Monday, October 8, 2018
Rewire.News (Oct. 1, 2018): House Republicans Jam ‘Personhood’ Language Into New Tax Bill, by Katelyn Burns:
The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a bill that would extend "the ability to count 'unborn children' as beneficiaries under 529 education savings plans."
The bill, referred to as the Family Savings Act, is a part of a current push for updated tax legislation. Anti-choice activists have promoted the addition of personhood language--effectively defining zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as persons with all the rights that entails--to legislation for some time. The cause is now embraced by many Congressional Republicans as well.
"Personhood laws" have consistently been rejected in ballot measures across the country.
Representatives and activists alike warn lawmakers to be vigilant of the tactic of sneaking anti-choice provisions into larger bills. “This is how extremist views creep into the mainstream," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). "Provisions like this one should never become law—they can lead to limits on access to abortion and even birth control.”
Supporters of the legislation--personhood language and all--claim that it will "finally" allow expectant parents to begin saving for their future child's education through a 529 plan. Parents-to-be, however, "can already open a 529 plan listing themselves as the beneficiary before switching it over to the child once they are born."
The Family Savings Act is not expected to pass in the Senate ahead of the midterms, but this is not the first time--and surely not the last--lawmakers have tried to slip similar provisions into tax reform or other legislation.
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Rewire.News (Sept. 25, 2018): Alaskan Survivors of Sexual Assault Urge Murkowski to Vote ‘No’ on Kavanaugh, by Katelyn Burns:
Even before last week's hearing for Dr. Blasey Ford's allegations against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, indigenous groups in Alaska have been voicing their opposition to the Judge's confirmation.
Alaskan sexual assault survivors--many of whom are Natives--are calling on Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to vote "no" on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination this week. Activists have also been protesting at Senator Dan Sullivan's office (R-AK), however, unlike Senator Murkowski, he announced his support for Kavanaugh shortly after the nomination in July.
Sexual assault is a pervasive problem in Native American communities. Natives, including Alaskan women, suffer from rape and sexual assault in staggeringly disproportionate numbers with little access to justice.
"According to the 2015 Alaska Victimization Survey, 50 percent of Alaskan women have been victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or both." Furthermore, 97 percent of Native Alaskan sexual assault survivors suffered the violence at the hands of non-Native perpetrators. Notably, tribal justice systems cannot prosecute non-Natives for sexual assault.
Survivors are also speaking out in defense of Dr. Ford's delay in coming out publicly with her allegations. “Most of the time we would be blamed for being provocative in some way. So I can understand why someone would wait years to bring up a sexual assault," said one Alaskan Native survivor.
Native communities also oppose Kavanaugh's nomination on his views of Native rights generally and his misunderstanding of tribal history and government systems.
October 2, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Medical News, Politics, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 21, 2018
Daily Intelligencer (Sept. 20, 2018): Is the Anti-Abortion Movement Just Applied Anti-Feminism?, by Ed Kilgore:
Kilgore writes for New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer responding in part to conservative Ross Douthat's New York Times piece claiming that the current allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are harmful to the "pro-life" movement.
Kilgore says that despite the arguments of many anti-abortion activists that their purported moral high ground turns on fetal personhood or the rights of the unborn, "the prevailing sentiment among abortion rights activists is that the anti-abortion movement is just applied misogyny."
Anti-abortion work generally is rooted in a position that elevates the patriarchy and promotes "fear of women's sexuality and autonomy."
Kilgore highlights that Douthat interestingly links anti-abortion work with anti-feminism. Douthat is concerned that confirming Kavanaugh amidst the #metoo movement generally and his allegations of sexual assault specifically might "cement a perception that’s fatal to the pro-life movement’s larger purposes — the perception that you can’t be pro-woman and pro-life."
Even if many Republicans (in particular, Republican women) have identified with the labels pro-woman and pro-life, there is no longer any Republican party-wide commitment to the pro-woman side of the pairing, Kilgore says.
Ross Douthat is right to worry that it’s getting harder every day to disassociate pro-life from anti-woman views. It’s certainly getting harder for me to believe that anti-abortion activists care more about saving embryos than about shackling women.
September 21, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Public Opinion, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 14, 2018
Slate (Sept. 12, 2018): Planned Parenthood’s Next President: An Immigrant Doctor of Color Who Grew Up on Medicaid, by Christina Cauterucci:
Planned Parenthood announced in September that its new president, Leana Wen, will start in November. Wen currently serves as Baltimore's health commissioner and is also an emergency room physician. She will be the second doctor to head the organization and the first one to do so in 50 years.
"In both her career and her lived experience, Wen is a near-perfect embodiment of the organization’s core concerns, client base, and trajectory." Wen left China for the United States as a political asylum-seeker when she was eight years old. Growing up in poverty in California, she relied on Medicaid and Planned Parenthood for her health care, and gave back as a medical student by volunteering with Planned Parenthood as well.
In her current role as health commissioner of Baltimore, Wen has contributed both to reducing infant mortality and to fighting against disparate racial treatment in the health care system.
After 10 years of leadership focusing on the political side of the organization under Cecile Richards, Wen is expected to emphasize the legitimacy of the medical branch of Planned Parenthood while also continuing to bolster PP's political activism.
While the majority of Americans support Planned Parenthood, it's often considered a political body and branch of the Democratic party above all else. "Wen will be well-positioned to make the medical case for practices like telemedicine abortions," among other services Planned Parenthood offers and causes it supports.
That Planned Parenthood chose as its next leader a young immigrant woman of color who grew up on Medicaid and has worked to combat health inequities is a testament to the organization’s semi-recent rebranding as one committed to not only reproductive choice but reproductive justice, an ethos that prioritizes equal access to care and includes related issues like mass incarceration and poverty. The organization came under fire in 2014 when several reproductive justice advocacy groups accused it of engaging in “the co-optation and erasure” of work done by women of color in the field by claiming the mantle of reproductive justice without crediting those who’d pioneered the framework. It has been working to shake that reputation ever since.
In hiring Wen, the organization seems to hope to cement their relevancy in the reproductive justice world, re-focusing on intersectionality in the movement as well as making the case for the medical necessity of Planned Parenthood in a country facing growing threats to reproductive rights.
Saturday, September 8, 2018
The New York Times (Sept. 6, 2018): India Strikes Down Colonial-Era Ban on Gay Sex, by Jeffrey Gettleman, Kai Schultz, and Suhasini Raj:
India's Supreme Court unanimously struck down a ban on consensual gay sex, a remnant of the country's colonial past and one of the oldest bans of its kind. The Court called the law "irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary."
The Court's decision came after weeks of deliberation, years of legal arguments, and decades of activism. Human rights advocates in India and around the world celebrated as India joined the growing list of countries granting full rights to gay-identifying people. Similar laws have been overturned in the United States, Canada, England, and Nepal, among others.
In 2009, a court in New Delhi had ruled that the law could not be applied to consensual sex, but religious resistance to this decision followed by an appeal led to the restoration of the full law in 2013. The court deferred at that point to the Parliament and claimed the law only applied to a "minuscule fraction of the country."
In 2016, activists rallied five brave plaintiffs identifying as gay and lesbian Indians who alleged their rights to equality and liberty were violated under the law (Section 377). Eventually, more than two dozen additional Indians joined the case while it was pending before the Supreme Court.
The September 2018 decision struck down the prohibition against gay sex, and the Court also made illegal all discrimination based on sexuality, extending "all constitutional protections under Indian law" to gay people.
The law was written in the mid-19th century and applied to "unnatural sexual acts." The law, which criminalized people who engaged in "intercourse against the order of nature," remains on the books to apply to cases of bestiality, for example, but now no longer can be used against consensual sex. “'History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights,' Justice Indu Malhotra said."
Menaka Guruswamy was one of the lead attorneys representing the petitioners. This decision is a "huge win" she said. The lawyers' arguments centered on the legal issues but also embraced pleas to the Justices to recognize the humanity of those who have been affected by Section 377 for decades.
The law is notably a vestige of British colonialism. Hinduism, the dominant religion in India, is generally permissive of same-sex relationships, but levels of tolerance were eviscerated under British rule. The British leaders implemented Section 377, which imposed a life sentence on those in violation. While the law has been greatly limited, India remains a conservative country in many ways, and fundamentalist groups across religions--Hindu, Muslim, and Christian--protested the decision.
In recent years, though, many more Indians have come out, identifying publicly as gay, lesbian, and transgender. Now that these lifestyles are no longer criminalized, Indian activists hope that many more Indians will come out and be embraced by their country.
Friday, September 7, 2018
Windy City Times (Sept. 4, 2018): Panel focuses on intersectionality of LGBTQ, reproductive rights, by Carrie Maxwell:
Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy hosted a panel discussion in Chicago at the end of August to discuss the intersection of LGBTQ and reproductive rights. Cassidy identified these rights as forming the basis of "her life's work" and asked the panelists how the two issues intersect with one another and are viewed by society.
The panel included Pride Action Tank Executive Director Kim Hunt, Planned Parenthood Illinois Director of Community Engagement and Adolescent Health Initiatives B. Deonn Strathman, NARAL Pro-Choice America Field Organizer Nick Uniejewski and Howard Brown Health Women's Health Manager Amy Miller.
The panelists agreed that these discussions--and making them LGBTQ-friendly--are especially integral for youth. "Destigmatizing sex education is vital for everyone's well being," said Uniejewski of NARAL.
Hunt explained that "everyone has multiple identities," and recognized that today's young people are better at breaking down barriers that have previously existed between separate movements. Intersectionality necessarily breeds conversations about the power dynamics among people, too, which should not be ignored in the quest to bring various movements in solidarity with each other.
The panel also discussed "crisis pregnancy centers" and how their work has been detrimental to the reproductive rights community, largely due to the false or incomplete information these centers offer. "Miller explained that one of the ways to remove these center's power is by overturning the Hyde Amendment." The Hyde Amendment is a provision, passed in 1976, that bars the use of federal funds for abortion procedures unless the women's life is at risk or if the pregnancy was a result of incest or rape.
The panelists all agreed that halting Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court is of primary importance for activists today.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Law professors around the country joined together in penning a letter to Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) urging them to vote "no" on Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.
The letter highlights the imminent danger to reproductive health should Kavanaugh be confirmed. He would be expected to vote in support of efforts to overturn long established reproductive-rights precedents like Roe. Although Kavanaugh has publicly stated his support for stare decisis, the authors note that justices who support precedent do not always shy away from overturning it.
The overturning of Roe or Casey--both of which upheld the right to choose and based their decisions on the importance of protecting the principle that "matters involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime...are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment"--could also implicate harmful shifts in the subsequently upheld rights to privacy relating to parenting, family planning, and same sex relationships.
In 1965, the lawyers cite, "illegal abortion in the United States accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth." As officially reported numbers, the actual mortality rate due to illegal abortion was likely much higher.
The threat to reproductive health and freedom is particularly acute for women of color, poor women, and rural women, the attorneys point out, citing disparate access to quality medical care based on racial and class lines as well as the heightened maternal mortality rate for black women.
The letter states that women in Maine and Alaska in particular may be heavily affected, as both states are large and have "widely dispersed populations, creating challenges for health care."
In conclusion, the authors write:
A "no" vote is necessary to protect women and families throughout this country. We urge you, as Senators who have long supported the right to choose, to make your legacy the protection of these fundamental constitutional rights for generations to come.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Moms throughout country under investigation while Utah's 'free-range parenting' law said to be first in the nation
The Washington Post (Mar.28, 2018): Utah's 'free-range parenting' law said to be first in the nation, by Meagan Flynn:
Lenore Skenazy reinvigorated debates about best parenting practices when she decided to let her 9-year-old ride the New York City subway alone (with a map, MetroCard, and cash) to instill in him independence in 2008. After the court of public opinion contested whether she was a terrible or great parent, Skenazy wrote a book on her philosophies and coined the term "free-range parenting."
The idea was to let her child engage in "various activities without stifling supervision." Unforunately, many parents who subscribe consciously or not to Skenazy's "free-range" style have encountered the scary side-effects of leaving their children without supervision: interference from child services or the police.
A mother in Chicago allowed her 8-year-old to walk their dog around the block. After the girl arrived safely home, the police stopped at their home upon receiving an anonymous tip about a child walking alone. The investigations that ensue in these scenarios are looking for child neglect. And even if the parents under investigation are cleared by officials (whether child services or the police), they have to endure "invasive and stressful" investigations that can not only be humiliating but are often considered a waste of time and resources. "Experts say that the problem stems from vague laws that often ensnare well-meaning parents who are trying to give their children freedom or responsibility."
A sociology professor at the Univesity of Illinois at Chicago, Barbara Risman, also notes that the expectation that mothers keep "a constant eye on their children" doesn't often extend to fathers:
This shaming mechanism underlies the cultural logic that women should spend all their time making sure their children are never alone. The opposite is true of dads. No one presumes fathers have a moral responsibility to take care of (their children). When they do, they get praise and positive reinforcement.
Child abuse and neglect laws can be vague, defining neglect, for example, as leaving a child under 14 "without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor." Those charged with investigating a report of neglect generally find it important to thoroughly explore every allegation.
Society is pushing back, though, against what it considers unreasonable surveillance of reasonable parenting. The free-range parenting concept has now translated into law in Utah. State Senator Lincoln Fillmore (R) sponsored the measure, which exempts a range of activities children of a "sufficient age" can do without supervision from the definition of child neglect. These activities include walking, running, or biking to and from school or recreational facilities as well as playing outside or staying inside at home unattended. While the bill was in committee earlier this year, Fillmore told Fox 13:
As a society, we’ve kind of erred, as our pendulum has swung for children’s safety, a little bit too much to the side of helicopter parenting, right? We want kids to be able to learn how to navigate the world so when they’re adults they’re fully prepared to handle things on their own.
Skenazy, too, has remained involved in the conversation. Arkansas attempted to pass a similar bill last year. It failed in committee from fears of child abduction. Skenazy wrote: “Why give kids freedom — why give parents freedom — when you can take it away so easily and say you’re championing safety in the process?”
Saturday, August 25, 2018
Bustle (Aug. 22, 2018): A California Abortion Pill Law Would Require Colleges To Offer Them, Thanks to These Activists, by Lani Seelinger:
California could require medication abortion pills to be available across all of the state's public college campuses if a bill that originated through student activism passes by the end of the month. Activists at the University of California-Berkeley were already focusing on promoting reproductive health care when they realized that expanding that care to include access to medication abortions on campus in particular would improve many student lives.
"Medication abortion is the process by which a woman can terminate her pregnancy by taking a series of pills within the first 10 weeks of her pregnancy." These procedures are considered very safe and efficient, and activists recognize that campus access could alleviate the logistical issues of accessing the medication. Often the stress of accessing a medication abortion can harm a student's emotional, academic, and financial well-being. Over 500 students a month on University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) campuses seek medication abortions.
The Women's Foundation of California--which fights for racial, economic, and gender justice--partnered with the students and alumni promoting the cause, and from there the effort spread from Berkeley throughout the state. California Senator Connie Leyva introduced the bill in the Senate earlier this year. It passed. Next, the bill must pass in the Assembly before August 31 in order to land on Governor Jerry Brown's desk.
The activists spearheading the campaign for the bill (SB320) are driven by the greater mission of de-stigmatizing abortion.
August 25, 2018 in Abortion, Contraception, Culture, Current Affairs, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Aug. 8, 2018 (The New Republic): The Glaring Exception in the Coming Battle Over Reproductive Rights, by Emma Scornavacchi:
Justice Kennedy's retirement announcement earlier this summer immediately sparked discussion and concern over the fate of Roe v. Wade, abortion rights, and reproductive rights in general. Conservative and anti-abortion activists now feel that, depending on Trump's SCOTUS nominee, making abortion illegal in the United States is a real possibility. Further, "an emboldened anti-abortion campaign could lead to consequences for women’s health care and reproductive rights that range far beyond abortion restrictions. Contraceptive devices, such as IUDs or even the pill, could cease to be covered by insurance."
Notably, though, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), tends to be left out of the reproductive rights debate.
A leader of the Pro-Life Action League cited that it can be too difficult to explain what is "objectionable" about IVF as a reason for focusing conservative efforts on abortion alone--despite the fact that the typical IVF cycle results in the disposal of many fertilized embryos. "IVF poses a puzzling challenge for conservative groups: How do organizations that liken embryos to people reckon with a technology that creates babies for families, but destroys embryos along the way?"
In the United States, the success rate for IVF in women under 35 hovers around 42%. To achieve that success, though, IVF cycles may produce anywhere from 3 - 25 embryos at a time. Many of the unused embryos remain frozen, some may be donated to research or to another family, and some may be "thawed" right away (that is, disposed of).
Usually, anti-abortion arguments pertain to the right to life of unborn embryos, who do not get a say in the termination of life. "Unborn" embryos are being terminated by "thawing" across the country, as well, however, with no general outcry from conservative anti-abortion activists. "'There’s a disconnect between how public policy treats women who undergo IVF and women who have abortions,' says Margo Kaplan, a Rutgers law professor." Kaplan herself underwent IVF, and she and her husband chose to donate their unused embryos to medical research. Such research contributes to developments in treatments and cures for diseases like Parkinson's, yet Planned Parenthood was harshly targeted for participating in embryonic research partnerships.
Women who undergo IVF and choose to donate embryos do not have to read any mandated material or sit out a waiting period, both of which are required of women in many states who choose to get an abortion. “Nobody ever questioned my ability to make my own decision. And we don’t assume that women have the same ability to do that when they have an abortion,” Kaplan says.
Anti-abortion activists are hesitant to focus on the IVF issue when they see the opportunity to at least make strides criminalizing abortion, especially in light of today's Supreme Court opening. Kaplan also posits that activists are hesitant to focus on IVF as problematic, because it's a procedure that values and supports a woman's desire to be a mother, while abortion tends to implicate women who are pregnant but do not want motherhood.
Patriarchal values combine with the stigma around abortion to explain the dichotomy in how conservatives are choosing to respond to abortion versus IVF. Further, IVF is steeped in privilege--the costs to undergo IVF cycles can exceed $20,000 and the treatments are out of reach for many people who would otherwise avail themselves of it. As such, IVF is often enjoyed exclusively by well-educated, wealthy, and white women. If it continues to thrive--even amidst anti-abortion attacks on other forms of reproductive rights--its privilege will likely bolster its continued growth and support.
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.”
Thursday, July 26, 2018
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the opening of a new division in January of this year: The Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR's primary mandate is to enforce refusal of care laws.
Refusal of care laws essentially empower medical providers to deny care to patients if they disagree with the ethics of a particular procedure based on their religious grounds. The purported goal of these laws is to protect a healthcare provider from being forced into providing care that "violates their conscience."
This is an Executive-ordered decision that does not require legislative or judicial approval to go into effect or to implement its new rules and regulations.
Critics of refusal of care laws express concern that these requirements do not simply "protect" health care providers consciences, but can instead seriously harm patients. These laws may lead to a pharmacist refusing to fill a birth control prescription, a doctor refusing hormone therapy to a transgender patient, limitations placed on services to LGBTQ persons and partners, and of course abortion services may also become more limited.
HHS does not require providers who refuse treatment to refer patients to other providers or provide any information at all on other providers.
The OCR further has authority to initiate compliance reviews of any organization receiving federal funding to ensure conformity to the new rules.
Earlier this month, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) filed a lawsuit against HHS for refusing to release records pertaining to the creation of the OCR. The organizations initially requested these records via a FOIA request in January 2018. The CRR and NWLC seek knowledge of why the new division was needed, how the OCR operates, allocates funding, and may be influenced by outside groups.
"We’re filing this lawsuit to force the Trump-Pence administration to justify why it’s using resources to fund discrimination, rather than to protect patients," said Gretchen Borchelt, NWLC Vice President for Reproductive Rights and Health.
HHS's new Office of Civil Rights follows additional moves by the Trump administration to limit equitable access to reproductive health care, including promoting the "Global Gag Rule," its domestic counterpart, and establishing regulations aimed at severely limiting funding to Title X programs.
July 26, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Contraception, Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Medical News, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
The New York Times (Jul. 10, 2018): As Cuomo Rallies for Abortion Rights, Nixon Questions His Bona Fides, by Jesse McKinley:
The New York primary season is heating up as incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo and Democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon are both advocating, among other things, for hard line policies to protect the right to abortion and women's health services in New York State.
Governor Cuomo told voters that New York needs to codify the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade on the state level and called on the State Legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act to do so. He's previously put forth similar legislation, none of which made it through the State Senate's Republicans and "rogue," anti-abortion Democrats. Cuomo is also advocating for the decriminalizing of abortion--moving laws and regulations pertaining to the procedure over to the public health code instead.
Nixon, in her primary campaign, has highlighted previous, unflattering statements by Cuomo about feminism and women as well as his failure to execute a comprehensive shift in New York reproductive policies in order to distinguish her own platform, which lies somewhat farther to the left and is endorsed by the New York Working Families Party.
The stakes are clearly raised in in this year's Gubernatorial race in light of Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court and growing concerns that the fundamental rights to abortion and reproductive health will be formidably challenged under a much more conservative court.
The Washington Post (Jul. 17, 2018): Who gets the embryos? Whoever wants to make them into babies, new law says, by Ariana Eunjung Cha:
New court cases cases are grappling with the decision of what to do with frozen embryos created during a marriage that later dissolves. In many cases that Cha reports on, the couples chose to create and freeze several embryos in the wake of a cancer diagnosis and treatment schedule that threatened later fertility.
When these same couples faced divorce, there were bitter divides over what should be done with the embryos: one party wanted to maintain "ownership" of the embryos for a future chance at children while the other wanted the embryos destroyed, fearing unwanted future financial or relationship obligations.
With the number of frozen embryos in the United States soaring into the millions, disputes over who owns them are also on the rise. Judges have often — but not always — ruled in favor of the person who does not want the embryos used, sometimes ordering them destroyed, following the theory that no one should be forced to become a parent.
In Arizona, though, a "first-in-the-nation law" went into effect on July 1 that states "custody of disputed embryos must be given to the party who intends to help them 'develop to birth.'"
The legislation represents for some lawmakers the idea that frozen embryos have their own right to life, and many imagine that the implications could eventually include a delineation of when life begins and a claim to a separate set of embryonic rights of their own as human beings (rather than the discussion being centered on who "owns" the embryos).
Some groups, like the anti-abortion Thomas More Society, advocate for that embryos to be considered "children" in the legal sense, asking judges to make decisions on disputes based on the best interest of the "child."
Debates to extend personhood to unborn embryos and fetuses abound in anti-abortion work. Abortion rights advocates are concerned that these discussions could further disintegrate the right to abortion in the United States. "If a days-old embryo in a freezer has a right to life, why not a days-old embryo in utero?"
While judges have historically ordered disputed embryos destroyed based on the wishes of the party who does not want a child, an Arizona judge chose to balance one party's "probable inability to have a child without the embryos" against the other party's "desire to not be a father" a different way.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Ronee Korbin Steiner held that Ruby Torres, who wanted the embryos in order to have biological children one day, had no right to them. The judge did not order them destroyed, though, and instead ordered that they go up for donation.
Torres appealed the decision and expects a new ruling any day.
The new Arizona law that states embryos shall be given to the party who intends to develop them to birth was written in response to this case to "help" people in Torres' situation. It also attempts to recognize the rights of those who do not want the embryos used by providing that those parties would not be liable for child support in the future.
Both the judicial decisions and the legislation continue to prove extremely controversial:
The Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative lobbying group that has successfully pushed antiabortion legislation in the state, supported the measure, saying the bill would “lead to more consistent rulings.”
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which represents doctors, nurses and other professionals who work on fertility issues, opposed the measure, arguing that it would have a profound impact on reproductive medicine.
Medical professionals foresee profound complications to stem-cell research in particular, which relies on embryos donated to science. Such research is believed essential in developing treatments for many diseases and conditions like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The treatment and storage of embryos as a result of the new legislation will likely make embryonic stem cells much more scarce.
In a friend-of-the-court brief in Torres' pending appellate case, the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys urged judges in the Arizona Court of Appeals to balance the interest of each former spouse. They argue that the parties claims are not equal and that "the constitutional protection against compulsory parenthood is [generally] greater than any procreative interest in pre-embryos."
Time will tell both if the appellate judges affirm Judge Steiner's controversial ruling (likely leading to further appeals) while we also wait for the inevitable challenges to Arizona's new embryo law.
July 18, 2018 in Abortion, Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Culture, Current Affairs, Fertility, Fetal Rights, In the Courts, Medical News, Parenthood, Politics, Public Opinion, Scholarship and Research, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
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)
Monday, June 18, 2018
New York Times (Jun. 17, 2018): Leading Republicans Join Democrats in Pushing Trump to Halt Family Separations, by Peter Baker:
On Sunday, leading figures of both parties demanded that President Trump halt his administration’s practice of separating children from their parents when apprehended at the border, as the issue further polarized the already divisive immigration debate in Washington.
Republican lawmakers, the former first lady Laura Bush, a conservative newspaper and a onetime adviser to Mr. Trump joined Democrats in condemning family separations that have removed nearly 2,000 children from their parents in just six weeks. The administration argued that it was just enforcing the law, a false assertion that Mr. Trump has made repeatedly.
Even Melania Trump weighed in, saying she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together.” Mrs. Trump “believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with a heart,” the first lady’s office said in a statement.
The issue took on special resonance on Father’s Day as Democratic lawmakers visited detention facilities in Texas and New Jersey to protest the separations and the House prepared to take up immigration legislation this week. Pictures of children warehoused without their parents in facilities, including a converted Walmart store, have inflamed passions and put the administration on defense.
By laying responsibility for the situation on “both sides,” Mrs. Trump effectively echoed her husband’s assertion that it was the result of a law written by Democrats. In fact, the administration announced a “zero tolerance” approach this spring, leading to the separations.
Laura Bush, the last Republican first lady, spoke out forcefully against the practice on Sunday in a rare foray into domestic politics, comparing it to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “I live in a border state,” she wrote in a guest column in The Washington Post. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, deplored separations on Sunday, except in cases where there is evidence of abuse or another good reason. “What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that, if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” she said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “That is traumatizing to the children, who are innocent victims. And it is contrary to our values in this country.”
Contrary to the president’s public statements, no law requires families to be separated at the border. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s “zero tolerance” announcement this spring that the government will prosecute all unlawful immigrants as criminals set up a situation in which children are removed when their parents are taken into federal custody.
Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, rejected responsibility for the separations in a series of tweets on Sunday. “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border,” she wrote. “Period.”
But there have been reports of people arriving at the ports of entry asking for asylum and being taken into custody, and some of the designated ports are not accepting asylum claims. In those cases, migrants sometimes cross wherever they can and, because it is not an official border station, are detained even though they are making a claim of asylum. Many would-be asylum applicants do not know where official ports of entry are.
Democrats are trying to focus attention on the separation policy as an example of what they call Mr. Trump’s extremist approach to immigration. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has collected 43 Democratic sponsors for legislation to limit family separations.
Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland led a group of Democratic lawmakers to a detention facility in Brownsville, Tex., on Sunday but were not allowed to talk with children held there. Seven House Democrats visited a detention facility in Elizabeth, N.J. and said they were blocked for nearly two hours before being allowed to see parents separated from their children.
Anthony Scaramucci, who served briefly as White House communications director last year, said separating children from their families is not “the Christian way” or “the American way,” and made clear he thinks Mr. Trump can end it on his own. “The President can reverse it and I hope he does,” he wrote on Twitter.
The conservative editorial page of The New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, agreed on Sunday. “It’s not just that this looks terrible in the eyes of the world,” it wrote. “It is terrible.”
Mr. Trump has said in recent days that Democrats should agree to his panoply of immigration measures, including full financing for a border wall and revamping the system of legal entry to the country, in effect making clear that any legislation addressing family separation must also include his priorities.
A top adviser to Mr. Trump said on Sunday that the president was not using the family separation as leverage to force Democrats to come to the table on other policy disputes, rebutting an unnamed White House official quoted by The Washington Post.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Los Angeles Times (Jun. 11, 2018): Trump administration moves to block victims of gang violence and domestic abuse from claiming asylum, by Evan Halper:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has overturned precedent that created a basis for survivors of domestic violence in foreign countries to receive asylum in the United States.
As Attorney General, Sessions' review of an earlier case that granted a Salvadoran woman asylum as a victim of physical and emotional abuse by her husband, including rape, is binding. A federal appellate court, though, has the power to overturn Sessions decision, and immigration advocates anticipate immediate challenges to the decision.
To establish asylum in the United States, applicants must "prove that they have a reasonable fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political views or membership in a particular social group." Under the Obama administration, in 2014, a Guatemalan woman fleeing domestic violence was granted asylum after the immigration appeals board ruled that victims of domestic violence constituted, in some cases, "a particular social group."
Advocates estimate that tens of thousands of U.S. asylum applicants annually fall into this precedential category targeted now by Sessions and the Trump administration. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees "warned that such action would violate international agreements the U.S. has entered into concerning refugees and would subject victims to being returned to situations in which their lives are in danger." The American Bar Association has also joined in voicing its concern that this ruling will further endanger those most vulnerable.
Sessions has stated through this decision that the United States will not offer help to women suffering from and living in fear of domestic violence, rape, and death, as their situations constitute only "private crimes" that their home governments should be able to manage. He has cast doubt on well-founded assertions that police in the home countries of these women "often don't respond to reports of domestic violence" and rejects that, as such, these women constitute "a distinct group in need of protection by the U.S."
"The attorney general’s skepticism that victims of abuse lack effective recourse in their home countries runs counter to reports published by the U.S. Department of State on human rights conditions in those countries."
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.