Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

Editor: Caitlin E. Borgmann
CUNY School of Law

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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)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

NPR Interviews Author of "Dirty Work," a Novel About an Abortion Provider

NPR:  In 'Dirty Work,' A Doctor Turns To Fiction To Talk About Abortion, by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro:

All surgeons must pick the organ they'll spend their career protecting, Gabriel Weston writes in her new novel, Dirty Work. And as Nancy, the obstetrician-gynecologist at the center of the book, explains, "We gynecologists have the womb to look after. ... And whichever specialty we choose, each of us has to do something ruthless to keep our patient safe: We have to forget about the human significance of the organ we're operating on." . . .

Weston, who is also an ear, nose and throat surgeon, joins NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro to discuss the book. . . .

August 10, 2014 in Abortion, Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Does Hobby Lobby Open Door To Renewed Conscience-Based Claims for Exemptions from Abortion Restrictions?

MSNBC: Satanists Aren't the Only Ones Following Hobby Lobby's Lead, by Irin Carmon:

On Monday, the Satanic Temple drew headlines for declaring that, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, it was “asserting a religious exemption from the burden of state mandated ‘informational’ abortion materials for those who share their deeply held beliefs.”

In other words, they wanted a conscience clause from laws intended to dissuade women from having abortions by mandating an ultrasound or that a doctor impart biased or medically-inaccurate information about abortion. . . .

But the Satanists are hardly the first to use religion to make an affirmative argument for reproductive rights. For decades, pro-choice activists have been trying to make a religious claim for their view – and generally failing. . . .

But now that the Supreme Court has opened the door to more robust religious exemptions under RFRA, there might be a new opportunity for supporters of abortion rights to try their luck. . . .

July 31, 2014 in Abortion, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

UN Human Rights Report Criticizes Countries With Draconian Abortion Laws

ThinkProgress:  UN Warns Countries With Draconian Abortion Bans That They’re Violating Human Rights, by Tara Culp-Ressler:

United Nations officials are urging several countries with particularly harsh abortion bans to increase legalization of the medical procedure, pointing out their current laws could be in breach of international human rights treaties.

In its periodic reviews of member countries’ policies to ensure they’re compliant with the Geneva Conventions, the UN Human Rights Committee is recommending that Ireland and Chile update their abortion laws to ensure access for more women. Those two countries have some of the most restrictive abortion policies in the world; Chile imposes a total ban on the procedure, while Ireland has a nearly total ban with an extremely narrow exception. . . .

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Gov. Christie Urges Republicans To Soften Rhetoric, But Not Position, on Abortion

Bloomberg Business Week: Christie Call to Cool Abortion Talk Follows Curbs in N.J., by Elise Young:

Chris Christie, who last week prodded Republicans to drop anti-abortion rhetoric to appeal to more voters, has steadily weakened access to the procedure in New Jersey.

Even with a Democratic-controlled legislature committed to reproductive rights, the second-term governor’s annual funding cuts for women’s health services have prompted at least six clinics to close since 2010, according to lawmakers. . . .

July 27, 2014 in 2016 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Testimony Against Women's Health Protection Act Replete With Bad Science

The Hill - Contributors blog: Debunking the bad science on abortion and women's health, by Andrea Flynn:

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), a bill that would prevent unnecessary restrictions on abortions and abortion providers. The opposition used overblown and often incorrect claims to drive home the familiar message that abortion is dangerous, bad for women and shouldn't be considered part of women's healthcare.

In the face of tireless attacks on reproductive rights, it is important to revisit those claims, set the record straight and remind the opposition of the real health threats facing too many U.S. families. . . .

July 26, 2014 in Abortion, Congress, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Conservatives Hone Anti-Abortion Messaging

The New York Times:  Conservatives Hone Script to Light a Fire Over Abortion, by Jeremy W. Peters:

It was not on the public schedule for the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting at the stately Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis. But inside a conference room, a group of conservative women held a boot camp to strengthen an unlikely set of skills: how to talk about abortion. . . .

July 24, 2014 in Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Massachusetts Senate Passes New Abortion Clinic Protection Legislation

Reuters: Massachusetts lawmakers take up bill on abortion clinic buffer zones, by Elizabeth Barber:

Massachusetts lawmakers took up consideration on Wednesday of a bill to limit protests around abortion clinics after the U.S. Supreme Court last month struck down an earlier law that kept demonstrators at least 35 feet (9 meters) from clinic entrances.

The new bill would allow police to issue a dispersal order if at least two demonstrators are found to be blocking patient or staff access to abortion clinics. Such an order would bar protesters from coming within 25 feet (7.6 meters) of the clinic's entrance for a maximum of eight hours. . . .

Boston Herald/AP:  Senate approves abortion clinic safety bill:

The Massachusetts Senate scrambled Wednesday to pass a bill designed to tighten security around abortion clinics.

The bill, filed Monday, was the subject of a public hearing Wednesday. Hours later the full Senate approved it on a voice vote, meaning no individual votes were recorded. . . .

July 16, 2014 in Abortion, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on Women's Health Protection Act

View the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held today, July 15, on the Women's Health Protection Act on C-Span here.

Slate - The XX Factor blog: The Democrats’ Brilliant Idea for How to Stop Unnecessary Abortion Clinic Regulations, by Amanda Marcotte:

Democrats in the Senate on Tuesday took a major step in pushing back against the growing trend of regulations that are designed to shut down safe abortion clinics. The Senate Judiciary Committee is hearing testimony on a bill introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin, a bill that would do significant damage to anti-choice efforts to go around Roe v. Wade by regulating abortion clinics out of existence. It's called the Women's Health Protection Act, and it would end the attacks on abortion clinics through one simple measure: requiring states to regulate abortion providers in exactly the same way they do other clinics and doctors who provide comparable services. No more singling out abortion providers. . . .

The New York Times - editorial:  A Defense of Reproductive Rights:

Facing a torrent of state laws restricting access to safe and legal abortions, supporters of a woman’s right to make her own childbearing decisions have been forced to play a defensive game — trying to block enactment of the laws, and, when that doesn’t work, challenging them in court. An important hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday could begin to move the dynamics of the fight in a positive direction. . . .

July 15, 2014 in Abortion, Congress, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fewer Abortion Restrictions Enacted in the First Half of 2014

Guttmacher Institute: States Continue to Enact Abortion Restrictions in First Half of 2014, But at a Lower Level Than in the Previous Years:

So far this year, 13 states have adopted 21 new restrictions designed to limit access to abortion, about half the number (41) of similar restrictions that had been enacted by this point last year. These restrictions range from requirements that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals to bans on insurance coverage to limitations on medication abortion. At the same time, and building on momentum from last year, three states moved to protect access to abortion services, while four states and the District of Columbia took steps to improve access to other reproductive health services...

Several reasons exist for the drop in abortion restrictions. Some of the decline is the result of cyclical trends, as states historically have shorter sessions in election years and some state legislatures that have been particularly active on abortion issues (Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas) are not in session in even-number years (see A Surge of State Abortion Restrictions Puts Providers—and the Women They Serve—in the Crosshairs). In addition, an array of other issues (responses to the heroin epidemic, the expansion of full-benefit Medicaid as allowed by the Affordable Care Act, the common core educational initiative and minimum wage increases) moved to the front burner in many legislatures, perhaps limiting legislative attention to abortion. . . .

July 14, 2014 in Abortion, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Missouri Governor Vetoes 72-Hour Waiting Period for Abortions

ACLU press release: Nixon Vetoes Bill Forcing Women to Further Delay Abortions, Hearing Outcry from Missouri Women:

Jefferson City, Mo. – Hearing the voices of Missouri women, Governor Jay Nixon has vetoed a bill that would have forced a woman who has already met with her health care professional and decided to have an abortion to delay getting the medical care she needs for at least 3 days. Last month, women and men gathered in front of the capitol for 72 hours in protest of the bill.

"Missouri women have been clear: They are beyond fed up with legislators playing politics with their health," said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Governor Nixon has shown that he understands that extreme politicians can’t be allowed to interfere with a woman’s ability to get an abortion just because they disagree with her decision."

A woman who decides to have an abortion has already carefully considered her decision. Bills that create additional wait times force a woman to make an extra trip to the state’s only clinic. This is especially burdensome for low-income women and rural women, who often can’t take extra days off work or travel long distances.

Extremist politicians in Missouri, who are already criticizing Gov. Nixon for standing up for women’s health, continue to show they care more about politics than women. This legislative session alone, Missouri politicians introduced more than two dozen bills designed to restrict access to abortion. Earlier this year, Missouri Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger compared a woman’s decision about whether to continue a pregnancy to buying a new car or carpet. 

Talking Points Memo:  Why Gov. Jay Nixon’s Anti-Abortion Bill Veto Matters, by Robin Marty:

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has vetoed a 72-hour waiting period between an initial consultation and an abortion, stopping the state from becoming the third to implement a three-day waiting period for a pregnancy termination. While the veto is fantastic news for women who are pregnant and wants to obtain an abortion in Missouri or the surrounding area, it is even better news for reproductive rights activists overall, as it signals a noticeable shift in the political waters when it comes to opposing abortion. . . .

July 9, 2014 in Abortion, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Politics, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)