Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mexico City Legalizes Abortion

Mexico As the United States moves backwards on abortion rights, the trend in other parts of the world is in the opposite direction.  Via CBS News:

Mexico City lawmakers voted to legalize abortion Tuesday, a decision likely to influence policies and health practices across Mexico and other parts of heavily Roman Catholic Latin America.

The proposal, approved 46-19, with one abstention, would take effect with the expected signing by the federal district's leftist mayor. But abortion opponents have already vowed to appeal the law to the Supreme Court, a move likely to extend the bitter and emotional debate in this predominantly Catholic nation.

See also: Abortion rights gain ground in Latin America; Portugese President Signs Bill to Liberalize Abortion Laws.

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

April 24, 2007 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Religious Leaders Urge End to Sectarian Restrictions on Health Care

A press release from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice announces:

Religious Leaders Call for New Efforts to Reverse Growing Imposition of Sectarian Religious Beliefs on Reproductive and End-of-Life Care

Release New Ethical Guidelines to Balance Beliefs and Rights of Patients and Providers as Millions of Americans Are Being Denied Essential Care; Supreme Court Decision on Abortion Heightens Concerns About Further Restrictions

On the opening day of a three-day gathering of national religious leaders, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (Religious Coalition) released today new ethical guidelines on providing health care in America. The guidelines, entitled In Good Conscience: Guidelines for the Ethical Provision of Health Care in a Pluralistic Society, seek to strike a balance between the beliefs and rights of health care providers and the beliefs and rights of patients. Alarmed by the increasing imposition of sectarian religious beliefs on health care access—especially to reproductive health and humane end-of-life care—for millions of Americans, the Religious Coalition, representing mainstream denominations and faith traditions, is calling for all health care providers to implement the new guidelines.

Continue reading

April 24, 2007 in Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NARAL Promotes Freedom of Choice Act Call-In Day Tomorrow (4/25)

As I said in yesterday's post, enthusiasm in Congress for FOCA seems to be lackluster, notwithstanding the Supreme Court's recent drastic erosion of reproductive rights. 

But there's something you can do.  Visit NARAL's webpage to take action by joining the National Call-In Day To Support the Freedom of Choice Act, Wednesday, April 25.

April 24, 2007 in Abortion, Congress | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Officials in China's Guangxi Region Carry Out Mass Forced Abortions

Radio Free Asia reports:

Authorities in China's southwestern Guangxi region have forced dozens of pregnant women to a hospital in Baise city to undergo abortions, the women and their relatives said.

In interviews with RFAs Cantonese service, several women and their husbands said they were visited last week by officials from the municipal family planning bureau, which is in charge of upholding strict population controls under Chinas one-child policy.

They all reported the same scenario: that the women were bundled aboard a vehicle and taken to a hospital in Baise, where many other pregnant women were crammed into wards and corridors. Their babies were then aborted against their will, they said.

The RH Reality Check blog has a post about Mao Hengfeng, a woman who has been arrested and tortured in the course of her nearly 20-year battle against China's one-child policy.  Since 2002, the Bush Administration has cynically used the tragic issue of forced abortions in China to withhold millions of dollars in funding from the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, based on unfounded claims that UNFPA supports the practice. 

Continue reading

April 24, 2007 in Abortion, International, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Supreme Court's Abortion Decision Underscores Need for a Federal Freedom of Choice Act

Via Women's ENews:

The day after the Supreme Court upheld a controversial abortion ban, pro-choice politicians mounted a counteroffensive from the legislative branch of government across the street.

Democrats Sen. Barbara Boxer of California and Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York--two leading supporters of abortion rights in the U.S. Congress--reintroduced the Freedom of Choice Act, which would codify in federal law the rights established in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that found abortion was part of a woman's constitutional right to privacy.

The ACLU has issued a letter to Boxer and Nadler supporting the proposal.  Unfortunately, the alarming decision in Gonzales v. Carhart doesn't exactly seem to have created a sense of urgency in Congress, where so far the reception to the reintroduced FOCA seems to be lukewarm.  According to The Hill:

Boxer and Nadler acknowledged that gaining the vocal support of many fellow Democrats would be a difficult task. But Boxer pointed to her victory on a 2003 vote that saw 52 senators affirming the principles of Roe.

We dont necessarily have to have anything scheduled in order to offer it in the Senate, Boxer said.

April 23, 2007 in Abortion, Congress, Gonzales v. Carhart | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Reuters: Poland's ruling party vows to patch up split

Reuters, in a story by Natalia Reiter, reported last week:

Poland's ruling conservatives vowed on Monday to overcome a split within their ranks over moves to toughen already strict anti-abortion laws, a hot issue in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Differences emerged last week when parliament considered, and finally rejected, a proposed range of constitutional amendments that would have either banned abortions altogether or made it harder to weaken existing anti-abortion legislation.

See also this post: Divisions Over Abortion in Mexico and Poland

April 23, 2007 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Charles Kindregan on Collaborative Reproduction and Determining Legal Parenthood

Ckindregan Charles P. Kindregan, Jr. (Suffolk Univ. Law School) has posted his article, Collaborative Reproduction: Rethinking Parentage, on SSRN. It will be published in the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Here is the abstract:

Collaborative Reproduction: Rethinking Parentage, by Charles P. Kindregan, Jr., questions the traditional methods of determining legal parenthood in the light of increased use of collaborative reproduction to have children. Historically motherhood was determined by giving birth, and fatherhood either by paternity proceedings or application of a legal presumption that the husband of the birth mother was the father. The only significant exception to these tests was statutorily-authorized adoption. But with the advent of such collaborative reproductive technologies as intrauterine insemination by donor sperm, in vitro fertilization by use of donor gametes, embryo donation and transfer, surrogate birthing, and (in the near future) reproductive cloning children are being conceived and born in circumstances which do not fit the traditional tests. Collaborative reproduction is largely unregulated by law, except for a few statutes and court decisions in a few states, and the author argues that genetic or adoptive tests for legal parenthood can no longer be universally applied. The challenge to the law will be the creation of new doctrines, such as intended parent or de facto parent will have to gain greater recognition in order to avoid confusion as to who is legally responsible for children.

April 23, 2007 in Assisted Reproduction, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Abortion rights gain ground in Latin America

Via the Christian Science Monitor:

Mexican bishops have threatened legislators, doctors, and women with excommunication. But on Tuesday, the Mexico City assembly is expected to pass a new law legalizing abortions.

If it does, it would put the capital of the world's second largest Catholic nation in the same league with Cuba and Guyana the only countries in conservative Latin America that allow abortions in the first trimester, as the US does.

A similar bill has been introduced in Mexico's national legislature. If the relaxed abortion laws pass, they would mirror similar moves by Colombia, El Salvador, and Chile toward partial legalization. Only in increasingly evangelical Christian Nicaragua has the abortion law become stricter.

April 23, 2007 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Advance Access to Emergency Contraception Does Not Reduce Unintended Pregnancy Rate; Does Not Cause Riskier Behavior

Via Science Daily:

The "morning after pill" may be a good option for individual women in crisis, but advance access to emergency contraception is no antidote for the national problem of unintended pregnancy. Contrary to the fears of critics, the presence of Plan B does not provoke riskier sexual behavior.

According to a new review of studies, women who received an advance supply of birth control pills for emergency contraception had an equal chance of becoming pregnant as women who did not have early access to the pills.

The review draws conclusions from eight studies of more than 6,000 women in the United States, India and China.

The lead reviewier, Chelsea Polis, explained that the study examined only whether providing EC in advance reduces unintended pregnancy rates.  She noted that the results do not speak to the effectiveness of EC in preventing pregnancy.  "Even though advance provision increased use, we don't know if women were using EC at the times when they were at risk for pregnancy, when it was really needed," Polis explains.

Critics of EC will undoubtedly try to capitalize on this news, but the study in fact undermined one of their main arguments against it, namely the claim that emergency contraception will lead to riskier behavior:

"We found there was absolutely no difference in sexually transmitted infection rates between the two groups. There's absolutely no difference in terms of unprotected sex, condom use or changes in use of other contraceptive methods," Polis said. "So it appears that advance provision of EC has no harmful effects in terms of risky sexual behaviors."

April 23, 2007 in Contraception, Medical News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Importance of Language in Media Coverage of Abortion Bans

In the wake of the Supreme Court's recent decision, some commentators are faulting the media for helping to shape public opinion on abortion by accepting the politically charged terminology of the anti-choice movement (like "partial-birth abortion"):

See also this post, from January of this year, by David Cohen on the Feminist Law Professors blog regarding the New York Times's prominent coverage of the discredited theory of a "post-abortion syndrome."  I've been thinking about that Times article a lot in light of Justice Kennedy's alarming adoption of the theory in Gonzales v. Carhart.

April 22, 2007 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Gonzales v. Carhart, In the Media | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Life: It's About Much, Much More Than Preventing Abortion

Where are all the "pro-lifers" after the baby is born?  The New York Times, In Turnabout, Infant Deaths Climb in South, by Erik Eckholm, reports on an ominous rise in the infant mortality rate, particularly among African American babies, in states like Mississippi, where many live in deep poverty and depend on government assistance for their health care.  The racially lopsided increase only adds to an already disturbingly large racial disparity in infant death rates nationwide.

Most striking, here and throughout the country, is the large racial disparity. In Mississippi, infant deaths among blacks rose to 17 per thousand births in 2005 from 14.2 per thousand in 2004, while those among whites rose to 6.6 per thousand from 6.1. (The national average in 2003 was 5.7 for whites and 14.0 for blacks.)

Paralleling this trend has been a decrease in access to health services for low-income pregnant women in Mississippi:

The state Health Department has cut back its system of clinics, in part because of budget shortfalls and a shortage of nurses. Some clinics that used to be open several days a week are now open once a week and some offer no prenatal care.

The department has also suffered management turmoil and reductions in field staff, problems so severe that the state Legislature recently voted to replace the director.

But that didn't stop Dr. Bouldin Marley from blaming Mom:

“I don’t think there’s a lack of providers or facilities,” he said. “Some women just don’t have the get up and go.” 

See also these posts: CDC Report on Fetal MortalityPro-Life-After-Birth

April 22, 2007 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Race & Reproduction, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Linda Greenhouse: "Adjudging a Moral Harm to Women From Abortions"

Linda Greenhouse provided a news analysis of Gonzales v. Carhart in Friday's New York Times, in which she focused on the opinion's embracing of the disproven theory that abortion is emotionally harmful for women.

That abortion is bad for fetuses is a statement of the obvious. That it is bad for women, too, is a contested premise that nonetheless got five votes at the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

It was a development that stunned abortion rights advocates and that represents a major departure from how the court has framed the abortion issue for the past 34 years. The question on the day after the justices voted 5 to 4 to uphold the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is where the court goes from here.

April 21, 2007 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Gonzales v. Carhart, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Times: Pill That Eliminates the Period Gets Mixed Reviews

From yesterday's New York Times, by Stephanie Saul:

For many women, a birth control pill that eliminates monthly menstruation might seem a welcome milestone.

But others view their periods as fundamental symbols of fertility and health, researchers have found. Rather than loathing their periods, women evidently carry on complex love-hate relationships with them.

This ambivalence is one reason that a decision expected next month by the Food and Drug Administration has engendered controversy. The agency is expected to approve the first contraceptive pill that is designed to eliminate periods as long as a woman takes it. Doctors say they know of no extra risk to the new regimen, but some women are uneasy about the idea.

Read the full story.

April 21, 2007 in Contraception, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The PATHWAY Act is Introduced in the House of Representatives

H.R. 1713, The Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2007 (the PATHWAY Act), has been introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Chris Shays. From the PEPFAR WATCH website:

The bipartisan PATHWAY Act of 2007 (Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2007) . . . would require the President and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) to establish a comprehensive and integrated HIV prevention strategy to address the vulnerabilities of women and girls to HIV infection and would strike the earmark requiring that one-third (1/3) of all prevention funding be dedicated to abstinence-until-marriage programs.

April 21, 2007 in Congress, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexuality Education, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 20, 2007

NY Times: New Push Likely for Restrictions Over Abortions

Kirk Johnson writes in today's New York Times:

Both sides of the abortion debate expect a new push for restrictions as state lawmakers around the country digest the implications of the Supreme Court decision Wednesday upholding a federal ban on a type of abortion.

But such legislation could face headwinds in states where voters in the last election sent large numbers of Democrats — many of them abortion rights advocates — into office for the first time.

Seventeen houses or senates in the states shifted position on abortion after the November elections — 15 toward more abortion rights and 2 toward greater restrictions — according to an analysis by Naral Pro-Choice America. The group says six new governors supporting abortion rights were elected, compared with one who had voiced strong views against abortion.

April 20, 2007 in Abortion, Gonzales v. Carhart, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry Vetoes Bill Banning Use of Public Funds for Abortions

Via Tulsa World:

Gov. Brad Henry announced Wednesday he vetoed a bill that would ban the use of public money for abortions.

``I do not issue this veto lightly,'' Henry said.

Flanked by medical personnel in white coats, the governor said, ``First and foremost, the measure is flawed in that it does not include exemptions for cases of incest and rape.

See also this related post.

April 20, 2007 in Abortion, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

AP Wire: Pending abortion cases around the U.S.

The Associated Press offers a summary of pending abortion cases across the country, some of which may be affected by Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling.

April 20, 2007 in Abortion, Gonzales v. Carhart, In the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Madagascar: World Bank Official Linked to Opus Dei 'Fought' Contraception

The Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi) reports:

A senior World Bank official with alleged links to Opus Dei reportedly removed all references to contraception in the bank's program for Madagascar.

Media reports indicate that El Salvadorean, Juan Jose Daboub, ordered staff to remove all references to family planning from its country assistance program document for Madagascar.

Specific targets relating to contraception were also deleted from the document. The original draft committed the Bank to work to increase contraception uptake from 14 per cent in 2004 to 20 per cent; the final document contained no goal.

Mr Daboub was appointed by the World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz, and has been the focus of opposition from bank staff.

April 20, 2007 in Contraception, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gonzales v. Carhart: An Alarming Nod to "Woman-Protective" Anti-Choice Advocates

As Justice Kennedy's opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart proceeds along its disingenuous path, a passage startling even in the context of this decision intrudes.  In a case supposedly addressing how abortions may be carried out, Kennedy suddenly waxes nostalgic about motherhood.  "Respect for human life finds its ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child," he croons.  Continuing on this bizarre tangent, he suggests that a woman's right to information is somehow at stake in the case.  He further suggests that the federal legislation will protect a woman from a painful decision that she will later regret and stresses that the woman must be informed of "the way in which the fetus will be killed."  Kennedy seems not to care that medical authority has solidly debunked the theory of a "post-abortion syndrome."  And he seems to forget for a moment that the case is not about information but about whether a certain method (per the Court's interpretation) may be banned altogether -- so that a woman will never have access to it, much less hear a description of how it will be performed.  It is almost as if this passage were meant instead to go in an opinion upholding a biased information requirement like the South Dakota law currently under consideration by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Particularly noteworthy in this passage is Kennedy's reliance on a brief that contains the same testimonials (from the Justice Foundation) against abortion that were cited in the task force report that formed the basis of the recently defeated South Dakota ban on abortions. Reva Siegel (Yale) has written about the South Dakota task force report, and more generally about the anti-choice tactic, employed by defenders of the South Dakota ban, of portraying abortions as physically and emotionally harmful to women.  She argues that "An abortion ban reflecting and enforcing this understanding of sex roles violates constitutional guarantees of equal citizenship."  From her article, The New Politics of Abortion: An Equality Analysis of Woman-Protective Abortion Restrictions:

South Dakotans seized the spotlight in 2006 by enacting the most
restrictive abortion statute in the nation. In a direct challenge to Roe v.
Wade, the state outlawed abortion, except where it would prevent the
death of a pregnant woman. South Dakota’s abortion statute is constitutionally
significant in yet another respect. The ban gave prominent official
endorsement to a claim that has been quietly spreading for decades:
that abortion harms women. Asserting that abortions are coerced and
subject women to emotional and physical injuries, South Dakota prohibited
abortion to protect women, the unborn, and what the state calls “the
mother’s fundamental natural intrinsic right to a relationship with her

The article contains citations to the same briefs cited by Justice Kennedy.  See also Ruth Bader Ginsburg's powerful dissent in Gonzales v. Carhart:

Revealing in this regard, the Court invokes an antiabortion shibboleth for which it concededly has no reliable evidence: Women who have abortions come to regret their choices, and consequently suffer from “[s]evere depressionand loss of esteem.” Because of women’s fragile emotional state and because of the “bond of love the mother has for her child,” the Court worries, doctors may withhold information about the nature of the intact D&E procedure.... This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution—ideas that have long since been discredited....Though today’s majority may regard women’s feelings on the matter as “self-evident,” this Court has repeatedly confirmed that “[t]he destiny of the woman must be shaped ... on her own conception of her spiritual imperatives and her place in society.”

For more on this issue, see posts by Jack Balkin (here) and Marty Lederman (here) at Balkinization.

April 19, 2007 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Gonzales v. Carhart, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Maryland Approves Funds for Stem Cell Research

I'm taking a break from commenting on Gonzales v. Carhart to report that, per the Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, the Maryland General Assembly has allocated $23 million dollars for stem cell research in its recently approved budget.

See also this post, in which I link to a recent piece in the Boston Globe by Michael Sandel pointing out the inconsistencies in President Bush's stance on stem cell research and the moral status of embryos.  There are interesting parallels to be drawn to conservative politicians' statements supporting the Supreme Court's ruling on the federal abortion ban and the extent to which the decision in fact vindicates any interest in fetal life.

April 19, 2007 in State and Local News, State Legislatures, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)