Friday, June 10, 2016
New York Magazine: Pro-Choice Activists Ask to Be Prosecuted to Prove a Point About Abortion Laws, by Sarah Spellings:
Northern Ireland, the "Oklahoma (and Texas, Utah, Florida) of the U.K.," has a 155-year-old law criminalizing abortion. Now, three women there are fighting the stigma and harshness of the country's abortion laws by distributing abortion drugs in spite of (or, rather, to incite) criminal prosecution in their country in the hope of helping young women with a lack of access to this basic healthcare right.
While in the U.S. pro-choice advocates fight felony charges and fake abortion centers, three women from Derry, Northern Ireland, have turned themselves in for procuring pills to induce abortion and distributing them to young women. They hope to trigger a trial following two high-profile cases prosecuting young women who used this method of abortion.
The three women and 197 others signed an open letter last year revealing that they had procured the drugs for themselves or others and were willing to be arrested. To the women's chagrin, the authorities took no action to arrest them.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Salt Lake Tribune (June 3, 2016): Online Utah High School’s Biology Test Asked Students If a Woman Should Have an Abortion, Benjamin Wood:
A question on a final biology tests administered to high school students in Utah has raised the ire of some parents in that state. The question, since removed from the state's electronic testing database, concerned a 40-year-old woman who was considering an abortion after having been told that the fetus she was carrying had Down's syndrome.
The potential answers include: waiting and redoing the genetic testing closer to the baby's due date; trusting the scientific knowledge of the doctor and going forward with an abortion; prioritizing the wishes of the mother; and considering aspects like religious beliefs, financial burden and the effect on other family members before making "the best decision for everyone."
Some believe the question unlawfully tests students' religious views. Others object that the question denies students the option of expressing respect for the unborn.
Friday, May 27, 2016
Rewire (May 23, 2016): Associated Press Article on 20 Week Bans Underscores What's Wrong With Reporting on Abortion, by Jodi Jacobson:
Rewire Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson criticizes the way that the media reduces discussions on medical and health issues to the level of opinion. Jacobson discusses a recent article on South Carolina's 20 week abortion ban which recites the opinion of supporters of the bill that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. However, Jacobson states:
“Supporters” of 20-week abortion bans (and many other such laws) include groups like Americans United for Life and the National Right to Life Committee (both of which have drafted model legislation for these bans), as well as others such as the Susan B. Anthony List. Each of these groups uses false science and unfounded claims of “fetal pain” to pass legislation that threatens access to critical reproductive health care; the anti-choice movement’s self-important “pro-life” designation elides the fact that women’s health and lives are in grave danger wherever such care is unavailable.
The vast body of medical evidence refutes that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. Yet the opinions of the bill's supporters are given the same weight as the international medical and public health communities. Jacobson goes on to say
No matter how strong the backlash from the small but loud contingent of people within the anti-choice movement, it is the media’s job to report fairly and responsibly. Making the claims of anti-choice “supporters” of abortion bans equivalent to the consensus of the medical and public health community not only abrogates the public trust, it puts all of us in danger.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
In past blogs we described changes in the FDA labeling requirements for mifepristone the drug that is used in medication abortion. The new guidelines that went into effect in March reduced recommended dosage to 200 milligrams from 600 milligrams, decreased the number of visits a woman must make to a doctor to two from three, and extended the period when she can take the pill to 10 weeks from seven weeks.
Despite the changes in the guidelines, we noted that many states have laws on the books that adopted the old FDA standards verbatim and that legislatures would need to amend their laws to reflect the new FDA standards or women would be forced to comply with unnecessary requirements out-dated protocols. Indeed, Arizona went so far as to pass a law legally requiring the old FDA protocol shortly after the new guidelines were released.
Now it legislators seem to have realized their mistake. On Wednesday, members of the Arizona House-Senate Conference Committee voted to repeal the law which prohibited the use of mifepristone after 7 weeks. They also agreed to rescind a provision of a different law that required providers to tell women that a medication abortion may be reversible that was enjoined by a federal court. The Arizona governor signed the measure late Wednesday afternoon.
Friday, May 13, 2016
New York Times (May 11, 2016): Judge Finds Planned Parenthood Shooting Suspect Unfit for Trial, by Jack Healey:
Robert Dear, the profoundly disturbed gunman who murdered 3 persons and maimed 9 at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs last November, is unfit to stand trial. Dear suffers from delusions that the government has been following and spying on him for years. The trial is now at a standstill, as Dear is consigned to a mental institution in an attempt to restore him to competency. The presiding judge will review the case on August 11th. Dear has been uncooperative with his counsel and appears to want to the trial to proceed.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
New York Times (May 5, 2016): Utah Law on Fetal Pain Stokes Fight on Abortion, by Jack Healey:
At 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy, women undergoing an abortion in Utah will first have to be given anesthesia for the fetus. The new requirement, which took effect yesterday, is the latest development in the abortion controversy over the idea of fetal pain. Most scientists agree that a fetus's brain and nervous system are not capable of registering pain until 27 weeks of gestation. Proponents of the law purport to be acting out of concern for the fetus and "common decency"; opponents cite concerns ranging from the law's intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship to its baffling vagueness and scientific unsoundness. Some doctors have asked what types of anesthesia the law requires and whether it must be injected through the woman's abdominal wall. The law contains exceptions for rape and incest, fetuses that have "uniformly lethal" conditions, and the life and health of the woman.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
New York Times (May 3, 2016): Silence Order on Abortions Violates Law, Doctor Says, by Erik Eckholm:
Diane J. Horvath-Cosper, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Med-Star Washington Hospital Center has filed a federal civil rights complaint against Med-Star in the wake of the hospital's order that she cease speaking out in favor of abortion liberty. The hospital has required Dr. Horvath-Cosper to turn down "several requests for interviews or articles or risk losing her job." The hospital says that the order is a "sensible precaution" because it fears violence in the current fraught climate. Dr. Horvath-Cosper and some of her colleagues believe that staying silent about abortion "feeds the drive to stigmatize and restrict abortion." "'I don't think the way to deal with bullies is to cower and pull back," she said.'" The chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, a national advocacy group, commented that physicians who speak out about abortion are making a personal decision based on privacy and risk. If the complaint moves forward, the hospital risks losing its federal funding.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
The Moral Case for Abortion by Ann Furedi.
Ann Furedi is a provider of abortion services in the UK. In her new book, she asserts that true respect for human life and true regard for individual conscience demand that we respect a woman’s right to decide, and that support for a woman’s right to a termination has moral foundations and ethical integrity. Drawing on the traditions of sociological thinking and moral philosophy,
Furedi maintains that there is a strong moral case for recognizing autonomy in personal decision-making about reproductive intentions. She argues moreover that to prevent a woman from making her own choice to continue or end her pregnancy is to undermine the essence of her humanity. This fresh perspective on abortion will interest both pro- and anti-choice individuals and organizations, along with academics in the fields of gender studies, philosophy, ethics and religion.
Minors, Parents, and Minor Parents, by Maya Manian
In her new article in the Missouri Law Review, Maya Manian, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, exposes the law's incoherent approach to adolescent reproduction. Her research indicates that states overwhelmingly allow a teenage girl to independently consent to pregnancy care and medical treatment for her child and even to give up her child for adoption, all without notice to her parents, but require parental notice or consent for abortion. Manian theorizes that the unrecognized policy underlying these seemingly contradictory positions is to punish teenage sexuality and undermine adolescents’ reproductive rights.
Monday, May 9, 2016
Care 2 (Apr. 11, 2016): Success! Women Will Finally Get Access to Safe Abortions on Prince Edward Island, by Judy Molland:
In contrast to many jurisdictions in the United States, Canada does not criminalize abortion, the Supreme Court having struck down restrictions on abortion in 1988. Nonetheless, there has been no access to abortion in the province of Prince Edward Island. Women on the island have had to go elsewhere to obtain pregnancy termination services. The government has been sued twice in ten years for not providing access on the island.
After receiving a petition with 18,000 signatures, Premier Wade MacLauchlan capitulated, stating, "We have been advised the probabilities are very low that the province could successfully defend policies that provide a legal, provincially funded medical procedure only if obtained outside of the province." The policy would probably violate the Canadian Charter's Rights and Freedoms provisions and its security-of-the-person guarantee.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Irish Examiner (Mar. 20, 2016): Asylum Seeker Refused Abortion Sues State, by Ann O'Loughlin:
An asylum seeker who arrived in Ireland pregnant as a result of a kidnapping and rape in her country of origin but was refused an abortion in Ireland has sued the state for trespass, assault and battery, negligence, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiff has also brought deprivation of constitutional rights and human rights claims.
Her child was delivered by cesarean section.
A judge hearing the matter has allowed the case to proceed anonymously.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Washington Post (April 23, 2016): Abortion doctors would lose medical licenses under new Oklahoma bill, by Niraj Chokshi
The Oklahoma legislature continues to pass legislation designed to undermine women's access to abortion. Last week the legislature passed a bill that would bar doctors who perform abortions from obtaining or renewing medical licenses. The bill will become law unless it is vetoed by the Governor.
The Oklahoma Medical Association oppose the legislation because it overrides physical judgment. In a statement, the Center for Reproductive Rights criticized the bill as "cruel and unconstitutional."
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
New York Times (Apr. 2, 2016): Arizona Governor Signs Abortion Bill that Skirts F.D.A. Decision, by Erik Eckholm:
The Food and Drug Administration recently relaxed its guidelines for use of the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone, which is used in approximately one in four abortions. Arizona has passed a law requiring abortion providers to follow the original guidelines. The original guidelines, based on studies conducted in the 1990s, recommended doses of mifepristone that have since been deemed unnecessarily high and recommended its use in pregnancies of up to seven weeks, instead of the ten-week pregnancies. Medical researchers have determined that mifepristone is safe in pregnancies of up to ten weeks.
The conservative Christian group that promoted the legislation called the new F.D.A. guidelines outrageous. Opponents of the law see it as an attack on women.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
New York Times (Mar. 5, 2016): The Return of the D.I.Y. Abortion, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz:
The recent surge in state-level anti-abortion legislation, such as the Texas TRAP law at issue in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, has led to the closure of many abortion providers across the country. While the impact of such laws on access to safe abortions is clear, the response of pregnant women is less so due to the silencing stigma surrounding the procedure.
Google searches can help us understand what’s really going on. They show a hidden demand for self-induced abortion reminiscent of the era before Roe v. Wade.
This demand is concentrated in areas where it is most difficult to get an abortion, and it has closely tracked the recent state-level crackdowns on abortion.
While only 34% of people involved in an abortion – that is, people who have had an abortion or their partners – tell anyone about the procedure, Google searches offer a window into the decision behind an abortion.
Search rates for self-induced abortion were fairly steady from 2004 through 2007. They began to rise in late 2008, coinciding with the financial crisis and the recession that followed. They took a big leap in 2011, jumping 40 percent. The Guttmacher Institute singles out 2011 as the beginning of the country’s recent crackdown on abortion; 92 provisions that restrict access to abortion were enacted. There was not a comparable increase in searches for self-induced abortions in Canada, which has not cracked down.
These statistics do not reveal the true trends in self-induced abortions across the country, but they certainly indicate a disturbing increase in demand in states where abortion services have become all-but impossible to obtain.
Friday, March 11, 2016
New York Times (Mar. 10, 2016): Governor Vetoes Curb on an Abortion Method:
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Wednesday vetoed a ban on a second-trimester abortion practice. The bill would ban dilation and evacuation method abortions unless the doctor has caused the death of the fetus. It would not ban the method in cases of medical emergency. There would not be criminal or civil penalties, but physicians could potentially lose their medical licenses. The governor, a Democrat, cited concerns about constitutionality and patient safety. Courts blocked similar bans on the commonly used practice that Kansas and Oklahoma enacted in 2015. The Republican-led Legislature passed the bill alongside some Democrats. West Virginia lawmakers can override the veto with a simple majority of both chambers. Last year, lawmakers overrode Mr. Tomblin’s veto of a ban on abortions 20 weeks after conception.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
The Slot (Feb. 22, 2016): John Kasich, Who is Terrible, Signs Bill Defunding Ohio Planned Parenthood, by Anna Merlan:
Republican Presidential Candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a bill, HB 294, to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio on Sunday. The bill strips $1.7 million in funding from Planned Parenthood and any other entity that "performs or promotes non therapeutic abortions" or contracts with entities that do and redirects those funds to sex ed and preventative care. The law could affect hospital funding because hospitals sometimes perform abortions or contract with entities that do. According to Planned Parenthood, the lost funding had not been used for abortions but for "education and testing, including sex ed classes, a program called Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies, and HIV tests."
Mindful of his moderate campaign messaging, Kasich did not sign HB 294 in public. Instead, his office announced the signing in a statement. For more information, see the Columbus Dispatch report here.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Atlantic (Feb. 19, 2016): The Muddled Future of Reproductive Rights, by Julie Rovner:
Prior to Justice Scalia's death, the Supreme Court frequently voted 5-4 votes on controversial decisions. Following Justice Scalia's death, there is a chance that the Court could deadlock, 4-4 in cases this term. When there is a tie vote, the appellate court's decision will stand, but it does not create national precedent.
This March the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear two reproductive rights cases, one on abortion and one on contraceptive insurance coverage. Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstadt challenges a Texas law that imposes restrictions on abortion clinics. The district court struck down the law, but the Fifth Circuit's decision reversed the district court and would allow the law to go into effect with minor changes. Zurbik v. Burwell challenges the religious accommodation that has been created for religious-affiliated institutions who wish to opt-out of contraceptive coverage. Current rules do not require that religious hospitals or schools contract for contraceptive coverage. Instead, they must inform the government who their insurer is so that the government can arrange for coverage. The lower courts in the cases consolidated in Zurbik found that the administration's rules don't violate religious rights.
Because appellate courts have ruled differently on both the contraceptive regulations and the constitutionality of laws like the Texas law challenged in Whole Women's Health, a tied Supreme Court decision would prolong Circuit splits. If the Supreme Court cannot reach a decision in the two cases, it can also hold them over and re-hear them next term.
Friday, February 19, 2016
New York Times (Feb. 11, 2016): Pregnancy Clinics Fight for Right to Deny Abortion Information, by Erik Eckholm:
At more than 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) run by religious opponents of abortion, a woman cannot obtain information on where to obtain an abortion. To fight a California law requiring such centers to post a notice that free or low-cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, some CPCs are claiming a free-speech right to withhold such information. Attempts in other states to regulate CPCs in this fashion have been struck down by federal courts. But courts in California have so far refused to enjoin the regulations, the theory being that they do not force the CPCs to declare their religious beliefs but merely require them to provide factual information about public programs. There are lingering concerns that CPCs are misleading pregnant women with false information about the complications of abortion and its longer-term effects.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Ms. Magazine Blog: Texas Anti-Abortion Law is Having a Predictably Terrible Effect on Women, by Lily Wujek:
The University of Texas at Austin recently released a study on the impact of Texas's HB2 Anti-Abortion Law on access to contraception and abortion services. HB2, which excludes Planned Parenthood affiliates from Texas' fee-for-service family planning program, is currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
The study found that after being turned away from a closed clinic, eight of the 23 women interviewed had to wait more than a week to obtain an abortion. Two of these women were not seen until after 12 weeks of pregnancy, despite initially seeking abortion care in the first trimester. Two women in the study could not obtain an abortion at all as both lived in areas of Texas that were left without an abortion provider after HB2 came into effect, and both had initially sought services early in their pregnancies. They ended up continuing their pregnancies because they did not have the resources to travel to another clinic.
According to a press release put out by the University,
After the [passage of HB2], provision of the most effective reversible methods of contraception (IUDs, implants, and injectable contraception) decreased and Medicaid-paid births increased among injectable contraceptive users. Claims for IUDs and implants declined 35 percent and claims for injectable contraceptives declined 31 percent.
The study, entitled Effect of Removal of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program, is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
New York Times (Feb. 7, 2016): Federal Judge Orders Abortion Foes Not to Release Secretly Filmed Videos, by Barry Meier:
A federal court judge has dealt a blow to the instigators of last summer's smear campaign accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue. Judge William Orrick prohibited the Center for Medical Progress from releasing videos they had made and rejected the group's claim that its investigation was protected journalism. The group's campaign triggered efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood even though the hundreds of hours of recordings revealed that Planned Parenthood had engaged in no wrongdoing.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Guttmacher Institute (Feb. 3, 2016): Adolescents in Developing Countries Face Barriers to Accessing Safe Abortion Services, by Rebecca Wind:
This week, the Guttmacher Institute released a fact sheet on barriers to adolescents seeking abortion. According to the report, 3.2 million adolescent women in developing countries had unsafe abortions in 2008.
The new fact sheet incorporates data from three recent studies of adolescent sexual and reproductive health needs and services in developing countries. It includes information about unsafe abortion incidence in specific countries and in the developing world in general, abortion service provision, access to postabortion care and barriers that adolescents face in accessing safe abortion services. The data show that adolescents are more likely than older women to self-induce abortion or go to an untrained provider, and they are more likely to have abortions later in pregnancy. Adolescents are also less likely than older women to start using contraceptives following postabortion care, which increases their likelihood of experiencing future unplanned pregnancies.
The report also highlights barriers to adolescents in seeking safe abortion services. Chief among these are cost and confidentiality.
Find more information on the fact sheet here.