Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ramya Kumar on Misoprostol and Abortion Politics in Sri Lanka

Ramya Kumar (Dalla Lana School of Public Health) has posted Misoprostol and the Politics of Abortion in Sri Lanka on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Misoprostol, a WHO essential medicine indicated for labour induction, management of miscarriage and post-partum hemorrhage, as well as for induced abortion and treatment of post-abortion complications, came up for registration in Sri Lanka in December 2010. The decision on registration was postponed, indefinitely. This has wide-ranging implications, as misoprostol is widely available and used, including by health professionals in Sri Lanka, without guidance or training in its use. This paper attempts to situate the failure to register misoprostol within the broader context of unsafe abortion, drawing on data from interviews with physicians and health policymakers in Sri Lanka. It demonstrates how personal opposition to abortion infiltrates policy decisions and prevents the issue of unsafe abortion being resolved. Any move to reform abortion law and policy in Sri Lanka will require a concerted effort, spearheaded by civil society. Women and communities affected by the consequences of unsafe abortion need to be involved in these efforts. Regardless of the law, women will access abortion services if they need them, and providers will provide them. Decriminalizing abortion and registering abortion medications will make provision of abortion services safer, less expensive and more equitable.

September 29, 2013 in Abortion Bans, International, Reproductive Health & Safety, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Challenge to Texas Abortion Restrictions Garners National Media Attention

TexasThe challenge to portions of Texas's hydra-like abortion law, brought by a coalition of national reproductive rights organizations, is getting lots of media attention:

The New York Times: Rights Groups and Clinics Sue Texas Over Provisions in Its New Abortion Law, by Erik Eckholm

The Washington Post: Texas abortion providers sue over new limits, by Juliet Eilperin

NPR - The Two-Way blog: Women's Health Groups Sue Texas Over Its New Abortion Law, by Bill Chappell

Reuters: Planned Parenthood sues Texas over abortion restrictions

MSNBC: Planned Parenthood takes Texas abortion laws to court, by Irin Carmon

Texas isn't the only state to have passed these kinds of restrictions recently, and indeed courts have already blocked similar restrictions elsewhere.  Admitting privileges requirements have been enjoined in Mississippi, Alabama, North Dakota, and  Wisconsin.  Laws requiring adherence to the outdated FDA protocol for medication abortions were enjoined in North Dakota and Oklahoma (in a case the Supreme Court may review this term), although a federal appeals court upheld Ohio's similar law in 2012.  

Texas's law is unique, however, in combining so many different restrictions in one measure (North Dakota went on a similar rampage this year but passed its restrictions in piecemeal fashion). Additionally, state senator Wendy Davis's famous filibuster of the omnibus bill helped to focus the nation's attention on Texas.  Finally, the bill would have a Texas-sized impact if allowed to take effect: as many as one-third of the state's clinics could be forced to close, leaving large areas of the state without a provider. 


September 28, 2013 in In the Courts, In the Media, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Coalition of National Groups Challenges Portions of Texas Omnibus Abortion Law

Texas Observer: National Coalition Files Legal Challenge to Texas Anti-Abortion Law, by Carolyn Jones:

Today in federal court, a coalition of reproductive rights organizations filed a legal challenge to two provisions of House Bill 2, the controversial anti-abortion bill passed by the Texas Legislature this summer.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, Whole Woman’s Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights announced the long-anticipated challenge this morning. . . .

. . .[T]he Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where today’s lawsuit could go, is notoriously conservative. Caitlin Borgmann, law professor at CUNY School of Law, who is not involved with today’s filing, said: “The climate is bad for abortion challenges in the Fifth Circuit.” In January 2012, for example, Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones upheld a mandatory ultrasound law that had been overturned by a lower court. . . .

September 28, 2013 in In the Courts, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vatican Official Says Nancy Pelosi Should Be Denied Communion

Nancy PelosiThe Daily News: Nancy Pelosi should be denied Holy Communion over abortion rights stance: Vatican official, by Leslie Larson:

Raymond Cardinal Leo Burke says the California Democrat has 'obstinately' separated her religious and political lives, which he calls a 'grave error.'

A Vatican official has come out in support of denying communion to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for her support of abortion rights.

Raymond Cardinal Leo Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome — the Vatican's Supreme Court — slammed the California Democrat for "obstinately" persisting in grave sin by supporting the policy, even "after repeated admonitions." . . .

September 24, 2013 in Abortion, Congress, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Promise of Post-Fertilization Contraceptive Methods Is Limited By Politics

Birth control pillsLiveScience: Politics Is Main Hurdle to 'After Sex' Birth Control, Experts Say, by Bahar Gholipour:

Political opposition is the main hurdle to developing birth control methods that could be more suitable than current options for many women, health experts said today (Sept. 23) in an editorial. The authors called on researchers to embrace and study birth control methods that act after sex, and can be taken only occasionally.

Current contraception methods are designed to work primarily by keeping sperm and eggs apart, but it is also possible to prevent pregnancy after an egg is fertilized. . . .

September 24, 2013 in Contraception, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LA Times Editorial on Corporations' Refusal To Comply with Contraception Mandate

The Los Angeles Times (editorial): Contraception coverage: A hobby shop is not a church:

The Supreme Court should overturn an appeals court decision holding that business owners can refuse on religious grounds to include birth control in employee health coverage.

A federal appeals court has thrown enforcement of one of the Affordable Care Act's mandates into confusion by accepting a bizarre argument: that businesses can refuse on religious grounds to include birth control in employee health plans. . . .

September 24, 2013 in Contraception, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Caroline Corbin on Whether For-Profit Corporations Have a Right to Religious Liberty

Caroline CorbinCaroline Mala Corbin (University Miami School of Law) has posted Corporate Religious Liberty on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Do for-profit corporations have a right to religious liberty? This question is front and center in dozens of cases challenging the Obama administration’s “contraception mandate.” Whether for-profit corporations are entitled to religious exemptions is a question of first impression, and one the Supreme Court is likely to answer in the next few years. Most scholars writing on this issue argue, “yes,” they do have the right to religious liberty, especially after the Supreme Court recognized that for-profit corporations have the right to free speech in Citizens United. 

This essay argues “no,” for-profit corporations do not and should not have religious liberty rights. As a matter of current law, neither the Free Exercise Clause nor the Religious Freedom Restoration Act recognizes the religious rights of for-profit corporations. Citizens United changes nothing in religious liberty jurisprudence, as its protection for corporate speech is based on the rights of audiences and not the rights of corporate speakers.

As a normative matter, for-profit corporations should not have free exercise rights. There is no principled basis for extending a purely personal right to profit-making corporations, and for-profit corporations cannot be equated to churches or other voluntary religious associations. Finally, granting religious exemptions to corporations risks trampling on the religious liberty of individual employees.

September 23, 2013 in Contraception, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

This Wednesday: Participate in "Unite Tonight" with Center for Reproductive Rights

Via the Center for Reproductive Rights:

Unite Tonight with the Center for Reproductive Rights this Wednesday

The Center for Reproductive Rights is holding Unite Tonight events around the country on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Flagship events will be held in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and Fort Worth.

If you’re interested in hosting your own event to rally friends in support of reproductive rights, sign up to be an Ambassador at The Center will host a live, interactive online presentation hosted by Michelle Maryk and will feature a conversation with the Center’s president and CEO, Nancy Northup and messages from celebrity supporters of the Center’s Draw the Line campaign.

September 23, 2013 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Defense of Sex-Selective Abortions

The Guardian (op-ed): Why women have a right to sex-selective abortion, by Sarah Ditum:

As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter why any woman wants to end her pregnancy. If it's to select for sex, that's her choice

When you talk about being pro-choice, sex selective abortion is often slung at you as the triumphant gotcha. "You love women so much you want them to be in charge of what grows inside their bodies, but what about the women who are aborted, have a go at answering that? ZING!"

The answer is actually remarkably simple, and it's this: it doesn't matter whether what's growing inside you is liable to end up as a man or a woman. What matters is whether the person it's growing inside – the person who is going to have to deliver the resulting baby, at not inconsiderable personal peril – actually wants to be pregnant and give birth to this child. . . .

September 20, 2013 in Abortion, Bioethics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Day After Denouncing Church's Obsession Over Abortion, Pope Delivers Anti-Abortion Message

RosaryCBS News: Pope Francis denounces abortion after decrying church's focus on rules:

Pope Francis offered an olive branch of sorts to the doctrine-minded, conservative wing of the Catholic Church on Friday as he denounced abortions as a symptom of today's "throw-away culture" and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them.

Francis issued a strong anti-abortion message and cited Vatican teaching on the need to defend the unborn during an audience with Catholic gynecologists. . . .

September 20, 2013 in Abortion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pope Francis Criticizes Catholic Church for Being "Obsessed" with Abortion and Contraception

VaticanThe New York Times: Pope, Criticizing Narrow Focus, Calls for Church as ‘Home for All’, by Laurie Goodstein:

Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

His surprising comments came in a lengthy interview in which he criticized the church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized. . . .

September 19, 2013 in Abortion, Contraception, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Will Saletan on "Fetal Pain" Abortion Bans, and a Response

Slate: Fetal Fact Check, by William Saletan:

The doctors cited by pro-lifers say their fetal pain research doesn’t support abortion bans

In much of this country, over the last three years, pro-lifers have banned abortions 20 weeks after fertilization. They’ve justified these bans by asserting—contrary to the most authoritativestudies—that fetuses at this stage of development can feel pain. Their assertions, in turn, are based on research by several doctors. But the doctors don’t buy the pro-lifers’ conclusions. They say their research doesn’t support the bans. . . .


Here's what William Saletan gets right in this column:  The science supporting claims that human fetuses can perceive pain at 20 weeks after fertilization is weak.  Here's where he goes on irrelevant tangents:

(1) Dr. Kanwaljeet J. S.  Anand, apparently the only known researcher who believes fetuses can feel pain at this stage, also believes "that 'fetal pain does not have much relevance for abortion, since most abortions are performed before the fetus is capable of experiencing pain.'"  Who cares?  If fetal pain marks the (moral) point at which abortion should be banned, why does it matter how few abortions are implicated?  Any abortion after that stage, proponents would argue, is immoral and should be banned.

(2)  Dr. Anand believes that his research does not support post-20-week abortion bans.  (Anand says that pain could be averted through anesthesia or causing a quick fetal demise before beginning the abortion procedure.)  Again, so what?  This point seems to misapprehend how anti-choice activists are using Anand's research.  They claim that the ability to perceive pain marks a moral threshold of human development sufficiently significant that abortion should not be permitted after this point.  That might be an important moral claim meriting a response (if not necessarily agreement), if the science backed up their assertions.   But while Anand believes fetuses can perceive pain at 20 weeks post-fertilization, he is contradicted by numerous other experts who conclude otherwise.  The best evidence suggests that a human fetus's ability to perceive pain does not occur before fetal viability, after which states can already ban abortions under Roe v. Wade.

(3) There is a "gap" between the claim that fetuses feel pain and the claim that abortions should be banned, since pain could be addressed in ways other than banning abortion.  While this is absolutely true, it fails to take the anti-choice argument seriously.  As explained above, anti-choice activists obviously do not believe that abortion is morally acceptable so long as fetuses don't feel pain.  They are asserting that fetal pain is a critical marker of human development: once a fetus can feel pain, it has reached the stage where it is morally unacceptable to kill it.  Saletan describes the "gap" between (doubtful) assertions of fetal pain and banning abortion as a "sleight of hand."  But he overlooks the real deception.  Anti-choice activists will not be content with banning abortions at 20 weeks.  For these activists, pain perception is not in fact the definitive moral milestone that they claim it is.  Their ultimate goal is to ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization, when the pre-embryo can scarcely be seen with the naked eye.  The question of fetal pain is thus totally irrelevant to their moral claims.  They are simply trying to get the public to move one smallish step with them toward their ultimate goal, without reminding the public of what that goal really is.


September 18, 2013 in Abortion Bans, Fetal Rights, In the Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Voters to Decide Whether Albuquerque Will Become First Municipality in U.S. to Adopt an Abortion Ban

Reuters: Albuquerque to put first-ever municipal abortion ban on ballot, by Carey Gillam:

(Reuters) - A bill banning abortions in Albuquerque after 20 weeks of pregnancy will be put to voters in New Mexico's most populous city in November and could become the first municipal abortion ban in the nation.

The city council voted 5-4 late on Monday to put on the ballot the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance," which contains few of the standard abortion exceptions seen in many states. . . .

September 18, 2013 in Abortion Bans, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

SCOTUSblog Symposium on Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice

Supreme CourtSCOTUSblog is publishing a symposium on Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice:

This past June, the Court granted cert. in Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition of Reproductive Justice, in which it will consider the constitutionality of an Oklahoma law which prohibits the off-label use of abortion inducing drugs. . . .

The list of invited contributors is available here.  Posts by Priscilla Smith (Yale Law School) and O. Carter Snead (Notre Dame Law School) are already available here and here, and more commentators will be posting their analyses throughout the week here

September 17, 2013 in Abortion, In the Courts, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Washington Post Editorial on Richmond GOP Campaign to Shut Down Abortion Clinics

The Washington Post - editorial: Virginia’s next governor will determine whether most abortion clinics close:

VIRGINIA ATTORNEY General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) was instrumental in ensuring that new regulations will result in the closure of many of the state’s abortion clinics. Two of the busiest, in Northern Virginia and Norfolk, already have closed. If Mr. Cuccinelli is elected governor in November, most of the remaining 18 clinics are likely to shut their doors within months.

That would make access to abortion, as well as to family planning advice, difficult for thousands of Virginia women, particularly in rural areas; in some cases, it would become practically impossible. It would also represent a capstone in the Republican campaign in Richmond to limit abortion, despite Supreme Court rulings protecting it. . . .

September 17, 2013 in In the Media, Politics, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Manufacturing Company in Challenge to Contraception Mandate

Here is another decision in a developing circuit split, with the Third Circuit (now joined by the Sixth) ruling against secular employers challenging the mandate, and the Tenth Circuit ruling in favor of secular employer Hobby Lobby.


ACLU press release: Sixth Circuit Orders Company to Comply With Rule Requiring Contraception Coverage:

Rules that a Manufacturing Company Cannot Impose Beliefs on Workers by Denying Basic Healthcare

Scales of justiceCINCINNATI, Ohio – The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that a corporation that provides manufacturing services for automotive and medical industries must provide its 661 U.S. employees with insurance coverage for contraception in compliance with federal law. The court heard the company’s challenge during arguments in June. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, as well as several other cases that were argued last spring, supporting the Obama administration’s rule requiring contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance benefits. In all cases, for-profit companies are claiming a religious objection to the rule and seeking a special exemption. “Religious liberty is a fundamental right, and everyone should be free to practice their beliefs as they see fit,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “However, companies cannot break the law by withholding coverage for health services just because they have a religious objection. Nearly every woman uses contraception at some point in her life. This law ensures that employers do not discriminate against their workers by making it difficult for them to obtain the care they need.” This case is one of more than 50 across the country currently pending that address the rule mandating contraception coverage. Today’s decision is the third issued by a circuit court in one of these cases. The 3rd Circuit previously held that a Pennsylvania cabinetmaking company was unlikely to succeed in its challenge to the rule, and the 10th Circuit held the opposite in a challenge from an Oklahoma-based craft supply chain.

For more information on the cases challenging the federal contraceptive coverage mandate go to

The decision can be found here

The Hill: Appeals court rules in favor of ObamaCare birth control mandate, by Elise Viebeck:

A U.S. appeals court ruled Tuesday that a for-profit manufacturing corporation must cover birth control in its employee health plan despite the religious beliefs of the company's owners. 

The decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals represents a victory for the Obama administration in a series of ongoing fights over the contraception policy, which critics see as a violation of religious freedom. . . .

September 17, 2013 in Contraception, In the Courts, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Dubious Scientific Claims Behind "Fetal Pain" Abortion Bans

The New York Times:  Complex Science at Issue in Politics of Fetal Pain, by Pam Belluck:

It is a new frontier of the anti-abortion movement: laws banning abortion at 20 weeks after conception, contending that fetuses can feel pain then.

Since 2010, a dozen states have enacted them, most recently Texas.Nationally, a bill passed the Republican-dominated House of Representatives in June.

The science of fetal pain is highly complex. Most scientists who have expressed views on the issue have said they believe that if fetuses can feel pain, the neurological wiring is not in place until later, after the time when nearly all abortions occur. . . .

See also: ThinkProgress: Scientists Studying ‘Fetal Pain’ Don’t Actually Want Their Research To Justify Abortion Bans, by Tara Culp-Ressler.

September 17, 2013 in Abortion Bans, Fetal Rights, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Call for Papers: Conference on Applied Feminism and Health


The University of Baltimore School of Law’s Center on Applied Feminism seeks submissions for its Seventh Annual Feminist Legal Theory Conference. This year’s theme is “Applied Feminism and Health.” The conference will be held on March 6 and 7, 2014. For more information about the conference, please visit

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) and renewed attacks on reproductive health in the United States, the time is right to consider the relationship between feminism and health across multiple dimensions. This conference seeks to explore the intersections between feminist legal theory and physical, mental, public, and community health in the United States and abroad. Papers might explore the following questions: What impact has feminist legal theory had on women’s health policy and practice? How might feminist legal theory respond to the health challenges facing communities and individuals, as well as increase access to health care? What sort of support should society and law provide to ensure good health? How do law and feminist legal theory conceptualize the role of the state in relation to health rights and reproductive justice? What are the links between health, feminist legal theory, and sports? Are there rights to good health and what are their foundations? How do health needs and conceptions of rights vary across cultural, economic, religious, and other identities? What are the areas where health justice is needed and how might feminist legal theory help?

This conference will attempt to address these and other questions from the perspectives of activists, practitioners, and academics. The conference will provide an opportunity for participants and audience members to exchange ideas about the current state of feminist legal theories. We hope to deepen our understandings of how feminist legal theory relates to health and to move new insights into practice. In addition, the conference is designed to provide presenters with the opportunity to gain feedback on their papers.

Continue reading

September 11, 2013 in Conferences and Symposia, Law School | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

In Accepting Review of Oklahoma Law, Supreme Court Confronts "Cleverest New Anti-Abortion Law"

Supreme CourtSlate: The Cleverest New Anti-Abortion Law, by Emily Bazelon:

Will the Supreme Court strike down Oklahoma’s devious attempt to stop doctors from prescribing the safest kind of medical abortion?

The biggest-ever wave of abortion restrictions has been flooding the states since Republicans victories in the 2010 election. The canny genius behind these new laws is that they reduce access to abortion in the name of protecting women’s health. The statutes are written to seem reasonable, sober, and safety based, perhaps none more so than the 2011 Oklahoma law making it harder for doctors to prescribe the drugs used to induce a medical abortion. A challenge to the Oklahoma law promises to be the next big Supreme Court case about abortion. . . .

ThinkProgress: Everything You Need To Know About The Abortion Case That’s Headed To The Supreme Court, by Tara Culp-Ressler:

If you had no idea that abortion was slated to come before the Supreme Court this year, you’re not alone. Thecomplicated case that’s up for debate,Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, has flown under the radar precisely because it’s fairly complex and doesn’t immediately seem to be all that important. But it could have huge implications for the current laws in over a dozen states across the country — and depending how the justices rule, it could ultimately set the precedent for the future of the entire United States’ access to reproductive health care.

Here’s what you need to know about the potentially landmark case . . . .

September 11, 2013 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fierce Backlash Has Followed Mexico City's Legalization of Abortion

The Nation: Mexico's Abortion Wars, American-Style, by Kathryn Smith:

After Mexico City liberalized its abortion law, a fierce backlash followed. Is its striking resemblance to the US “pro-life” movement a coincidence?

When Mexico City’s law changed in 2007, allowing elective abortions in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, it was a substantial victory for reproductive rights advocates in a country, and a region, where the Catholic Church dominates daily life. Across Latin America, access to legal abortion is a rarity, and in 2007, all eyes turned to Mexico City to see how the experiment would play out—and whether it could be replicated. . . .

After decriminalization, however, a fierce backlash unfurled across Mexico. . . .

September 5, 2013 in Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)