Sunday, November 30, 2008
NY Times Magazine: Her Body, My Baby, by Alex Kuczynski:
...I did not give birth to my son. He is the product of my egg and my husband’s sperm. After half a decade of trying to become pregnant, sometimes succeeding but always failing to carry a baby successfully to term, I came to the conclusion that if we wanted to have a child who was genetically related to us, we would have to find a woman with a more reliable uterus to gestate and deliver our baby. That was in April 2007. I was 39 years old. Exhausted by years of infertility, wrung emotionally dry by miscarriage, my husband and I decided we would give gestational surrogacy — hiring a woman to bear our child — one try. It was a desperate measure, to be sure, and one complicated by questions from all the big sectors: financial, religious, social, moral, legal, political....
Friday, November 28, 2008
Journal of Youth and Adolescence: When Two Isn't Better Than One: Predictors of Early Sexual Activity in Adolescence Using a Cumulative Risk Model, by Myeshia N. Price and Janet Shibley Hyde:
This study explored factors that may be associated with early initiation of sexual activity among adolescents. Using the cumulative risk model, we hypothesized that as exposure to risk factors increases, so does the likelihood of early sexual debut. A sample of 273 (53% girls, 90% European American) adolescents was followed longitudinally from age 13 to 15. The results indicate that, for girls, increased television viewing, low self-esteem, poor parental relationships, living in a non-intact household, higher levels of externalizing behavior (ADHD symptomology), low academic achievement, and parents with low education levels were associated with earlier sexual debut. For boys, advanced pubertal development, increased television viewing, higher rates of externalizing behaviors (ADHD and ODD symptoms), and poor parental relationships were associated with earlier sexual debut. As hypothesized, predictive power increases with the accumulation of these risks; girls are 1.56 times more likely to become sexually active with an increase of only one risk and boys are 1.90 times more likely.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
BBC News: Brazil targets illegal abortions, by Gary Duffy:
Some 150 women have been charged and at least 30 have been sentenced to do community work.
Abortion in Brazil is illegal except in cases of rape or when the life or health of the mother is at risk.
The large-scale investigation has prompted protests from human rights organisations and women's groups.
The Guardian (UK): Shock tactics, by Kate Hilpern:
Rawnie Chapman-Kitchin, 15, was aghast when her teacher compared abortion to Nazism, saying that in time history would view both with the same revulsion. "I'd been expecting a regular RE class, but a different teacher was called in to do a talk called Abortion is Murder," she says. "He showed horrifying pictures of dead foetuses, but there was no opportunity to opt out. It was very much a case of 'this is the way you need to think'....
Anti-abortion presentations in schools are not a one-off. At the beginning of this term, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (Spuc) wrote to every secondary school in the country to offer its PowerPoint presentation. Katherine Hampton, education officer at Spuc, says she visits around 10 schools a term and supervises a further 40 trained speakers across the country. The organisation Life delivered 816 school talks during 2006-07 through its "active schools department", reaching 37,803 students across 316 schools - a 20% increase on the previous year. Then there are the individual teachers, like Rawnie's, who offer to air their anti-choice views to classes. Having realised that teenagers are the most susceptible to anti-abortion messages, lobbyists are increasingly targeting 13- to 17-year-olds.
Slate: Lose-Lose on Abortion: Obama's threat to Catholic Hospitals and their Very Serious Counter Threat, by Melinda Henneberger:
If the Freedom of Choice Act passes Congress, and that's a big if, Obama has promised to sign it the second it hits his desk. (Here he is at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund event in 2007, vowing, "The first thing I'd do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing I'd do.") Though it's often referred to as a mere codification of Roe, FOCA, as currently drafted, actually goes well beyond that: According to the Senate sponsor of the bill, Barbara Boxer, in a statement on her Web site, FOCA would nullify all existing laws and regulations that limit abortion in any way, up to the time of fetal viability. Laws requiring parental notification and informed consent would be tossed out. While there is strenuous debate among legal experts on the matter, many beleive the act would invalidate the freedom-of-conscience laws on the books in 46 states. These are the laws that allow Catholic hospitals and health providers that receive public funds through Medicaid and Medicare to opt out of performing abortions. Without public funds, these health centers couldn't stay open; if forced to do abortions, they would sooner close their doors. Even the prospect of selling the institutions to other providers wouldn't be an option, the bishops have said, because that would constitute "material cooperation with an intrinsic evil."
For a response, see RH Reality Check: What Would FOCA Really Do?, by Emily Douglas:
Melinda Hennenberger has a few strong words for the President-Elect. Sign the Freedom of Choice Act (which, any reproductive health advocate could tell you, Congress is a long way away from passing), and Barack Obama will be responsible for hobbling our entire, already-compromised health care system. Why? According to Hennenberger, FOCA would require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, and the church hierarchy would rather "turn off the lights" than provide comprehensive reproductive health care.
FOCA targets state laws that limit abortion access, yes. But FOCA would not have the conscience clause repercussions that Hennenberger suggests it might.
Washington Post (11/23): A Hard Choice, by Patricia Meisol:
A young medical student tries to decide if she has what it takes to join the diminishing ranks of abortion providers
...How medical students choose to become abortion providers is in some ways no different from how they choose to become cardiac surgeons or pediatric neurologists. They explore the specialty and test themselves in it, finding some connection to a patient or a mentor that ignites their passion. Except for one difference: Medical students must explore abortion largely on their own.
Thirty-five years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade, any mention of abortion is rare in the first three or four years of medical school, when students must zero in on a specialty and eventually apply for residency training. Even in Maryland, where about 61 percent of voters approved a referendum guaranteeing abortion in 1992 and which has the fourth-highest abortion rate in the country, abortion is not taught in any formal lectures at the state's flagship medical school. The subject is viewed as too controversial, despite the fact that, according to the nonprofit National Center for Health Statistics, abortion remains among the most common surgical procedures for reproductive-age women. Nevertheless, many people, including some of Lesley's friends, believe abortion is the murder of an unborn child and should not be legal, much less taught to future doctors....
Via the HealthLawProf Blog.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Kimberly Mutcherson (Rutgers School of Law Camden) has posted Making Mommies: Law, Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis, and the Complications of Pre-Motherhood on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The article focuses on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis ("PGD"), a technology that allows health care providers and potential parents to screen embryos for a range of characteristics prior to implanting them in a woman's uterus. Many potential parents use the technology to screen out life-threatening diseases, but many have expressed concerns about the technology's potential use to screen for benign characteristics such as sex. Recognizing the potential for future regulation, this article focuses on three major topics 1) the potential for legal regulation of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis; 2) the relationship between such future regulation and the existing legal landscape attendant to parenting, procreation, and pregnancy; 3) and the specific consequences for women of legal incursion into PGD decision-making.
The article begins by describing the medical landscape relevant to modern pregnancies in the United States. I then discuss the myriad ways in which existing law impacts procreative and parental decision-making and the ways in which the public nature of procreation and pregnancy make it a time ripe for regulation that is deeper and more intimate than is often the case when the law regulates non-pregnant bodies. The article describes motherhood, unlike fatherhood, as deeply contested territory in which many women struggle to conform to their own definitions of good motherhood and avoid the dreaded label of bad mother. It also describes how the law participates in a process of naming some women as bad mothers and questioning and at times denying their right to parent. Ultimately, this portion of the article emphasizes the disparate gender impact of much reproductive regulation and focuses on the vagaries of restrictive abortion regulation to highlight the link between how states have chosen to regulate abortion and future attempts to regulate PGD.
In the next section, the article imagines and contemplates the constitutionality of future state regulation of PGD, specifically a potential ban on the technology or limiting its use to disease prevention. I conclude that some forms of regulation would likely pass constitutional muster. Finally, the article imagines the consequences of future PGD legislation for women and explains how many legislative choices, including bans or limitations on the use of PGD, will negatively impact many women in part by continuing attempts to delineate categories of good and bad motherhood. The article concludes that regulation of PGD is an idea that should not yet be put into practice.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Applications are being accepted for Graduate Scholarships in Reproductive and Sexual Health Law with the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Programme at the Faculty of Law of the University of Toronto, Canada. The scholarship, which enables lawyer activists from developing countries to undertake the Master of Laws (LL.M.) Programme at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law, includes full tuition, travel and a stipend for living expenses.
Graduate Scholarships in Reproductive Health are designed to permit law graduates from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia or Central and Eastern Europe who have an interest in human rights and women's health in their own countries, to undertake advanced research and study in this emerging field of law. The scholarship is designed to enable students to explore the legal and ethical issues in reproductive and sexual health, such as the multiple causes of maternal mortality; barriers to availability of and access to reproductive health services; the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS; and abusive sexual relationships. Beyond the required graduate seminar in Alternative Approaches to Legal Scholarship and the foundation course in Reproductive and Sexual Health Law, and the Health Equity and Law Clinic, course work is designed on an individual basis, subject to the approval of the Assistant Dean, Graduate Studies.
The application deadline is February 16, 2009.
Barbara P. Billauer (Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc.; Institute of World Politics) has posted With Liberty and Justice for All: Abortion, Religious Freedom and the Constitution on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The status of abortion as murder, and therefore amenable to governmental intervention and criminalization, has been asserted by some segments of the populace. Their opponents claim a superior right of privacy exists under the Constitution, vesting in a woman the right to decide activities and actions that affect her physical corpus. Those belonging to the pro-life movement claim no Constitutional right superceede the mandate of the government to regulate violation of a societal norm - killing a fetus, which they contend enjoys the same rights as a live-born child.
This article examines the earliest societal codes of conduct, cited as the predicate for the contention that murder is abhorrent to a civilized society, and hence amenable to criminalization, by extension contending this practice applies to fetucide. The article then examines the various differing positions of the major Judeo-Christian religions, only one of which regards fetucide as murder, and finally sets forth the true meaning of natural law, often raised in support of the premise that abortion is violative of the basic code of conduct of societal norm.
This article suggests that while murder may be amenable to governmental regulation, this injunction pertains only killing of human beings, and then only under certain circumstances . Finally, the article demonstrates that abortion or fetucide is not considered either murder or even killing of another human by most traditions, and that the penal status of abortion as sin, rather than crime, should be left to religions determination rather than governmental intervention. In that the varying religions differ on whether abortion is considered murder, the matter falls under religious doctrine, coming under the rubric of Freedom of Religion. As such, the first amendment to the Constitution specifically would bar any legal intervention barring the practice, whether legislative or by judicial fiat.
Friday, November 21, 2008
This essay examines the changing
social and political meaning of surrogacy contracts over the twenty years since
this issue first attracted public attention in the context of the Baby M case in
the 1980s. In the protracted course of the Baby M litigation, surrogacy was
effectively framed as illegitimate commodification - baby selling and the
exploitation of women. This framing can be attributed to a moral panic generated
by the media, politicians and a coalition of interest groups opposing surrogacy
- primarily feminists and religious conservatives. The framing of surrogacy as
commodification had far reaching effects on legal regulation. In the post-Baby M
period, lawmakers in many states moved to prohibit or severely restrict
surrogacy arrangements. In recent years, however, the framing of surrogacy as
commodification has been replaced to a large extent by a more benign
characterization which emphasizes the useful service provided by surrogates to
childless couples. Further, over the past decade, regulators increasingly have
focused on the goal of reducing uncertainty and providing procedures to
efficiently establish the parental status of intended parents.
This essay seeks to explain these changes. Several factors have been important: First, hostility to surrogacy has declined because the moral panic has dissipated as many of the predicted harms have not been realized. Further, advances in in vitro fertilization (IVF) have expanded the use of gestational surrogacy, which is less readily framed as commodification and thus, more palatable than traditional surrogacy. Finally, the interest group dynamic has changed: Women's groups have withdrawn, plausibly because the kinds of arguments made against surrogacy increasingly were adopted by anti-abortion advocates. These conditions have contributed to a political climate in which lawmakers have adopted a pragmatic approach, regulating with a goal of minimizing the social cost of surrogacy.
Wash. Post/HealthDay: Parent Smoking During Pregnancy Raises Kids' Heart Risks, by Ed Edelson:
Uiterwaal and his colleagues reported the finding in the December issue of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology that they used ultrasound to measure the thickness of the walls of carotid arteries, the major blood vessels to the brain, in 732 young adults, average age 28. Records showed that 29 percent of the mothers and more than 60 percent of the fathers smoked during the pregnancies.
The inner lining of the carotid arteries was thicker for the young adults who had both parents smoking during pregnancy, a sign of potential danger in the years ahead. The thickening was strongest for maternal smoking.
Wash. Post/HealthDay: Aquarobics May Help Ease Labor:
Doing aquarobics during pregnancy reduces the amount of pain-killing medication requested by women during labor, according to a Brazilian study that included 71 expectant mothers.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors the memory of those murdered because of anti-transgender prejudice, is recognized annually on November 20.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed in late November in recognition of the 1998 murder of Rita Hester. Rita was a highly visible member of the transgender community in her native Boston, where she worked locally on education around transgender issues. On Saturday, Nov 28, Rita was stabbed 20 times in her apartment. A neighbor called the police and Rita was rushed to the hospital, but passed away from cardiac arrest only moments after being admitted. Ten years later, Rita's murderer (or murderers) has still not been found.
In 1999, one year after Rita's murder, advocate and writer Gwendolyn Ann Smith coordinated a vigil in Rita's honor. The vigil commemorated not only Rita, but also all the transgender people lost to violence and hatred.
Organizations throughout the world - from Groupe Activiste Trans in Paris to Human Rights Commission of Tel Aviv in Israel to Diritti in Movimiento in Pescara, Italy - now recognize the day.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
New York Times: Protests Over a Rule to Protect Health Providers, by Robert Pear:
A last-minute Bush administration plan to grant sweeping new protections to health care providers who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds has provoked a torrent of objections, including a strenuous protest from the government agency that enforces job discrimination laws.
The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions...”
But three officials from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission including its legal counsel, whom President Bush appointed, said the proposal would overturn 40 years of civil rights law prohibiting job discrimination based on religion.
The Supreme Court of Justice of /Bolivia, the nation's highest court, issued an order on October 17 to all lower courts judges obligating them to implement Article 266 of the Penal Code, which allows abortion for the life and health of women and for cases of rape and incest.
Bolivia's current laws only permit abortion when a pregnancy endangers a woman's life or health, and when no other measure can remove the potential danger, or in cases of rape and incest. In both cases, the law stipulates that a woman receive judicial authorization before a physician may terminate a pregnancy with the woman's consent.
But even under these legal conditions, many factors in the judicial authorization process make these abortions virtually impossible to obtain.To date there have only been six legal abortions in Bolivia.
Monday, November 17, 2008
ACLU Seeks Documents Outlining Government Policies Restricting Immigrant Teens' Access To Reproductive Health Services
Via ACLU press release:
Bush Administration Blocks Medical Services For Immigrant Teens In U.S. Care
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today asked a federal court to order the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to release documents outlining U.S. policy limiting refugee and undocumented teenagers' access to important reproductive health services, including contraceptives and abortion. The ACLU filed today's legal papers after ACF ignored a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU dated August 19, 2008.
"Many unaccompanied teenagers come into the U.S. fleeing abuse and torture in their home countries. Some have been sexually abused or assaulted, or forced into prostitution," said Brigitte Amiri, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "As a matter of law, the U.S. cannot deny reproductive health care to these teenagers, and as a matter of compassion, the U.S. should do everything it can to ensure the health, safety and well-being of these teens that have no one else to turn to."
ACF issued the policy at issue after the media reported in June 2008 that Commonwealth Catholic Charities of Virginia fired four social workers who helped an unaccompanied, undocumented 16-year-old in its custody obtain an abortion and contraception. Commonwealth Catholic Charities receives funding through a federal grant administered for ACF by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The executive director of the Commonwealth of Catholic Charities defended the group's actions by stating in the press that facilitating access to abortion and contraception is "contrary to basic teachings of the Catholic Church."
"The Administration for Children and Families must ensure that taxpayer dollars are used to provide for the needs of some of the most vulnerable children and teens that make it to our shores. They are in need of our compassion and care," said Daniel Mach, Director of Litigation for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. "Instead, the government appears to be allowing U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its subcontractors to use federal dollars to impose their religious beliefs on teenagers from a wide range of religious backgrounds who have very few, if any, opportunities to obtain the necessary care on their own."
The ACLU is seeking documents from ACF to determine the extent of the violations and assess any further steps needed to guarantee that unaccompanied refugee and undocumented teens can get the services they need and that the federal government ensures that taxpayer dollars are not being used to impose one particular religious belief.
The policies at issue may impact a range of critical and even life-saving services administered through a variety of federally funded social service programs. Today's legal papers note, for example, that a nurse employed by a Catholic Charities in Texas routinely provided information to her patients about the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV as part of a federally funded HIV program. After the U.S. Conference of Catholic Charities reiterated its policy following the June 2008 incident involving a teen in Virginia, press reports note that the nurse lost her job when she refused to deny her patients this critical information.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops contracts with Catholic Charities to provide care to refugee and undocumented teenagers in a number of states across the country, including California, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Lawyers on today's case, ACLUF v. Department of Health and Human Services, include Amiri with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Mach with the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; Rose A. Saxe with the ACLU AIDS Project; Rebecca K. Glenberg and Hope R. Amezquita with the ACLU of Virginia Foundation; and Ami Sanghvi and Galen Sherwin with the New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation.
A copy of today's complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, is available online at: www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/religion/37771lgl20081117.html
November 17, 2008 in Abortion, Contraception, President/Executive Branch, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Health & Safety, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Saturday, November 15, 2008
[I]n a pastoral statement, the CBCP said the bill needed to be re-written to guarantee "the sacredness of life from conception."
They also objected to provisions for sex education in schools, saying it would "violate the consciences of educators who refuse to teach forms of family planning that violate their religious traditions."
Obama Expected to Reverse Pro-Abstinence/Anti-Abortion Approaches to Global Funding for Family Planning and AIDS Prevention
Bloomberg News: Condoms Trump Abstinence in Obama Global AIDS Policy, by Jason Gale & John Lauerman:
President-elect Barack Obama will reverse U.S. family-planning and AIDS-prevention strategies that have long linked global funding to anti-abortion and abstinence education, a public-health adviser said.
Public-health policies of President George W. Bush's $45- billion PEPFAR program have brought AIDS drugs to almost 3 million people in poor countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, more than under any other president. Still, requirements that health workers emphasize abstinence from sex and monogamy over condom use have set back sexually transmitted disease prevention and family planning globally, said Susan F. Wood, co-chairman of Obama's advisory committee for women's health.
November 15, 2008 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Contraception, International, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexuality Education, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Huffington Post: The Obamagelical Reformation, by Cristina Page:
...Clearly Obama's inclusive approach resonated with many evangelical voters--but to only credit the candidate is to miss the bigger story. According to a poll taken by Beliefnet.com, Obamagelicals believe the Democratic party platform holds the greatest potential for progress on the most intransigent issues. Take, for example, abortion. Of evangelicals who voted for Obama only 8% believed that restricting abortion would lead to reductions in the abortion rate (61% of evangelicals for McCain did). A whopping 86% of Obamagelicals believe that instead "the best way to reduce abortion is by preventing unintended pregnancy (through education and birth control), or providing financial assistance to pregnant mothers." This is in direct opposition to the "pro-life" agenda, which seeks to ban many forms of contraception along with abortion....
Friday, November 14, 2008
Reuters: Uruguay Congress allows early abortions, veto looms, by Patricia Avila:
The Senate voted 17 to 13 in favor of the bill after the lower house of Congress approved it last week in a session that was interrupted by a bomb threat.
See also this post from Jill at Feministe. Jill points out that, several years ago, United States Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), among others, faxed a letter to Senators in Uruguay urging them to vote against such a measure. This despite the fact that many Uruguayan women are dying from illegal abortions. As Jill notes, "Illegal abortion in Uruguay accounts for 29 percent of all maternal deaths — more than double the world-wide figure. In one public hospital in Montevido, nearly half of all maternal deaths were caused by illegal abortion." While Rep. Smith is quick to recognize the brutality of forced abortion in China (see story below; it's also the top feature on Smith's official website), it's clearly not women he's really worried about.
Kansas City Star: China trying to force 6-months' pregnant woman to abort, by Tim Johnson:
A Muslim Uighur woman who is more than six months' pregnant remained under watch in a hospital in China's far northwest Friday awaiting a forced abortion by authorities who don't want her to have a third child.
A nurse tending to the woman at the maternity ward of a hospital in Yining, near China's border with Kazakhstan, said physicians had delayed performing the abortion because of international queries about her case.
China maintains a one-child-per-family rule on majority Han Chinese, with more flexible rules for ethnic minorities, to contain its massive population of 1.3 billion citizens.
Those who violate the rule must pay large fines, although reports of zealous officials ordering forced abortions in rural and semi-rural areas are fairly common.
For more of the chilling details, see also: Radio Free Asia: Uyghur Woman Faces Forced Abortion