Sunday, August 12, 2018
Aug. 9, 2018 (New York Times): Argentina's Senate Narrowly Rejects Legalizing Abortion, by Daniel Politi and Ernesto Londoño:
After 16 hours of deliberation, Argentina’s Senate narrowly rejected a bill to legalize abortion on Thursday, dealing a painful defeat to a vocal grass-roots movement that pushed reproductive rights to the top of Argentina's legislative agenda and galvanized abortion rights activist groups throughout Latin America, including in Brazil and Chile.
As legislators debated the bill into the early hours of Thursday morning, thousands waited outside the Congress Building in Buenos Aires, weathering the winter cold.
Supporters of the legislation, which would have legalized abortion care during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, had hoped Argentina would begin a sea change in reproductive rights in a largely Catholic region where 97 percent of women live in countries that ban abortion or allow it only in rare instances.
In the end, 38 legislators voted against legalization, 31 voted in favor, and 2 legislators abstained.
Opposition in Argentina hardened as Catholic Church leaders spoke out forcefully against abortion from the pulpit and senators from conservative provinces came under intense pressure to stand against legalization.
While the bill's failure is considered a major setback for the activists who backed it, analysts said the abortion rights movement has already brought change to Central and South America in ways that would have been impossible just years ago.
On Wednesday, demonstrators rallied in support of the Argentine bill in Uruguay, Mexico, Peru, and Chile, where they gathered in front of the Argentine Embassy in Santiago, chanting and wearing the green handkerchiefs that became the symbol of Argentina’s abortion rights movement.
Recently, activists in Argentina scored a victory with the passage of a law that seeks to have an equal number of male and female lawmakers.
"If we make a list of the things we’ve gained and the things we’ve lost, the list of things we’ve gained is much bigger,” said Edurne Cárdenas, a lawyer at the Center for Legal and Social Studies, a human rights group in Argentina that favors legalized abortion. “Sooner or later, this will be law.”
In the region, only Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana and Mexico City allow any woman to have an early-term abortion.
For Argentina, the debate over abortion has tugged at the country’s sense of self. It is the birthplace of Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s Catholics, who recently denounced abortion as the “white glove” equivalent of the Nazi-era eugenics program. Recently, though, the country has begun shifting away from its conservative Catholic roots. In 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to allow gay couples to wed. Francis, then the archbishop of Buenos Aires, called that bill a “destructive attack on God’s plan.”
The organized movement that pushed the failed bill started in 2015 with the brutal murder of a pregnant 14-year-old girl by her teenage boyfriend. Her mother claimed the boyfriend’s family didn’t want her to have the baby. As debates about violence against women on social media grew into wider conversations about women’s rights, young female lawmakers gave a fresh push to an abortion bill that had been presented repeatedly in the past without going anywhere.
In June, the lower house of the Argentine Congress narrowly approved a bill allowing women to terminate pregnancy in the first 14 weeks. Current law allows abortions only in cases of rape or when a mother’s life is in danger. While the measure failed in the Senate this week, it made some inroads: among the senators who voted for it was Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who as president had opposed legalizing abortion.
“Society as a whole has moved forward on this issue,” said Claudia Piñeiro, a writer and abortion-rights activist in Argentina. “Church and state are supposed to be separate, but we’re coming to realize that is far from the case,” Ms. Piñeiro said as it became clearer that the push for legalization would lose.
“That will be the next battle.”
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Aug. 7, 2018 (WIRED): Telemedicine Could Help Fill the Gaps in America's Abortion Care, by Garnet Henderson:
If a woman in Lubbock, Texas wants an abortion, the nearest clinic is 308 miles away in Fort Worth, forcing her to take time off from work, pay for travel, and likely arrange childcare to get there. If that same woman is less than ten weeks along, she’s a candidate for medication abortion—which could, theoretically, be completed in the privacy of her home. Texas, however, requires that the outdated FDA protocol for medication abortion be followed to the letter, and so the woman will have to return to the clinic within one to two weeks for a follow-up visit, despite evidence that an in-person follow-up is unnecessary.
So what if she could video chat with a doctor, pick up a prescription from her regular pharmacy, and manage her own abortion with on-call medical support— otherwise known as a telemedicine abortion?
As it turns out, similar services are already available in a handful of states, though they still involve physical visits to an office. A growing body of research suggests that medication abortion could be offered without any in-person interaction at all. It’s a possibility that is already the subject of an intense political debate that is likely to intensify with a Supreme Court more hostile toward abortion rights.
The first U.S. telemedicine abortion program began in Iowa ten years ago. Between 2008 and 2015, four Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa performed 8,765 abortions via telemedicine. Each clinic followed the same basic protocol: a patient would come into the clinic for an intake appointment, including an ultrasound, and a doctor would review her images and medical history remotely. After talking to the patient via videoconference, the doctor would enter a password to unlock a drawer in front of the patient. Inside, there were two pills. The first pill, mifepristone, the patient took with the doctor still watching. The second pill, misoprostol, she took at home. Within two weeks, the patient returned to the clinic for a follow-up to ensure the abortion was complete.
A study of the Iowa program, which included the records of about 20,000 patients, showed that telemedicine abortion is just as safe and effective as meeting with a doctor face to face. Patients in Iowa were also more likely to have their abortions earlier in their pregnancies after telehealth was introduced.
Planned Parenthood affiliates in ten states currently offer telemedicine abortion. Telehealth services are also offered at a Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Illinois and in Maine at Maine Family Planning. The Iowa program was interrupted after the state passed a law banning telemedicine abortion in 2013, but was reinstated in 2015 when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional. Idaho was forced to repeal two laws banning the telemedicine abortion in order to settle a lawsuit with Planned Parenthood in 2017.
Despite these successful legal challenges, nineteen states currently ban telemedicine abortion. Both Oklahoma and Arkansas have tried to ban medication abortion altogether, including remote practices, but Oklahoma’s law was overturned, and a federal judge placed the Arkansas law on hold pending trial.
The Lilith Fund is one of numerous plaintiffs, led by Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, that recently announced a challenge to dozens of abortion restrictions in Texas, including the state’s telehealth abortion ban. Whole Woman’s Health Alliance is leading similar lawsuits in Virginia and Indiana.
Access to telemedicine abortions would be especially beneficial to patients in rural and other underserved areas. That doesn’t mean it will fix all problems of abortion access, of course. Medication abortion is only FDA-approved up to ten weeks of gestation, and some candidates for the procedure still prefer an in-clinic abortion. Medication abortion is a slightly longer process that still requires a follow-up visit.
The procedure—especially with some changes that make it more fully remote—has the potential to dramatically improve access. With special permission from the FDA, Gynuity Health Projects is conducting a study in Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, New York, and Maine that allows patients to receive pills by mail, eliminating the need for doctors to stock them. Mifepristone, pill number one, is regulated under the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, which means the medication has to be dispensed by a certified prescriber, not a regular pharmacist. While patients in that study still have to get an ultrasound and medical exam, scientific evidence suggests the process could be even simpler, foregoing the ultrasound altogether. Doing so would make the process even more self-determined.
Monday, August 6, 2018
Aug. 3, 2018 (New York Times): Brazil’s Supreme Court Considers Decriminalizing Abortion, by Manuela Andreoni & Ernesto Londoño:
The death of Ingriane Barbosa Carvalho on May 16, a 31-year-old mother of three who underwent an unsafe illegal abortion, illustrates the high stakes of the fight over reproductive rights that is taking place before Brazil’s Supreme Court during a rare two-day public hearing that started this past Friday.
The nation's high court is considering whether Brazil’s abortion laws — which forbid terminating pregnancies with few exceptions, including cases of rape and instances in which the mother’s life is in peril — are at odds with constitutional protections.
The hearing, which continues Monday, is unlikely to lead to the immediate legalization of abortion care, but reproductive rights activists in Brazil hope the hearing will set off a national debate on the issue, draw attention to the risks hundreds of thousands of women take each year as they resort to illegal abortions and ultimately pave the way to overhauling the existing law.
During the first day of arguments, a majority of the 26 speakers argued for decriminalizing abortion. Though the national Ministry of Health did not take an official position on the issue, Maria de Fátima Marinho, representing the ministry before the court, stated that unsafe, illegal abortions create public health challenges, leading to overcrowding of health care facilities as well as preventable illness and death.
The hearing is being held as Brazilian lawmakers take steps to adopt even more restrictive laws and abortion rights groups across the region face a strong backlash after attaining victories.
Brazil’s top court has ruled narrowly on abortion cases in recent years, signaling an inclination to expand access, but it has stopped short of making sweeping legal changes related to the issue.
In March 2017, the Socialism and Liberty Party and Anis, a women’s rights group, filed a petition asking the court to rule that abortion care within the first twelve weeks of gestation should not subject the pregnant person or the abortion provider to prosecution.
They argue that abortion laws written in 1940 violate protections conferred by the 1988 Constitution, including the right to dignity, equal protection, and access to health care.
A ruling in favor of proponents of decriminalization would be the first step toward legalizing abortion in a nation of 210 million people where an estimated one in five women have terminated unwanted pregnancies.
Estimates of the number of abortions performed in Brazil each year range from 500,000 to 1.2 million. Each year, more than 250,000 women are hospitalized as a result of complications from abortions, according to the Brazilian Health Ministry. In 2016, the last year for which official figures were available, 203 women died as a result of illegal and unsafe abortions.
Since 2000, 28 countries and regions have expanded abortion rights. Last year, lawmakers in Chile lifted the country’s total prohibition on abortion, and next week the Senate in Argentina will vote on a bill that could legalize abortion there.
The Supreme Court hearing prompted Ladyane Souza, a lawyer in Brasília, to publicly disclose that she had an abortion two years ago, even though doing so means she could be prosecuted.
“It’s very cruel to submit women to dealing with this all alone, underground,” Ms. Souza, 22, said. “During that time, I wanted very much to talk to my mother, because I felt it would have been easier if my mother knew, if my friends knew, but I was afraid of being prosecuted.”
Ms. Carvalho’s relatives opted to bury her in a cemetery several miles from her hometown after local residents reacted with outrage and scorn to details of her death. They held a low-key ceremony as her remains were deposited in an unmarked grave in a small hillside cemetery.
“I wish she had survived, so she could have been arrested and learned to be responsible,” Ms. Barbosa, her aunt, said.
Friday, August 3, 2018
With fate of U.S. abortion rights unclear, Maryland House speaker aims to strengthen state protections
Aug. 2, 2018 (Washington Post): With fate of U.S. abortion rights unclear, Md. House speaker aims to strengthen state protections, by Erin Cox:
Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch plans to lead a statewide effort to enshrine a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion care in the Maryland constitution, joining other states in attempting to preempt any move by the Supreme Court to erode abortion protections.
The Speaker said he will personally introduce and earn support for legislation asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment, likely in the 2020 presidential election. An amendment would ensure that even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, no legislation outlawing abortion could be passed in Maryland.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who is anti-abortion, said that that letting voters decide on the issue “sounds like a great idea.” Ben Jealous, his Democratic opponent running to replace Hogan this November, vowed to campaign in support of the amendment.
Abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates believe a strongly worded dissent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh issued last fall, in a case involving a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody, indicates he would favor more abortion restrictions and might support overturning the federal protections that began with Roe.
Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill repealing century-old laws that criminalized abortion care. West Virginia and Alabama have initiatives on the ballot this year to clarify that their state constitutions do not protect the right to an abortion.
If Busch succeeds in persuading three-fifths of each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly to approve the constitutional amendment next year, Maryland voters would see it on the 2020 ballot.
Nine states currently have abortion protections in their state constitutions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights: Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico.
Busch said the amendment would insert Maryland’s existing abortion statute into the state constitution. That law was approved by the General Assembly in 1991. After antiabortion groups petitioned it to a referendum, it passed with 61.7 percent of the vote.
The law allows individuals to seek abortion care without interference from the state if the fetus is not viable outside the womb. An individual may also terminate a pregnancy at any point if the fetus has a “genetic defect or serious anomaly” or if an abortion is necessary to protect the health of the pregnant person.
Busch said he will introduce the amendment proposal when the legislature convenes in January and is confident he can find the votes from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Saturday, July 28, 2018
July 23, 2018 (TIME): Massachusetts Passes Repeal of 173-Year-Old Abortion Ban Amid Fears for Future of Roe v. Wade, by Samantha Cooney:
Earlier this month, Massachusetts became the first state to formally respond to the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned in the world of a two-Trump-nominee Supreme Court. Although abortion is already legal in the state, Massachusetts still has a 173-year-old law on the books banning the procurement of a miscarriage.
The bill is called the NASTY Women Act (Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women) and passed in a landslide. While abortion has technically been legal in the state since 1981, state legislators were driven to quick action to further protect these rights after Justice Kennedy announced his retirement.
A Masschusetts State Democrat said:
I think people are beginning to realize these are strange times we live in. Nothing is impossible, and we’ve got to have a ‘plan B.’ If these laws are enforced, what do we do? We’re not willing to sit back and say, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen here.’ The word for that is denial.
New Mexico and New York each have efforts underway to protect abortion rights as well.
While some critics accuse the NASTY Women Act and other similar bills of unnecessary political posturing, supporters cite that the rights we may take for granted are not always guaranteed. Rebecca Hart Holder, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, says "the reality is any state can have a threat to abortion care.”
July 26, 2018 (teleSUR): Chile: 3 Women Stabbed in March to Legalize Abortion, by teleSUR:
Three women in Santiago, Chile were stabbed during a march to demand, legal, safe, and free abortion care by a group of hooded attackers who assaulted the protesters. Around 40,000 women marched in the demonstrations.
The three injured women received medical attention and are currently in stable condition.
There is a concerning trend of violence and harassment against pro-choice activists in South America. In Argentina, the country's Senate is debating a bill to legalize abortion within the first 14 weeks. Several videos showing men threatening women for carrying their staple green handkerchief, a symbol of the abortion rights movement in Argentina, have recently surfaced. Some of the women have been threatened with rape.
“This is terrorism; I don’t want to call it any other way. When a group wants to intimidate another to keep them from expressing their ideas freely,” says Macarena Castañeda, spokesperson for the Mesa de Accion por el Aborto, one of the groups leading the fight for access to legal, safe, and free abortion care in Chile.
The hooded attackers also injured a security officer. According to the police, several attackers are currently detained.
In Chile, former military dictator Augusto Pinochet criminalized abortion in all its forms in 1989. That law remained in place until 2017 with the approval of a bill proposed by then-president Michelle Bachelet that decriminalized abortion in three cases: rape, a risk to the mother's life, and disability. Those exceptions only comprise 3% of all abortions in Chile, according to abortion rights groups.
Abortion remains mostly illegal in Latin America. Only in Uruguay and Cuba is it entirely legal, as well as in the Mexican capital of Mexico City.
Friday, July 27, 2018
July 25, 2018 (ABC News): 'Handmaid's Tale' march for Argentine abortion rights, by Debora Rey, Associated Press:
Demonstrators wearing red cloaks and white bonnets like the characters from Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale" demonstrated Wednesday in Argentina in favor of legalizing abortion. They silently marched with their heads bowed through the streets of Buenos Aires until they reached the Palacio del Congreso, the Congress building. During heavy rain, one of the demonstrators read a letter by "Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood, who voiced her support for the effort led by Argentine feminist groups.
Argentina's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, approved a bill that would legalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The Argentine Senate will vote on the measure on August 8. President Mauricio Macri has said that despite his personal opposition to abortion, he would not veto the bill if approved by the Senate.
Earlier this year, Atwood clashed with Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti, who has said that she is anti-abortion.
Atwood tweeted to Michetti: "Don't look away from the thousands of deaths every year from illegal abortions. Give Argentine women the right to choose!"
Argentina currently allows abortion only in cases of rape or risks to a woman's health, but abortion rights advocates say doctors and judges often block women from carrying out the procedure.
A 2016 report by Argentina's health ministry estimated that between 370,000 to 522,000 Argentine women undergo illegal abortions each year. Thousands of women are hospitalized for complications.
The report found complications from unsafe, illegal abortion as the main cause of maternal death in Argentina.
Monday, July 23, 2018
- Send a comment to HHS opposing the proposed rule through the Center for Reproductive Rights website using the draft language linked here.
- Submit a comment on behalf of your organization urging HHS to rescind the rule. A template is available here. If you need support coordinating the ask within your association or developing a comment, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Lawyers Network team at email@example.com.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Bustle (Jun. 29, 2018): The Iowa Abortion Waiting Period Has Been Struck Down & It's A Major Reproductive Rights Victory, by Morgan Brinlee:
Despite concerns for the future of reproductive rights in the imminent wake of Justice Kennedy's retirement, reproductive rights advocates secured a victory in Iowa last week when the Supreme Court of Iowa struck down a 72-hour waiting period imposed on women seeking abortions.
"The vast majority of women have made their decision by the time they present for care so the laws [mandating waiting periods] do not lead women to change their minds, Dr. Sarah Roberts, an abortion waiting period researcher who works as an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Bustle. "They really just lead to increases in financial costs and increases in delay and also some increases in emotional distress along the way."
The Iowa Supreme Court found the restriction a violation of the state Constitution. Dr. Sarah Roberts, an abortion waiting period researcher who works as an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, found that imposed wait periods actually lead to even greater delays in care as well as substantial increased costs for the women.
The ACLU of Iowa and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland are also involved in a lawsuit against the state's "heartbeat law," which bans abortion after 6-weeks, the time at which a fetal heartbeat can sometimes be detected. A District Court judge temporarily blocked the law, but if it goes into effect, some women may not have any option for abortion at all, as many don't find out they're pregnant until after six weeks.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
New York Magazine (Jun. 27, 2018): Steps the Next Supreme Court Might Take to Roll Back Abortion Rights, by Ed Kilgore:
With the announcement of Justice Kennedy's imminent retirement comes the prospect of a much more conservative Supreme Court, particularly in relation to reproductive rights. Justice Kennedy stood in the majority of the 2016 Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt decision, which reaffirmed basic abortion access rights. Trump has promised to pursue the reversal of Roe v. Wade, though, and has stated his intentions to nominate a similarly-minded next justice.
Many states have recently enacted stricter abortion access requirements--like Louisiana's legislation banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy or Iowa's fetal heartbeat ban. "Such laws are aimed at setting up a challenge to Roe if the Supreme Court lurches to the right — which is now an imminent possibility."
While it's unlikely that, even under a more conservative court, Roe would be immediately overturned, a shift to the right on the Supreme Court will likely lead to affirmation of new, state-level abortion restrictions. For example, rather than overturn Roe, which is backed by additional, subsequent precedent in 1992's Casey and 2016's Hellerstedt, the court might instead find an opportunity to reverse Hellerstedt, as the more recent decision. Such a move might reinvigorate efforts to enact Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, likely forcing abortion providers out of business with burdensome requirements and eliminating much abortion access, especially in already-conservative states.
Either way, if Trump nominates an anti-Roe Supreme Court candidate this year, and the Senate approves them, we can expect many more legal battles on the availability of abortion. "With one SCOTUS appointment and one decision, that could all change, and we could enter a period of abortion-policy activism unlike anything America has seen in decades."
June 28, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
BBC News (Jun. 16, 2018): Sinn Féin votes to change Northern Ireland abortion policy, by Jayne McCormack:
Sinn Féin party delegates in Northern Ireland have voted to change the party's position on abortion at a conference in Belfast. Members comprehensively backed a leadership motion stating that women should have access to abortions within "a limited gestational period." The party can now support a law due to be brought before the Irish parliament, which is expected to allow abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The decision comes shortly after a referendum in the Republic of Ireland removed a constitutional amendment which effectively outlawed abortion. Sinn Féin had previously backed making abortion available in circumstances like fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or sexual abuse.
However, the party will now back a policy put forward by the Sinn Féin leadership that is broadly in line with the new Irish law, which is expected to make abortion available to women within the first 12 weeks of their pregnancies.
Sinn Féin's Northern Irish leader Michelle O'Neill opened the debate and told delegates: "No one is saying members can't have a conscience and you're entitled to have your viewpoint respected, but there is a difference between personal views and our role as legislators."
Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, meaning that it is the only region of the UK or Ireland where abortion is illegal unless there is a serious risk to a woman's life or health. Abortions in cases of rape, incest, or fatal fetal abnormalities are not automatically legally permitted to be carried out.
At the conference on Saturday, the party's leadership had backed a motion stating that women should have access to abortions within a "a limited gestational period."
The motion by the party leadership did not specify the 12-week period, but refers to making abortions available through a general practitioner-led service "without specific indication for a limited gestational period."
Mrs O'Neill denied that this gives the Sinn Féin leadership blanket authority to eventually back abortion in line with the 24-week period provided by the UK's 1967 Act, arguing it allowed the party flexibility in case legislation brought before the Dáil (Irish parliament) eventually reduces the time limit to 10 weeks.
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since the collapse of power-sharing between Sinn Féin and the DUP in January 2017.
Friday, June 15, 2018
Vox (Jun. 14, 2018): Argentina’s historic vote to decriminalize abortion, explained, by Emily Stewart:
On Thursday, June 14, Argentina's lower legislative house voted 129-125 on a bill that would decriminalize abortions up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy. The bill is part of "a broader women’s rights movement, Ni Una Menos — meaning 'Not One Less' — directed at stopping violence against women, including murder."
Abortion is currently illegal in Argentina except in cases of rape or life and health-threatening circumstances. Even in these scenarios, abortions are difficult to obtain and there may be not guidelines or clear legal requirements for providers, according to Shena Cavallo, a program officer at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Half a million women sought illegal abortions in 2016, and abortion-related deaths are one of the top causes of maternal mortality in Argentina.
Over the past 13 years, six different bills decriminalizing abortion have unsuccessfully come before Argentina's Congress. Activist groups like the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe, and Free Abortion and Catholics for the Right to Decide Argentina, have helped to gain the momentum for the current bill, contributing to the greater Ni Una Menos movement.
The Ni Una Menos movement, started in 2015, is a campaign against gender-based violence. It began in Argentina after a surge of media reports of women being killed by their husbands, boyfriends, or partners, and it has spread across multiple Latin American countries. Argentina has a history of public protest — it is not uncommon for major city streets and roadways to be shut down for hours or days because of protest — and multiple Ni Una Menos marches have taken place. This new wave of feminism has spurred more women to speak out about a variety of issues, including abortion. Activists see illegal abortion as another way of keeping women oppressed.
While Argentine President Mauricio Macri has not stated public support for the bill, he has encouraged debate over it and also said he would not veto it if it reaches his desk.
Although the more conservative Senate is expected to reject the bill, advocates consider this recent vote a win and will continue to fight for abortion legalization and the overall protection of women throughout Argentina and Latin America.
Monday, June 4, 2018
The Advocate (June 3, 2018): Absent on an abortion-related issue in Louisiana? It's probably a Democratic legislator, by Tyler Bridges:
During the past three legislative sessions in the Louisiana legislature, seven Democrats missed more than half of the votes on abortion, an issue fraught with political peril for some Democrats in this state.
Two Democrats from New Orleans — state Rep. Neil Abramson and state Rep. Gary Carter Jr. — missed 15 of the 17 votes taken during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. Both men said that other legislative business caused them to miss the votes. The other five who have missed at least half of the votes are state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport; state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; and state Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace.
No Republicans missed more than half of the 17 votes, according to the group’s score card.
Five of the seven Democrats did not vote on the most controversial abortion bill during the 2018 legislative session, Senate Bill 181, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks. That bill passed the House 81-9 with 14 abstentions and the Senate 24-1 with 14 abstentions. Current Louisiana law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed the 15-week bill into law, but it will take effect only if a federal court upholds a similar Mississippi law under legal challenge by abortion rights groups that label it as "cruel" and "unconstitutional." Both measures would impose the strictest bans in the country.
Louisiana Democrats like Gov. Edwards, Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, and Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, hold anti-abortion views that put them at odds with the Democratic Party nationally and the party’s recent presidential candidates.
Some Democrats, however, don’t want to anger Democrats who support abortion rights, a key constituency, or conservative voters who do not support abortion, whose support may be necessary in some elections, said Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge pollster and political consultant. Pinsonat said he is not surprised that the legislators who have missed the abortion votes are Democrats.
Voting anti-choice is especially important for Republican candidates, Pinsonat said, noting that 18 to 22 percent of the electorate consists of single-issue, anti-abortion voters.
In a 2016 interview, Rep. Abramson declined to state his views on abortion. “That’s a broad question,” he said when asked whether he supported women having the right to an abortion. “I’m not going to get into the details of all of this,” he said when asked whether he opposed abortion except in the cases of limited exceptions, a common Republican position.
Rep. Carter said he has not intentionally missed abortion votes and said his position on the issue is clear: “I support women having the right to choose as well as to be able to make their own decisions about their health and their bodies,” he said. Had he been present for the vote, Carter said he would have voted against the 15-week abortion ban.
Friday, May 25, 2018
May 24, 2018 (The New Yorker): Ireland’s Vote on Abortion Is a Referendum on the Nation’s Future, by Margaret Talbot:
On Friday, Irish voters will decide whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the country’s constitution, which bans abortion under nearly all circumstances. The vote will help expose how much the Catholic Church’s hold in Ireland has weakened, following years of revelations about child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and about the Church’s mistreatment of “fallen women,” who had become pregnant out of wedlock (in 2013, Ireland’s Prime Minister at the time, Enda Kenny, issued a state apology for the Church-run Magdalene Laundries, where such women were confined as unpaid workers, often in drudgery and cruelty).
Though the Yes side—those who want to eliminate the Eighth Amendment—can count on the support of many of the country’s leading politicians and is still ahead in the polls, the gap seems to be narrowing. The most recent polls show that almost one in five voters are still undecided, a figure that raises the spectre of a surprise victory for those who want to keep abortion illegal.
The vote is also an opportunity for tech companies to show how transparent they can be about political advertising and how much they can protect themselves against foreign interference (American anti-abortion activists are among those trying to influence the outcome of the vote). Google announced earlier this month that it would refuse advertising related to the referendum. Facebook said that it would bar such advertising by foreign groups.
Friday’s vote will be a test of whether women in Ireland will continue to be coerced and shamed if they do not want to carry their pregnancies to term. The Eighth Amendment, which has been in place since 1983, has not stopped abortion in Ireland. Making the procedure illegal never has—and that is worth remembering, not only in Ireland but in the United States, where the Trump Administration has given new impetus to those who would like to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Between 1980 (when abortion was not legal in Ireland but was less restricted than after the amendment) and 2016, 168,703 Irish women and girls obtained abortions in England and Wales, according to the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care. In 2016, the latest year for which such statistics are available, the number was 3,265. This is almost certainly an underestimate, since it only includes women and girls who give Irish addresses when they show up at hospitals in Liverpool and other English cities. The number also leaves out a smaller group of Irish women who go to countries other than England, such as the Netherlands. And it does not count women who obtain abortion-inducing pills on their own.
In 1992, the Irish legislature passed an amendment that made it legal for women to travel abroad for an abortion. This outlawing-and-outsourcing arrangement has come at an enormous cost to Irish women. In November of 2011, a woman named Amanda Mellet, a charity worker living in Dublin with her husband, had a routine scan for her first pregnancy. It revealed that, at twenty-one weeks, the fetus had a chromosomal disorder that kills ninety-five per cent of babies in utero and had heart defects that made survival impossible. A midwife informed Mellet that she had two choices: continue the pregnancy or “travel,” which, as she told the Washington Post recently, brought to mind “Ireland’s history of spiriting deviant women away in conditions of secrecy and shame.”
To Mellet, the journey she made to Liverpool for the abortion felt like a banishment that deliberately denied her the care and the counselling that she should have had in her own country. She flew home twelve hours later, still bleeding. “Not only did we have to make this horrible decision about what to do in the case of a fatal condition,” she told the Post, “we had to leave the country like criminals, speak in euphemisms to hospital staff in Ireland, pay thousands to end a pregnancy, all the while my heart breaking at having to say goodbye to my darling baby girl.” In a case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on Mellet’s behalf, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled, in June, 2016, that the state had violated Mellet’s rights to freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, as well as her privacy and equality before the law.
It is not just the most terrible cases that should be considered when thinking about the Irish ban on abortion—or about the American pro-life movement’s push to ban the procedure here. If Irish voters set aside the amendment, Irish legislators will be able to enact new laws that will likely make abortion freely available to women in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, with restrictions thereafter—a framework similar to that of many other countries in Europe. That will certainly provide safety and dignity for women in tragic predicaments. But new laws will also help women in more commonplace ones, who aren’t prepared, for any number of reasons, to bear a child, and who should not be forced to do so. It will allow women, in other words, the ordinary autonomy that all men have.
Polls in Ireland close at 10PM local time on May 25th.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
The Hill (May 2, 2018): Iowa lawmakers pass strictest abortion law in the US, by Julia Manchester:
On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, Iowa legislators passed "the heartbeat bill." The legislation bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Essentially, the heartbeat distinction would ban abortions by the sixth week of pregnancy.
Opposition to the bill claims that it would ban abortions before some women even know they're pregnant.
The passage of the bill comes as the Trump administration has taken a hard-line stance on abortion, spurring a slew of abortion laws across the nation.
Nineteen states adopted a total of 63 restrictions to the procedure in 2017, which is the highest number of state laws on the issue since 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The bill now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds's (R) desk, but, if signed, is expected to be challenged as a violation of Supreme Court precedent including Roe v. Wade.
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
The New York Times (April 26, 2018): Supporters of El Salvador’s Abortion Ban Foil Efforts to Soften It, by Elisabeth Malkin:
El Salvador remains one of six Latin American countries with a total ban on abortion after the Legislative Assembly failed to debate and vote on a measure that would have relaxed the ban in two circumstances: when the mother's life is in danger and in the case of a minor becoming pregnant as a result of rape.
In El Salvador, abortion is criminalized and punishable by up to eight years in prison for both doctor and patient. Human rights groups around the world have a lobbied for a change in the harsh policies that sometimes criminalize women who have late-term miscarriages. These women have historically been charged with abortion or even aggravated homicide.
Advocates aiming to soften the total ban had been lobbying for months, but their efforts were unsuccessful when the former, left-wing-led national legislature adjourned last week without voting on the proposals. A new Legislative Assembly convenes this month, dominated by conservatives who are not expected to revive the debate or offer reform proposals.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
CNN (Apr. 20, 2018): Indiana abortion law signed by Mike Pence ruled unconstitutional, by Clare Foran:
A federal appeals court has ruled that an Indiana abortion law signed by Vice President Mike Pence when he served as the state's governor is unconstitutional.
Friday, April 20, 2018
Human Rights Watch (April 16, 2018): A Backward Step for Reproductive Rights in Chile, by José Miguel Vivanco:
Last year, under former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, Chile's Congress passed reproducive health reform that lifted a 28-year blanket ban on abortions in the country. While the reform did not make abortion wholly available, it removed the ban under three circumstances: when the pregnant person's life is at risk; if the pregnancy is a result of rape; and if the fetus is deemed "not compatible with life outside the womb."
Even with the reform--upheld as constitutional in August 2017--several barriers remained in place even under these circumstances. For example, doctors and whole hospitals could invoke a right not to perform abortions on the basis of conscience. If they chose to invoke this right, though, the original reform required a stated reason for abstaining and also required those abstaining to register as such in a timely manner. The goal of this rule was to ensure continuity of coverage at a hospital, so that pregnant persons qualifying for an abortion would not be denied one due to lack of access.
Under current Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, the requirement of providing a reason for objecting to performing abortions, along with the requirement of assurance of continuity of coverage, were dropped completely.
These rule modifications were issued by the Health Ministry and have international human rights groups concerned that the reproductive health of women and girls will not be protected in Chile.
For example, a person pregnant with a non-viable fetus, or a pre-teen rape victim, might find themselves unable to receive an abortion, because the local hospital does not want to potentially offend politicians or invoke the wrath of anti-abortion groups. As such, the only potential abortion-provider in a given town has chosen "on the basis of conscience" not to provide them and will not be required to justify that decision. Human Rights Watch recommends that
The Chilean government should review and amend the rules to ensure that access to legal abortion is protected. Otherwise it risks letting conscientious objection be used as a pretext to deny important newly recognized rights of women and girls.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
NPR News (Apr. 9, 2018): Reproductive Rights Advocates Challenge Dozens Of Mississippi Abortion Restrictions, by Sarah McCamon
Abortion rights advocates with the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the Mississippi Center for Justice are challenging dozens of Mississippi's abortion restrictions in federal court. The state's Republican governor, Phil Bryant, recently signed the most restrictive abortion law in the country, banning abortion after 15 weeks gestation.
Last month, in response to a suit from CRR, a judge quickly moved to temporarily block the 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi.
Among the restrictions named in the new suit are a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion; a ban on physicians using telemedicine to provide abortion consultation or dispense medication abortions; and rules known as "TRAP" laws that abortion-rights attorneys and the U.S. Supreme Court say place unnecessarily cumbersome health and safety regulations on facilities that provide abortions. In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down similar rules in Texas in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
The suit's lead plaintiff is Jackson Women's Health Organization, the only clinic providing abortions in Mississippi.
Nancy Northup, CRR President & CEO, said she's hopeful the challenge to Mississippi's longstanding 24-hour-waiting period could set up an opportunity to revisit laws surrounding similar requirements, which have been upheld by the Supreme Court in the past, as in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Thursday, April 5, 2018
St. Louis Public Radio (Apr. 4, 2018): Missouri Republicans push several abortion proposals during second half of 2018 session, by Marshall Griffin & Erin Achenbach
The Missouri House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation designed to ban abortions at 20 weeks, relying on the same medically inaccurate "pain-capable" language used to pass similar 20-week bans in other states. The bill passed 117-39 and now goes to the Missouri Senate.
Meanwhile, a House committee is considering four other proposals. They include a proposed constitutional amendment that would declare fetuses at every stage of development to be persons, and in effect abolish abortion in Missouri. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove. This is the third year in a row Moon has sponsored the so-called “personhood” amendment. The measure passed the Missouri House in 2016 but fell short in the Senate.
House Bill 2589, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, comes as a response to a St. Louis Board of Aldermen bill that would call for a buffer zone for health care centers and prohibit certain activities, such as picketing, in front of facilities like Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services in St. Louis. Rehder’s bill would prohibit buffer zones.
The House committee also heard a bill that would make it a felony to transport a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion without the parental consent already required by Missouri law.
Finally, Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, introduced House Bill 1867, which would prohibit certain selective abortions relating to sex, race, or Down syndrome.
No action was taken on the four bills heard in committee Tuesday.