Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

Editor: Caitlin E. Borgmann
CUNY School of Law

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Maya Manian on Criminal Prosecutions of Pregnant Women

HealthLawProf Blog: Guest Blogger Professor Maya Manian: The Criminalization of Pregnant Women:

In a recent New York Times editorial, Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin bring to light the chilling reality of the criminalization of pregnant women in the United States. Stories of prosecutions of pregnant women in other countries, such as El Salvador, have received significant attention. Yet, similar stories within our own borders remain under the radar even while we constantly debate the issue of abortion.

As Paltrow and Flavin point out, the push to restrict women’s access to abortion and expand rights for fetuses impacts more than just those women specifically seeking abortion care. Anti-abortion measures threaten the rights of all pregnant women, even those who want to be pregnant. As Paltrow and Flavin’s peer-reviewed study on criminal prosecutions of pregnant women demonstrates, prosecutors and judges have relied on anti-abortion reasoning to arrest, detain, and force medical treatment on pregnant women who suffered from miscarriages, depression, or simply wanted to make their own medical decisions about how to proceed with childbirth.

Although many of the women in the cases described by Paltrow and Flavin were not seeking abortion care, the criminalization of pregnant women who seek to self-abort appears to be an increasing threat.  . . .

November 23, 2014 in Abortion, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Shoddy "Factfinding" on Abortion Is Pervasive in State Legislatures, and Often Finds Its Way to the Courts

RH Reality Check: How Shoddy Evidence Finds Its Way From State Legislatures to the U.S. Supreme Court, by Sharona Coutts & Sofia Resnick:

If you were a South Dakota legislator looking for expert evidence on how abortion affects women, the obvious choice would be an electrical engineer based in Illinois.

Right?

It may sound absurd, but that is precisely who lawmakers cited in 2005, when they gathered testimony for a report by the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion. . . .

It’s a pattern that is all too familiar in state legislators around the United States, said Caitlin Borgmann, a law professor at the City University of New York who is an expert in the role of courts and legislatures in protecting constitutional rights. . . .

Check out RH Reality Check's False Witnesses Gallery:

Each member of the False Witnesses gallery has pushed false information designed to mislead the public, lawmakers, and the courts about abortion. RH Reality Check analyzed scores of public records, contracts, public statements, and research articles, and identified their key falsehoods in order to set the record straight. . . .

November 20, 2014 in Abortion, In the Courts, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Katha Pollitt Debunks Abortion Myths

TIME: 6 Myths About Abortion, by Katha Pollitt:

1. The Bible forbids abortion.

It shouldn’t matter what the Bible says about abortion. The United States is not a theocracy. Still, given the certitude of abortion opponents that abortion violates God’s Word, it might come as a surprise that neither the Old Testament nor the New mentions abortion—not one word. . . .

November 13, 2014 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Assessing the Impact of the November Elections on Reproductive Rights

NPR: Two Of Three States Reject Ballot Measures Restricting Abortion, by Jennifer Ludden:

Amid all the shakeout from this week's midterm elections, many are trying to assess the impact on abortion.

Two abortion-related ballot measures were soundly defeated. A third passed easily. And those favoring restrictions on abortion will have a much bigger voice in the new Congress. . . .

The Los Angeles Times: On abortion, election delivered mixed messages, by Maria La Ganga:

The 2014 midterm election was a mixed bag for abortion rights supporters: Two out of three state ballot measures that would have regulated the procedure went down to defeat, but control of the U.S. Senate swung to the Republican Party, with its antiabortion candidates claiming victory.

"It is a happy day for us, a great day for pro-lifers," said Marilyn Musgrave, vice president for government affairs with the Susan B. Anthony List, which advocates for female antiabortion candidates. "The life issue won." . . .

Mother Jones: The Fight for Abortion Rights Just Got a Whole Lot Harder, by Molly Redden:

Activists thought they had a chance to expand reproductive rights. The Red Wave put an end to that

The GOP wave didn't just crash into the US Senate. It flooded state legislatures, as well. By Wednesday evening, Republicans were in control of 67 of the nation's 99 state legislative chambers—up from 57 before the election. It's still unclear which party will control two other chambers.

Already, anti-abortion advocates are calling it a big win. Hundreds of the country'smost extreme anti-abortion bills pop up in these statehouses every year, and Tuesday's results won't do anything to put a stop to that. But reproductive rights advocates also suffered big setbacks Tuesday in places where they had actually been playing offense. Now, Democratic losses in states like Colorado, Nevada, New York, and Washington could torpedo their efforts to expand reproductive rights. . . . 

November 9, 2014 in Abortion, Fetal Rights, Politics, State and Local News, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tennessee Voters Approve State Constitutional Amendment to Allow More Abortion Restrictions

The Tennessean: Tennessee Amendment 1 abortion measure passes, by Anita Wadhwani:

Already lawmaker vows to back abortion regulations when legislature reconvenes

Tennessee voters by a solid margin backed Amendment 1, a measure that gives state lawmakers more power to restrict and regulate abortions.

The measure was perhaps the most closely watched and most contentious Election Day vote in Tennessee's midterm elections, which had few contested high-profile candidate races this year. It also was one of the most expensive ballot measures in Tennessee history. . . .

November 4, 2014 in Abortion, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Elle Publishes "Real Stories from Real Women" About Their Abortions

Elle: Ending the Silence That Fuels Abortion Stigma, by Cecile Richards:

It’s hard to imagine a medical procedure in this country that carries the stigma and judgment that abortion does. Women’s experiences are often seen through the lens of cultural and political battles. If a woman says that she’s relieved after having an abortion, she may be judged for being heartless or unfeeling. If she says that she feels regret, anti-abortion activists use this to push for laws that restrict access to abortion or laws that assume women are incapable of making their own decisions without the interference of others.

So instead, we just don’t talk about it. That’s how abortion came to be discussed as an “issue” instead of an experience. . . .

Elle:  "I HAD AN ABORTION": Real stories from real women:

In ELLE's November issue, features director Laurie Abraham wrote a trenchant, honest essay about her abortions. Here, we share stories from other women who had abortions, to show that different women have different reasons for having an abortion, and that the procedure inspires all sorts of feelings—all of them, valid.

October 24, 2014 in Abortion, Culture, In the Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

California's Expansion of Abortion Provider Pool Helps Reduce Stigma Around Abortion

The Los Angeles Times: New class of abortion providers helps expand access in California, by Lee Romney:

Ever since the Planned Parenthood health center here opened, the six cushioned recliners in the recovery room had been in steady demand every Friday.

That's when a physician would rotate through to perform abortions for four hours. When everyone in the crowded waiting room knew why the woman next to her was there, when they all had to walk past a cluster of antiabortion protesters.

But a state law that went into effect in January has authorized nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to perform a method of first-trimester abortion known as vacuum aspiration. Previously, only doctors were allowed to do so.

With the expanded pool of providers, this Marin County clinic can now carry out the procedure as routinely as breast exams and birth control consultations, stripping away the taint of "abortion day." . . .

October 24, 2014 in Abortion, Culture, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Reviews of Katha Pollitt's "Pro," And Interviews with Pollitt

The New York Times: Take Back the Right: Katha Pollitt's 'Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights', by Clara Jeffery:

“I never had an abortion, but my mother did. She didn’t tell me about it, but from what I pieced together after her death from a line in her F.B.I. file, which my father, the old radical, had requested along with his own, it was in 1960, so like almost all abortions back then, it was illegal.”

Thus begins “Pro,” the abortion rights manifesto by the Nation columnist, poet and red diaper baby Katha Pollitt. While parents with F.B.I. files may be exotic, her departure point is that abortion was and is not. . . .

The Chicago Tribune: Review: 'Pro' by Katha Pollitt, by Martha Bayne:

. . . Over the book's 200-odd pages, Pollitt — longtime columnist for The Nation and all-around feminist public thinker — charts with passion and intellectual rigor just how much the lives of American women have changed since 1960, and how very much they haven't. . . .

Here's an interview with Pollitt:

Democracy Now: Abortion as a Social Good: Author Katha Pollitt Pens New Vision for Pro-Choice Movement

And a roundtable on Minnesota Public Radio among Pollitt, Sarah Stoesz, President of the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, and Teresa Collett, Professor of Law at the University of St Thomas:

MPR News: The politics and policy of abortion

October 17, 2014 in Abortion, Books, Culture, Pro-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Texas Abortion Restrictions, Allowing Clinics to Remain Open

The New York Times:  Supreme Court Allows Texas Abortion Clinics to Stay Open, by Adam Liptak:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed more than a dozen Texas abortion clinics to reopen, blocking a state law that had imposed strict requirements on abortion providers. Had the law been allowed to stand, it would have caused all but eight of the state’s abortion clinics to close and would have required many women to travel more than 150 miles to the nearest abortion provider.

The Supreme Court’s order — five sentences long and with no explanation of the justices’ reasoning — represents an interim step in a legal fight that is far from over. But abortion rights advocates welcomed what they said was the enormous practical impact of the move. Had the clinics been forced to remain closed while appeals went forward, they said, they might never have reopened. . . .

The Supreme Court, in an unsigned order apparently reflecting the views of six justices, blocked the surgical-center requirement entirely and the admitting-privileges requirement as it applied to clinics in McAllen, Tex., and El Paso.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have allowed the law to be enforced. . . .

See also: SCOTUSblog:  Court blocks abortion limits in Texas, by Lyle Denniston.

____________________________

This is significant, because when the Court last November considered only the admitting privileges portion of this law on an emergency basis, it refused to block the Fifth Circuit's ruling that allowed the law to take effect.  That time, the 4 liberal Justices dissented.

October 15, 2014 in Abortion, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Alabama Law Puts Teens Seeking Abortion on Trial

ThinkProgress:  Alabama’s Abortion Law Puts Minors On Trial And Gives Their Fetuses A Lawyer, by Tara Culp-Ressler:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against Alabama this week in an attempt to overturn what the group suggests may be the most radical parental consent law in the country. Under a new law that went into effect this summer, minors who are seeking to bypass their parents’ consent to get an abortion are essentially put on trial. The state is allowed to appoint a lawyer for their fetus and call witnesses to testify about the teenager’s character. . . .

October 3, 2014 in Abortion, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 29, 2014

NYT Editorial on Democrats' Increasing Willingness to Challenge Conservative Positions on Abortion

The New York Times editorial: The Tide of the Culture War Shifts:

Not long ago, it would have been unusual for a Democratic senatorial candidate in Iowa to run a powerful abortion-rights television ad like the one recently broadcast by Representative Bruce Braley.

The ad lists in detail the anti-abortion positions taken by Mr. Braley’s Republican opponent, Joni Ernst. In the State Senate, the ad says, she sponsored a “personhood” amendment (declaring a fertilized egg to be a person) that would have the effect of outlawing abortion even in cases of rape or incest, and would also ban many common forms of birth control. Ms. Ernst is even shown saying at a debate that she favors criminal punishment for doctors who perform abortions; the ad describes her position as “radical.”

Ms. Ernst’s personhood ideas, shared by at least five other Republican candidates for United States Senate this year, have been radical for years. What’s new is that Democrats are increasingly willing to say so. . . .

September 29, 2014 in Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Former Abortion Doula Recounts Her Volunteer Work with Abortion Patients

New York Magazine: My Year As an Abortion Doula, by Alex Ronan:

Welcome to Ovaries Week — the Cut's exploration of the female reproductive system, in its many confusing, intense, sometimes challenging, sometimes funny, often surprising facets. 

My first patient ever stares at me blankly when I say the doctor will see her soon. Her two small children treat the waiting room chairs like monkey bars; they’ve been sitting around for hours. Dee (some names have been changed throughout) is here to get laminaria inserted, the small seaweed sticks positioned in the cervix that expand upon contact with moisture, producing enough dilation to enable a second trimester abortion, which will happen tomorrow. I know I’m not succeeding at giving her the warm, confident assurance I’ve practiced in the mirror. . . .

September 14, 2014 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 12, 2014

NYT Op-Ed Author Shares the Story of Her Abortions

The New York Times op-ed:  This Is What an Abortion Looks Like, by Merritt Tierce:

I MET Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator and Democratic candidate for governor, for the first time last week, and I told her how much it meant to me that she wasn’t afraid to talk about abortion. But we need a much larger conversation about abortion — one that also includes, without prejudice, the stories unlikely to generate much sympathy. Stories like mine.

Ms. Davis’s background feels familiar to me. She became a single mother at 19, her first marriage lasted only two years, and she worked as a receptionist and waitress until she could afford to go back to school. I had two children by the time I was 21, filed for divorce at 23, and worked as a secretary and waitress. Thanks to the support of friends and family, and especially my ex-husband, the father of my children, I was able to go back to school in 2009. And like Ms. Davis, I have also had two abortions. . . .

September 12, 2014 in Abortion, Culture, In the Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Federal Courts Grapple with "Undue Burden" Standard

The National Law Journal: Next Wave for Abortion Law Courts, by Tony Mauro:

Judges struggle to define "undue burden" standard

Slowly but surely, a new wave of abortion-related litigation is making its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the ultimate outcome uncertain.

A stop-and-start round of rulings and stays that blocked enforcement of new restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas last week was just the latest sign that, 41 years after Roe v. Wade, courts are still grappling with the issue. . . .

The National Law Journal (Op-Ed): Rulings Illuminate Abortion Standard, by Caitlin Borgmann:

With scant guidance from Supreme Court, lower courts are grappling with "undue burden" test

Onerous restrictions on abortion facilities are prompting lower courts to sit up and take notice. Late last month, federal judges in Texas and Louisiana blocked such laws from taking effect, at least temporarily.

Some courts, in evaluating the constitutionality of these laws, are interpreting the governing undue-burden standard — the U.S. Supreme Court's governing standard for the constitutionality of abortion regulations — in new ways that meaningfully consider the facts and purposes underlying the laws, as well as their real-world effects. The Supreme Court justices would do well to adopt these interpretations when they finally address one of these ­restrictions. . . .

September 8, 2014 in Abortion, In the Courts, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pennsylvania Mother Sentenced to Prison for Giving Daughter Abortion Pills

The Huffington Post: Mom Ann Whalen Sentenced To Prison For Giving Daughter Abortion Pills, by David DeKok:

A Pennsylvania woman has been sentenced to up to 18 months in prison for obtaining so-called abortion pills online and providing them to her teenage daughter to end her pregnancy.

Jennifer Ann Whalen, 39, of Washingtonville, a single mother who works as a nursing home aide, pleaded guilty in August to obtaining the miscarriage-inducing pills from an online site in Europe for her daughter, 16, who did not want to have the child. . . .

Whalen told authorities there was no local clinic available to perform an abortion and her daughter did not have health insurance to cover a hospital abortion, the Press Enterprise newspaper of Bloomsburg reported. . . .

Philadelphia Magazine (opinion column): Pennsylvania Woman Going to Jail Over Abortion Pills, by Sandy Hingston:

What the GOP could learn from Colorado’s free birth control program — if they’d just open their eyes and take their fingers out of their ears.

In cheery news from the western part of our great state, a 36-year-old mom has been sentenced to a year to 18 months in prison for providing her 16-year-old daughter with abortion pills she obtained illegally from Europe in an attempt to end the daughter’s unwanted pregnancy. The mom, who’s single, works as a nursing aide, and told the court there was no local abortion clinic available to her daughter (thanks, Governor Corbett), who had no health insurance (thanks again, Governor Corbett) to pay for an in-hospital abortion. The daughter ended up in the hospital anyway after the abortion pills induced severe cramping and bleeding.

What a happy little tale.

If batshit Republicans are serious about lowering the number of abortions, you know what they should do? They should give up the slow, costly process of legislating abortion clinics out of existence and simply make birth control free for the asking for all the women in America. . . .

September 8, 2014 in Abortion, Parenthood, State and Local News, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Mindy Project Won't Address Abortion -- But Shouldn't It?

Slate -- The XX Factor blog:  The Mindy Project Really Needs an Abortion Storyline, by Amanda Marcotte:

Dr. Mindy Lahiri, the loveable lead played by Mindy Kaling in the sitcom The Mindy Project, is an OB-GYN. Her job functions as more than background decoration, as Jessica Goldstein of ThinkProgress notes. “One of the most standout things about The Mindy Project is the way its setting has allowed for stories that explicitly deal with women’s health,” she writes, citing storylines about birth control, condom distribution, and even The Talk.

But there's one aspect of reproductive health care that Kaling has no intention of touching on in the sitcom: abortion. “It would be demeaning to the topic to talk about it in a half-hour sitcom,” she recently said in the October issue of Flare

Sorry, but that's total nonsense. . . .

September 4, 2014 in Abortion, Culture, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

NYT Magazine Examines Rise of Medication Abortion Via the Internet

The New York Times Magazine: The Dawn of the Post-Clinic Abortion, by Emily Bazelon:

In June 2001, under a cloud-streaked sky, Rebecca Gomperts set out from the Dutch port of Scheveningen in a rented 110-foot ship bound for Ireland. Lashed to the deck was a shipping container, freshly painted light blue and stocked with packets of mifepristone (which used to be called RU-486) and misoprostol. The pills are given to women in the first trimester to induce a miscarriage. Medical abortion, as this procedure is called, had recently become available in the Netherlands. But use of misoprostol and mifepristone to end a pregnancy was illegal in Ireland, where abortion by any means remains against the law, with few exceptions. . . .

August 30, 2014 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

California Health Officials Quash Catholic Employers' Efforts to Deprive Employees of Abortion Coverage

The Los Angeles Times: A women's rights victory as California nixes an attack on abortion coverage, by Michael Hiltzik:

With minimal fanfare, California state officials have nixed an underhanded effort by two Catholic-affiliated universities and their insurers to deprive the universities' employees of insurance coverage for abortions. 

The move by the Department of Managed Health Care is one of the strongest statements in favor of women's reproductive health rights you're likely to hear from officials of any state, at a time when those rights are under systematic attack. So it's proper to pay attention. . . .

August 27, 2014 in Abortion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

States Use "Feticide" Laws to Punish Pregnant Women

The Daily Beast: Indiana 'Feticide' Charge Is the Latest Fallout From States' Strict Anti-Abortion Laws, by Sally Kohn:

An Indiana woman has been charged with feticide—and faces decades in jail—for aborting an unwanted fetus, the latest in a string of cases that come close to criminalizing pregnancy itself.

Anyone who doubts that laws restricting abortion rights actually restrict the freedom of women to fundamentally control their bodies and health should look at Indiana. In that state, a 33-year-old woman has been charged with “feticide” after suffering premature delivery and seeking hospital treatment. She becomes the second woman to recently be charged with “feticide” in Indiana. Nationwide, at least 37 other states have similar laws that have restricted the rights of pregnant women under the guise of supposedly protecting fetuses. . . .

August 27, 2014 in Abortion, Fetal Rights, In the Courts, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Alba Ruibal on Mexico's Abortion Law

Alba Ruibal (CONICET Argentina; European University Institute - Department of Law) has posted Reform and Backlash in Mexico's Abortion Law: Political and Legal Opportunities for Mobilization and Countermobilization on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The restrictive legal framework of abortion in Latin America has started to change during the past decade, as legislative reforms and high court decisions have liberalized, to different extents, the abortion laws in Colombia, Mexico City, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Feminist mobilization has been the crucial factor of change in this area of rights, and conservative religious actors have been the main opponents of reform. Political and legal factors contribute to understand the timing and outcomes of legal changes, as well as the capacity of movement and counter-movement to influence reform processes. Based on field work carried out in Mexico, this paper analyzes the main components of the legal and political opportunities that have been relevant in abortion legal reform in that country, which offer important points of reference for other Latin American cases. Drawing on social movement theory and legal studies literature, this paper highlights the importance of relatively stable components of political opportunities such as the type of institutional organization of federalism, which determines the location of abortion policy - and the possibilities of social movements to influence it, as well as of institutional arrangements and cultural understandings regarding the relationship between State and Church. Regarding more contingent political factors, the analysis of this case confirms that divisions among elites, and in particular post-electoral conflict, may create conditions for rights advocacy actors, whereas politicians’ search for legitimacy and short-term electoral incentives may favor counter-reformers, especially at the local level - where there may be greater Church’s influence and less accountability mechanisms. With regards to the legal opportunity, the paper highlights the role of the rules of access to courts and legal standing in constitutional review proceedings, as determinants of the types of actors and claims that reach the courts. The analysis of the Mexican case shows how constitutional courts, in their quest for institutional legitimacy, may expand the legal opportunity for the participation of social actors at judicial proceedings, when facing decisions that involve highly controversial issues and social conflicts. Finally, the paper shows how rules of opinion formation at courts may affect final judicial outcomes and the influence of social actors in them.

August 26, 2014 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, International, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)