Thursday, June 16, 2016
The Guardian (May 26, 2016): Some women regret their abortions. But we all deserve to have the choice, by Jessica Valenti
Jessica Valenti highlights the recent admission of a wife of a Republican legislator who explained that she deeply regrets her abortion. Valenti explains that while this feeling happens, it is statistically rare among American women, who for the most part do not regret their abortions. While showcasing women that regret their abortions is a tactic often used by the anti-choice movement, the article poignantly points out that this is still a choice, a viable access point, and decision that these women made.
"Even though the vast majority of women who have abortions won’t regret them, there will always be some women who wish they didn’t end a pregnancy – that’s just the reality. But it’s better to regret a decision than never having the option to make it in the first place."
Anti-Choice Groups Use Smartphone Surveillance to Target ‘Abortion-Minded Women’ During Clinic Visits
Rewire (May 29, 2016): Anti-Choice Groups Use Smartphone Surveillance to Target ‘Abortion-Minded Women’ During Clinic Visits, by Sharona Coutts
In the digital age of tracked advertising, we are constantly bombarded with ads that companies choose for us based on our technological imprint and history. Now, these ads are getting personal. The newly re-branded Rewire writes about John Flynn, CEO of Copley Advertising, who decided to use technology for targeted ads within the anti-choice movement; specifically, against women inside the safety of abortion clinics encouraging them to change their mind about their personal and (not-so) private choice to terminate a pregnancy. Because laws on data collection and tech privacy are still catching up with the speed at which the sector is progressing, this is all, as of now, legal.
"Women who have visited almost any abortion clinic in the United States have seen anti-choice protesters outside, wielding placards and chanting abuse. A Boston advertiser's technology, when deployed by anti-choice groups, allows those groups to send propaganda directly to a woman’s phone while she is in a clinic waiting room."
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Salon (May 24, 2016): Sam Bee destroys the religious right’s abortion obsession, by Brendan Gauthier
"The "Full Frontal" host takes aim at the "feverish anti-abortion rhetoric" that has taken over the right."
In typical Sam Bee fashion, humor is used to expose the hypocrisy of the religious right and their take on abortion. Bee also speaks to one of the "founders" of the "pro-life" movement who explains that the help he offered on the film that started the crusade, entitled "Whatever Happened to the Human Race" is the "single greatest regret" of his life.
The Atlantic (May 29, 2016): How Clergy Set the Standard for Abortion Care, by Bridgette Dunlap
The Atlantic explores the somewhat counter-intuitive notion that clergy of the past used to actively support a woman's right to an abortion in a space that was safe, personal and welcoming. Tracing back the work of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion in New York, it's almost surprising to read that the group once facilitated access to clinics, championed the idea that abortion should not have been overly medicalized, and even opened a clinic to pave the way for the care they deem dignified and necessary for the women seeking services.
"Fifty years ago, a network of religious leaders helped thousands of women find safe, comfortable ways of having the procedure.
Judson Memorial Church—joined by the CCS’s successor organization, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and a slew of other religious groups—filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court opposing Texas’s abortion regulations. They argue the measures will injure the health and dignity of women by driving up costs and decreasing access to safe abortion. Unlike the Texas legislators purporting to protect women seeking abortions, they know whereof they speak."
Monday, June 13, 2016
Buzzfeed (June 10, 2016): Ireland's Abortion Laws Breach Women's Human Rights, UN Rules, by Rose Troup Buchanan and Jina Moore:
Last week, the UN Human Rights Committee, found that Irish laws criminalizing abortion violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The case was brought by a woman who could not get a legal abortion in Ireland after she discovered she was carrying a fetus with fatal congenital defects. As a result, she was forced to travel the the United Kingdom to terminate her pregnancy. The Committee found that because Irish law does not permit an abortion in such cases, the woman was forced to choose "between continuing her non-viable pregnancy or traveling to another country while carrying a dying fetus, at personal expense and separated from the support of her family, and to return while not fully recovered." The Human Rights Committee found that denial of an abortion under such circumstances constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and violated the right to non-discrimination and right to privacy and autonomy.
Although, Ireland has an international legal obligation to comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee's decision is not directly enforceable by Irish courts. Instead, it will be up to the Irish government to change its laws. This may require amendment of the Irish Constitution, which currently limits abortion to cases where the mother's life is in danger. The Committee has given the Irish government four months to report back on its progress complying with the committee's decision.
Rewire (June 3, 2016): A Sterilized Peruvian Woman Seeks Justice From Americas' Highest Human Rights Court, by Cynthia Soohoo and Suzannah Phillips:
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights recently heard argument in a case filed by a Peruvian refugee against Bolivia after she was sterilized after undergoing a cesarian section at public hospital. The case illustrates the all-too-common scenario of medical providers making decisions on behalf of women who are deemed "unfit or unable" to make their own choices. In a region where there are widespread reports of forced sterilization, the case is the first time the court will consider whether nonconsensual sterilization is a human rights violation. The case provides an important opportunity for the IA Court to condemn forced sterilization and to adopt clear standards concerning informed consent.
Friday, June 10, 2016
New York Magazine: Pro-Choice Activists Ask to Be Prosecuted to Prove a Point About Abortion Laws, by Sarah Spellings:
Northern Ireland, the "Oklahoma (and Texas, Utah, Florida) of the U.K.," has a 155-year-old law criminalizing abortion. Now, three women there are fighting the stigma and harshness of the country's abortion laws by distributing abortion drugs in spite of (or, rather, to incite) criminal prosecution in their country in the hope of helping young women with a lack of access to this basic healthcare right.
While in the U.S. pro-choice advocates fight felony charges and fake abortion centers, three women from Derry, Northern Ireland, have turned themselves in for procuring pills to induce abortion and distributing them to young women. They hope to trigger a trial following two high-profile cases prosecuting young women who used this method of abortion.
The three women and 197 others signed an open letter last year revealing that they had procured the drugs for themselves or others and were willing to be arrested. To the women's chagrin, the authorities took no action to arrest them.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation via the New York Times: Closing the Gender Data Gap:
In a posting to the New York Times website, the Foundation reports that "[d]ata powers today’s world, informing decisions about everything from business and government to health care and education. For women and girls, however, basic information about their lives—the work they do, the challenges they face, even the very fact of their existence—is lacking. “When we don’t count women or girls, they literally become invisible,” says Sarah Hendriks, director of gender equality at the Foundation.
The implications of this gender-based data gap and the attendant invisibility of women are grave. Without accurate data on women and girls, governments and organizations are stymied in their efforts to empower women and improve lives, and there is no way to measure progress toward global gender equality goals. Moreover, in the specific context of birth registration, barriers can impede mobility and access to health care and other essential services for mothers and children.
The data gap often starts early, driven by information collection methods that are controlled by men. One example is designating the “head of household,” usually a man, as the provider of information about the family. Another is defining “work” as the typical 9-5 job outside the home. These male-biased surveys fail to capture women’s perspectives, needs and economic value.
The good news is that organizations are testing new ways to gather and analyze data in order to spur politicians to design programs that will improve the political participation and security of women around the world.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
The Chronicle (May 30, 2016): Woman Faces Fight to Use Dead Partner's Sperm, by Andrew Backhouse:
A Queensland woman, granted judicial permission to extract sperm from her deceased fiance will likely face a legal challenge to her use of the sperm to have a child with the aid of in vitro fertilization. The partner's family has returned to New Zealand with his body and may well oppose her use of the extracted sperm. The family gave permission for the extraction on an emergency basis because sperm is rendered useless for fertilization within twenty-four hours of a man's death. The couple had been trying to conceive a child before the man's untimely death. Friends of the couple appeared in court to testify about the couple's commitment and desire to have a family. The presiding judged urged "mature reflection . . . whether to proceed with the use of any extracted material."
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Salt Lake Tribune (June 3, 2016): Online Utah High School’s Biology Test Asked Students If a Woman Should Have an Abortion, Benjamin Wood:
A question on a final biology tests administered to high school students in Utah has raised the ire of some parents in that state. The question, since removed from the state's electronic testing database, concerned a 40-year-old woman who was considering an abortion after having been told that the fetus she was carrying had Down's syndrome.
The potential answers include: waiting and redoing the genetic testing closer to the baby's due date; trusting the scientific knowledge of the doctor and going forward with an abortion; prioritizing the wishes of the mother; and considering aspects like religious beliefs, financial burden and the effect on other family members before making "the best decision for everyone."
Some believe the question unlawfully tests students' religious views. Others object that the question denies students the option of expressing respect for the unborn.
Monday, June 6, 2016
New York Times (May 30, 2016): Triplet and Higher-Order Births in U.S. Down 41%, by Nicholas Bakalar:
Women 25 and older and in particular women 45 and older are giving birth to fewer higher-order births, 90 percent of which have been triplets in recent years. The sharpest drop occurred among non-Hispanic white women, though the rate in this group is still 57 percent higher than for non-Hispanic black women and twice as high as the rate for Hispanic women. The increase in higher-order births prior to 1998 was attributed to the rising average maternal age. This average has continued to rise; the decline in higher-order births, then, is thought to be the result of the practices of infertility centers, namely, not implanting multiple embryos in women seeking treatment.
Friday, June 3, 2016
Linda Edwards, Catherine Walsh, and Michelle Goodwin have recently published articles on reproductive justice. The abridged abstracts follow:
Hearing Voices: Non-Party Stories in Abortion and Gay Rights Advocacy, by Linda Edwards:
Among the amicus briefs filed in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (1986) was one submitted by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). Like the famous "Brandeis Brief" in Muller v. Oregon (1908), the NARAL brief relies on sources outside the trial court record. Unlike the Brandeis Brief, however, the NARAL brief does not treat women as the objects of social science research. Instead, living, breathing women, speaking with the first-person pronoun “I,” tell their own abortion stories. This article tells the story of that first “voices” brief, its young author, and its amazing civil rights legacy.
Women in New York State prisons face poor-quality care and assaults on their basic human dignity and reproductive rights. Three issues of particular concern are incarcerated women’s access to gynecological examinations, sanitary supplies, and contraception. This article examines New York State policies addressing reproductive health care for incarcerated women, identifies problems with them, and makes recommendations for reform. perspectives. It recommends bringing New York’s policies in line with legal, medical, and international standards and using existing federal and state programs to provide funding for reproductive care both prior to and after release.
The Pregnancy Penalty, by Michelle Goodwin:
A multitude of state actions serve to sanction and punish pregnant women. It is a fallacy that such punitive state actions “advance” women’s best interest while promoting informed consent. Poor women are symbolically and medically trapped civilly and criminally where extended wait periods, targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP laws), and other indignities burden their constitutional rights. These issues take on a new urgency as lawmakers continue to undermine women’s health care rights.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Human Reproduction (May 21, 2016): Santa Claus in the Fertility Clinic, by Hans Evers:
The editor-in-chief of this premier medical journal criticizes infertility physicians for creating therapeutic illusions with misdiagnoses, useless medications, and unnecessary treatment. Evers is referring specifically to the unnecessary use of intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in cases where in vitro fertilization (IVF) by itself would be sufficient to create a viable pregnancy. ICSI is indicated in cases of male-factor infertility, but such cases do not comprise the majority of infertility cases. Evers bases his evaluation on data covering 2008 through 2010 and gathered by the International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technology (ICMART). The data show that the ICSI-to-IVF ratio varies from 1.4 in Asia to a staggering 60.3 in the Middle East. Studies show that the use of ICSI in non-male-factor infertility cases results in fewer lives births than the use of IVF alone. It does not improve the chances of a successful fertilization in such cases. Evers calls for the end of this costly and ineffective therapeutic illusion.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
New York Times (May 21, 2016): Is Egg Freezing Only for White Women?, by Reniqua Allen:
When her most recent intimate relationship ended, Reniqua Allen considered freezing her eggs. Though marketed as a technique to help women gain control over their reproductive lives, including having children to raise alone, egg freezing, as Allen discovered, appears to be a procedure that few black women are considering. The reason is in part marketing: infertility care websites and advertisements spill over with images of happy white families. But Allen also wonders whether the negative stereotype of the single black mother in the United States was driving black women away from this form of assisted reproduction.
Poor black women are criticized for having too many babies they “can’t afford” and professional middle-class black women are criticized for being too picky and not finding a man. But when professional white women follow these same patterns, it’s often labeled a trend or brave or empowering.
In her research, Allen discovered that slowly the terms of the conversation around egg freezing are changing, allowing room for black women at the margins. Whether to embrace egg freezing or reject it is not an easy choice. The choice could be driven by what Allen refers to as "respectability politics" or even unresolved issues she has with her father. Her fervent hope is that whatever choice she makes, she can play a part in making "unconventional decisions the norm."
Saturday, May 28, 2016
WCWonline: Gifts from the Goddess of Jurisprudence, by Ruthann Robson:
Ruthann Robson reviews two recent books on the first two women to serve on the Supreme Court: Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman’s compares and contrasts the two justices. Notorious RBG focuses on Justice Ginsburg. Robson praises the books for their ability to "navigate the difficult task of writing accessibly for readers unfamiliar with legal feminism while also captivating readers well versed in it."
Any feminist working on legal issues today is indebted to the work of Ginsburg as well as to O’Connor, even if we disagree with them. While Hirshman calls both O’Connor and Ginsburg “icons” and “beacons,” she admits that it is only in retrospect that the rather conservative and uninspiring O’Connor is revealed as a “gift from the gods of jurisprudence.” As the Supreme Court is poised to deliver important decisions this term—which have the potential to allow states to seriously curtail abortion; to forbid public universities to pursue affirmative action; to weaken public employee unions; and to strengthen religious organizations’ resistance to sex equality—we will be looking to the current gifts from the goddess of feminist jurisprudence on the court: Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. And with controversial conservative Justice Scalia now gone—he died unexpectedly February 13, 2016—perhaps the next justice will be another gift.
Friday, May 27, 2016
Rewire (May 23, 2016): Associated Press Article on 20 Week Bans Underscores What's Wrong With Reporting on Abortion, by Jodi Jacobson:
Rewire Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson criticizes the way that the media reduces discussions on medical and health issues to the level of opinion. Jacobson discusses a recent article on South Carolina's 20 week abortion ban which recites the opinion of supporters of the bill that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. However, Jacobson states:
“Supporters” of 20-week abortion bans (and many other such laws) include groups like Americans United for Life and the National Right to Life Committee (both of which have drafted model legislation for these bans), as well as others such as the Susan B. Anthony List. Each of these groups uses false science and unfounded claims of “fetal pain” to pass legislation that threatens access to critical reproductive health care; the anti-choice movement’s self-important “pro-life” designation elides the fact that women’s health and lives are in grave danger wherever such care is unavailable.
The vast body of medical evidence refutes that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. Yet the opinions of the bill's supporters are given the same weight as the international medical and public health communities. Jacobson goes on to say
No matter how strong the backlash from the small but loud contingent of people within the anti-choice movement, it is the media’s job to report fairly and responsibly. Making the claims of anti-choice “supporters” of abortion bans equivalent to the consensus of the medical and public health community not only abrogates the public trust, it puts all of us in danger.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Local health care providers and wider contraceptive options increase contraceptive use in many countries
Vox (May 20,2016): What the US can learn from Ethiopia about birth control, by Sarah Frostenson:
The use of modern contraceptives has tripled in Ethiopia since 2005, following a government program to train women health workers to go door to door to deliver birth control.
What's more, women in Ethiopia are having fewer children (the fertility rate fell from an average of 6.5 children per woman in 2000 to 4.6 currently), maternal deaths are in decline, and more women are staying in school longer. Plus, more women are opting for long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) instead of more traditional short-term methods like birth control pills or condoms.
Local health care providers can make a big difference in women's access to contraceptives as can providing a range of contraceptive options. Long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) play a big part in increasing effective use of contraceptives in many countries. LARC implants last for 3 years and do not require going to a clinic to take medication or remembering to take a pill. They also allow women to keep their contraceptive use secret. However, LARC use can be prohibitively expensive for low-income women who would otherwise choose them. Some poorer countries are able to provide contraceptives that are donated by NGOs and the international community, removing the cost-barrier for many women.
Use of LARCs is increasing at a faster rate in some poorer countries than in the U.S. About 12% of women in the U.S. use LARC methods. Recent cuts to family planning in the U.S. resulting in closure of local family planning clinics decrease women's options of contraceptive methods and make it more difficult and expensive for them to access birth control. For instance in Texas, 82 of family planning clinics closed following a recent drastic cut in family planning funding. A study found the cuts lead to an increased birth rate for low income women and a "sharp decrease " in use of LARCs.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Rewire (May 24, 2016): ACLU Sues for Complaints Filed Against Catholic Hospitals for Denying Reproductive Health Care, by Nicole Knight Shine:
The ACLU has brought an action under the Freedom of Information Act against the federal Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) seeking complaints against Catholic hospitals for denial of emergency medical treatment. CMS receives and investigates complaints of violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which requires that hospitals receiving federal funds provide emergency care to stabilize a medical condition, including a miscarriage. The ACLU complaint describes instances where women seeking treatment for miscarriages were turned away from emergency rooms at Catholic hospitals. Religious Directives written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops forbid doctors in Catholic hospitals from performing abortions unless a woman is in grave danger.
Roughly one in six hospital beds are in a Catholic facility, with the top four U.S. Catholic health systems expected to take in more $90 billion from Medicare and Medicaid in 2016, according to the ACLU’s 10-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Monday, May 23, 2016
On Friday, El Salvador released Maria Teresa Rivera, a 33-year old woman who was serving a 40 year prison sentence for aggravated homicide following a miscarriage. Hospital staff accused Rivera of having an abortion when she was brought to the hospital for treatment of complications and heavy bleeding that left her unconscious. Rivera is one of Las 17, a group of women who received sentences of 40 years or more in El Salvador, following miscarriages that were often prosecuted as homicides. A global human rights campaign seeks to have their cases reconsidered or pardoned and El Salvador’s laws banning abortion in all circumstances repealed. Maria Teresa’s release followed a judge’s ruling that there had been insufficient evidence to prove the charges against her.
The situation in El Salvador illustrates the danger of allowing women to be prosecuted for abortions and poor birth outcomes. Although abortion is legal in the U.S., some women have been prosecuted for losing a pregnancy or abortion. Today (Monday, May 23, 2016) at 2 pm EST, the Indiana Court of Appeals will hear argument in Purvi Patel’s appeal of her conviction for feticide and child neglect. Patel was convicted based on the prosecution’s claim that she self-induced an abortion with drugs obtained over the internet. The argument will be available on livestream.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
ACLU Blog (May 18, 2016): The Religious Refusals Fight Comes to Washington, by Ian S. Thompson:
When the Supreme Court remanded Zubik v. Burwell last week, it avoided answering questions about the limits of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The petitioners in Burwell argued that a generally applicable law (the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employee health plans include contraceptive coverage) should not apply to them and that the accommodation given to them (that they fill out a sheet indicating their religious objection, allowing them to avoid paying for contraceptive coverage, but triggering coverage by their insurer) substantially burdened their free exercise of religion. The Supreme Court's failure to issue a decision may embolden arguments that religion can justify opting out of non-discrimation laws and other laws of general application.
And now Congress is getting into the act. Last month, an Oklahoma Congressman added an amendment to the the defense authorization bill that would allow religiously affiliated government contractors and grantees to discriminate in hiring. According to the ACLU, the bill would allow these grantees to claim a right to:
- Fire a woman who uses birth control or who is pregnant and unmarried.
- Fire a man who marries his same-sex partner.
- Refuse to interview anyone, however qualified, based on their religious beliefs, effectively adding language to job applications that says: “Jews, Sikhs, Catholics, Mormons need not apply.
So far efforts to strip the amendment from the defense bill have been unsuccessful. But efforts also are underway to curb the use of religion as an excuse to discriminate. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass) have introduced the Do No Harm Act to amend RFRA to ensure that it can't be used as a justification for discrimination or to otherwise harm others.