Friday, January 22, 2016
Mother Jones (Jan. 22, 2016): How Roe v. Wade Survived 43 Years of Abortion Wars, by Hannah Levintova:
Mother Jones has been on the front lines throughout the abortion wars with its up-close-and-personal profiles of women making difficult, personal reproductive choices and clinic staff dedicated to helping them. In this chronicle of its coverage, MJ traces the current spate of legislative rollbacks of Roe v. Wade to the unveiling of the "undue burden" standard in the 1992 Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Perhaps most poignant is the following insight: In contrast to what Roe v. Wade accomplished back in 1973--stopping deaths from botched abortions "overnight"-- today "discussions of women's safety are more often heard in statehouses enacting further restrictions on abortion." There have been more anti-abortion laws passed since 2010 than in any other five-year period since Roe was decided.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
New York Times (Jan. 17, 2016): On Paper, Italy Allows Abortions, but Few Doctors Will Perform Them, by Gaia Pianigiani:
Thirty years ago, the long fight for abortion rights resulted in a law permits abortion with ninety days of pregnancy and later for women in mental or physical danger or in cases of serious fetal pathologies. But nearly three-quarters of the country's gynecologists--more in some regions--are conscientious objectors to the law, reflecting the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the delivery of medical care. Many non-objecting physicians, who tend to be part of the older generation of practitioners, are approaching retirement age. Non-invasive abortions are completely unavailable in some regions, despite a national directive that has been in place since 2009. The European Committee of Social Rights has deemed the lack of access to abortion in certain regions detrimental to the health of women.
Friday, January 15, 2016
New York Times (Jan. 15, 2016): Planned Parenthood Sues Abortion Foes, by Erik Eckholm:
Planned Parenthood mounted a legal counterattack Thursday against the anti-abortion activists who used covertly taped videos to accuse the organization of trading in aborted baby parts, charging in a federal lawsuit that “anti-abortion extremists” had engaged in a three-year “complex criminal enterprise.”
Defendants in the lawsuit include the Center for Medical Progress, which created and disseminated the videos and is registered as a charitable trust in California, and the head of Operation Rescue, Troy Newman, described as a "dangerous and reckless extremist" in the complaint. These activists hoped to convince the American public that Planned Parenthood was illegally trading in aborted baby parts, an allegation that was not substantiated in subsequent congressional and state investigations. The videos have nonetheless fueled the campaign to de-fund Planned Parenthood and have triggered vandalism, harassments and threats of violence at its clinics.
The complaint charges fraud and violations of conspiracy laws, state privacy laws and specific statutes and seeks money damages. The complaint may be found here.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
New York Times (Jan. 11, 2016): Law on Ultrasounds Reignites the Abortion Debate in a 2016 Battleground, by Richard Fausset:
North Carolina has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, one the Hilary Clinton campaign has called "outrageous." Any doctor who performs an abortion after the 16th week of pregnancy must submit an ultrasound to the state. The state says it wishes to verify that doctors are not performing post-20-week abortions. Opponents of the law, which also extends the mandated waiting period for an abortion to 72 hours, call it an effort to intimidate both doctors, who know that determining gestational age is an inexact science, and women, who may hesitate before allowing information about their pregnancy to be shared with a governmental agency. The law also requires doctors performing abortions after 20 weeks to send the health department the findings and analysis that were used to determine that a medical emergency existed. The controversy has become an important issue in the political sphere, as Democrats harness liberal anger in an attempt to unseat the Republican governor Pat McCrory in his bid for a second term.
Monday, January 11, 2016
Jezebel (Dec. 19, 2015): Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood is Still Closed, but the Protestors are Back, by Stassa Edwards:
The clinic has been closed since November 27 when Robert Lewis Dear walked in and opened fire on patients and staff. Though PP employees haven’t even entered the building since the shooting, anti-choice protesters replete with obligatory signage, stand on the corner outside of the closed clinic.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Associated Press (Dec. 22, 2015): Support for Legal Abortion at Highest Level in Two Years, by Nancy Benac and Emily Swanson:
Nearly six in 10 Americans — 58 percent — now think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 51 percent who said so at the beginning of the year, according to the AP-GfK survey. It was conducted after three people were killed last month in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.
However, just over a third of Americans want laws on abortion to be stricter than they are now, the poll shows, while a quarter think they should be less strict.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
ThinkProgress (Jan. 5, 2016): The Abortion Case That Could Overturn Roe v. Wade Has a Lot of Opponents, by Alex Zielinski:
This March, the Supreme Court will hear argument in Whole Woman's Health v. Cole to decide whether HB2, a Texas law which places burdensome, unnecessary guidelines on abortion clinics and has already forced more than half of the state's clinic to close is constitutional. The regulations are framed as health regulations, but they have been criticized as having little to do with women's health while imposing costly and unnecessary requirements on clinics.
Reproductive rights advocates have been outspoken since HB2 passed in 2013, but since the Supreme Court’s November decision to hear the case, the diversity of opponents has grown. The 45 briefs were filed by a variety of petitioners, including physicians, historians, religious leaders, military officers, scientists, members of Congress, civil rights advocates, law scholars, entire cities, and the United States federal government itself.
Several of the briefs tell the personal stories of women who have had abortions and the real world impact that HB2 will have on them.
Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, [spoke about] the women already harmed the most by the current Texas law.
“For immigrants, mothers, low-wage workers, and Latinas who are all three, securing an abortion means navigating a state-created obstacle course,” she said. “Those unable to jump through these hoops will be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or take matters into their own hands.”
The briefs reflect the largest coalition of faith leaders and organizations to oppose anti-choice laws at the Supreme Court level as well as the views of scientists and medical professionals. Argument is set for March 2.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Mother Jones (Dec. 30, 2016): This Year, States Took the War on Uteruses to the Next Level, by Becca Andrews:
According to a year-end report released by the Center for Reproductive Rights, nearly 400 anti-abortion bills were introduced across the country in 2015, up from 335 provisions introduced in 2014. The bills ranged from regulation of medication abortions to all-out bans on the most common method of second-trimester abortions, and the Guttmacher Institute reports 57 of them were enacted.
The laws passed by state legislatures included restrictions on medication abortion, bans on procedures for second-trimester abortions, waiting periods, parental consent requirements, and bans on abortion after 20 weeks.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
New York Times (Dec. 19, 2015): The Reproductive Rights Rollback of 2015:
The New York Times reports that no fewer than 288 restrictions on abortion have been enacted since 2011. These include the familiar targeted regulation of abortion providers scheduled for review next year by the Supreme Court. But abortion is being attacked in other ways as well, including extensions of waiting periods, mandated in-person counseling necessitating two separate trips to an abortion provider, and bans on inexpensive medical abortions. Against the backdrop of the forceful move in many states to de-fund Planned Parenthood, the only reproductive health provider for millions of poor women, these efforts reflect an attempt not only to unduly burden but indeed to obliterate entirely every woman's right to manage her reproductive life.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
New York Times (Dec. 23, 2015): Utah: Judge Says State Can Block Funding for Planned Parenthood:
A judge ruled Tuesday that Utah can cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood, a move that Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, ordered after the release of secretly recorded videos by an anti-abortion group. The ruling, by Judge Clark Waddoups of Federal District Court in Salt Lake City, reversed a temporary order that the money keep flowing while the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah pursues its lawsuit against the state. Mr. Herbert stopped about $275,000 in federal funds for sex education and for tests for sexually transmitted diseases. Judge Waddoups said that even though the Utah group had not engaged in wrongdoing, it was affiliated with other Planned Parenthood entities “that have allegedly engaged in illegal conduct.”
Friday, December 18, 2015
New York Times (Dec. 17, 2015): Judge Leaves Northern Ireland's Abortion Law to Lawmakers:
A Belfast judge declined to modify Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws on Wednesday, saying that only lawmakers had the authority to bring the current legislation in line with European human rights laws.
Judge Mark Horner of the Northern Ireland High Court said that ordering changes to allow abortions in the case of a fatal fetal abnormality, rape or incest to conform with the European Convention of Human Rights Act of 2003 would be “a step too far.”
His decision, which reinforces a previous ruling he made last month, puts the responsibility firmly on the local assembly to resolve the matter, though it does not compel lawmakers to do so.
Unlike other parts of the United Kingdom, the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply to Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal other than in cases where the life or mental health of the mother is in danger.
Under the 1861 Offenses Against The Person Act, a person convicted of performing an illegal termination faces a sentence of life in prison.
The government is expected to appeal the initial ruling.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
New York Times (Dec. 14 & 15, 2015): Disposal of Fetal Tissue Debated in Court, Ohio Statehouse and Ohio: Legal Fight on Fetal Disposal:
A federal judge in Ohio has temporarily blocked state officials from taking legal action against Planned Parenthood to enforce a rule governing the disposal of fetal tissue. The order, issued Monday by Judge Edmund Sargus Jr., came in a dispute over how Planned Parenthood handles fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood is suing Ohio’s health director, claiming that the state’s health department changed the interpretation of the disposal rule without notice and then unfairly targeted its three affiliates that provide abortions.
The change in the rule's interpretation came on the heels of an investigation of Planned Parenthood by the Ohio Attorney General that found no evidence that Planned Parenthood made money from aborted fetuses. Planned Parenthood of Ohio claims it has scrupulously followed the law on fetal disposal. The next hearing in the dispute will take place on January 4th.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
New York Times (Dec. 12, 2015): Ohio: Objection to Disposal Practices at Planned Parenthood Clinics, by Tamar Lewin:
An investigation into whether three Planned Parenthood clinics had improperly sold fetal tissue found that they had not, but said that they disposed of aborted fetuses improperly by turning them over to disposal companies that take the remains to landfills, the state attorney general, Mike DeWine, said Friday. Mr. DeWine said that sending aborted fetuses to a landfill was “callous and completely inhumane” and violated a state administrative code requirement that fetuses be disposed of “in a humane manner.” He referred his findings to the Ohio Department of Health, which oversees abortion clinics. Stephanie Kight, the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, issued a statement calling the accusations “inflammatory and baseless.” She said Planned Parenthood “handles medical tissue like any other quality health care provider. Our agreements with vendors all require them to follow state law, and dispose of tissue accordingly. If they are not, then I will take swift action.” Ms. Kight said she was concerned that the attorney general’s report was “not the result of meaningful investigation, but instead yet another attack on women’s access to health care in the state of Ohio.”
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Abortion and the Supreme Court, by Richard A. Epstein, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
In his recent remarks at the What’s the Harm? conference, captured here and in a blog post at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution web site, Professor Richard Epstein explains why he believes the Supreme Court, having granted certiorari, should reverse the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole. In that decision, the appeals court upheld the Texas regulations that have drastically reduced the availability of abortion in the Lone Star State. Epstein would have the Court “scrap any rational basis test that allows state legislatures to paper over their improper motivation with high-sounding statements of lofty legislative purposes.”
Epstein criticizes the Fifth Circuit for having given “undue credit to legislative wisdom” and for having made the availability of out-of-state abortions a reason for giving the Texas regulations a pass. The court made plain it was employing a watered-down version of the rational basis test. Epstein objects to the use of this test “to eviscerate the painful compromises wrought in [Planned Parenthood v. Casey].”
Epstein does this even though he has long had profound misgivings about the soundness of Roe v. Wade, which he wrote about as long ago as 1973: Richard A. Epstein, "Substantive Due Process by Any Other Name: The Abortion Cases," 1973 Supreme Court Review 159 (1973). But at this point the debate is no longer about how to squeeze out the right of abortion from the Due Process Clause. It is about whether to reverse course some 42 years after the earlier decision was made. That might well be appropriate with a forthright opinion, which comes from the Supreme Court, although it is highly risky to upset a long-established constitutional balance. What is not acceptable is to overrule a decision in the guise of interpreting it, which is what is done when the rational basis test is invoked to insulate the decisions of the Texas legislature from any serious scrutiny.
This rise of the rational basis test did not originate with cases dealing with personal liberties, but with those dealing with questions of property rights. Epstein traces the appeals court’s deference to any “conceivable” legislative purpose to Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, where the Supreme Court validated Hawaii’s plan to dismantle the “economic evils of a land oligopoly” that, according to Epstein, never truly existed. He traces the appeals court’s invocation of out-of-Texas alternatives to abortion to Ruckelshaus v. Monsanto Co., where the Court reasoned that a law requiring manufacturers to disclose data in connection with the production of pesticides did not effect a taking because Monsanto could avoid the requirement by selling its pesticides only in foreign markets.
Epstein urges those who would criticize the Fifth Circuit’s decision to be consistent. If we believe that the rational basis test was inappropriately invoked in Whole Woman’s Health, we should not complain that, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Court refused to use it in evaluating a mandate that required even employers with religious objections to provide health-insurance coverage for contraception. We should not, in other words, “split the constitutional universe between those individual rights that merit serious protection and those that do not.” It is very important not to have political preferences determine the appropriate level of scrutiny in constitutional cases. In general, the right test is to give the deference associated with the business judgment rule to the government when it is in charge of running some public institution, like a school or the military. The hard choices require some deference to management expertise, although probably less than in the private sector, because the exit option is weaker with public bodies. But the higher standard does rightly apply when the government acts as a regulator as when it forces the sale of leasehold units in Midkiff, the registration of fungicides in Ruckelshaus, or the operation of private abortion clinics in Whole Woman’s Health.
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Medical Harms of Abortion Restrictions, by David A. Grimes, M.D.
Enacted under the pretense of greater safety for women, oppressive abortion regulations are having a paradoxical effect: endangering American women. Few abortion opponents have the candor to admit the real goal of this epidemic of state legislation. They hope to make safe, legal abortion inaccessible and thus drive women into the back alley once again. This meets the definition of misogyny.
Abortion has been well regulated for decades
A myriad of regulations cover abortion services. However, after Planned Parenthood v. Casey opened the door to more state restrictions, the problem has become epidemic. Having provided abortions in clinics and hospitals for more than four decades, I can report that corridor width (regulated by 10 states) has no relation to safe abortion care.
No public health need exists for more regulations four decades after Roe v. Wade
Abortion remains one of the safest procedures in contemporary medical practice, and that has been true for four decades. Indeed, just two years after Roe v. Wade, the Institute of Medicine documented the public health benefits of safe, legal abortion. According to the federal government, the risk of death from abortion in recent years has been less than 1 death per 100,000 procedures. To put that in some perspective, the risk of death from an injection of penicillin is twice that high. A recent survey of complications after abortion in the state of California confirmed that emergency room visits and hospitalization after abortions are rare.
Compared to what?
The U.S. is an anomaly among developed countries in having a risk of maternal death that is rising, not falling. In the most recent federal report, the risk of death from maternal causes was 16 deaths per 100,000 live births. A comparison of abortion and childbearing risks, published in 2012, found a 14-fold higher risk with childbirth. Because of the increasing risk of childbirth, the disparity is larger today.
Despite medical advances in recent decades, pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-delivery period remain dangerous. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a woman’s risk of having one or more pregnancy-related complications is 60%. Given about 4 million births per year in the U.S., that translates into more than 2 million women suffering complications, some being long-lasting.
Delay is dangerous
As documented decades ago, one of the most powerful predictors of abortion safety is the duration of the pregnancy: the earlier the procedure, the safer. Delays of any origin, such as mandatory waiting periods, postpone care to later, more dangerous stages of pregnancy. Studies of the impact of these laws in Texas have confirmed this harm, with delays up to three weeks. When clinics are forced to close because of draconian abortion restrictions, women are also forced into interstate travel to get care. Still others resort to dangerous attempts at self-induced abortion.
Three ethical principles provide the foundation for all health care: beneficence, autonomy, and justice. Beneficence requires that what we do to patients is in their best interests. Autonomy means free choice among available treatment options based on the best available scientific evidence. Justice means equitable access to care. Imposing gratuitous abortion restrictions violates all three criteria by increasing risks to women, limiting treatment choices, and making adequate care dependent upon one’s zip code. Regardless of one’s views of abortion, new regulations must be rejected as unethical.
Bad old days redux?
In the year that I was born, more than 700 women died in the U.S. from dangerous, clandestine abortions. The population of the nation was less than half of that today. Despite the well-documented health benefits of safe, legal abortion for women and their families, some want to return women to the back alley again. Our response as a nation must be “never again.”
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Dorf on Law (Nov. 10, 2015): Measuring the Chilling Effects of Late-Term Abortion Limits, by Michael Dorf:
Here is the abstract for the paper:
Supreme Court doctrine grants special protection against laws that “chill” protected speech, most prominently via the overbreadth doctrine. The overbreadth doctrine permits persons whose own speech is unprotected to challenge laws that infringe the protected speech of third parties. The Court has not generally applied overbreadth and the other speech-protective doctrines to other constitutional rights even though other rights could also be subject to a chilling effect. The case law simply assumes that the chilling effect only acts on the exercise of speech, and that this justifies treating speech differently from other rights. We tested these assumptions with respect to abortion rights. By comparing abortion rates with state laws over a two-decade-plus period, we found a statistically significant correlation between laws forbidding late-term abortions and the reduction of not only late-term but also “near-late-term” abortions, i.e., abortions in the roughly one month before the period in which abortions are forbidden. That effect persists even after controlling for potentially confounding variables, such as the number of abortion providers and pro-life public opinion. Moreover, the effect is not limited to the year of enactment or associated with failed policy initiatives, suggesting that the impact is due to the law itself rather than associated publicity. These findings are consistent with, and strongly suggestive of, a chilling effect on abortion providers and/or women seeking abortions. This result undermines the implicit assumption that the chilling effect is unique to laws regulating speech and vindicates the general proposition that laws can chill the exercise of constitutional rights beyond their literal coverage.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Jezebel (Oct. 12, 2015): California Crisis Pregnancy Centers Sue Over Medical License, Abortion Disclosure Law, by Anna Merlan:
Last week California's Reproductive Fact ACT was signed into law. This Act requires crisis pregnancy centers in the state of California to disclose that they do not provide medical services.
On Saturday, two anti-abortion clinics sued the attorney general, arguing their free speech rights are being violated...That argument worked in Austin, Texas, where a similar signage law was struck down in 2014. Another one was upheld in New York City, although the State Supreme Court threw out a provision making the clinics state directly whether they provide abortions.
Scotus Blog (Oct. 9, 2015): Relist Watch OT2015Edition, by John Elwood:
Currier v. Jackson Women's Health Clinic was one of several cases relisted by the court last week, but a conference has yet to be scheduled.
A challenge to a similar Texas law arrived at the Court in June. The Court issued a stay in that case, Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, 15-274, by a five-to-four vote. The Court likely rescheduled Currier to allow Whole Women’s Health, which is still being briefed, to “catch up.” Since a stay requires a showing of a “reasonable probability” of a cert. grant and a “fair prospect” that a majority of the Court will conclude that the decision below was erroneous, there is a good chance we’ll see a grant of at least one of these cases once all the briefing is in.
Friday, October 9, 2015
Jezebel (Oct. 6, 2015): Toot Toot! All Aboard the Crazy Train! Congress Has Big Plans for Planned Parenthood, by Anna Merlan:
The House’s Energy and Commerce Committee voted just now to convene a special, thirteen-member subcommittee to investigate PP...The resolution from the committee says the subcommittee will be investigating “medical procedures and business practices used by entities involved in fetal tissue procurement,” as well as “the practices of providers of second and third trimester abortions, including partial birth abortion and procedures that may lead to a child born alive as a result of an attempted abortion.”
Merlan explains that the whole House will vote tomorrow on whether or not to create the committee. Merlan quotes Dawn Laguens, an Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood, who states: “This is now a five-ring circus — and counting. This would be the fifth committee to launch an investigation based on false claims that have been totally discredited.”
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Mother Jones (September/October 2015): The War on Women is Over - And Women Lost by Molly Redden:
This is what 2015 looks like: Abortion providers struggle against overwhelming odds to stay open, while women "turn themselves into pretzels" to get to them, as one researcher put it. Activists have been calling it the "war on women." But the onslaught of new abortion restrictions has been so successful, so strategically designed, and so well coordinated that the war in many places has essentially been lost.
Restrictions on the provision of abortion have closed clinics across the nation and create an ongoing struggle for clinics to remain open. This article discusses how state laws have transformed all facets of how women get abortions and have created severe obstacles to getting one.