the killing of a fetus to be prosecuted as murder, regardless of the stage of development, but the laws do not apply to abortions, the state’s highest criminal court has ruled.
The Court of Criminal Appeals announced the ruling Wednesday, rejecting an appeal by Terence Lawrence, who said his right to due process was violated when he was prosecuted for two murders in the killings of a woman and her 4- to 6-week-old fetus.
The court ruled unanimously that state laws declaring a fetus an individual with protections do not conflict with the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade that women have a constitutional right to abortion.
Via the Los Angeles Times:
November 23, 2007
Retired federal Judge Patrick Kelly, 78, whose notable cases included barring abortion protesters from blocking clinic entrances, died Nov. 16 in Wichita, Kan., according to Lakeview Funeral Home in Wichita.
Kelly, who had been battling cancer, was perhaps best known for his role during the 1991 "Summer of Mercy" abortion protests in Wichita. Thousands of demonstrators were arrested during the 45-day event, which was organized by the antiabortion group Operation Rescue.
The group's founder, Randall Terry, dubbed Kelly a "Nazi judge" when Kelly, a devout Catholic, ordered protesters to stop blocking the entrance of the clinic of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few physicians in the country to perform late-term abortions. Kelly also ordered U.S. marshals to provide security.
The Court of Appeals struck down Kelly's ruling on abortion protesters. But Congress affirmed Kelly's intent by passing a law making it a federal crime to block clinic entrances.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Gina Kolata reports for the New York Times:
Two teams of scientists are reporting today that they turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo — a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.
All they had to do, the scientists said, was add four genes. The genes reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, making the cells into blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone. Until now, the only way to get such human universal cells was to pluck them from a human embryo several days after fertilization, destroying the embryo in the process.
I'm glad this issue is getting so much press. Now let's hope Congress does something about it. On the front page of the New York Times today:
In health centers at hundreds of colleges and universities around the country, young women are paying sharply higher prices for prescription contraceptives because of a change in federal law.
The increases have meant that some students using popular birth control pills and other products are paying three and four times as much as they did several months ago. The higher prices have also affected about 400 community health centers nationwide used by poor women.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Gina Kolata reports for the New York Times:
Researchers in Oregon are reporting that they used cloning to produce monkey embryos and then extracted stem cells from the embryos.
Not only is this the first time such cells have been produced in any animal other than a mouse, but the method, the researchers say, should also work in humans. In 2004, South Korean researchers reported making stem cells from cloned human embryos, but the claim turned out fraudulent.
“We hope the technology will be useful for other labs that are working on human eggs and human cells,” the lead researcher of the group, Shoukhrat Mitalipov at Oregon Health and Science University in Beaverton, said in a telephone interview. “I am quite sure it will work in humans.”
A Washington Post editorial supports Virginia Governor Kaine's refusal to accept federal funds for abstinence-only "sexuality education" programs:
GOV. TIMOTHY M. Kaine (D) is taking flak for it, but he was right to cut $275,000 from the state budget that was designated for abstinence-only sex education programs. The funds would have matched federal grants to five nonprofit programs encouraging teenagers to abstain from sex; overall, the Bush administration has committed $176 million this year to this kind of instruction. Virginia joins 13 other states that have junked these programs. And with good reason: They're not as effective as their proponents profess.
A report commissioned by Congress and released in April made that clear. In 2005 and 2006, a survey was conducted of 2,000 teens in two rural and two urban communities. Students who received abstinence-only instruction were just as likely to have sex as those in a control group who did not receive such education. Among teens in both groups who had sex by the end of the study period, the average age of a first sexual encounter was 14.9 years. In both groups, a majority of those who were sexually active reported having two or more partners. Just 23 percent in both groups said they always used condoms when having sex. Mr. Kaine cited this report to buttress his decision.
"We don't want to put money into programs that don't work," Delacey Skinner, Mr. Kaine's chief spokeswoman, told us Wednesday. Republicans in the House of Delegates and state Senate vow to reverse Mr. Kaine's decision.
AP/Yahoo News reports:
Republican presidential candidaterejects letting states decide whether to allow abortions, claiming the right to life is a moral issue not subject to multiple interpretations.
"It's the logic of the Civil War," Huckabee said Sunday, comparing abortion rights to slavery. "If morality is the point here, and if it's right or wrong, not just a political question, then you can't have 50 different versions of what's right and what's wrong."
"For those of us for whom this is a moral question, you can't simply have 50 different versions of what's right," he said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
Compared with the many opponents of the right to abortion who would leave the issue to the states, including Justices Scalia and Thomas, Huckabee states a position that is more consistent with claiming the fetus is a person. I wonder where he stands on the issue of punishing women for abortions.