Thursday, February 22, 2007

South Dakota Abortion Ban Fails in Senate Committee

A South Dakota Senate Committee yesterday rejected by an 8-1 vote a bill to ban abortions.   The South Dakota House had passed the abortion ban last week.  The ban included exceptions for cases of rape or incest (reported to law enforcement), risks to the woman's life, and "serious risk of a substantial and irreversible impairment of the functioning of a major bodily organ or system of the mother."  Read the full text of HB 1293.

The AP reports:

A South Dakota bill to ban most abortions in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade appeared dead Wednesday after a state Senate committee rejected it.

The surprising 8-1 vote marked the third time in four years that measures to bar abortion in South Dakota were defeated. The Legislature passed an even stricter ban last year, but it was rejected by the voters in November. . . .

State Rep. Gordon Howie, the bill's sponsor, said he would try to bring the bill to the full Senate anyway. But several senators said there were probably not enough votes to revive the bill.

Read Abortion Ban Fails in S.D. Senate Panel.  Last year's South Dakota ban contained only an exception to prevent the woman's death.  It was defeated by voters in November.

Related post:  South Dakota Redux?

February 22, 2007 in Abortion Bans, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jennifer Hendricks on Surrogacy and Parental Rights

Hendricks Jennifer S. Hendricks (University of Tennessee) has posted Essentially a Mother on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Abstract:     
This article connects the constitutional jurisprudence of the family to debates over reproductive technology and surrogacy. Despite the outpouring of literature on reproductive technologies, courts and scholars have paid little attention to the constitutional foundation of parental rights. Focusing on the structural/political function of parental rights, I argue that a gestational mother has a constitutional claim to be recognized as a legal parent.

I begin with the “unwed father cases” from the 1970s. Despite believing that natural sex differences justified distinctions in parental rights, the Court crafted a test giving men parental rights if they established relationships with their biological children. I argue that this test was modeled on what the Court saw as the essential attributes of motherhood. I offer this reading as an alternative to the standard feminist critique that the unwed father cases are notable only for their zeal to enforce the traditional family. I also show how the theoretical approach of these cases supports feminist claims for equal treatment despite biological difference (such as accommodation of pregnancy).

Turning to current debates, my focus is on divided motherhood: usually surrogacy contracts, but also embryo mix-ups at fertility clinics. Rather than following existing precedent on parental rights, the law of high-tech parenthood is tending sharply in the direction of denigrating gestation, defining parenthood exclusively in terms of genes or contracts. I show that conferring parental rights on gestational mothers would produce better outcomes and be more consistent with the best aspects of existing constitutional precedents.

February 22, 2007 in Assisted Reproduction, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Using Anti-Immigration Hysteria to Promote the Anti-Choice Agenda?

Priscilla Huang, Reproductive Justice Project Director and Women’s Law Fellow at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF ), writes on TomPaine.com:

Today’s immigration debate extends beyond the goal of limiting the rights and humanity of immigrants: It’s about controlling who may be considered an American. Anti-immigrant activists contend that American citizenship is not about where you were born, but who gave birth to you. By extension, they believe—the 14th amendment notwithstanding—that the government must limit the reproductive capacities of immigrant women. Thus, immigrant women of childbearing age are central targets of unjust immigration reform policies.

Anti-immigrant groups, such as the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), believe immigrant women of childbearing age are a significant source of the country’s so-called “illegal immigration crisis” and want to limit the number of immigrant births on U.S. soil. They are calling for changes to jus soli, our birthright citizenship laws. Unfortunately, some Congressional members are listening.

In the last two sessions of Congress, lawmakers introduced the Citizenship Reform Act, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny birthright citizenship to children of parents who are neither citizens nor permanent resident aliens. The bill was reintroduced last month by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif, and is pending committee action.   . . .

Anti-immigrant policy makers and advocates are also trying to exploit anti-immigrant hysteria as a vehicle for denying all women the right to reproductive autonomy, and are manipulating the issue of immigration reform to advance an anti-choice agenda. In November 2006, a report from the Missouri House Special Committee on Immigration Reform concluded that abortion was partly to blame for the “problem of illegal immigration” because it caused a shortage of American workers. As the author, Rep. Edgar Emery (R), explained: “If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it’s not too surprising we would be desperate for workers.”

In another example, Dr. John Wilke, founder of the National and International Right to Life organizations, testified in September 2005 as a medical witness for the Report of the South Dakota Taskforce to Study Abortion. In his testimony, he stated:

Muslim countries forbid abortion. Furthermore they have large families … Germany’s birth rate is 1.2 … That is the Aryan Germans. What is happening? They’re importing Turkish workers who do all of the more menial labor and right now there are over 1,500 mosques in Germany. The Muslim people in Germany have an average of four children. The Germans are having about one. So it’s only a question of so many years and what do you think Germany is going to be? It’s going to be a Muslim country.

Dr. Wilke’s statement, which conflates U.S. post-9/11 fears about Muslims with nativist fears about the loss of Aryan national identity, was intended as a warning to South Dakotans against liberal laws governing both abortion and immigration. His assertion may seem extreme, but Wilke’s arguments are not that unusual. Contemporary immigration reform policies recall the early 1900s eugenics movement, which was rooted in the fear that immigrants (and other undesirable groups) were out-breeding “old stock” Americans. Like the anti-immigrant advocates of today, eugenicists believed that curbing the fertility of such socially unfit groups would help reduce social welfare costs.

Read Which Babies Are Real Americans?

On the issue of Islam and family planning, see Islam, Women, and Family Planning: A Primer (Guttmacher Institute) and Family Planning and Islamic Jurisprudence (Azizah Y. al-Hibri, J.D., Ph.D.).

February 21, 2007 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Miscellaneous, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Merck and the Debate Over Mandatory HPV Vaccinations

The New York Times reports in Furor on Rush to Require Cervical Cancer Vaccine:

Racing to embrace a new vaccine, at least 20 states are considering mandatory inoculation of young girls against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

But a roaring backlash has some health experts worried that the proponents, including the vaccine’s maker, Merck, have pushed too far too fast, potentially undermining eventual prospects for the broadest possible immunization.

Groups wary of drug industry motives find themselves on the same side of the anti-vaccination debate with unexpected political allies: religious and cultural conservatives who oppose mandatory use of the vaccine because they say it would encourage sexual activity by young girls.

Even some who support use of the vaccine question the rush and the vaccine’s high cost — about $400 for the three-shot course. “The decision to make this mandatory this early has created a significant controversy over things that have nothing to do with the vaccine,” said Dr. Joseph A. Bocchini, chairman of the committee on infectious diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics. . . .

The rush for mandatory inoculation — most of the state proposals have been introduced since the beginning of the year — is unusual. It was only last June that federal regulators approved the vaccine, called Gardasil.

Even before the vaccine’s approval, though, Merck had begun laying the political foundation in state legislatures to promote widespread vaccination of young girls.

Gardasil and another vaccine under development by the drug maker GlaxoSmithKline are aimed at the human papilloma virus, or H.P.V., which is known to be the cause of cervical cancer. Analysts see a potential $5 billion a year market for H.P.V. vaccines, and some say that Merck is intent on inoculating as many girls as possible before the introduction of Glaxo’s product, which could become available this year. . . .

The controversy worries public health experts like Dr. Bocchini, who is also the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. He is concerned that the outcry might make the public mistrustful of a vaccine that would otherwise be to its benefit.

“If the public had enough experience with the vaccine and had enough knowledge about H.P.V., the question about whether to get the vaccine or give it to their daughters wouldn’t be an issue,” Dr. Bocchini said.

The Washington Post reports today that, in response to the furor, Merck has promised to stop its campaign for state legislation requiring the vaccine:

Merck and Co., a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical maker, announced yesterday that it would stop its nationwide lobbying for states to require that young girls be immunized against a virus that causes cervical cancer.

Merck officials said the decision comes after public accusations that the company's profit motive, rather than public health, is guiding the debate over whether to require rising sixth-grade girls to receive Gardasil. The new vaccine protects against several strains of human papillomavirus that cause nearly 7,000 cases of cervical cancer annually.

Read Merck to Stop Pushing to Require Shots.  For more stories on the issue, see the round-up in today's Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report.

February 21, 2007 in Medical News, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Study on Contraceptive Use at the Time of Abortion

Further confirming the need for greater access to contraception information and services among low income women is the study, Contraception at the time of abortion: high-risk time or high-risk women?, published in the journal Human Reproduction:

BACKGROUND: Despite the widespread use of highly effective contraception in France, the incidence of abortion is high. A retrospective population-based cohort study was designed to analyse women's contraceptive history. METHOD: We compared the contraceptive use of 163 women, whose last pregnancy ended in abortion, 6 months before, at the time of, 1 month and 6 months after the event with that of 1787 women who had never had an abortion. RESULTS: A total of 46% of women who experienced an abortion used a highly effective form of contraception 6 months before the event (versus 76% among women who had never had an abortion, P < 0.001). This proportion dropped to 33% at the time of the abortion and increased to 71%, 1 month after. In addition, 50% of women who had an abortion had changed their contraceptive method in the 6 months before the event (compared with 16% in the 6 months before the interview in women who had not had an abortion, P < 0.001). Women with socially deprived backgrounds were less likely to use a highly effective contraception after an abortion. CONCLUSIONS: Abortion is a good opportunity for intervention, but especially so for socially disadvantaged women. It is essential to draw the attention of prescribers and women to the higher risk of contraceptive failure at the start of use of a method.

Moreover, the study is a good reminder that contraception fails.  Some suggest that the issue of abortion would simply go away with regular use of contraception, but it's not that simple.  Of course, the rate of unintended pregnancy -- and abortions -- would go down with increased use of contraception.  To achieve that would require a much greater public commitment to comprehensive sexuality education, as well as better access to contraceptive services, especially for low-income women and teenagers.  But even under the best case scenario in terms of contraceptive use, we won't bring the rate of unintended pregnancy to zero any time soon.

For a reality check on contraception, contraceptive use, and why it's unrealistic (and unfair) to expect perfect contraceptive use among all women, read the following from the Guttmacher Institute:

Facts in Brief: Contraceptive Use

Contraceptive Failure Rates: New Estimates From the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth

Contraceptive Use and Pregnancy Risk Among U.S. High School Students, 19912003

February 20, 2007 in Abortion, Contraception | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on the Massachusetts Teenager Prosecuted for a Self-Abortion

Juliette Terzieff of Women's eNews writes:

Legal and reproductive rights advocates are rushing to the defense of an 18-year-old Dominican immigrant living in Lawrence, Mass., who faces possible murder charges for undertaking a do-it-yourself abortion.

Local lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union are monitoring the case and have spoken with the family about available services and support.

Susan Yanow, longtime Massachusetts reproductive rights activist and founder of the Cambridge-based Abortion Access Project, has helped the young woman, Amber Abreu, identify medical and legal experts to support her public defender. . . .

As of now, the teen faces the charge of procuring an illegal miscarriage -- which carries a maximum sentence of seven years -- based on a relatively obscure 1840s statute. Possible homicide charges mean the teen could face an even higher maximum sentence of life in prison if she is found to have acted with malice aforethought or premeditation. The teen's legal status hinges on the outcome of an autopsy that will determine the length of her pregnancy.

Prosecutors state that Abreu was between 23 and 25 weeks pregnant. Abortion is legal in Massachusetts up to the 24th week, nevertheless, the teen is charged with procuring a miscarriage. If in fact the autopsy indicates she was 24 weeks or more pregnant, prosecutors could decide to bring homicide charges.

Abreu will be back in court Feb. 25 for a pretrial hearing.

Read Defenders Mobilize to Assist Teen Who Aborted.  See related post: Massachusetts Teenager Imprisoned for Self-Induced Abortion.

February 20, 2007 in Abortion, State and Local News, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Indian Government to Raise Abandoned Girls

India_flag From the Associated Press (2/18/07):

The Indian government plans to set up a series of orphanages to raise unwanted baby girls in a bid to halt the widespread practice of aborting female fetuses, according to a senior government official.

Dubbed the "cradle scheme," the plan is an attempt to slow the practice that international groups say has killed more than 10 million female fetuses in the last two decades, leading to an alarming imbalance in the ratio between males and females in India, Renuka Chowdhury, the minister of state for women and child development, told the Press Trust of India news agency in an interview published Sunday.

"What we are saying to the people is have your children, don't kill them. And if you don't want a girl child, leave her to us," Chowdhury told the agency, adding that the government planned to set up a center in each regional district.

Read Indian Government to Raise Abandoned Girls.

Flags courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.

February 19, 2007 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

States Fund Anti-Abortion Advice

Pregnancy_test Stephanie Simon of the Los Angeles Times writes in States Fund Anti-Abortion Advice:

In an experiment that's opening a new front in the culture wars, a growing number of states are paying antiabortion activists to counsel women with unplanned pregnancies.

At least eight states — including Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania — use public funds to subsidize crisis pregnancy centers, Christian homes for unwed mothers and other programs explicitly designed to steer women away from abortion. As a condition of the grants, counselors are often barred from referring women to any clinic that provides abortions; in some cases, they may not discuss contraception either.

Most states still spend far more money subsidizing comprehensive family planning, but the flow of tax dollars to antiabortion groups has surged in recent months, as programs have taken effect in Texas and Minnesota.

The trend alarms abortion-rights supporters, who assert that the funds would be better spent — and would prevent more abortions — if used to expand access to birth control. But to antiabortion activists such as Nancy McDonald, the funding is both practical and symbolic, a way of putting the state's stamp of approval on their work.

"It's a subtle thing," said McDonald, who runs five crisis pregnancy centers in South Florida. "But people seem to think if you're affiliated with the state, you must be good."

Read more about "Crisis Pregnancy Centers":

Planned Parenthood "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" Report (which addresses Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) report on CPCs).

National Abortion Federation Policy Report on Crisis Pregnancy Centers

February 18, 2007 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

AALS 2007 Annual Meeting Podcast Now Available for "Reproductive Rights -- The Next Decade"

Aals_logo_15 You can now download the podcast from the AALS website for the 2007 Annual Meeting "Hot Topic" panel Reproductive Rights -- The Next Decade (scroll down to the afternoon sessions and click on the title to download the podcast):

Roe 's future is increasingly contested. In November, a sharply divided Supreme Court heard argument in the late-term abortion case, and Senator John McCain, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, announced that he supports Roe 's overruling. With continuing debate over Roe , justifications for abortion restrictions are in flux. South Dakota recently enacted an abortion ban to protect women from abortion; even as voters rejected the ban for lack of a rape/incest exception, woman-protective antiabortion argument is emerging as an important new justification for abortion restrictions in arenas around the country. The site of the reproductive rights conflict is shifting. Debate about abortion now engulfs the regulation of stem cell research and contraception; President Bush just appointed a doctor to direct federal family planning programs who serves on the board of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse (directed by the woman who led the abortion ban campaign in South Dakota ).

The panel will ask how recent and longer-term shifts in law and politics will – or should – alter the ways we reason about reproductive rights and the institutions we expect to protect them. The panelists include: Walter Dellinger, Duke University ; Dawn E. Johnsen, Indiana University-Bloomington; Jeffrey Rosen, George Washington University ; and Reva B. Siegel, Yale University.

Continue reading

February 17, 2007 in Abortion, Conferences and Symposia, Politics, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Abortion Shuffle in Politics

E.J. Dionne, Jr., writes in the Washinton Post (2/14):

Why is it that abortion, a subject on which political candidates often claim to be expressing their most deeply held moral convictions, is often the issue on which they seem especially opportunistic and unprincipled?

. . . Our political system has created strong incentives for candidates to be less than candid about what they really think.

To begin with, candidates are rarely willing to say outright what's true for so many of them: that they do not consider abortion the most important issue in politics and it is not the reason they entered public life. . . .

Yet politicians who acknowledged that abortion was not one of their driving concerns would be denounced, oddly enough, as unprincipled.

Read We can blame ourselves for abortion shuffle in politics.

February 16, 2007 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

ACS Brief on Health Care Provider Refusals to Treat

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy has a new issue brief, Health Care Provider Refusals to Treat, Prescribe, Refer or Inform: Professionalism and Conscience, by University of Wisconsin Professor of Law and Bioethics R. Alta Charo, available on its website.  Here is the description:

In this issue brief, Professor Charo examines the debates surrounding health care provider refusals to provide health care services - such as pharmacists refusing to dispense emergency contraception and physicians refusing fertility services to a gay patient or refusing to forward medical records for a patient who has had an abortion. She describes the early laws allowing some providers to refuse to offer abortion services and more recent efforts to expand these laws to allow more kinds of providers to refuse to perform more kinds of services, as well as recent regulatory efforts to push back and limit such refusals. She analyzes the ethical arguments that have been offered in support of provider refusals and gives rejoinders to them. The paper then discusses in more detail the duty of professionals to provide services, based on the prevailing medical ethic of universal care, the principle of non-discrimination, and other considerations. Finally, several policy options are suggested, such as treating heath care providers as public accommodations that may not discriminate based on sex, and requiring refusing providers to facilitate the referral of patients to other providers to ensure that every member of the public has access to needed health care services.

Professor Charo was quoted in the Washington Post article on this issue, excerpted on this blog last week.

February 16, 2007 in Abortion Bans, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

95% of Americans Do It, But It's Psychologically Harmful?

Among the federal standards for abstinence-only sexuality education, addressed on this blog yesterday, is one that requires such programs to "teach[] that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects." See Section 510(b) of Title V of the Social Security Act, P.L. 104-193.

However, in what study author Lawrence Finer calls "reality-check research," the Guttmacher Institute recently found that Premarital Sex Is Nearly Universal Among Americans and Has Been So for Decades.  From the Guttmacher Institute's press release:

The vast majority of Americans have sex before marriage, including those who abstained from sex during their teenage years, according to “Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954–2003,” by Lawrence B. Finer, published in the January/February 2007 issue of Public Health Reports. Further, contrary to the public perception that premarital sex is much more common now than in the past, the study shows that even among women who were born in the 1940s, nearly nine in 10 had sex before marriage.

The new study uses data from several rounds of the federal National Survey of Family Growth to examine sexual behavior before marriage, and how it has changed over time. According to the analysis, by age 44, 99% of respondents had had sex, and 95% had done so before marriage. Even among those who abstained from sex until age 20 or older, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44.

February 15, 2007 in Miscellaneous, Sexuality Education | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Michael Dorf on Giuliani's Abortion Views

Michael Dorf argued on Findlaw yesterday that, past flipflopping aside, Giuliani's current position on abortion is internally consistent:

But beyond the question of consistency over time is the question whether Giuliani's current position is internally consistent. He says he "hate[s]" abortion, but that he supports "a woman's right to choose," even as he would appoint Supreme Court Justices whose judicial philosophy might lead them to overturn Roe. If you're keeping score at home, that means Giuliani is pro-life in his personal views, pro-choice in his political views, and somewhat cryptically anti-Roe as a matter of constitutional law.Nonetheless, Giuliani's current position--personally pro-life, politically pro-choice, constitutionally anti-Roe­--is, in fact, a perfectly coherent one. But to make that case to the American people will require him to explain some important nuances. . . .

It is easy to generate examples of behavior that one might condemn as wrong, but which should nonetheless not subject those who engage in it to any legal penalty. Consider adultery. Until relatively recently, adultery was a criminal offense in most American jurisdictions. Yet today, we recognize that while adultery may be considered sinful on religious grounds, and while it can represent a betrayal that, when discovered, causes real emotional damage, the harm it does is personal--and thus not appropriate for society to address through the criminal law. . . .

There is an important difference between adultery and abortion, however. Although adultery is not a victimless act, the harm adultery causes is "private," in the sense that it is a personal betrayal. In contrast, abortion, if one believes, as Giuliani apparently does, that it ends a human life, harms one who is purely innocent. Unlike a jilted spouse, a fetus in no way can be said to have made an error in judgment in trusting someone who proved unworthy of that trust.

Nonetheless, one can think abortion morally wrong in most circumstances, yet still oppose its criminalization for fear of the adverse consequences of criminalization itself.

I'm not sure what Dorf means when he says that Giuliani presumably believes that abortion "ends a human life."  If he means that Giuliani views fetuses as persons -- equivalent to a baby or any other born person -- it's hard for me to see Giuliani's position as internally consistent.  Dorf correctly asserts that, in certain circumstances, we choose not to criminalize conduct most would agree is immoral.  However, it's hard to imagine that if people were driven to desperate measures because they could not kill certain people in order to make their own situations better, that we would "oppose criminalization [of this conduct] for fear of the adverse consequences of criminalization itself." 

I suspect the more likely explanation is that, like most of the American public, Giuliani at bottom does not truly believe a fetus is a person, no matter how morally troubling he may find abortion to be.  If that's true, his willingness to allow legal abortion may, indeed, be internally consistent.

(See related posts: Must We Say What We Mean; New York Times on Giuliani's Abortion Views.)

February 15, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Politics, Public Opinion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Less Comprehensive Sex Ed Taught in Schools, Study Finds

Condoms Sunday's San Franciso Chronicle reports that, despite a lack of evidence that abstinence-only sexuality education reduces unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, more and more teenagers are taught only about abstinence, and comprehensive sexuality education is declining.  From the article:

The recent study, by a team of scholars at the Guttmacher Institute in New York headed by Laura Duberstein Lindberg, looked at instruction between 1995 and 2002 nationwide and found that "teenagers were significantly more likely to have received instruction about how to say no to sex than ... birth control methods" and that abstinence was being pushed in sex ed classes "in the absence of any substantial scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of the approach."

Published in the December issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, a leading journal, the article attributed the trend to the federal funding, which since 1996 "has shifted toward programs that teach only abstinence and restrict other information." . . .

Douglas Kirby, a senior researcher at ETR Associates in Scotts Valley (Santa Cruz County) and the author of a far-reaching 2005 survey of the effectiveness of sex education programs worldwide, said that the Guttmacher Institute conclusion was "not surprising" but was "very disturbing. We've put more than $1 billion into abstinence-only (education) when we do not know whether these programs work," he said. . . .

Kirby said that one tactic of the Bush administration was to eliminate a list of programs that were proven to work, compiled by the CDC. Those programs take a multitude of approaches, but have many characteristics in common. "It was eliminated because it had no abstinence-only curricula," Kirby said. "It was very sad, a huge loss. The political pressure in this field has been astounding."

In November, the Bush administration appointed a new abstinence-friendly chief of family planning at the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Eric Keroack had been medical director at a Massachusetts pregnancy counseling organization whose Web site states: "The crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality, and adverse to human health and happiness."

The administration also has budgeted another $241.5 million for abstinence-only programs in 2007.

Note that the article incorrectly states that only 3 states (California, Maine, and Pennsylvania) have declined federal funding for abstinence only education.  In October 2006, New Jersey became the fourth state to reject such funding.  Read the ACLU-NJ's press release.

Read the Guttmacher Institute's study, which concludes:

CONCLUSIONS: A substantial retreat from formal instruction about birth control methods has left increasing proportions of adolescents receiving only abstinence education. Efforts are needed to expand teenagers' access to medically accurate and comprehensive reproductive health information.

More reading: Facts on Sex Education in the United States and Sex Education: Needs, Programs and Policies, both from the Guttmacher Institute.

February 14, 2007 in Sexuality Education, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Developing World Bioethics: Call for Papers

Dwb_cover The journal Developing World Bioethics is inviting submissions for a special issue on HIV/AIDS, Pregnancy and Reproductive Autonomy: Rights and Duties:

HIV/AIDS has ethical and legal implications for reproductive health, not least in the area of pregnancy. Women who are HIV positive may experience difficult choices about whether and how to become pregnant or remain pregnant. Women who are HIV positive and decide to become pregnant may be subjected to overt or subtle negative pressures by partners, families, the community, and the state on account of perceived duties about protecting the health and welfare of yet to be born children. The availability of HIV testing and counselling, antiretroviral therapy, and abortion is apt to impact on the freedom to decide whether or not to continue with a pregnancy. In recent times, ‘routine’ HIV testing has been suggested as an appropriate response in countries with a high HIV prevalence. In some settings, access to health care services, such as fertility services, is contingent upon the woman agreeing to undergo HIV testing. Thus, the intersection between HIV/AIDS and pregnancy raises myriad ethical and legal issues.

We invite submissions on all aspects of this special topic from a bioethical and/or legal/human rights perspective.

The deadline for submissions is July 1, 2007.  Find out more.

February 14, 2007 in Bioethics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Scholarship and Research, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Hampshire Governor Endorses Bill to Repeal Parental Notice Law

Governor Lynch of New Hampshire has said that he would sign legislation, introduced in the N.H. House of Representatives, that would repeal the state's parental notification law.  That law was the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in Ayotte vs. Planned Parenthood.  In Ayotte, the federal district court had invalidated the parental notice law because it lacked a health exception, and the First Circuit affirmed.  The Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Roberts newly on the Court, issued a unanimous opinion (by Justice O'Connor) confirming the need for a health exception, but remanding the case to the lower courts and suggesting that a narrower ruling might be more appropriate than the facial invalidation issued by the district court.  Justice O'Connor wrote:

Here, the courts below chose the most blunt remedy–permanently enjoining the Act’s enforcement and thereby invalidating it entirely. They need not have done so. In Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914–where this Court invalidated Nevada’s “partial birth abortion” law in its entirety for lacking a health exception–the parties did not ask for, and this Court did not contemplate, relief more finely drawn, but here New Hampshire asked for and respondents recognized the possibility of a more modest remedy. Only a few applications of the Act would present a constitutional problem. So long as they are faithful to legislative intent, then, in this case the lower courts can issue a declaratory judgment and an injunction prohibiting the Act’s unconstitutional application. On remand, they should determine in the first instance whether the legislature intended the statute to be susceptible to such a remedy.

The opinion thus called into question whether challenges to abortion restrictions would continue, as in the past, to lead to facial invalidations, or whether instead courts would read Ayotte to call for more limited, as-applied relief.  The lower courts' decision on remand might have been telling; if the bill to repeal New Hampshire's law passes, the case will be moot.  That, however, will be good news for teenagers in New Hampshire.

Read the story in the Kaiser Daily Women's Health Report.  Read more about the case on remand in the Concord Monitor.  Read more about Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood.

February 13, 2007 in Abortion, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 12, 2007

ABA Journal on Total Bans on Abortion

The February edition of the ABA Journal includes an article on the recent push among some anti-choice advocates for total bans on abortion.  From the article:

Some anti-abortion activists believe that a complete and total ban on abortion is the only way to go. To do anything less, they say, is to countenance the killing of one unborn child to save the life of another.

“We’ve got to be consistent,” says David Bereit, executive director of American Life League, an anti-abortion group based in Stafford, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.

Bereit likens abortion to slavery: “If abortion is wrong, it’s wrong in all cases.”

Other anti-abortion activists say they are no less committed to the cause. But they contend that the push for a total ban on abortion, while well-intentioned, is unrealistic and may even be counterproductive.

Clarke Forsythe, a senior lawyer at the Chicago-based anti-abortion law firm Americans United for Life, wrote in 2004 that such efforts are not only destined to fail but will serve only “to divide friendly forces, waste precious resources, and undermine the credibility and political survival of pro-life legislators in the states that consider them.”

Read Following the Beat of the Ban, by Mark Hansen.

February 12, 2007 in Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on Sex Selection

Sex_symbols_1 Last week I posted an excerpt from a recent New York Times article on sex selection (see Ethical Debate Over Sex Selection). For an interesting discussion on the issues raised by the article, read Glen Cohen's post on Prawfsblawg: Sperm Sorting, Divergence, and Intimate Discrimination.

February 12, 2007 in Assisted Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Voters in Portugal Decisively Reject Its Abortion Law, but Referendum Fails Due to Insufficient Turnout

Portugals_1 The San Diego Union-Tribute reported on Sunday:

Voters failed to overturn Portugal's strict abortion law Sunday because of low turnout at the polls, but the prime minister nonetheless vowed to relax the restriction through legislation in the conservative Roman Catholic country.

With nearly all the votes counted, almost 60 percent of voters approved the referendum allowing women to opt for abortions up to the 10th week of pregnancy, while slightly more than 40 percent opposed it.

However, under Portuguese law more than 50 percent of the country's 8.9 million registered voters must participate in a referendum to make the ballot valid. The turnout Sunday was 44 percent.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates, leader of the center-left Socialist Party, said he was undeterred by the failure of the referendum and would stick to his pre-ballot pledge to change the law through parliament.

Read Voters Fail to Overturn Portugal's Abortion Law in Referendum.

For more about the referendum, read Portugal to Vote on Putting End to Abortion Ban (New York Times 2/11/05).  See also related post:  Portugal's Upcoming Referendum on Abortion.

Flags courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.

February 12, 2007 in Abortion Bans, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

New York Times on Giuliani's Abortion Views

In Giuliani Shifts Abortion Speech Gently to the Right, Ray Rivera writes in yesterday's New York Times:

As he prepares for a possible run for president — a road that goes deep into the heart of conservative America — Rudolph W. Giuliani takes with him a belief in abortion rights that many think could derail his bid to capture the Republican nomination.

But in recent weeks, as he has courted voters in South Carolina and talked to conservative media outlets, Mr. Giuliani has highlighted a different element of his thinking on the abortion debate. He has talked about how he would appoint “strict constructionist” judges to the Supreme Court — what abortion rights advocates say is code among conservatives for those who seek to overturn or limit Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court ruling declaring a constitutional right to abortion.

The effect has been to distance himself from a position favoring abortion rights that he espoused when he ran for mayor of New York City, where most voters favor abortion rights. . . .

Asked by Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” in 2000 if he supported President Bill Clinton’s veto of a law that would have banned the disputed abortion procedure, Mr. Giuliani said, “I would vote to preserve the option for women.” He added, “I think the better thing for America to do is to leave that choice to the woman, because it affects her probably more than anyone else.”

And on a 1997 candidate questionnaire from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League of New York, which Mr. Giuliani completed and signed, he marked “yes” to the question: Would you oppose legislation “requiring a minor to obtain permission from a parent or from a court before obtaining an abortion.”

Giuliani has been all over the map on abortion:

When he made his first bid for mayor in 1989, he was widely considered anti-abortion. . . . Early in the 1989 campaign, he told the city’s Conservative Party leaders he was personally opposed to abortion and was for overturning Roe v. Wade, except in cases of rape or incest. At the same time he said he opposed criminal penalties and ultimately saw it as an issue of “personal morality.”

The distinctions he drew were subtle to the point of producing conflicting news accounts in which he was alternately described as favoring abortion rights and anti-abortion.

Oddly, however, some observers don't view Giuliani as flip-flopping on the issue:

Those who have followed Mr. Giuliani’s career say he is unlikely to undergo a radical shift in his views in the manner of Mitt Romney, a Republican rival and former Massachusetts governor who advocated abortion rights until about two years ago.

Fred Siegel, author of “Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life,” said Mr. Giuliani would likely be careful to avoid anything perceived as a flip-flop on the issue.

“Part of his appeal is that he doesn’t bend in the wind,” he said.

But Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Mr. Giuliani’s position was even more offensive than that of someone who believes abortion is morally acceptable.

“To say I think it’s morally wrong, but I think it’s a woman’s choice is like saying I’m opposed to segregation but it ought to be left up to the store owner to decide,” Mr. Land said. “That’s a preference, not a conviction.”

Once again, an example of a Catholic politician facing the classic conundrum on abortion.  (Related posts: Must We Say What We Mean?; Giuliani's, Romney's Views on Abortion Could Affect Their Chances of Winning Republican Party Presidential Nomination; Romney and Mormonism; Mitt Romney on Abortion)

February 11, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Politics, Public Opinion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)