Saturday, May 31, 2008
Wash. Post/AP: Va. Prosecutor to Seek Hearing on Abortion Ruling:
Virginia's attorney general said today he will seek a full hearing before a federal appeals court on a state law banning a certain form of late-term abortion ruled unconstitutional by a three-judge panel.
A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 last week that the Virginia abortion law is unconstitutional, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold a similar federal ban.
BBC News: Ovary baby survives against odds:
A woman in Australia has given birth to a healthy baby girl after a rare full-term ectopic pregnancy.
Against all odds, baby Durga survived despite developing in her mother's ovary instead of her uterus.
Her mother Meera Thangarajah, 34, had shown no signs of abnormality and doctors only realised when they performed a Caesarean section.
Most ectopic pregnancies end in miscarriage or are terminated early because of the risk to the mother.
With an ectopic pregnancy, the embryo can rupture the fallopian tube, leading to massive internal bleeding - and possibly death - for the mother.
Emma Goldman Clinic Seeks Stories of Women Who Met Financial Barriers to Receiving Abortions in Iowa
From the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa:
Did you have an abortion in Iowa? Did you experience financial barriers at any point in the process? Are you interested in telling your story? We want to hear from you! The Emma Goldman Clinic, a non-profit feminist reproductive health clinic in Iowa City, IA, is looking for women who experienced financial barriers to accessing abortion services in Iowa. If this describes you, we'd love to hear your story. Learning about your experience will aid us in our work to help women in similar situations receive funding for their abortions. You can be as public or private as you want to be – possible ways to help include formally or informally educating state legislators, sharing your story with the local community, or sharing your story with the media. If you do choose to tell your story publicly, we will provide training and support. If you'd prefer to remain anonymous, or don't want your name or your face publicly displayed, there are still ways to help! Feel free to check out our website to get an idea of what we're all about, and don't hesitate to contact us even if you aren't interested in sharing your story publicly. Thanks for your time!
Emma Goldman Clinic Medicaid Organizer
Dov Fox and Christopher Griffin (both of Yale Law School) have posted The Collateral Effects of Law on Social Behavior: The Case of Antidiscrimination Law and Selective Abortion on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Article explores the powerful ways in which changes in the law can bring about unexpected changes in social behavior that is unrelated to that which the law regulates. We puzzle through this unexamined phenomenon by considering the relation between a major antidiscrimination law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and a routine reproductive practice, selective abortion on the basis of Down syndrome. Our empirical analysis of U.S. natality data suggests that the ADA has the surprising effect of preventing the existence of the very class of people the law was intended to protect. We explain this paradox by showing how the ADA's implementation mechanism generates stigmatizing attitudes toward people with disabilities. The law's requirement that those seeking its protection prove the limitations caused by their disability does damage to our understandings and expectations about what it means to be disabled. Using formal regression analysis, we find suggestive evidence that the ADA significantly increased the incidence of decisions to terminate a pregnancy following a positive test for Down syndrome. We discuss the implications of this expressive externality for disability, reproduction, and antidiscrimination law in the United States.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Associated Press: Anti-abortion measure OK'd for Colo. ballot, by Dan Elliott:
DENVER (AP) — A proposed state constitutional amendment defining a fertilized human egg as a person was certified Thursday for the November ballot, moving Colorado a step closer to an election battle over abortion rights....
Kristi Burton, the prime mover behind the measure, said her group, Colorado for Equal Rights, will target voters who personally oppose abortion but don't want to impose their views on others.
Burton said polling shows those voters make up about 20 percent of the electorate.
"Our job is to put the truth out there for the voters," she said. "Science is on our side."
Opponents say the proposed amendment could affect birth control because the most widely used form of contraception works by preventing fertilized eggs from attaching to the uterus.
They also say the measure could deter in-vitro fertilization and s tem cell research and bar doctors from treating women with some forms of cancer.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
TheAtlantic.com: The future of the abortion debate, by Conor Friedersdorf:
An orthodox Catholic I know cares more about abortion than any other political issue. He votes for candidates based largely on his expectations about the kinds of judges they'll appoint or confirm, behavior I completely understand given the certainty he feels that every abortion is a murder. At the other extreme are pro-choice voters whose number one issue is protecting Roe vs. Wade from being overturned, preventing any restrictions on abortion, etc.
These are by their nature long term political struggles, or so you might think: the composition of the Supreme Court is always going to change, legislatures can be influenced to hue closer to one side or the other, etc.
But I predict that what we now think of as the abortion debate is going to radically change within our lifetime in a way that makes many of the strategic gambits employed by both sides irrelevant, or at least beside the point.
Here's a brief response from Andrew Sullivan:
The legitimate property interest that every woman has in her own body, and her right to be free of the state's interference in that respect, makes me a reluctant pro-choicer in the first trimester (for want of any better time limit). But if fetuses can live outside their mother's body, the debate shifts a notch. Not definitively, but intuitively.
Wash. Post/HealthDay News: FDA Proposes New Drug Labels for Pregnant Women, by Steven Reinberg:
WEDNESDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials proposed Wednesday changes to the labels on prescription drugs that would detail potential health effects for pregnant and breast-feeding women, their fetuses or their newborns.
If enacted, the new system, proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, would provide doctors and pharmacists with more comprehensive information to guide them in their prescribing practices....
The proposed system would replace the current system that relies on letter designations to describe the risks of a drug when taken during pregnancy or breast-feeding. This system was deemed confusing and incomplete.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Chicago Tribune/AP: Mich. House votes to ban partial birth abortions, by Tim Martin:
LANSING, Mich. - Michigan lawmakers moved closer to a state-level ban of what opponents call partial birth abortion on Tuesday.
The Democratic-led House passed the ban by a 74-32 vote late Tuesday. The Republican-controlled Senate has approved similar legislation. But Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm doesn't support the bill and might veto it because it doesn't include an exception for the health of the mother, setting the scene for a possible override showdown.
If this story makes you frown, maybe this headline (on the same story) will bring a smile (even if it doesn't quite cause you to split your sides): Sides split on expected veto for partial-birth abortion.
Reuters: Obama, McCain both need abortion issue, by Ed Stoddard:
DALLAS, May 28 (Reuters) - Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain has one ace up his sleeve in his bid to woo disgruntled conservative Christians: his unflinching opposition to abortion rights.
His likely Democratic opponent in the November White House election, Barack Obama, firmly supports abortion rights.
Few other big issues cut so clearly across partisan lines in the United States, a point underscored by McCain and Obama's positions on it. And analysts say while both candidates must be careful they may need the issue to stir their party's bases.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Kansas City Star: On abortion, Missouri senators move toward the sane center, by Barb Shelly (editorial page columnist):
There's been some good research in recent years that shows that politicians tend to be pulled toward the fringes on issues, while most Americans dwell closer to the center. In my observation, this holds most true for state legislators.
Closeted in places like Jefferson City and Topeka, the people who make laws and set policy for the state live in a world apart. They rarely have the close constituent connections that, say, a city council member does. The public generally has only a vague idea of what these folks are doing.
Ah, but the interest groups know. They keep score, and they let their clout be known at election time.
In no case has this been more true than the grip with which the anti-abortion group, Missouri Right to Life, has enjoyed over the state's General Assembly. For Republican lawmakers, a Missouri Right to Life endorsement has been regarded as a must-have in a primary race.
But as The Star's Jefferson City correspondent Kit Wagar points out in a story today, Missouri Right to Life appears to have overplayed its hand. Republican lawmakers who are very opposed to abortion have been disobeying the activist group's marching order.
"Right to Life" chapters in other states, including Michigan, exercise this same grip over their state legislatures (a fact that I find often surprises people).
Wash. Post: A Pro-Choicer's Dream Veep, by Robert Novak:
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, whose Roman Catholic archdiocese covers northeast Kansas, on May 9 called on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to stop taking Communion until she disowns her support for the "serious moral evil" of abortion. That put the church in conflict with a rising star of the Democratic Party who is often described as a "moderate" and is perhaps the leading prospect to become Barack Obama's running mate.
Naumann also took Sebelius to task for her veto April 21 of a bill, passed by 2 to 1 margins in both houses of the Kansas Legislature, that would strengthen the state's ban on late-term abortions by authorizing private lawsuits against providers. Last year, she vetoed a bill requiring explicit medical reasons for a late abortion, and she vetoed other abortion legislation in 2006, 2005 and 2003.
See also: The Fix (Wash. Post): Novak Takes a Swipe at Possible Obama VP Pick, by Chris Cillizza.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Wall St. Journal: Antiabortion Groups Push Bush on Clinics' Subsidies, by Stephanie Simon:
With time running out on the Bush administration, conservative activists are renewing a drive for regulations that would deny federal subsidies to clinics that provide abortions or counsel women about the option.
In a final push, the activists are preparing a public campaign to pressure President Bush to use his executive authority to order the change. They say they soon will present the White House with a petition signed by tens of thousands of voters and a letter endorsed by at least 70 conservative organizations, including the Family Research Council, the Eagle Forum and Concerned Women for America....
The federal government distributes about $280 million a year among thousands of clinics to subsidize the cost of birth control, cancer screening, HIV testing and other reproductive care for low-income patients. Known as Title X, the program serves five million men and women a year. By law, the money can't be used for abortion procedures.
Ronald Turner (U. of Houston Law Center) has posted Gonzales v. Carhart and the Court's 'Women's Regret' Rationale on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In its 2007 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart the Supreme Court of the United States, by a 5-4 vote, rejected a facial challenge to the constitutionality of the Federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. This essay focuses on and questions one aspect of the Court's opinion: the statement that "some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained." In referring to (while acknowledging that there is no reliable data to measure) this phenomenon, the Court gave to certain abortion-rights opponents something they have sought for many years - express recognition of and reliance on a "women's regret" rationale in the Court's review of anti-abortion legislation. The Gonzales Court's articulation of the "women's regret" rationale, and the Court's acceptance and, indeed, endorsement of what it viewed as the "unexceptionable" and "self-evident" premise that some women regret their choice to have an abortion, are discussed and critiqued herein. In addition, the essay argues that the Court's recognition of the rationale is an important politico-legal victory for determined participants engaged in a decades-long campaign to place the "women's regret" rationale front and center in judicial and legislative arenas and debates.
United Nations Population Fund: Contraception Can Save Lives in Humanitarian Emergencies, by Shannon Egan:
In Afghanistan, where fertility and maternal death rates are among the highest in the world, restricted access to certain conflict areas makes it nearly impossible to deliver contraceptives to woman who would like to have fewer and safer pregnancies. After natural disasters, supply chains are often disrupted. And in Darfur women and young people trying to locate family planning services and information may wind up as survivors of sexual violence or worse: dead.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
NY Times: Appeals Court Rules Against Texas in Polygamy Case, by Anahad O'Connor and Kirk Johnson:
A Texas state court of appeals ruled Thursday afternoon that the state of Texas had no right to seize more than 400 children from a polygamist ranch in Eldorado, in the western part of the state, because there was not sufficient proof that they were in immediate danger.
The ruling asserted that the state’s child protection agency acted hastily in removing the children from the Yearning for Zion ranch in April and did not make a reasonable effort “to ascertain if some measure short of removal and/or separation from parents would have eliminated the risk” of abuse toward the children of 48 mothers who filed the suit. The district court was ordered to remove its restraining order giving the state custody of those children, but it was not immediately clear how the hundreds of other children, now in foster care, would be affected....
The agency raided the ranch and the sect’s temple on April 3 after someone had called an abuse hot line and said that she was a 16-year-old child bride being abused by her older husband in the church’s compound. The caller has still not been found.
NY Times: At Supreme Court, 5-to-4 Rulings Fade — but Why?, by Linda Greenhouse:
WASHINGTON — Where have all the 5-to-4 decisions gone?
And whatever happened to the “Kennedy Court”?
A year ago at this time, the Supreme Court had decided 13 cases by votes of 5 to 4, out of 41 total decisions. That proved to be an accurate snapshot of a highly polarized term. By the time the court wrapped up its work five weeks later, a third of the cases — the highest proportion in years — had been decided by margins of a single vote.
But so far this term, with 35 cases decided with full opinions, there has been only a single 5-to-4 decision. It came in a low-visibility statutory case, not in a hot-button constitutional one. And the justices did not break along the ideological divisions that shaped the last term. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who was in the majority in all 24 of last term’s 5-to-4 decisions, voted in dissent.
Justice Kennedy’s dominance last term was so complete that, of 68 decisions, he cast only two dissenting votes. He has already dissented five times this term. So have Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Stephen G. Breyer and John Paul Stevens. In other words, no longer the essential justice, Anthony Kennedy now looks like just one of the pack.
Something is happening, clearly. The question is what.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Women's E-News: Women's Vote up for Grabs if Clinton Not in Race, by Allison Stevens:
Some groups working to send New York Sen. Hillary Clinton to the White House are preparing to sit out the rest of the presidential election if she drops out of the race; others are giving only grudging support to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as he comes closer to clinching the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.
If Obama is the nominee, there won't be the "same level of enthusiasm since we endorsed Hillary Clinton," said Mai Shiozaki, spokesperson for the National Organization for Women in Washington, D.C.
Other ardent Clinton supporters in the women's rights movement may hesitate before jumping on Obama's bandwagon, predicted Vicki Lovell, director of employment and work-life programs at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a Washington think tank. "That level of passion may not transfer wholesale," she said....
Some fear Clinton voters will be so upset by a loss they will vote for McCain. A March Gallup poll showed that at least 28 percent of Clinton supporters would vote for McCain if he is the nominee. Geraldine Ferraro, a vocal Clinton supporter who made a historic bid for vice president in 1984, told the New York Times she may not vote for Obama.
Lovell brushed aside those fears. "There may be some slight falling off from Hillary's campaign, and the level of personal passion may be less," she said. But she added: "Voters who are concerned about women's issues will support Obama because, if the race is between Obama and McCain, he's by far the best candidate."
The New York Times: Virginia Abortion Ban Struck Down, by Adam Liptak:
A federal appeals court panel in Richmond, Va., struck down on Tuesday a Virginia law that made it a crime for doctors to perform what the law called “partial birth infanticide.”
In a 2-to-1 decision, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the Virginia law was more restrictive than the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which the United States Supreme Court upheld last year in Gonzales v. Carhart.
Both laws prohibited the procedure known medically as intact dilation and extraction. It involves removing an intact fetus and, typically, piercing or crushing its skull. The more common second-trimester abortion procedure, dilation and evacuation, involves dismembering the fetus in the uterus.
The key difference between the two laws, Judge M. Blane Michael wrote for the majority, was that the federal law imposes criminal charges only when doctors intend at the outset to perform the procedure, while Virginia law also made it a crime for doctors to perform the prohibited procedure by mistake.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
L.A. Times: John McCain and Barack Obama: Two visions of the Supreme Court, by David Savage:
WASHINGTON — John McCain and Barack Obama, the two leading presidential candidates, have set out sharply contrasting views on the role of the Supreme Court and the kind of justices they would appoint.
Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.), in a speech two weeks ago, echoed the views of conservatives who say "judicial activism" is the central problem facing the judiciary. He called it the "common and systematic abuse . . . by an elite group . . . we entrust with judicial power." On Thursday, he criticized the California Supreme Court for giving gays and lesbians the right to marry, saying he doesn't "believe judges should be making these decisions."
Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) said he was most concerned about a conservative court that tilted to the side of "the powerful against the powerless," and to corporations and the government against individuals. "What's truly elitist is to appoint judges who will protect the powerful and leave ordinary Americans to fend for themselves," he said in response to McCain.
Wash. Post: A Debunking on Teenagers and 'Technical Virginity': Researchers Find That Oral Sex Isn't Commonplace Among Young People Who Avoid Intercourse, by Rob Stein:
Contrary to widespread belief, teenagers do not appear to commonly engage in oral sex as a way to preserve their virginity, according to the first study to examine the question nationally.
The analysis of a federal survey of more than 2,200 males and females aged 15 to 19, released yesterday, found that more than half reported having had oral sex. But those who described themselves as virgins were far less likely to say they had tried it than those who had had intercourse.
"There's a popular perception that teens are engaging in serial oral sex as a strategy to avoid vaginal intercourse," said Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute, a private, nonprofit research organization based in New York, who helped do the study. "Our research suggests that's a misperception."
Instead, the study found that teens tend to become sexually active in many ways at about the same time. For example, although only one in four teenage virgins had engaged in oral sex, within six months after their first intercourse more than four out of five adolescents reported having oral sex.
The full report from the Guttmacher Institute is available here.