Tuesday, June 19, 2018
BBC News (Jun. 16, 2018): Sinn Féin votes to change Northern Ireland abortion policy, by Jayne McCormack:
Sinn Féin party delegates in Northern Ireland have voted to change the party's position on abortion at a conference in Belfast. Members comprehensively backed a leadership motion stating that women should have access to abortions within "a limited gestational period." The party can now support a law due to be brought before the Irish parliament, which is expected to allow abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The decision comes shortly after a referendum in the Republic of Ireland removed a constitutional amendment which effectively outlawed abortion. Sinn Féin had previously backed making abortion available in circumstances like fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or sexual abuse.
However, the party will now back a policy put forward by the Sinn Féin leadership that is broadly in line with the new Irish law, which is expected to make abortion available to women within the first 12 weeks of their pregnancies.
Sinn Féin's Northern Irish leader Michelle O'Neill opened the debate and told delegates: "No one is saying members can't have a conscience and you're entitled to have your viewpoint respected, but there is a difference between personal views and our role as legislators."
Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, meaning that it is the only region of the UK or Ireland where abortion is illegal unless there is a serious risk to a woman's life or health. Abortions in cases of rape, incest, or fatal fetal abnormalities are not automatically legally permitted to be carried out.
At the conference on Saturday, the party's leadership had backed a motion stating that women should have access to abortions within a "a limited gestational period."
The motion by the party leadership did not specify the 12-week period, but refers to making abortions available through a general practitioner-led service "without specific indication for a limited gestational period."
Mrs O'Neill denied that this gives the Sinn Féin leadership blanket authority to eventually back abortion in line with the 24-week period provided by the UK's 1967 Act, arguing it allowed the party flexibility in case legislation brought before the Dáil (Irish parliament) eventually reduces the time limit to 10 weeks.
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since the collapse of power-sharing between Sinn Féin and the DUP in January 2017.
Friday, June 15, 2018
Vox (Jun. 14, 2018): Argentina’s historic vote to decriminalize abortion, explained, by Emily Stewart:
On Thursday, June 14, Argentina's lower legislative house voted 129-125 on a bill that would decriminalize abortions up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy. The bill is part of "a broader women’s rights movement, Ni Una Menos — meaning 'Not One Less' — directed at stopping violence against women, including murder."
Abortion is currently illegal in Argentina except in cases of rape or life and health-threatening circumstances. Even in these scenarios, abortions are difficult to obtain and there may be not guidelines or clear legal requirements for providers, according to Shena Cavallo, a program officer at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Half a million women sought illegal abortions in 2016, and abortion-related deaths are one of the top causes of maternal mortality in Argentina.
Over the past 13 years, six different bills decriminalizing abortion have unsuccessfully come before Argentina's Congress. Activist groups like the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe, and Free Abortion and Catholics for the Right to Decide Argentina, have helped to gain the momentum for the current bill, contributing to the greater Ni Una Menos movement.
The Ni Una Menos movement, started in 2015, is a campaign against gender-based violence. It began in Argentina after a surge of media reports of women being killed by their husbands, boyfriends, or partners, and it has spread across multiple Latin American countries. Argentina has a history of public protest — it is not uncommon for major city streets and roadways to be shut down for hours or days because of protest — and multiple Ni Una Menos marches have taken place. This new wave of feminism has spurred more women to speak out about a variety of issues, including abortion. Activists see illegal abortion as another way of keeping women oppressed.
While Argentine President Mauricio Macri has not stated public support for the bill, he has encouraged debate over it and also said he would not veto it if it reaches his desk.
Although the more conservative Senate is expected to reject the bill, advocates consider this recent vote a win and will continue to fight for abortion legalization and the overall protection of women throughout Argentina and Latin America.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Rewire.News (Jun. 8, 2018): New York GOP Lawmakers Quash Contraception, Abortion Protections—For Now, by Auditi Guha:
The Reproductive Health Act (RHA), or S 2796, was drafted four years ago and recently passed by the Democratic-majority New York Assembly. The RHA is intended to rectify some of the shortcomings of local abortion law. The bill "repeals criminal abortion statutes, permits abortion after 24 weeks when the pregnant person’s health is at risk or when the fetus is not viable, and expands current law so that nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants can provide abortion services."
The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (S 3668), also passed by the Assembly, "would expand contraceptive coverage to include all forms of FDA-approved contraception (including vasectomies), authorize pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, and add coverage for contraceptive education and counseling."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) supported incorporating the RHA’s changes into state law in his budget proposal this year, but it’s been a hard push in a state where Republicans decide what bills get to be voted on. Procedural glitches made the fight tougher this week for both the RHA and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act as the senate ground to a halt, the New York Daily News reported.
Senate Democrats last week again tried to bring both the RHA and the CCCA to the floor for a vote, but Republican leadership ended the session without action.
“Both these bills are supported by the governor and have passed the Assembly," Sen. Krueger said in a statement. "The Senate Republicans should stop using procedural maneuvers to block these bills which would ensure that individuals would have control of their own reproductive health decisions.”
The president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, Robin Chappelle Golston, told Rewire.News: “Obviously legislation as simple as making access to contraception widely available was too much for the majority of the Senate...And I think the best answer for that is that people need to go out and vote this fall.”
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
June 1, 2018 (Tonic): Abortion Providers Are America’s Best Doctors, by Garnet Henderson:
Over the past two decades, the cost of medical care in the US has risen by about 3.6 percent per year, outpacing overall inflation by 70 percent. Meanwhile, the cost of an abortion has remained virtually the same. Prices do vary, from about $400 to $2,500 in the first or second trimester. This depends on the state, the provider, and the complexity of the procedure, generally determined by how far along in pregnancy the abortion is performed (for instance, one woman who wanted to terminate her nonviable pregnancy after 30 weeks was quoted $25,000 to $30,000). However, the average cost of a first-trimester abortion—they account for almost 90 percent of all abortions in the US—is about $500, a figure that has remained remarkably stable over time.
Providing abortions has not become more affordable. Instead, it has become significantly more expensive in many states, thanks to targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws. These regulations single out abortion providers and require them to conduct medically unnecessary tests and procedures and operate in more expensive facilities.
“We’ve really tried to figure out how to comply with all the regulations and keep abortion as affordable as possible,” says Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which provides abortion care in Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, and Virginia.
In 2011, Texas passed a law requiring anyone seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound at least 24 hours in advance. The law went one step further than similar rules in other states by requiring that a physician perform the ultrasound and that the same physician perform the abortion.
“We knew our patients couldn’t afford to take off from work twice, arrange childcare twice, and pay more for the procedure on top of that. Across the state, we chose not to raise the price of an abortion. We had to work hard to get doctors to understand that we couldn’t charge extra to the patient for that second visit. The cost on our end went up quite a bit,” Miller says.
“I think providers are bending over backwards to keep costs low. They realize that cost can be prohibitive. Being unable to afford an abortion is one of the primary reasons that women end up carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term,” says Ushma Upadhyay, an associate professor at the University of California San Francisco and a researcher with UCSF’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program. For instance, abortion providers often intentionally keep the price of medication abortion and procedural abortion the same, even though the cost of providing those services can be quite different. “We would never want anyone to choose one method or the other just because of cost,” Miller says.
In keeping costs down, abortion providers are not compromising the safety of their patients. One large study found that the complication rate in abortion procedures was just 2.1 percent, with serious complications occurring only 0.23 percent of the time. This overall complication rate is significantly lower than for the other in-office procedures researchers used for comparison, including wisdom tooth extraction (7 percent) and tonsillectomy (8 to 9 percent).
Many of the providers who do offer abortion are performing the procedure at high volume, which may be one factor that helps control costs on their end. “Doctors doing high volume become more efficient and skilled at doing the procedure, and as procedure times fall, that makes services less expensive to provide. We see that for most services, but for most services they don’t actually adjust the price downward,” says Miriam Laugesen, an associate professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and author of Fixing Medical Prices: How Physicians are Paid.
“A lot of my work has shown that the cost of providing medical care doesn’t usually relate to what is charged for it, or what insurance reimburses,” Laugesen says. In other words, if abortion providers are passing on any efficiency-derived savings to their patients, it is because they choose to do so when most healthcare providers do not.
One study of abortion patients in California found that they were highly satisfied with the care they received, rating it 9.4 out of 10 on average. Another study, which surveyed women who received an abortion in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, found that 93 percent were very satisfied with their care. By contrast, in the most recent Gallup poll on the subject from 2016, only 65 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with their overall medical care.
“I do think we need more nuanced measures of quality of care. With abortion, women go in with a problem. A clinician can take care of the problem, and they leave so happy. It’s unlike many conditions where you have to go back for multiple treatments,” Upadhyay says. “That said, a lot of independent clinics have set up a model to really nurture the social and emotional needs of women, and they provide great quality of care.”
According to Laugesen, doctors tend not to be motivated to perform procedures that are less lucrative, pointing to the shortage of primary care doctors as evidence of this trend. Abortion providers, on the other hand, have chosen work that is highly stigmatized and frequently not reimbursed by insurance.
“You don’t work in an abortion clinic unless you love it. You can’t. You couldn’t come into work everyday being harassed, yelled at, having your life threatened,” says Kim Chiz, a registered nurse and executive director of Allentown Women’s Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “Many of our staff could leave and work elsewhere for twice as much money. But we love what we do because it allows our patients to live fully autonomous lives.”
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Young Immigrant Women Have the Right to Access Abortion. Monday’s Supreme Court Decision Doesn’t Change That.
Jun. 4, 2018 (American Civil Liberties Union: Speak Freely): Young Immigrant Women Have the Right to Access Abortion. Monday’s Supreme Court Decision Doesn’t Change That, by Brigitte Amiri:
The Supreme Court on Monday steered around a long-pending abortion dispute between the Trump administration and ACLU lawyers over young immigrant women in custody, telling lower courts on Monday to start over in deciding the issue. In a short opinion, the justices wiped away rulings by several judges who last fall had cleared the way for a 17-year-old to see a doctor and obtain an abortion.
There has been a lot of confusion about Monday’s decision in the Jane Doe case, Azar v. Garza, but ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Brigitte Amiri provides two big takeaways "to clear things up."
First, Amiri writes that the ruling was limited to the case of one young woman, who already had her abortion. There is still a court order in place that prohibits the government from obstructing or interfering with unaccompanied minors’ access to abortion, and today’s decision does not change that. Second, the Supreme Court rejected what Amiri calls the "government’s baseless request to find" that Amiri and her colleagues acted unethically.
The Supreme Court ruling vacates Jane Doe’s individual victory in the court of appeals that paved the way for her to obtain an abortion. Because Jane Doe has already obtained an abortion, the Court ruled that her individual claim related to abortion access is now moot. The ruling does not say anything about the merits of the constitutional question presented in the underlying case, namely whether the government can violate decades of Supreme Court precedent by banning abortion for unaccompanied minors.
The ACLU is still seeking a ruling that the government's policy is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court’s ruling that Jane Doe's individual case is moot does not affect the rest of the case in any way, nor does it diminish a district court order that blocks the government’s policy of obstructing unaccompanied pregnant minors' access to abortion.
On March 30th, the district court allowed the case to proceed as a class action and issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government’s no-abortion policy. The government has appealed that decision and asked the court of appeals to allow the policy to go back into effect while the appeal is pending. The court of appeals denied that request on the evening of June 4th, 2018 (following the Supreme Court's ruling), reaffirming that unaccompanied minors must have access to abortion. The briefing on appeal will happen during the summer, and oral argument will take place in September.
The Court also rejected the government’s request to impose discipline on Amiri and her colleagues for representing their client to the best of their abilities. The government’s ethics claims have always been baseless, Amiri writes, and they are merely an attempt to intimidate Amiri and her colleagues.
Monday, June 4, 2018
The Advocate (June 3, 2018): Absent on an abortion-related issue in Louisiana? It's probably a Democratic legislator, by Tyler Bridges:
During the past three legislative sessions in the Louisiana legislature, seven Democrats missed more than half of the votes on abortion, an issue fraught with political peril for some Democrats in this state.
Two Democrats from New Orleans — state Rep. Neil Abramson and state Rep. Gary Carter Jr. — missed 15 of the 17 votes taken during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. Both men said that other legislative business caused them to miss the votes. The other five who have missed at least half of the votes are state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport; state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; and state Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace.
No Republicans missed more than half of the 17 votes, according to the group’s score card.
Five of the seven Democrats did not vote on the most controversial abortion bill during the 2018 legislative session, Senate Bill 181, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks. That bill passed the House 81-9 with 14 abstentions and the Senate 24-1 with 14 abstentions. Current Louisiana law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed the 15-week bill into law, but it will take effect only if a federal court upholds a similar Mississippi law under legal challenge by abortion rights groups that label it as "cruel" and "unconstitutional." Both measures would impose the strictest bans in the country.
Louisiana Democrats like Gov. Edwards, Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, and Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, hold anti-abortion views that put them at odds with the Democratic Party nationally and the party’s recent presidential candidates.
Some Democrats, however, don’t want to anger Democrats who support abortion rights, a key constituency, or conservative voters who do not support abortion, whose support may be necessary in some elections, said Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge pollster and political consultant. Pinsonat said he is not surprised that the legislators who have missed the abortion votes are Democrats.
Voting anti-choice is especially important for Republican candidates, Pinsonat said, noting that 18 to 22 percent of the electorate consists of single-issue, anti-abortion voters.
In a 2016 interview, Rep. Abramson declined to state his views on abortion. “That’s a broad question,” he said when asked whether he supported women having the right to an abortion. “I’m not going to get into the details of all of this,” he said when asked whether he opposed abortion except in the cases of limited exceptions, a common Republican position.
Rep. Carter said he has not intentionally missed abortion votes and said his position on the issue is clear: “I support women having the right to choose as well as to be able to make their own decisions about their health and their bodies,” he said. Had he been present for the vote, Carter said he would have voted against the 15-week abortion ban.
Friday, May 25, 2018
May 24, 2018 (The New Yorker): Ireland’s Vote on Abortion Is a Referendum on the Nation’s Future, by Margaret Talbot:
On Friday, Irish voters will decide whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the country’s constitution, which bans abortion under nearly all circumstances. The vote will help expose how much the Catholic Church’s hold in Ireland has weakened, following years of revelations about child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and about the Church’s mistreatment of “fallen women,” who had become pregnant out of wedlock (in 2013, Ireland’s Prime Minister at the time, Enda Kenny, issued a state apology for the Church-run Magdalene Laundries, where such women were confined as unpaid workers, often in drudgery and cruelty).
Though the Yes side—those who want to eliminate the Eighth Amendment—can count on the support of many of the country’s leading politicians and is still ahead in the polls, the gap seems to be narrowing. The most recent polls show that almost one in five voters are still undecided, a figure that raises the spectre of a surprise victory for those who want to keep abortion illegal.
The vote is also an opportunity for tech companies to show how transparent they can be about political advertising and how much they can protect themselves against foreign interference (American anti-abortion activists are among those trying to influence the outcome of the vote). Google announced earlier this month that it would refuse advertising related to the referendum. Facebook said that it would bar such advertising by foreign groups.
Friday’s vote will be a test of whether women in Ireland will continue to be coerced and shamed if they do not want to carry their pregnancies to term. The Eighth Amendment, which has been in place since 1983, has not stopped abortion in Ireland. Making the procedure illegal never has—and that is worth remembering, not only in Ireland but in the United States, where the Trump Administration has given new impetus to those who would like to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Between 1980 (when abortion was not legal in Ireland but was less restricted than after the amendment) and 2016, 168,703 Irish women and girls obtained abortions in England and Wales, according to the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care. In 2016, the latest year for which such statistics are available, the number was 3,265. This is almost certainly an underestimate, since it only includes women and girls who give Irish addresses when they show up at hospitals in Liverpool and other English cities. The number also leaves out a smaller group of Irish women who go to countries other than England, such as the Netherlands. And it does not count women who obtain abortion-inducing pills on their own.
In 1992, the Irish legislature passed an amendment that made it legal for women to travel abroad for an abortion. This outlawing-and-outsourcing arrangement has come at an enormous cost to Irish women. In November of 2011, a woman named Amanda Mellet, a charity worker living in Dublin with her husband, had a routine scan for her first pregnancy. It revealed that, at twenty-one weeks, the fetus had a chromosomal disorder that kills ninety-five per cent of babies in utero and had heart defects that made survival impossible. A midwife informed Mellet that she had two choices: continue the pregnancy or “travel,” which, as she told the Washington Post recently, brought to mind “Ireland’s history of spiriting deviant women away in conditions of secrecy and shame.”
To Mellet, the journey she made to Liverpool for the abortion felt like a banishment that deliberately denied her the care and the counselling that she should have had in her own country. She flew home twelve hours later, still bleeding. “Not only did we have to make this horrible decision about what to do in the case of a fatal condition,” she told the Post, “we had to leave the country like criminals, speak in euphemisms to hospital staff in Ireland, pay thousands to end a pregnancy, all the while my heart breaking at having to say goodbye to my darling baby girl.” In a case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on Mellet’s behalf, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled, in June, 2016, that the state had violated Mellet’s rights to freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, as well as her privacy and equality before the law.
It is not just the most terrible cases that should be considered when thinking about the Irish ban on abortion—or about the American pro-life movement’s push to ban the procedure here. If Irish voters set aside the amendment, Irish legislators will be able to enact new laws that will likely make abortion freely available to women in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, with restrictions thereafter—a framework similar to that of many other countries in Europe. That will certainly provide safety and dignity for women in tragic predicaments. But new laws will also help women in more commonplace ones, who aren’t prepared, for any number of reasons, to bear a child, and who should not be forced to do so. It will allow women, in other words, the ordinary autonomy that all men have.
Polls in Ireland close at 10PM local time on May 25th.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
University of Minnesota Medical School fellowship removed from University website after article stirs controversy
May 23, 2018 (Minnesota Daily): University-hosted abortion fellowship removed after article stirs controversy, by Cleo Krejci and Madeline Deninger:
A University of Minnesota Medical School fellowship application was removed from a University website following controversy surrounding its reproductive healthcare training, which included abortion procedures. The posting was taken off the website in early May after Campus Reform, a conservative news organization, published an article on the topic, which sparked discussion about the fellowship among anti-abortion groups, University officials and lawmakers.
Medical School Dean Jakub Tolar said in a statement the fellowship, which was slated to begin this upcoming fall, was delayed for at least one year while the medical school examines the "value" of the training.
The Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP) would have funded the fellowship, said Lisa Maldonado, RHAP’s executive director. After completing the program, the fellow would be encouraged to remain in reproductive health following the conclusion of the fellowship with Planned Parenthood in St. Paul. RHAP has sponsored and funded similar fellowships around the United States for the past ten years.
One day after the article was published, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group, contacted University President Eric Kaler and state legislators to express concern about the fellowship. University officials decided to remove the position from the University’s website following MCCL’s statements, a University spokesperson said.
After legislators were contacted by MCCL, Dean Tolar sent a letter addressed to Minnesota State Senator Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, laying out the fellowship’s future at the University.
“In the future, we will have a more robust and comprehensive review process for positions and training programs to ensure proper due diligence and proper notification to stakeholders,” Tolar said in the letter.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
May 22, 2018 (CBS News): Trump emphasizes importance of 2018 victories to abortion-opposing group, by Kathryn Watson:
Speaking to the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List ("SBA List") at that organization's 11th Annual "Campaign for Life" Gala Tuesday night in Washington, D.C., President Trump emphasized the importance of the 2018 midterm elections. The president's remarks come shortly after histo pull federal funding from health facilities that make referrals to abortion clinics.
"We must work together to elect more lawmakers who share our values," he said to the audience.
The federal funding rule change is being cheered by many anti-abortion activists and lawmakers, as it will pull funding from groups like Planned Parenthood. The move, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said last week, "would ensure that taxpayers do not indirectly fund abortions." Critics of the administration and of anti-abortion policies say the change could seriously restrict funding for essential women's health services like cancer screenings.
"My administration has proposed a new rule to prohibit Title X funding from going to any clinic that performs abortions," Mr. Trump said Tuesday night, to applause from his audience.
The SBA List raises funds for federal candidates who oppose legal abortion. Vice President Mike Pence spoke to the group last year. The SBA List hasn't always supported Mr. Trump. Before he was nominated, the group urged voters to look elsewhere within the GOP for its 2016 champion, and called Mr. Trump "unacceptable."
On Tuesday night, SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said the upcoming midterm elections are important, and that Roe v. Wade must be overturned.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
The Hill (May 2, 2018): Iowa lawmakers pass strictest abortion law in the US, by Julia Manchester:
On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, Iowa legislators passed "the heartbeat bill." The legislation bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Essentially, the heartbeat distinction would ban abortions by the sixth week of pregnancy.
Opposition to the bill claims that it would ban abortions before some women even know they're pregnant.
The passage of the bill comes as the Trump administration has taken a hard-line stance on abortion, spurring a slew of abortion laws across the nation.
Nineteen states adopted a total of 63 restrictions to the procedure in 2017, which is the highest number of state laws on the issue since 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The bill now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds's (R) desk, but, if signed, is expected to be challenged as a violation of Supreme Court precedent including Roe v. Wade.
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
The New York Times (April 26, 2018): Supporters of El Salvador’s Abortion Ban Foil Efforts to Soften It, by Elisabeth Malkin:
El Salvador remains one of six Latin American countries with a total ban on abortion after the Legislative Assembly failed to debate and vote on a measure that would have relaxed the ban in two circumstances: when the mother's life is in danger and in the case of a minor becoming pregnant as a result of rape.
In El Salvador, abortion is criminalized and punishable by up to eight years in prison for both doctor and patient. Human rights groups around the world have a lobbied for a change in the harsh policies that sometimes criminalize women who have late-term miscarriages. These women have historically been charged with abortion or even aggravated homicide.
Advocates aiming to soften the total ban had been lobbying for months, but their efforts were unsuccessful when the former, left-wing-led national legislature adjourned last week without voting on the proposals. A new Legislative Assembly convenes this month, dominated by conservatives who are not expected to revive the debate or offer reform proposals.
Saturday, April 28, 2018
Indiana Public Media (Apr. 23, 2018): Planned Parenthood Challenges Indiana’s 2018 Anti-Abortion Law, by Brandon Smith:
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU want a federal judge to strike down parts of Indiana’s new anti-abortion law.
The lawsuit challenges the 2018 law’s new abortion complication reporting requirements and mandated yearly inspections of abortion clinics. Prior to the new law's enactment, such inspections were optional.
The law requires medical providers who treat women for complications arising from abortions to report detailed patient information to the state.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and the ACLU of Indiana argue the complication reports are unconstitutionally vague. For instance, one provision requires reporting of “any adverse physical or psychological condition arising from the induction or performance of an abortion.” The suit filed in federal court Monday calls that “so broad as to be meaningless.”
Many of the purported abortion complications the law lists "are both extremely rare for abortions and are more likely to occur after other medical procedures," according to the suit. One condition the law lists — blood clots — is a typical and short-lived side effect of having an abortion, it argues.
The suit challenges the yearly inspection mandate because it says no other health care facilities in the state face such a requirement.
This is the sixth lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood against the state since 2011. The health care provider has won partial or complete victories in each of the previous five.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
CNN (Apr. 20, 2018): Indiana abortion law signed by Mike Pence ruled unconstitutional, by Clare Foran:
A federal appeals court has ruled that an Indiana abortion law signed by Vice President Mike Pence when he served as the state's governor is unconstitutional.
Friday, April 20, 2018
Human Rights Watch (April 16, 2018): A Backward Step for Reproductive Rights in Chile, by José Miguel Vivanco:
Last year, under former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, Chile's Congress passed reproducive health reform that lifted a 28-year blanket ban on abortions in the country. While the reform did not make abortion wholly available, it removed the ban under three circumstances: when the pregnant person's life is at risk; if the pregnancy is a result of rape; and if the fetus is deemed "not compatible with life outside the womb."
Even with the reform--upheld as constitutional in August 2017--several barriers remained in place even under these circumstances. For example, doctors and whole hospitals could invoke a right not to perform abortions on the basis of conscience. If they chose to invoke this right, though, the original reform required a stated reason for abstaining and also required those abstaining to register as such in a timely manner. The goal of this rule was to ensure continuity of coverage at a hospital, so that pregnant persons qualifying for an abortion would not be denied one due to lack of access.
Under current Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, the requirement of providing a reason for objecting to performing abortions, along with the requirement of assurance of continuity of coverage, were dropped completely.
These rule modifications were issued by the Health Ministry and have international human rights groups concerned that the reproductive health of women and girls will not be protected in Chile.
For example, a person pregnant with a non-viable fetus, or a pre-teen rape victim, might find themselves unable to receive an abortion, because the local hospital does not want to potentially offend politicians or invoke the wrath of anti-abortion groups. As such, the only potential abortion-provider in a given town has chosen "on the basis of conscience" not to provide them and will not be required to justify that decision. Human Rights Watch recommends that
The Chilean government should review and amend the rules to ensure that access to legal abortion is protected. Otherwise it risks letting conscientious objection be used as a pretext to deny important newly recognized rights of women and girls.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
NPR News (Apr. 9, 2018): Reproductive Rights Advocates Challenge Dozens Of Mississippi Abortion Restrictions, by Sarah McCamon
Abortion rights advocates with the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the Mississippi Center for Justice are challenging dozens of Mississippi's abortion restrictions in federal court. The state's Republican governor, Phil Bryant, recently signed the most restrictive abortion law in the country, banning abortion after 15 weeks gestation.
Last month, in response to a suit from CRR, a judge quickly moved to temporarily block the 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi.
Among the restrictions named in the new suit are a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion; a ban on physicians using telemedicine to provide abortion consultation or dispense medication abortions; and rules known as "TRAP" laws that abortion-rights attorneys and the U.S. Supreme Court say place unnecessarily cumbersome health and safety regulations on facilities that provide abortions. In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down similar rules in Texas in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
The suit's lead plaintiff is Jackson Women's Health Organization, the only clinic providing abortions in Mississippi.
Nancy Northup, CRR President & CEO, said she's hopeful the challenge to Mississippi's longstanding 24-hour-waiting period could set up an opportunity to revisit laws surrounding similar requirements, which have been upheld by the Supreme Court in the past, as in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
John Oliver takes aim at crisis pregnancy centers and anti-abortion activists 'controlling women's behavior'
The Guardian (Apr. 9, 2018): John Oliver takes aim at anti-abortion activists 'controlling women's behavior', by Guardian staff
John Oliver examined crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) designed to prevent abortions on this past Sunday's episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight, criticizing their “disingenuous and predatory” tactics and explaining how their "primary purpose is to talk women out of terminating a pregnancy.”
There are 2,752 CPCs in the United States, compared with 1,671 abortion providers. Many CPCs use the word "choice" in their names and give out advice that is medically inaccurate. They often pretend to be abortion clinics on the exterior to fool women to enter. “Normally, the strategy ‘pretend you’re an abortion clinic’ is not actually a great marketing stunt, although I am pretty sure that Radio Shack would have tried it if they’d thought of it,” Oliver said.
Oliver also discussed how CPCs discourage the use of contraception. There are claims from within CPCs that condoms are ineffective at preventing pregnancy. “For all the lengths that CPCs will go to to prevent abortions, many of them don’t do a key thing that would help that and that’s give women access to birth control,” he said. “The fact is if you want fewer abortions, you should love birth control."
Oliver said that the real goal of CPCs is “controlling women’s sexual behavior”, as many of them are affiliated with religious figures and organizations.
Watch the segment below:
Thursday, April 5, 2018
St. Louis Public Radio (Apr. 4, 2018): Missouri Republicans push several abortion proposals during second half of 2018 session, by Marshall Griffin & Erin Achenbach
The Missouri House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation designed to ban abortions at 20 weeks, relying on the same medically inaccurate "pain-capable" language used to pass similar 20-week bans in other states. The bill passed 117-39 and now goes to the Missouri Senate.
Meanwhile, a House committee is considering four other proposals. They include a proposed constitutional amendment that would declare fetuses at every stage of development to be persons, and in effect abolish abortion in Missouri. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove. This is the third year in a row Moon has sponsored the so-called “personhood” amendment. The measure passed the Missouri House in 2016 but fell short in the Senate.
House Bill 2589, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, comes as a response to a St. Louis Board of Aldermen bill that would call for a buffer zone for health care centers and prohibit certain activities, such as picketing, in front of facilities like Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services in St. Louis. Rehder’s bill would prohibit buffer zones.
The House committee also heard a bill that would make it a felony to transport a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion without the parental consent already required by Missouri law.
Finally, Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, introduced House Bill 1867, which would prohibit certain selective abortions relating to sex, race, or Down syndrome.
No action was taken on the four bills heard in committee Tuesday.
Thursday, March 29, 2018
Gambit (Mar. 26, 2018): Legislation, lawsuit show push-pull over abortion rights in Louisiana, by Kat Stromquist:
As a legal battle rages over neighboring Mississippi's recent ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, similar legislation and a lawsuit demonstrate ongoing tensions over the right to obtain an abortion in Louisiana.
The Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider two bills that could further restrict abortion access in the state, including a 15-week ban that mirrors the temporarily enjoined Mississippi law. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and Planned Parenthood Center for Choice have filed suit against the Louisiana Department of Health over what the organization says is an unnecessary delay in the processing of an abortion license for its Claiborne Avenue health center in New Orleans.
It's not clear how much support the 15-week ban will attract among Louisiana legislators, but the bill's primary sponsor, Sen. John Milkovich, D-Keithville, has a key ally: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. Edwards, a Democrat, opposes abortion and announced on his monthly radio program that he would likely sign a 15-week ban that made it to his desk.
In New Orleans, Planned Parenthood has moved to expand the availability of abortions. In February, the group filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the Louisiana Department of Health. Planned Parenthood alleges that the Department is deliberately delaying the processing of its application for an abortion license at its Claiborne Avenue facility. If approved, it would be the first Planned Parenthood clinic in Louisiana to offer abortion services.
In the absence of a license — and as its lawsuit against the Department of Health proceeds — Planned Parenthood's hands are essentially tied.
Louisiana, which lost one of its few remaining abortion clinics last year, remains a very difficult and hostile environment for abortion rights advocates and for access to abortion care. According to Guttmacher Institute data, there were seven clinics operating in Louisiana in 2011. Today, following year after year of newly enacted state restrictions on abortion providers, there are just three clinics remaining in operation. Planned Parenthood hopes to raise that number to four.
Friday, March 23, 2018
JURIST (Mar. 22, 2018): UN human rights committee to Poland parliament: reject anti-abortion bill, by David Zwier:
This week, Poland's parliament will debate the bill "Stop Abortion," which would ban abortion in cases of severe fetal anomaly. Currently, this is one of only three bases on which a person can terminate a pregnancy in Poland. Poland is known to have some of the most restrictive abortion laws throughout Europe.
A committee of experts under the UN Human Rights Council has urged the parliament to reject the bill, citing that such restrictions will threaten women's equality and autonomy as well as violate their rights to privacy and health while also putting pregnant persons at risk of cruel and inhuman treatment. Forcing the continuation of a pregnancy, they say, violates an individual's fundamental human rights.
In 2016, Poland rejected a bill outright outlawing abortion, in part many believe as a response to protests over it. The UN experts have not received a response to their recent communications regarding the current pending legislation.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
The Hill (Mar. 20, 2018): Judge blocks Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, by Rebecca Savransky:
The Gestational Age Act, signed into law by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on March 19, has already been judicially blocked.
The law bans abortions after 15 weeks and is the toughest restriction on abortion in the nation.
In response to the legislation, Mississippi's only abortion clinic sued, and U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves granted a temporary restraining order on Tuesday, March 20.
Mississippi was already one of the toughest states in which to receive an abortion before the new law was signed. The state requires people seeking abortions to receive counseling and to wait 24 hours before receiving the procedure.