Monday, June 27, 2016
United States Supreme Court (Jun. 27, 2016): Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt:
In a 5-to-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court has overturned a Texas law that threatened to drive more than half of Texas's abortion clinics out of business and place abortion services beyond the reach of countless women.
Drawing on tenets established in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, the Court struck down a law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital and requiring clinics performing abortions to meet the standards imposed upon surgical centers. Regarding the admitting privileges requirement, the Court noted that the practice of abortion did not present a safety issue. Moreover, abortion is safe enough that requiring clinics to meet the requirements of surgical centers would be superfluous. Finally, the court could not reconcile the law with the lack of regulation of more dangerous surgical procedures and the wide distribution of waivers of the surgical-center requirements to clinics offering non-abortion services. It declared that the restrictions placed substantial obstacles in the path of women seeking previability abortions in Texas.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
New York Times (June 15, 2016): How Did I Get an Abortion in Texas? I Didn’t. by Valerie Peterson:
A native of Texas writes about her surprise pregnancy and the high-risk nature of it. Carrying her third, unexpected, child, she delves into the complications that led her to need an abortion in a state that didn't allow for it. Because of the timing of the author's pregnancy and Texas' restrictions, she had to explore options to terminate out of state. In a candid and honest account, Peterson speaks to and for the women in Texas that remain worried about the impending SCOTUS decision, especially those who aren't as privileged as she:
Through a friend, I was connected to a clinic in Florida that caters to women who are terminating for medical reasons, and I spoke to the doctor and nurse there. The doctor explained that Florida didn’t have a 24-hour waiting period, and they could get me in the next day. I booked the first plane ticket I found. I got a hotel room and rental car. I flew to Florida on Friday, and my procedure was over by Saturday afternoon. Including the cost of the procedure, I had to spend close to $5,000.
I remember thinking: What happens to women in my situation who don’t have the ability to do what I just did? My heart aches for those women.
Washington Post (June 15, 2016): Planned Parenthood sues Mississippi over defunding law, by Emily Wagster Pettus:
Even though Planned Parenthood Southeast only received $439 from Medicaid in Mississippi from July 2013- August 2015, Planned Parenthood is suing the state over a new law that bans Mississippi Medicaid from spending money with any health care provider that offers abortion.
Planned Parenthood Southeast only runs one Mississippi clinic in Hattiesburg, which doesn't even offer abortions. However, other clinics run by the Southeast affiliate in Alabama and Georgia do provide abortions. Planned Parenthood of the Greater Memphis Region has also joined in the suit because it receives Mississippi Medicaid payment and provides abortions in its Memphis clinic. Mississippi law already prohibits the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or danger to the pregnant woman's life. The new law prevents the use of Medicaid funds to pay for other health care services provided by Planned Parentood clinics to Mississippi residents such as birth control and cancer screenings.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program. Federal law provides that persons enrolled in Medicaid can receive health care services from any participating provider of their choice. In April the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent a letter reminding all 50 states that they can't cut funding to Planned Parenthood because it may also provide abortion services.
Twenty-four states have considered or enacted laws restricting Planned Parenthood from receiving public funds. The Mississippi case is the 17th lawsuit Planned Parenthood has filed against a state since last July.
Monday, June 20, 2016
Rewire (June 15, 2016): TRAP Laws and the Abortion ‘Crisis’: A Conversation With Award-Winning Filmmaker Dawn Porter, by Tina Vasquez
Rewire talks with award-winning filmmaker Dawn Porter about her new documentary feature, TRAPPED, which highlights the popular and pervasive TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) across the United States. Between 2010 and 2105, 288 laws regulating abortion services have passed. Porter's documentary illustrates the toll it takes on women in states like Alabama and Texas. Porter is candid about her thoughts about the impending SCOTUS decision, safety concerns when filming, and her reasoning for focusing on TRAP laws specifically:
People often discuss abortion in terms of morality, but that’s not what we should be talking about. The reason why these laws have been so effective is because they successfully harm the least powerful of the group they’re targeting. Who’s getting picked on, who’s suffering the most? Women of color, people who are low-income, people who don’t have health insurance. There’s something so unjust about how these laws are disproportionately affecting these populations, and that really bothered me. I’m certainly interested in abortion as a topic, but I’m also interested in politics and power and how those things take shape to hurt the most vulnerable.
TRAPPED airs on PBS’ Independent Lens on Monday, June 20th at 10:00pm.
ACLU of Texas (June 15, 2016), t ACLU of Texas Demands DSHS Stop Concealing Abortion Statistics, by Anna Núñez
The Texas department of State Health Services has gathered abortion statistics for 2014, after the passage of the restrictive HB2, which is currently being challenged as unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on women seeking abortions. The ACLU of Texas is alleging the concealment of the findings. The ACLU said in the linked statement above that they requested the stats "dozens" times, only to be rebuffed by the agency and falsely told that the statistics were not yet ready, though the findings were apparently final in March. The ACLU believes that the reasoning is clear - that DSHS isn't releasing the information because it is damaging to HB2:
“The State of Texas claims that HB2 protects women’s health. If that’s true, why wouldn’t our public health agency want to trumpet its success?” said Terri Burke, executive director for the ACLU of Texas.
The letter also states that supervisors instructed employees to lie about the statistics and avoid mentioning them, in an apparent attempt to circumvent the legal requirements of the Texas Public Information Act."
The ACLU has also written and released a letter aimed at the defendant in the pending SCOTUS case, Commissioner Hellerstedt, also linked in the above article.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Buzzfeed (June 10, 2016): Ireland's Abortion Laws Breach Women's Human Rights, UN Rules, by Rose Troup Buchanan and Jina Moore:
Last week, the UN Human Rights Committee, found that Irish laws criminalizing abortion violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The case was brought by a woman who could not get a legal abortion in Ireland after she discovered she was carrying a fetus with fatal congenital defects. As a result, she was forced to travel the the United Kingdom to terminate her pregnancy. The Committee found that because Irish law does not permit an abortion in such cases, the woman was forced to choose "between continuing her non-viable pregnancy or traveling to another country while carrying a dying fetus, at personal expense and separated from the support of her family, and to return while not fully recovered." The Human Rights Committee found that denial of an abortion under such circumstances constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and violated the right to non-discrimination and right to privacy and autonomy.
Although, Ireland has an international legal obligation to comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee's decision is not directly enforceable by Irish courts. Instead, it will be up to the Irish government to change its laws. This may require amendment of the Irish Constitution, which currently limits abortion to cases where the mother's life is in danger. The Committee has given the Irish government four months to report back on its progress complying with the committee's decision.
Monday, April 18, 2016
Startribune (April 12, 2016): APNewsBreak: North Dakota to pay abortion clinic $245k, by James McPherson:
Last week, North Dakota agreed to pay the attorneys fees of the state's sole abortion clinic following the clinic's successful challenge of a 2013 law prohibiting abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. The law would have banned abortions as early as six weeks and clearly violated existing constitutional protections for abortions.
After it passed, the law was almost immediately enjoined by a federal district court. And, in July 2015, the Eighth Circuit, agreed with the district court's conclusion that the law was unconstitutional because it prohibited abortions pre-viability. In January, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Because lawyers who successfully represent a plaintiff asserting a violation of constitutional rights are entitled to attorneys fees, North Dakota agreed to pay a settlement of $245,000. In addition, records obtained by AP indicate that through January, the state had spent over $320,000 to defend its abortion laws, most of which was spent on the fetal heartbeat law.
Janet Crepps, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights [which represented the clinic], said she hoped the settlement would send a message to North Dakota and other states. "From the beginning, the state recognized it was embarking on an expensive lawsuit, defending a clearly unconstitutional law," Crepps said. "It has cost the state a good bit of money," Crepps said. "A measure could have been passed to help the people of North Dakota."
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Independent (April 12, 2016): The UK's abortion shame: Northern Ireland urged to stop prosecuting women under abortion ban, by Sioban Fenton:
Northern Ireland is under pressure for recent criminal prosecutions of women for abortions. Earlier this month, a 21 year old woman pled guilty to procuring her own abortion and received a three month suspended sentence. She became pregnant at age 19 and could not raise the money to to travel to England to have a legal abortion. Instead, she purchased medication over the internet to self-induce an abortion. She was reported to authorities by her housemates.
A second woman is due to stand trial in Belfast on April 27 for helping her daughter access pills to induce an abortion. Local media has reported the prosecutors are considering bringing two additional cases for illegal abortions.
Although Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, the UK's 1967 Abortion Act, does not apply there. Instead an 1861 act criminalizing abortion remains in effect, and abortions are only legal if a woman's life or mental health is in danger. As a result, many women travel to England for abortions if they can afford the travel costs.
The UK has been criticized by the UN Human Rights Committee which has recommended that Northern Ireland's abortion law be amended. Leading MPs also have criticized the prosecutions and advocate ending the criminalization of women. MP Liz Kendall stated:
We must end the criminalisation of women in Northern Ireland who, often in desperate circumstances, decide to terminate their pregnancy. Currently, women wishing to terminate a pregnancy are either forced to travel to other parts of the UK, or, if they don’t have the money, attempt an abortion themselves, putting their safety at risk. That is no choice. Women in Northern Ireland should have access to safe abortions, in hospitals or clinics, like women in the rest of the UK.
In an effort to highlight the inequality of Northern Ireland's current law, Claire Bailey, Deputy leader of the Green party has said she is considering proposing legislation that would allow the prosecution of men under a new criminal offense of "reckless conception."
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Social Europe (Apr. 6, 2016): The Polish Church and Government Open New Attack on Women's Reproductive Rights, by Gavin Rae:
In Poland, which has one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in Europe, Catholic officials are urging more restrictive regulation. Currently, abortion is available in only three instances: (1) there is a high probability that the fetus will suffer severe and irreversible damage or have an incurable life-threatening disease; (2) continuing a pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health; or (3) the pregnancy is the result of a criminal act. As in other countries with restrictions on abortion, wealthy women travel to other countries to terminate their pregnancies, and poor women resort to unsafe, backstreet procedures. The new law is an attempt to end nearly all abortion in Poland by limiting it to cases where the pregnant woman's life is directly threatened by continuing the pregnancy. The proposal also increases the jail time for those who perform abortions from two to five years and imposes penalties on anyone who disseminates information about abortion options abroad.
The Catholic church is prominent in the push for the new law. The ruling party leaders are staunch Catholics who received influential church backing in the last elections. They are determined to use their power to enshrine Catholic doctrine in national policy. The move is a reflection of a regime that is becoming increasingly authoritarian.
Friday, April 8, 2016
New York Times (Apr. 8, 2016): "Periods for Pence" Campaign Targets Indiana Governor over Abortion Law, by Mitch Smith:
Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Indiana's draconian abortion bill into law on March 24th. Now, a campaign to call attention to the unbelievably restrictive law has emerged on Facebook. In an unusual strategy, the campaign, Periods for Pence, features a call for women to contact the governor's office "to report our periods." The campaign is meant to call specific attention to the requirement that miscarried fetuses be interred or cremated.
“I would certainly hate for any of my fellow Hoosier women to be at risk of penalty if they do not ‘properly dispose’ of this or report it,” one post says. “Just to cover our bases, perhaps we should make sure to contact Governor Pence’s office to report our periods.”
As of 3:00 p.m. Friday, Periods for Pence has more than 41,000 likes.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
BBC (March 18, 2016): Chile Lawmakers lift abortion ban introduced by Pinochet:
Last week, Chile's lower house of Congress approved a bill that would decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, health risk to the mother, and instances where the fetus is not viable. The bill, which is supported by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, needs to pass the Senate to become law. Chile is one of seven Latin American countries that ban abortions in all circumstances. The other countries are El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Surinam.
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, 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.
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.
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
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 2, 2015
Daily Camera: Battle for Women's Reproductive Rights Goes on Every Day, by K.C. Becker:
State legislatures across the country have become popular battlegrounds for limiting reproductive freedom for women. Anti-choice activists have been launching well-coordinated assaults in state after state by churning out bills designed to indirectly limit or eliminate a woman's legal right to get an abortion. These new laws shut down clinics by putting new requirements and restrictions on the clinics, doctors, or patients.
Becker predicts that some of these restrictions will eventually be declared unconstitutional. "But rest assured" she warns, "that they will be coming back, across the country, with new variations on an old theme." Becker reminds us that the battle did not end with Roe v. Wade.
Friday, May 8, 2015
The Daily Beast: Chile’s Shocking DIY Abortion Ad Campaign, by Nina Strochlic:
“It’s important that you find a long and steep set of stairs,” a young, brunette woman says in Spanish to a hand-held camera. She walks up steps of an anonymous building. “Make sure there’s no security cameras, so no one can see you.” . . .
“In Chile an accidental abortion is the only kind of abortion that is not considered a crime,” the video displays in bold type. The satirical videos are part of a campaign launched last month called Abortion Tutorials. It was conceived for theMiles Organization, a reproductive rights NGO, by advertising agency Grey Chile. The groups are hoping the Chilean government will be shamed into reforming what is the strictest abortion law in the world. . . .
TIME: How a New Study on Premature Babies Could Influence the Abortion Debate, by Eliza Gray:
A new study showing that a tiny percentage of extremely premature babies born at 22 weeks can survive with extensive medical intervention could change the national conversation about abortion, though the research is unlikely to have a major effect on women’s access to abortions in the short term.
Pro-life advocates said the study—which was published by theNew England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday and found that 3.5% percent of 357 infants born at 22 weeks could survive without severe health problems if hospitals treated them—could benefit the pro-life movement by sparking discussion about the viability of premature babies. . . .
This article correctly points out that the study in no way contradicts or forces reconsideration of Supreme Court precedent governing pre- and post-viability abortions. Unlike what some articles suggest, the Supreme Court has never set viability at a specific point in pregnancy (even in Roe), but rather has left the determination of viability to the provider to determine based on the individual facts surrounding each pregnancy. Viability depends on many factors, including the type of medical facilities available.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
RH Reality Check (4/17): Laws Banning Abortion Procedure ‘Substituting Political Decisions for Medical Decisions’, by Teddy Wilson:
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed a bill into law Monday that criminalizes a medical procedure used during second-trimester abortions and for miscarriage management.
That came weeks after Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) signed similar legislation, and now reproductive rights advocates are raising serious concerns about the lasting implications of these new, radically anti-choice laws.
“With this law, Oklahoma has joined Kansas in an alarming trend toward substituting politicians’ agendas for the judgment and expertise of doctors, and then threatening those doctors with criminal charges if they disagree,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. . . .
The Hill - Congress blog (4/17): Political attacks on abortion legislate bad medicine, by Vanessa Cullins, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.:
The latest wave of state legislation to restrict abortion access is based on bad medicine and would prevent doctors from providing medical care based on their judgment of what’s best for each patient. . . .
It is unacceptable for politicians to force doctors, under penalty of law, to go against our training and expertise. . . .