Friday, November 17, 2017
The New York Times (Nov. 10, 2017): Facebook is Ignoring Anti-Abortion Fake News, by Rossalyn Warren
As Facebook addresses the role of "fake news" on its platform, largely in relation to the 2016 election and Russian political propaganda, another potentially more difficult concern arises. The spread of false reproductive rights and health news is widespread and often harder for Facebook to spot (and manage).
Facebook’s current initiatives to crack down on fake news can, theoretically, be applicable to misinformation on other issues. However, there are several human and technical barriers that prevent misinformation about reproductive rights from being identified, checked and removed at the same — already slow — rate as other misleading stories.
Identifying a fake news sources is not always straightforward. The social media giant says it often targets "spoof" sites that mimic legitimate news sources. But misleading anti-abortion sites can be hazier to identify. They generally publish original pieces, but often alongside inaccurate facts or with poor sourcing, which "helps blur the line between what’s considered a news blog and 'fake news.'"
Facebook aims to limit fake news by making it more difficult for these sources to buy ads or generate spam. "Most false news is financially motivated," Facebook says. This is not often the case with anti-abortion advocates, though, who are overwhelmingly driven by strong religious or political beliefs. The goal isn't profit but persuasion.
Many are concerned that misinformation regarding reproductive rights and abortion in particular may detrimentally affect current political movements. Ireland plans to hold a referendum next year regarding whether to lessen the country's strict abortion regulations. Pro-choice advocates are worried that the rapid spread of abortion-related misinformation on Facebook (like a purported causal link between abortion and breast cancer) may affect the vote.
Facebook has yet, though, to directly address concerns over this type of scientific misinformation in the same way they have begun to address fake news about last year's election.
November 17, 2017 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Supreme court agrees to hear antiabortion challenge to California disclosure law for pregnancy centers
Los Angeles Times (Nov. 13, 2017): Supreme court agrees to hear antiabortion challenge to California disclosure law for pregnancy centers, by David G. Savage:
The Supreme Court has granted certiorari to hear NIFLA vs. Becerra, in which an anti-abortion group challenges a California law that requires crisis pregnancy centers to notify patients that the state offers contraception and abortion services.
The case centers on the Reproductive FACT Act, which requires pregnancy centers to disclose whether they have a medical license and whether medical professionals are available. The law also requires centers to post a notice in the waiting room that reads: "California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including all FDA-approved methods of contraception, pre-natal care and abortion."
California lawmakers passed the disclosure law two years ago after concluding as many as 200 pregnancy centers in the state sometimes used “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform and even intimidate women” about their options for medical care.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) represents 110 pregnancy centers in California that all claim the disclosure provision violates their free speech as "compelled speech." Such a disclosure, they claim, conflicts with their faith-based goal of encouraging childbirth and preventing abortion.
The Californian pregnancy centers initially lost their case under three federal district judges. On appeal, the 9th Circuit Court upheld the lower court's decision. Last month, however, a judge in Riverside County ruled that the law violated the free-speech provisions of California's own state Constitution.
California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra stands by the disclosure provision and its intent to provide women accurate information about their health care options.
It takes five justices for a majority opinion, and many expect the Court's decision to turn on the vote of Justice Kennedy.
November 14, 2017 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, In the Media, Politics, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, November 6, 2017
San Antonio Current (Nov. 2, 2017): Texas' Ban on Safe Abortion Procedure Goes to Court, by Alex Zielinski
The trial fighting Texas' latest anti-abortion law, Senate Bill 8, began last week. Whole Woman's Health sued Texas in July after the governor signed SB 8 into law.
SB 8 would completely prohibit dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedures, require clinics to bury the remains of any abortion, and prohibit hospitals from donating aborted fetal tissue to medical research.
The current lawsuit, though, only challenges the ban on D&E abortions. Dilation and evacuation abortions are considered one of the safest procedures for abortions after 13 weeks. The ban does not allow for exceptions in the cases of rape or incest. The only alternatives to a D&E procedure for a woman seeking an abortion are either inducing labor and forcing delivery of the fetus or a surgery similar to a hysterectomy. Both options are risky and expensive.
In August, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel temporarily blocked the law from going into effect on September 1. On November 2, the plaintiffs returned to Judge Yeakel's courtroom to request the bill's D&E ban be permanently blocked.
Yeakel has thus far supported a woman's constitutionally-protected right to abortion, saying: "The state cannot pursue its interest in a way that denies a woman her constitutionally protected rights to terminate a pregnancy before the fetus is viable."
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Trump DOJ seeks possible disciplinary action against lawyers in abortion case of unaccompanied minor
ABC News (Nov. 3, 2017): Trump DOJ seeks possible disciplinary action against lawyers in abortion case of unaccompanied minor by, Geneva Sands
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court today asking for possible disciplinary action against the attorneys that represented an undocumented minor who had an abortion over objections from the Trump administration.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of 17-year-old Jane Doe. Doe learned she was pregnant after being placed in a detention facility for children under the purview of the Department of Health and Human Services. She says she knew immediately that an abortion was the right option for her.
Doe, represented by the ACLU, had been fighting the federal government to be granted a medical visit to a clinic to receive her abortion. The government had instead taken her against her wishes to a pro-life clinic that tried to persuade her not to abort and showed her sonograms against her will.
Doe was finally able to get her abortion on October 25.
The Trump administration has now accused the ACLU of misleading the government on the timing of Doe's abortion. They claim that after informing Justice Department attorneys that the teen's procedure would occur on October 26th, Doe's attorneys actually scheduled it for early on October 25, thereby avoiding Supreme Court review.
Government attorneys allege that the ACLU, while advocating for their client, violated their duties to the court and to the Bar. The administration believes the judgment under review that enabled Doe to receive the abortion should be vacated and additionally seeks potential disciplinary action against Doe's attorneys.
In response, the ACLU says the government failed to file a timely review with the Supreme Court and that Doe's attorneys acted both in the best interest of their client and "in full compliance with the court orders and federal and Texas law."
According to Jane herself:
"I’m a 17-year-old girl that came to this country to make a better life for myself. My journey wasn’t easy, but I came here with hope in my heart to build a life I can be proud of. I dream about studying, becoming a nurse, and one day working with the elderly," she wrote. "This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice," she concluded.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Monday, October 23, 2017
New York Daily News (Oct. 16, 2107): Councilman to introduce bill to protect employees from discrimination when it comes to reproductive health, by Jillian Jorgensen:
New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams plans to introduce a bill to prohibit workplace discrimination based on reproductive decisions in the wake of Trump's recent health care initiatives.
This proposal follows the "Boss Bill," currently before the state legislature, which aims to guarantee women access to medical procedures and medicine such as fertility treatments, contraceptives, and abortion.
The bill is co-sponsored by several women council members, including the chair of the Committee on Women's Issues, Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn) and co-chair of the Women's Caucus Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan).
The bill would modify the city’s Human Rights Law to protect against employment discrimination based on “sexual and reproductive health decisions.”
That would include fertility treatments, family planning services and counseling, birth control drugs and supplies, emergency contraception, sterilization, pregnancy tests, abortions and HIV testing and counseling.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
The Portugal News Online (Sept. 14, 2017): Portugal Is European County with Fewest Abortions:
Portugal held a national referendum in 2007 that resulted in the legalization of abortion of pregnancies of up to ten weeks. Abortions must be performed in a facility licensed to perform the procedure. Figures from 2015 indicate that abortions were at their lowest level in that country since 2008, the first year that they were legal. Every year there have been fewer abortions than the year before. Portugal's retiring health director Francisco George has cited the small percentage of abortions per 1,000 live births as evidence of the success of Portugal's abortion laws.
Abortion used to be against the law in Portugal, a reality that resulted in grim health consequences for women in need of safe termination procedures. George remarked that the decriminalization of abortion "has improved the health conditions for women."
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
openDemocracy.net (Aug. 15, 2017): Reproductive Rights on the Move: Refugee Women in Greece Struggle to Access Contraception, by Zoe Holman
Refugee women are struggling to maintain control of their bodies and reproductive choices as a result of practical and cultural challenges within their transitional lives. A recent study has identified that while 60% of women in pre-war Syria used some form of contraception, only 37% of married Syrian women currently living as refugees in Lebanon do the same.
Often, statistics like this exist because refugee women are not comfortable or reasonably able to use the common forms of contraception available in their relocated states. Injectable contraceptives are popular among refugee women, as they're more conducive to women on the move, but they are not always widely available in every country. Contraceptive pills--often more easily accessible--are not always a realistic choice for a woman without a regular routine or stability.
The lack of contraception among refugee populations can lead to more unwanted and challenging pregnancies as well as dangerous, often illicit, attempts at abortion. Seeking an abortion in a foreign country, even where it is legal, is an intimidating prospect for a refugee woman and often logistically prohibitive.
Of particular concern to many migrating women is the exacerbated risk of sexual violence and the resulting threat to a woman's reproductive autonomy.
The director of the Eritrean Initiative on Refugee Rights says that women emigrating from Eritrea can expect to be raped at least twice before reaching Europe. With this known risk in mind, many women take potent doses of contraceptive before starting their journey to lessen the risk of an unwanted pregnancy from sexual violence. This can lead to longterm damage and reproductive difficulties in the future.
In Greece, a study of nine refugee camps found that insecure conditions left many women at constant risk of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, forced prostitution, forced marriage and trafficking. Perpetrators, it said, have included volunteers and fellow refugees.
Despite the UN noting that reproductive health is a crucial element to mental and social well-being, conflict-ridden regions still receive 50% less funding for reproductive services than non-conflict zones. Thus far, the international outcry to increase funding for safe contraception and sexual healthcare for refugee and migrant women has gone largely unanswered.
Friday, August 4, 2017
WBUR 90.9 (Aug. 1, 2017): States With More Abortion Restrictions Score Worse On Women's Health, Study Finds, by Eojin Choi
A newly released report by Ibis Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights found that the the twenty-six states with more than ten abortion restrictions had poorer health outcomes for women than the twenty-four states with fewer than ten restrictions.
Titled Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women's and Children's Health and Well-being Against Abortion Restrictions in the States, the report's findings challenge anti-choice politicians' claims of passing abortion restrictions under the guise of protecting women's health and safety.
Some examples of positive, supportive policies include Medicaid expansion, expanded family and medical leave, mandated evidence-based sex education, maternal mortality review boards, and contraceptive parity laws. The study found that many states with more abortion restrictions lack these supportive policies.
The report was first published in 2014 and is updated for 2017. You can read the full report here.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Winston-Salem Journal/Associated Press (Jul. 30, 2017): Judge blocks Arkansas from enforcing four abortion restrictions, by Andrew DeMillo
A federal judge in Arkansas blocked four new abortion restrictions from taking effect, including a ban on dilation & evacuation (D&E, the safest and most common second-trimester procedure), a sex-selection ban, and a fetal-remains restriction that would have effectively required a partner's consent prior to having an abortion. The ruling came down from U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed the case on behalf of Little Rock, Arkansas provider Dr. Frederick Hopkins.
D&E bans are currently in effect in Mississippi and West Virginia and are blocked in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. This year, Texas passed an identical ban that is slated to become effective in September but is being challenged in court.
The sex-selection ban included a provision requiring that a doctor performing the abortion first request records related to the entire pregnancy history of the woman. Judge Baker struck down the restriction, noting that the provision "will cause women to forgo abortion in Arkansas rather than risk disclosure to medical providers who they know oppose abortion or who are family friends or neighbors."
The fourth struck-down law required physicians performing abortions on minors under 17 years of age to preserve embryonic or fetal tissue and notify police where the minor resides. Arkansas currently enforces such a requirement for minors under 14 years of age.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Al Jazeera (Jul. 19, 2017): Chile Moves to Ease Strict Abortion Laws, by AFP News Agency:
In 1989, the dictatorial regime of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte outlawed abortion in Chile in all cases. Almost 30 years later, the law remains unchanged.
In 2015, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet advanced a proposal to decriminalize abortion at up to 12 weeks if the pregnant person's physical health was at risk, if the fetus would not survive the pregnancy, or in cases of rape. The reform also included an 18-week window for pregnant individuals under the age of 14. President Bachelet urged Chilean lawmakers to take up the legislation before the country's elections are held in November. The government's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, has already approved the reforms and the issue now lies before the Senate, which began consideration on Monday, July 17th.
Consideration in the Senate did not come without hurdles. Senate President Andres Zaldivar advanced a proposal arguing that abortion when the mother's life is at risk should not legally be considered an abortion. That measure failed by just one vote following five hours of debate. The legislation finally passed the Senate in the early hours of Wednesday after a 17-hour session, and is now under reconsideration by the Chamber of Deputies. Should the law pass the lower chamber, it will head to President Bachelet for final approval.
Chile is one of just six countries in the world where individuals can be prosecuted for seeking an abortion irrespective of circumstances.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Human Rights Watch (July 10, 2017): Contraception is Lifesaving but Often Out of Reach, by Nisha Varia
This week, the Family Planning Summit met in London. The goal of this annual meeting is to bring governments, donors, and civil society together to discuss progress and future goals in expanding access to modern contraception for millions of women globally.
Family planning and effective contraception saves lives.
Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for adolescents ages 15 to 19 globally and cause 800 women and girls to die each day. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 22,000 women die from abortion-related complications each year.
This year, many lobbied for the Summit to include conversations on the effects of the Trump administration's reimplementation of the "Global Gag Rule." The controversial policy prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations from receiving any U.S. health funding if they use funds from any source to provide information about abortions, advocate for or provide abortions.
The policy affects $8.8 billion of foreign assistance. The anticipated consequences of the Gag Rule include increases in unplanned pregnancies and dangerous abortions as well as a higher maternal death rate.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Saint Louis Post-Dispatch (Jun. 29, 2017): Planned Parenthood: Judge's Ruling a Victory for Young Women, by Rick Callahan (AP):
A federal judge in Indiana Thursday blocked part of a new law that would have required a judge to determine whether a pregnant minor's parents should be notified if she sought an abortion. Republican Governor Holcomb of Indiana, who signed the law in April, frames it as a "parental rights issue."
Reagan-nominated U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker who enjoined the provision also blocked two additional provisions--one requiring physicians to verify the relationship between a minor and her parents or guardians and another that would have prevented anyone assisting an un-emancipated minor seeking an abortion.
Attorney General Curtis Hill has not yet decided if he will appeal the Judge Barker's decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Romper (Jun. 23, 2017): This New Hampshire Law Accidentally Let Pregnant Women Get Away With Murder, by Kenza Moller
New Hampshire lawmakers recently passed a bill defining a fetus of 20 weeks or older as a human with full rights, exposing anyone who causes the death of such a fetus to the risk of being charged with a homicide.
Senate Bill 66 is soon-to-be one of about 38 fetal homicide laws currently on the books throughout the country. Supporters generally think of fetal homicide laws as providing an avenue for women to press charges if their unborn children are killed in an incident such as a car crash or violent assault. Opponents, however, criticize such legislation, citing it as an attack on women's reproductive rights. Fetal homicide laws, they argue, can be construed to punish women who miscarry or are suspected of inducing an abortion.
Republican lawmakers here, though, added a clause to the bill intended to assuage pro-choice fears, but the initial wording implied possible scandalous results.
The bill read that "any act committed by the pregnant woman" or her doctor wouldn't apply in any second-degree murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide cases, according to Slate. The fine print there, of course, is that "any act" could include far more than just an abortion.
Technically, that would make physician-assisted suicide and murder A-OK for pregnant ladies. Whoops. Once lawmakers noticed the fairly serious loophole, however, they quickly fixed it on Thursday in a legislative move (called an "enrolled bills process") usually reserved for correcting spelling or grammatical errors.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu is expected to sign the bill into law--without granting pregnant women the right to murder--going into effect January 1, 2018.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Texas Observer (Jun. 20, 2017): How Texas' Anti-Abortion Lawmakers Win Even While Losing in Court, by Sophie Novack:
Earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 8 into law, "an omnibus measure that mandates burdensome clinic regulations and outlaws a safe, common abortion procedure" known as dilation & evacuation, or D&E. SB 8 is the most sweeping set of restrictions on abortion care signed into law in Texas since House Bill 2 in 2013, culminating in last year's Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down two of the bill's major provisions. A lawsuit against SB 8 is expected later this summer.
Novack argues that while abortion-rights advocates ultimately claimed victory in the courts over HB 2, the law "forced the closure of more than half the state’s abortion clinics, and only three have reopened since." The main issue for abortion-rights advocates, Novack says is that "legislation often moves faster than the courts, and SB 8 could wreak similar havoc on the abortion provider community in Texas.
“We’re looking at again the possibility of clinic closures and other restrictions that force women to leave the state if they need abortion care,' said Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit against HB 2 and has pledged to fight SB 8. 'In terms of access on the ground, this presents a huge threat to Texas.”
The major provisions at issue in SB 8 are a requirement that fetal remains be buried or cremated, and a ban on D&E, the most common form of second-trimester procedure. Abortion-rights advocates take some comfort in knowing that both of these provisions have been successfully challenged in court, but if either provision goes into effect, clinics could face closure for failure to comply with the law.
Texas Right to Life pushed the D&E ban, while Texas Alliance for Life championed the fetal burial/cremation requirement. Each group has a different strategy: Texas Right to Life favors pushing the D&E ban to the Supreme Court, while Texas Alliance for Life favors "a more incremental approach" that chips away at access until the Supreme Court becomes less favorable to abortion rights. Said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life: "it’s very clear now that [Justice Kennedy] will not uphold any state or federal provision that makes abortion less accessible, that’s the unfortunate reality."
In January, a federal judge blocked new Texas regulations that would’ve required burials for fetal remains. Courts have blocked D&E abortion bans in four other states. While it remains to be seen how courts will decide on SB 8, the battle will be long, and if it plays out like HB 2, there could be lasting consequences.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
by Richard Storrow
Two op-eds appearing in the New York Times recently addressed the intersection of abortion and economics. Both develop their arguments around Bernie Sanders's recent appearances with abortion rights supporter Jon Ossof, Democratic candidate for Congress in Georgia, and abortion rights foe Heath Mello, a pro-life Democatic candidate for Omaha mayor. The seemingly contradictory optics these appearances create are concerning for progressives who fear that the Democratic Party, in trying to woo voters, may move reproductive rights to the back burner. They appear to be right. Democratic Party National Committee chair Thomas Perez has made clear that the party's focus must now be on economics instead of "social issues" like reproductive rights and abortion.
In Why Abortion Is an Economic Issue, Bryce Covert speaks out against the efforts of the Democratic Party to revive itself by divorcing issues of reproductive rights from issues of economics. "To pretend that these issues are different and that one can be abandoned for the other," he writes, "is disproved in countless women's lives." In The Problem with Linking Abortion and Economics, Lori Szala takes aim at the "enormous baggage" freighting the old saw that "women on the margins need abortion so that they can scramble up the economic ladder without children holding them back." The argument justifies eliminating beings "who impede our economic progress," and urges that abortion is a simple solution to deep, systemic inequalities.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
New York Times (May 6, 2017): Opponents of Abortion Warily Measure Progress, by Jeremy W. Peters:
President Trump has proven himself to be a friend of abortion opponents. Left unclear, though, is whether he has any influence in the battle over the roughly $500 million Planned Parenthood receives each year. Moderate Republicans are not lining up to end support of Planned Parenthood. Even the bill passed in the House of Representatives last Thursday only reduces funding for Planned Parenthood for one year and leaves the organization eligible for money to support family planning. The Senate will prove more of a hurdle in any attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.
Conservative Republican attempts to revive interest in completely defunding Planned Parenthood have now taken the form of vilifying the organization for focusing more on defeating Republicans than on supporting women. The position is hopelessly out of step with American opinion. The majority of Americans believe the group should receive public funding for its work.
Christian conservatives, whom President Trump hopes to reward for supporting him in 2016, are becoming wary of his attempts to prove that he is a friend of their causes. He has, for example, refused to end workplace protections for LGBTQ employees put in place by President Obama in 2014, although last March he did make the protections harder to enforce. Christian conservatives are upset that the lives of those forced by Obama's executed order not the discriminate against LGBTQ employees are being "destroyed by the demands of the sexual identity activist class . . . ." Trump may not be up to the task of coming to the aid of groups who hold such extreme and unyielding perspectives.
Friday, April 14, 2017
New York Times (Apr. 14, 2017): Voiding Obama Rule, Trump Signs Law Taking Aim at Planned Parenthood, by Julie Hirschfeld Davis:
At the end of his term, President Obama, responding to a spate of red state initiatives to defund Planned Parenthood, promulgated a regulation banning states from withholding federal funding for family planning only if the provider is unable to provide family planning services. The mere fact that a family planning provider performed abortions was not reason enough for withholding funds. A new law, the tiebreaker vote on which was cast by Vice-President Mike Pence, guts this late-term regulation. Under the law, states may cut the federal funding of groups that perform abortions. The law takes a step further the already existing ban on using federal government money for abortion except in cases of where a woman's life is at stake or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.
President Trump, who signed the law yesterday, is an opponent of abortion. Early in his term he reinstated a regulation blocking federal funding for any nongovernmental organizations worldwide that provide abortion counseling.
Anti-abortion conservatives have been cheered by Trump's actions and foresee further legislative activity that will withdraw public support of family planning that includes abortion.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
New York Times (Dec. 14, 2016): Abortion Is Found to Have Little Effect on Women’s Mental Health, by Pam Belluck:
A new study comparing women who had abortions with those who were turned away at clinics finds that women who have abortions do not experience more negative psychological effects. This finding is contrary to the familiar lore that women who have abortions experience emotional and psychological trauma and thus need mental health counseling before they undergo the procedure. Such counseling is required in twenty-two states. Conservative state legislatures have used this mythos effectively to pass a number of restrictions on abortion.
The study sought to cure some of the methodological failings of previous studies by comparing two groups of women, both of which seek abortions, rather than comparing women who desire an abortion with women who wish to carry their pregnancies to term. The test subjects were followed up every six months for five years. It turns out that women who seek abortions and are refused suffer more than anyone. They experience more anxiety, lower self-esteem, and less satisfaction than women who are able to obtain an abortion. Luckily, their mental distress is short-lived, whether they successfully seek abortion elsewhere or give birth.